Saturday, May 19, 2007

Consumers Want Plug-in Hybrids, Industry Survey Finds

Synovate Motoresearch presented some very interesting survey results at the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference in Long Beach, CA last week, as reported in MIT's Technology Review. Simply put, as the first sentence of the article states,
[W]hen consumers understand what plug-in hybrids are, they want them.
All that's needed, the survey discovered, is a dollop of education.
Of the more than 3,000 consumers asked if they would consider buying a "grid-connected hybrid," the term used for plug-in hybrids in the survey, only 24 percent said that they would, according to the survey by Synovate Motoresearch. But when they were told what such a car could do, that figure nearly tripled, to 64 percent. That's well above the percentage of people who would consider buying an ordinary hybrid, like the Toyota Prius, which doesn't have extended battery-powered range.....The results suggest that consumers like the idea of the plug-in hybrid--but that so far, car companies are doing a lousy job of getting the word out.
Wonder why? The answer is contained in another part of the survey. Motoresearch also surveyed attitudes toward flex-fuel vehicles, heavily promoted by the automakers.
These cars, which can burn either gasoline or a mixture of 85 percent ethanol, scored high on the desirability charts--that is, until consumers were told more about them...consumers thought that flex-fuel improved fuel economy, Miller said. Actually, the opposite is true. Ethanol contains much less energy than gasoline does, so miles per gallon will be significantly lower, as will range on a tank of gas. When consumers were told this, the percentage of people who would consider buying the cars dropped from 52 to 33 percent.

GM's Lutz Talks Up Volt at NPR Game Show; Sierra Club's Dan Becker Welcomes "Epiphany"

GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz took his promotion for the serial plug-in hybrid Volt to an NPR game show, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." The NY Times reports:
With the same enthusiasm that he has long used to describe high torque ratings and engine displacements, Mr. Lutz touted the Volt’s mileage, which he estimated will reach 151 miles per gallon, fueled by a combination of electricity and gasoline.

His comments drew a huge round of applause from the NPR audience at the Michigan Theater here.
Dan Becker, head of the global warming program at the Sierra Club, was asked his reaction to the seeming about-face of "one of Detroit’s ultimate 'car guys,' for whom no vehicle could be big enough, powerful enough or fast enough... “We take all epiphanies,” Mr. Becker said."

So do I.

Becker himself has long opposed putting any effort behind plug-in cars. When I spoke with him about Ford's confiscation of my all-electric, zero-petroleum, zero-carbon Th!nk City a few years ago, he told me the Sierra Club didn't have the resources to help save the ZEV mandate electric cars. Sierra Club chapters, however, particularly in California, have been pressuring the national to promote plug-ins. I hope he has had an epiphany of his own and the Sierra Club will become a strong voice for plug-in hybrids and electric cars.

Bush Says Farewell to Blair with Empty Rhetoric on Climate Change

Tony Blair came to DC to say farewell. And make one final pitch for American cooperation on climate change. At a Rose Garden press conference within earshot of anti-war protesters beyond the White House gate, Bush's prepared remarks included this:
And we talked, of course, about climate change. We spent a lot of time on climate change. And I agree with the Prime Minister, as I have stated publicly, this is a serious issue, and the United States takes it seriously, just like we take energy security seriously.
As reported in the Independent of London,
As Tony Blair left Washington yesterday for his last visit as Prime Minister, the Bush administration was acting to scupper international efforts to combat climate change.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Mr Blair had basked in the apparent support of President George Bush for his stated aim of avoiding catastrophic global warming. But it seems his appeals have fallen on deaf ears. While Mr Bush was eulogising his friend in the White House rose garden, the President's delegation at a United Nations meeting in Bonn was working to stop any progress on setting up a carbon trading scheme and emissions caps.

Harlan Watson, President Bush's chief climate negotiator, rejected any caps on US emissions or participation in carbon trading. "That's not our agenda," he said.....

...away from the cameras, the US delegation to Bonn was scotching any prospect of the emissions caps and carbon trading that are needed to realise the rhetoric. "We don't believe targets and timetables are important, or a global cap and trade system," he said. "It's important not to jeopardise economic growth."
After his visit to Washington, Blair paid a farewell visit to Iraq. He was welcomed with mortar attacks that rocked the British HQ in Basra minutes after his remarks to British soldiers there.