Friday, July 31, 2009

Mitsubishi Joins The Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Fray

Now that Mitsubishi has successfully rolled out their all-electric iMiev, they have set their sights on a range extended electric vehicle, ala the Chevy Volt. We wish them well and look forward to more specifics as they become available.

From Register Hardware:

Leccy Tech Mitsubishi has confirmed plans to launch a range-extended hybrid at the end of 2010.


Will Mitsubishi's range-extended hybrid be based on the cX concept?

The company told Register Hardware that the vehicle will be a small SUV, akin to Nissan's Qashqai or Toyota's RAV4. This could suggest a car very similar in design to the cX concept, unveiled by Mitsubishi at the 2007 Frankfurt motor show.

Mitsubishi also told us that the, as-yet unnamed, leccy SUV will use a drive train similar in concept to the Voltec system - currently being developed for the Chevrolet Volt by General Motors.

While Mitsubishi wasn’t willing to release many precise technical details about its upcoming vehicle, we do know that it will have a lithium-ion battery pack inside that can be recharged from a wall socket.

The pack will provide enough power for 40 miles of electric-only driving. Once depleted, a small petrol engine – the 52bhp, 660cc turbo-charged three cylinder motor from the Mitsubishi 'i' city car would seem a likely choice – will kick in. This will drive a generator, which in turn will power the electric-drive motors, re-charge the battery pack and keep you moving for another 200 miles or so.

Assuming Mitsubishi manages to get the hybrid into showrooms on schedule, then the car will go head-to-head with the Volt – due to be launched in North America during late 2010, into Europe in 2011 and across other right-hand drive markets throughout 2012.

And Mitsubishi’s confident it can meet the deadline, emphasising the fact that bringing the iMiEV to market as the first genuine mass-market e-car gives it a head start in the race to develop a usable range of e-cars to fit most user needs and circumstances.

The company refused to speculate about the likely cost of the upcoming range-extended hybrid, but did reveal that Blighty will be one of the first overseas markets to get it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

EEStor CEO Dick Weir Leaks Information Concerning Their EESU


Have you heard this yet? An audio interview with Dick Weir was leaked onto the Internet briefly and here are some of the highlights:

  • EEStor's contract with ZENN is for energy units that cost "$100 / kWh, excluding electronics." This is very cheap, and Weir says that, "nobody is going to compete with us. Certainly not lithium ion."
  • EEStor has produced "tens of thousands of grams" of the powder needed for the EESUs, what Weir calls "a huge amount."
  • A company called Polarity, in California, is building the circuits that will be used in the ZENN cars. Polarity is making circuits for "other customers," but ZENN gets them first.
  • EEStor is "dealing a lot with people in the electrical vehicle business."
  • "I'm really in deep with Lockheed Martin. And here's what Lockheed Martin told everybody: 'We can't guarantee this works but we can't find reason why it won't work.'"
  • Weir believes EEStor will be "the greatest capacitor company in the world"
  • Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers owns about 20 percent of EEStor, and EEStor's founders still have a controlling interest in the company.
  • ZENN's next investment round will be around $75-$80 million.
  • Weir said that his EESU's will help buffer the U.S. electric grid in a big way. "Not only are we going to give the electric vehicle market a boost but also give them the energy to run it... We make wind and solar real. If you take our batteries and those with wind and solar, what you do is amortize out the variations and make it highly stablized. You can make a wind farm look just like a coal fired plant with our batteries. And make it very cost effective."
If EEStor can bring to market this EESU product as it is being touted, then it will certainly be a game changer. Having a vehicle with this technology in your garage immediately obviates the need for gasoline. We want one!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Toyota Does About Face, Will Market All Electric Vehicle in 2010

Again, these are the stories we love to report. Apparently Toyota will produce an all-electric IQ vehicle in 2010, said concept being shown at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show. What I cannot understand is how Toyota can make this happen in one year, but it takes GM nearly FOUR! Both companies have produced fine EV's in the past, for what that is worth.

From Autocar:

Toyota's iQ-based electric car, due to be launched in 2010, will get its own body style to create a stand-alone model which will become Toyota’s first all-electric car.

Internally called the BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle), the new car will not occupy the same market sector as the iQ and will “get its own bodywork”, according to the iQ’s chief engineer, Hiroki Nakajima. “We wanted to position the iQ as premium,” he said, “but not so the BEV.”

See the Toyota iQ FT-EV picture gallery

The electric iQ will use in-wheel motors and was designed with this in mind. “In every wheel we had to be able to fit an electric motor,” said Nakajima.

The car will also become the first mass-production Toyota to use lithium ion batteries, following the firm’s trial of the technology on plug-in Priuses later this year. Charging time will be around eight hours.

“Our target is for customers to be able to charge it completely during the night,” said Nakajima. He also said the car will have a range of 150km (93 miles).

Meanwhile, the iQ is set to get an upgraded cabin to counter criticism over the quality of its materials. “The iQ will get a much better interior,” said Nakajima. “A lot of buyers think it is much too plasticky.”

The firm is also planning to introduce customisation packages for the iQ in the style of the Fiat 500 and Mini. Nakajima declined to give dates for the changes, but they could coincide with a mid-life facelift due around 2011.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chevy Volt Design Chief, Bob Boniface, Discusses Pre-Production Vehicle

Here is a recent video with Bob Boniface, as he discusses what it is like to see the pre-production Chevy Volt in motion.

Monday, July 27, 2009

More Details on Nissan's EV Offerings

Nissan EV Prototype Based on New EV Platform

Continuing today's theme of the Nissan EV stable of products is the following.

From Green Car Congress:

Nissan Motor Co., previewed its electric vehicle (EV) platform on a Tiida-based prototype in Japan. Nissan’s EVs go to market in the US and Japan in 2010. It also showcased a EV-IT system developed to support electric driving 24/7 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

A 24 kWh laminated compact lithium-ion battery pack from Nissan joint venture AESC is placed under the vehicle floor for more efficient packaging, without compromising cabin or cargo space. The battery layout also allows smooth underfloor air-flow which helps reduce drag. Additionally, the regenerative brake system employed to recharge the battery during deceleration and braking extends the driving range to more than 160 km (99 miles) on the US LA4 cycle under a full charge.

The dedicated EV platform comprises a highly rigid body, high-performance motor, and compact lithium-ion battery with high power output and energy capacity. The Nissan-developed electric motor delivers 80 kW/280N·m for high response and powerful acceleration. Nissan’s motor control also contributes to the vehicle’s acceleration.

High durability is achieved by employing an additional frame for the battery pack to significantly improve the rigidity of the platform. The combination of a high rigidity platform and electric powertrain minimizes vibration and external sounds to produce a quiet and pleasing drive.

Nissan has developed a sophisticated IT system for its zero-emission EVs, connecting the vehicle’s on-board transmitting unit to a global data center to support EV driving 24 hours 7 days a week. Usability and convenience for EV driving is achieved via the following:

  • Maximum range display. With a touch of a button, the navigation map shows the driving radius within range under the current state of charge. The system can calculate if the vehicle is within range of a pre-set destination.

  • Update on charging stations. The navigation system points out the latest information on available charging stations within the current driving range. Detailed information for each charging station will also be displayed.

  • Timer function. The timer function enables the air-conditioner or battery charging to begin at a specified time. The air-conditioner can be pre-set while the vehicle is plugged-in to cool the cabin to a desirable temperature before driving begins, without taxing the vehicle's battery. Meanwhile, the battery charging can be set to start at a specified time at night to benefit from more favorable electricity rates.

  • EV remote control and monitoring function. The driver can monitor the state-of-charge of the EV via an online website and a cellular phone. For example, when the battery is fully charged, a message alert is sent to the cellular phone. Additional remote control functions range from switching the charging system ON/OFF or setting the air-conditioner timer.

The all-electric vehicle slated for launch in 2010 will have a unique design and body. Nissan plans to unveil the design of the production EV at its new Global Headquarters Opening in Yokohama on 2 August. A Nissan Zero-emission Website will also go live then.

Nissan To Unveil Three EV's On August 2nd

Nissan Qazana Concept - Precursor To Crossover EV?

Of all the major auto makers, Nissan appears to be the most serious about electrifying the automobile. This coming Sunday, they will debut three EV's, one of which will be built in Smyrna, Tennessee and one will be a crossover made here in the US as well.

According to the usually-reliable folks at Japan’s BestCar magazine, the crossover is to be capable of a range of 100 miles on a single charge and be slightly smaller than the current Rogue.

As for the design of the vehicle, it is likely to take inspiration from the Qazana concept that debuted at the Geneva Auto Show earlier this year.

The remaining two electric cars are expected to be small cars, with a good possibility one of them will be a sub-compact that will compete with the Mitsubishi iMiev. The other would be a compact along the lines of a Nissan Versa.

Nissan expects to sell as many as 5 million EVs by 2012.

What is praiseworthy about Nissan's efforts is that they are coming out will all electric vehicles, eschewing gasoline altogether. If they can hit the right MSRP, we are sure their cars will be a success.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Japanese Letter To US Expresses Concern Over Buy American Legislature

Want to get an idea and glimpse into why this world and these United States are in this current mess? US lawmakers have passed a bill in the House that "favors" purchasing domestic automobiles. Seems perfectly sensible, yet the Japanese have got their dander up and are crying foul.

Ironically, the US Constitution specifically gives power to Congress to enforce trade limits and tariffs so that citizens prefer to buy American goods and services. Obviously, Congress has shirked this responsibility and allowed foreign businesses to be preferred. This letter from Japan should be properly filed in round file number 13.

From Automotive News:

Japan has sent a letter of concern to the United States on a bill recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, which contains a provision similar to "Buy American," an official at Japan's foreign ministry said.

The letter, sent earlier this week from Japan to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, comes as the United States says the "Buy American" provisions are in line with World Trade Organization commitments.

In the letter, Japan's ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki, expressed worries on a provision in the appropriations bill for energy and water development that said funds should not be used to buy cars other than those made by the Detroit 3, the official said.

"If it limits it to just the three, this violates the World Trade Organization's fundamental principle of non-discrimination," said the official, who declined to give her name.

"Taking into consideration the flow from the previous stimulus package, we are concerned that there will be more moves to promote purchasing of American products."

"Buy American" provisions in the U.S. stimulus bill generally require public works projects funded by the bill to use only U.S.-made steel, iron and other manufactured goods.

Earlier this month, the WTO head said governments are unfairly blocking trade in response to the global downturn, pinching auto and steel exports and hurting wealthy economies most.

Kirk told reporters earlier this week at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting that the "Buy American" campaign will not violate WTO commitments.

At the meeting, 21 countries including the United States and Japan had agreed to shun protectionist measures, saying it would be a setback for the global economy.

The appropriations bill will now go on to be voted in the U.S. Senate. In the letter, Fujisaki asked Kirk to approach the Senate to exclude the provision from the bill, the official said.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fisker Karma PHEV to Make Driving Debut at Monterey Automobile Races

The Elegant and Sleek Fisker Karma PHEV

Here is another alternate energy vehicle on track for full blown production. The Fisker Karma PHEV is a great concept and will make its driving debut on August 15th at the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races.

The Karma is a plug-in hybrid vehicle capable of 50 miles range in all-electric mode and 300 miles with the use of its generator set. The downside is its reported MSRP, which will be around $80,000. Not even the $7,500 US tax rebate can make much of a dent in that price. Nonetheless, we would love to have one.

From Green Car Congress:

The Fisker Karma Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) will make its public driving debut during the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races on 15 August, 19 months after being unveiled as a concept car. It will be the first time a PHEV has appeared on track at the event.

The Fisker Karma will also be on display at Concorso Italiano on 14 August, alongside the Karma Sunset hardtop convertible concept. The Karma Sunset will again be on display at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 16 August.

The Fisker Karma PHEV is an extended range electric vehicle. With seating for four, the Karma has a range of 50 all-electric miles on a full charge of its lithium-ion battery, and a total range of 300 miles thanks to an on-board generator turned by the traditional but efficient 2.0L 260 hp (194 kW) Ecotec engine from GM. Two 201.5 hp (150 kW) electric motors send enough traction through a single-speed differential to reach 60 mph in about six seconds and a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h).

Together, these components comprise the Q-DRIVE powertrain exclusive to all Fisker automobiles. Q-DRIVE can average more than 100 mpg.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mitsubishi iMiev Goes On Sale in Japan in 8 Days

The Mitsubishi iMiev All Electric Car

Are you ready? Here we go with another all electric car being offered to consumers. Like the Tesla Roadster, the Mitsubishi iMiev will be highway capable as opposed to all of the NEV's on the market. Apparently, Mitsubishi will offer the car in multiple configurations, allowing longer and shorter ranges.

Thus begins the parade of major manufacturers offering all electric vehicles. These are exciting times for alternate energy vehicle aficionados.

From Autocar UK:

Mitsubishi is planning to launch an extended range of its all-electric i-MiEV city car.

The Japanese firm’s president Osamu Masuko has said Mitsubishi is looking to launch cheaper i-MiEVs which cover shorter distances on a single charge. It is also planning to launch an i-MiEV capable of travelling 124 miles on a single charge, up from the 100 miles that the current car can manage.

Masuko plans for electric and hybrid cars to make up 20 per cent of its sales by 2020.

“We have to understand that the automotive industry is facing a big change; the business model that worked for the last century will not be sustainable in the future,” he said.

“We need to show concrete actions on how Mitsubishi Motors will meet these [challenges]. It's important to take the first step.”

The current i-MiEV is only available to lease in Japan at the moment, but it is set to be officially made available for sale in Europe late next year.

A plug-in hybrid model is also set to follow within three year; this will be launched at the Tokyo motor show this autumn.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Green Vehicle Research and Development Bill Passes Subcommittee

There is a bill making its way through the US House that would increase funding for research into advanced technology vehicles and components. The House Science and Technology subcommittee on energy cleared a bill to increase U.S. Department of Energy funding by over 50 percent to $550 million for fiscal 2010. It will be presented to the full committee next week.

The money would be used to look at batteries and storage devices, hybridization and electrification, hydrogen fuel cells, engine systems and components. Along with this would be further research for medium-to-heavy-duty commercial trucks and transit vehicles, and to recruit new industry participants such as parts suppliers. Earlier this week, a bill was passed allowing increased funds for the development of CNG powered vehicles. Our current Congress is definitely on the right track, but may have to become more forceful.

There needs to be legislation that demands US automakers deliver electric cars, plug-in hybrid electric cars, CNG and LPG vehicles and biodiesel capable trucks and cars. Without such laws, the automakers are reticent to build these alternate energy vehicles and instead rely on the business as usual approach. In order to lessen our demand for foreign oil, this is exactly what it will take.

Since the US Government now owns a majority of GM, there would not be any issues or conflicts in legislating that the company produce these vehicles. A timeline needs to be put in place with sanctions that apply to automakers who lag behind. We want the ability to walk into our local car dealers and have a choice of alternate energy cars and trucks. Today, there is simply no choice as they all burn gasoline or diesel fuel.

Nissan To Retool Tennessee Auto Plant Using Government Funds

The Nissan EV Prototype

Nissan is using $1.6 Billion in order to re-tool their Smyrna, Tennessee plant making the line capable of producing EV's as well as hybrids. This would appear to be a smart move as the future demand of electric vehicles is unknown. Factors such as gas prices and the cost of EV's all contribute to the demand. Nissan's EV will qualify for the full $7,500 US government tax refund, which should greatly reduce the MSRP.

From Bloomberg:

Nissan Motor Company is aiming to be the top seller of electric vehicles in the U.S., is hedging its bets.

Nissan will use a $1.6 billion U.S. loan to retool a Tennessee factory so battery-powered cars can be made on the same line that currently produces hybrids and other models to keep from wasting capacity. Electric-vehicle assembly will be phased in “to avoid under-utilizing the plant while the market is developing,” said Senior Vice President Andy Palmer.

Carmakers are readying electric vehicles in response to higher oil prices, demand for more fuel-efficiency and concerns over climate change tied to carbon exhaust. Even with U.S. aid to build and buy them, the higher cost and shorter driving range of electric vehicles may hold the total market to less than the 150,000 vehicles Nissan will be able to build at the factory.

“There is a risk that the plant may struggle to reach full capacity quickly,” said Ashvin Chotai, managing director of Intelligence Automotive Asia Ltd. in London. “A lot will depend on the price and affordability of the car and experience of initial users.”

Current costs for lithium-ion battery packs that can propel a car 100 miles (160 kilometers) are as much as $30,000, and may fall to about $15,000 by 2015 as production techniques improve, said Menahem Anderman, president of Advanced Automotive Batteries, a consulting firm in Oregon House, California.

Initial U.S. demand will be at least a total of 7,500 electric vehicles, or EVs, sold in model years 2011 through 2013, along with about 60,000 plug-in hybrid cars, due to requirements in California under its so-called zero-emission vehicle program.

Basically California

“I would suggest that the EV market in the U.S. will basically be the California regulatory requirement, plus perhaps 20,000 units,” Anderman said. “As long as the gasoline price is under $5 a gallon, there’s no real market for EVs.”

Gasoline cost an average $2.48 a gallon in the U.S. on July 17, according to the AAA, a drivers’ group. The price peaked at $4.11 a gallon on July 15, 2008.

Electric cars are an “emerging” market, Nissan’s Palmer, head of the company’s electric vehicle program, said via e-mail. The company plans to start making the exhaust-free cars in the U.S. by 2012. The U.S. loan will also fund a lithium-ion battery factory next to the Smyrna plant that will make packs for as many as 200,000 cars a year.

Flexibility to make different types of advanced cars on one line will let demand “drive the optimum production balance between zero-emission and low-emission vehicles,” said Palmer.

Nissan rose 3.7 percent to 590 yen at the close of Tokyo trading. The shares have gained 84 percent so far this year. The automaker’s American depository receipts gained 11 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $12.52 at 1:31 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq trading.

Forecast Range

Industry forecaster CSM Worldwide predicts global electric vehicle output will rise to 132,067 in 2015 from 7,115 units this year, said CSM analyst Yoshiaki Kawano. An economic study from University of California, Berkeley, this month predicted electric vehicles will make up 64 percent of U.S. sales by 2030, assuming prices are held down by letting drivers lease battery packs that can be readily switched.

Competition in the market for low-pollution cars ranges from Toyota Motor Corp., the largest seller of gas-electric hybrids, Honda Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co., to new entries including California’s Tesla Motors Inc. and BYD Co., a Chinese car and battery maker backed by Warren Buffett.

The only electric vehicle sold in the U.S. approved for highway use is Tesla’s $109,000 Roadster. Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s electric i-MiEV minicar, sold in Japan for 4.6 million yen ($49,000), goes on sale in the U.S. next year.

Nissan said yesterday it will invest $700 million to build two plants in the U.K. and Portugal that will also make lithium- ion batteries for electric cars.

Ford, Tesla

Nissan on June 23, along with Ford Motor Co. and Tesla, was among the first companies to benefit from the Energy Department’s program to provide $25 billion in low-cost loans to fund production of highly fuel efficient autos in the U.S.

The aid is part of Congress’s 2007 energy bill to help automakers boost average fuel economy by about 40 percent, to 35.5 miles (56 kilometers) per gallon by 2016. President Barack Obama moved up the fuel-efficiency deadline from 2020. The U.S. also provides a $7,500 tax credit to consumers who buy electric cars.

Smyrna Factory

Nissan said it will use the federal cash refurbish its 26-year-old Smyrna factory. The plant has about 3,900 employees and capacity to make as many as 550,000 cars and light trucks annually, including the hybrid Altima sedan.

A version of the electric car Nissan will eventually build at the Smyrna plant is to be unveiled in Japan next month. Nissan has said the 5-passenger model goes 100 miles solely powered by a lithium-ion battery pack. Limited sales begin in Japan and the U.S. next year.

To make the car more affordable, Nissan has said it may lease the battery pack to customers for about the same amount they’d spend annually on gasoline.

The loan “is specifically dedicated to the investment of EV and battery production in Smyrna,” said Palmer. “We are committed to becoming the leader in zero-emission vehicles.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Natural Gas Bill Passes Muster in the US House of Representatives

The US House of Representatives, by unanimous consent, passed H.R. 1622—a bill that would direct the Secretary of Energy to: (1) conduct a five-year program of natural gas vehicle research, development, and demonstration; and (2) coordinate with the natural gas vehicle industry and with the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding streamlining the certification of natural gas conversion systems to federal certification requirements and in-use emission standards.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK), would authorize $30 million a year from fiscal 2010 to 2014 for natural gas vehicle research and development.

There are several other bills currently in Congress that would increase the efforts on natural gas vehicles or establish policies conducive to their adoption, including S.1408, the NAT GAS act, in the Senate.

Source: Green Car Congress

Monday, July 20, 2009

Zenn Motors CEO Speaks Out On Upcoming EESTOR Offering

EESTOR Ultracapacitor Image

Here is an informative interview with Ian Clifford, CEO of Zenn Motors. Zenn has an exclusivity agreement with EESTOR to provide ultra capacitor modules in their vehicles which will allow the cars to be driven up to 250 miles on a single charge. Truly this is the killer app for electric vehicles and if successful, this will revolutionize the industry. With the proper number of capacitors in an electric vehicle and the ability ro recharge in a matter of minutes, there will no longer be any arguments against the electrification of automobiles.

We sincerely hope EESTOR succeeds and that they bring their products to market post haste.


I recently had the chance to interview Ian Clifford who is the CEO of Zenn Motors (ZNN.V). His company has an agreement to market the breakthrough energy storage units (EESU) being developed by the stealth Texas company EEStor. Although no-one has ever publicly confirmed seeing an EESU in operation, these devices have the potential to disruptively leapfrog lithium-ion batteries for electric cars. They are orders of magnitude lighter and energy dense, can be recharged in minutes, do not appreciably degrade and cost a fraction of what lithium-ion batteries do to produce. The ZENNCity electric car which would be the first vehicle to use these batteries has a 52kwh 250 mile range EESU that would only weigh 280 pounds.

So what’s been going on lately with ZMC and EEStor?
The first event was when EEStor demonstrated their permittivity milestone and then we went through our own independent verification of that particular scientific milestone. And that triggered a couple of things. It triggered our $700,000 payment to make on our technology agreement with EEStor, but it also triggered an option to further extend our equity position with EEStor which we did.

We moved our ownership stake from around 3.8% to around 10.7% and at the same time we also just concluded a 9.3 million dollar equity raise in Zenn Motor Companies. So a lot of different financial and predominantly EEStor-related transactions (occurred) over the last couple of months.

Did the permittivity milestone increase your confidence in EEStor?
Absolutely. According to EEStor it was really the last scientific hurdle achieved and now they’re just flat out working towards commercial product. Absolutely a very very significant step.

As an owner and investor, do you go to EEStor’s facilities and see prototypes?
We are in their facility frequently. We see their progress on a regular basis. We had our own independent third party verification of the permittivity result. We retested all the materials, re-calibrated all the equipment, did a very exhaustive re-verification as it was a significant trigger for us. And a few weeks ago EEStor made the public statement that they anticipate having at-voltage components verified independently by September of this year and deliver of production prototype EESU to us by then end of 2009. That’s directly from EEStor. They made that statement very recently, so it’s very very exciting progress.

EEStor has said that before, even once by the end of 2007, so is this really any different than the last 2 years?
Absolutely. They started their commercial build-out in 2006 and have continued to dramatically ramp up their production capability. Their choice of announcing permittivity was entirely up to them so they made the decision when they felt ready to do that. In terms of progress, the unique thing than Zenn other than Lockheed Martin has is access to the facility and very demonstrative indication of their progress. And we see very clearly where they are at and how they’re progressing. So it’s a somewhat unique visibility that we have on their technology.

Are you seeing an actual assembly line now being constructed?
Absolutely. This is a full production facility here. Often people are saying there is no facility or assembly line, etc this is simply not the case. They’re building a state of the art pilot production plant that is very significant. Lots of people have seen it, it’s not just us.

Is permittivity a value that suggests the material can hold the energy density they claim it can, is that true?
That’s a pretty fair statement. It’s a measurement of capacitance of the material. Once again one of the very significant breakthroughs here is that as a dielectric material there are other materials that have high levels of capacitance but they tend to have very very narrow temperature range, and we had these materials certified from -20 to 65 degrees Celsius. So they’ve created a unique dielectric material and that’s a very very important distinction. It’s a brand new material and it needs to be to meet the energy density and performance characteristics and specifications of their energy storage. They have created a breakthrough unique dielectric material.

You talked about at-voltage testing, in vehicle application are you talking about 300 to 400V?
Actually likely higher than that. EEStor stores their energy at around 3500V. We would step that down to operating voltages likely in the 600 V range. Very very high efficiency drive system operating at much higher voltages than any other current EV drive system. That does a number of things. It increases the drive efficiency, it makes the components somewhat smaller, and ultimately less expensive and obviously for mass commercialization that’s a very important consideration.

So the testing you did was at a low voltage?
It’s a standard permittivity capacitance test on a powder in a matrix. It’s not a high voltage test it is a low voltage test, but EEStor achieved many other important milestones over the past 18 months. Especially directed towards a high voltage energy storage device.
If you read our press release related to permittivity, were very very clear on the other key elements of development that EEStor has achieved in order to commercialize a high voltage capacitor with high energy density.

And as I said before, this September EEStor has stated that they will be certifying at-voltage components which actually are build capacitors off their production facility.

So they’re going to actually demonstrate true truly functioning capacitors, not just a powder?
Exactly. Which has always been their next logical step towards a final commercial product.

In your vehicle you might have a bunch of those capacitors in serial or parallel?

They’ll build up their energy storage devices in parallel, because each component, or building block is very very tiny, it’s a very tiny footprint. It is a 3500 volt capacitor and they will build them up in parallel to create the energy storage requirement that the application calls for.
We can go anywhere. We’ve talked about our cityZenn vehicle with a 52 kwh energy storage device, but we can do anything depending on the market and the application.

Have you actually seen one of the devices functioning?
That gets into the point of non disclosure. Just to be clear, there have not been any production EESUs delivered to us, that’s a very specific milestone, our last milestone is delivery of production equipment. EEStor originally did all of this, their original lab prototyping and everything else a number of years ago. We did our original due diligence back in 2002 and 2003. We were exposed to the original technology then. Right now, we like everyone else are waiting for at voltage components off their production line. And that’s as specific as I will get. And really that’s all that matters.
And right now EEStor has indicated a very very short window of delivery and are working towards that aggressively.

So you said prototypes by the end of the year, but production units not?
No this is a production prototype off of the production line. Once they deliver a production prototype it is a production unit that is production ready.

With all the Recovery Act green grant money, and A123, for example, asking for $1 billion for a battery plant, if this thing is so certain why haven’t you gone out and asked for money to build out a giant EESU plant?
First of all that’s up to EEStor to decide, because we don’t build the EESU. Quite frankly their engineering and deployment costs compared to lithium ion production is so much less, their production facility and ramp up costs are a fraction of lithium-ion. Lithium ion is a very very expensive technology to produce, especially large format. Nobody has really done mass production of large format lithium ion cells yet. Some of the individual pieces of equipment in a lithium ion battery plant cost more than an entire EESU production line. It is much more economical technology to manufacture.

So they can do it with the money they have now?
This initial production facility is fully financed based on the money they got which is great.

What kind of volume in vehicle sper year of EESUs can this plant produce?
In terms of disclosure on that it depends on the size of the EESU obviously.

For the ZENNCity?

We spec’d that at 52 kwh. We may not go to that full size depending on the application as I mentioned. Depending on the market that gives us a250 mile range on a single charge. That’s a lot more than a lot of jurisdictions require. You’ll see. I’m not going to comment on volume right now I know there is a number of analysts who will be covering this story and they will very likely talk about capacity at EEStor. I do not want that information coming from us I’d rather that information come from EEStor directly.

Its very very scalable. Their model which they’ve talked about is they build a relatively small production line which is what is being built now in Austin. They then replicate that line. So they don’t build massive amounts of line. They basically take a small model line and they replicate it over and over and over again to increase volume. And that’s very typical in hard disk manufacturing and other high technology manufacturing which is where Dick Weir and Carl Nelson come from. They’ve been working in that world for decades and they know everything about scalable mass production. Not a big worry from our perspective. They know how to do it, and they’ve got Lockheed Martin involved. They’ve got some really sophisticated people involved in the scaling of the technology, so its not a huge concern for us.

It sounds like the future of your company rides on what they’re doing?

It always has. When I started this company it was all about the significance of energy storage as it related to mass production. It became a matter of choosing the most exciting and viable energy storage possibilities that were out there. We looked at lots of different technologies at the time, and EEStor was by far the most compelling and certainly undoubtedly the most disruptive.

If they start delivering production-grade EESUs by the end of 09, how long will it take for the first ZENN Cities to roll of the line to commercial availability?
Commercial availability is one thing. We’ll have the car powered and demonstrated, and it will probably be a number of different platforms, and applications that well be demonstrating at that time. Our exclusivity covers a broad range of applications including retrofitting any existing 4wheel vehicle. So our intention is to truly demonstrate the breadth of opportunities that the technology represents. We have been for the last 18 months engineering ZEENergy drives and we’ll have a drop in application for what EEStor delivers to us because we’ve been working with them for the same amount of time to make sure what they deliver we can utilize immediately.

Its not going to take 2 minutes, but it will take days as opposed to months to get the demonstrations on line.

So the socket in your car is perfectly configured for the EESU when it arrives?

Exactly. Were building to accept it and their building to fit, that’s always been the intent.

So in 2010 certainly we should be able to see some of this?
Yes, absolutely. It will be clearly be demonstrated around the world in 2010 and commercialization is really jus ta question of how quickly EEStor ramps. We believe well be able to sell everything they can produce. There’s no question there.

How confident are you that this is going to happen?
I made that clear on how I voted with my own money my company’s supportiveness and the amount of support we’ve gotten from the financial community. We’re very confident.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bob Lutz Explains His New Role With New GM

Bob Lutz, GM's New "Inage Guru"

No matter what you think of Bob Lutz, he continues to be a mover and shaker in the auto industry and continues to be in the news. Shortly after he announced his resignation, he now declares his re-hiring and new role.

GM has asked Lutz to enhance and buoy their image, which is a tall task indeed. Are you interested in GM vehicles and do you have any qualms about spending so much money on a vehicle from a company that has recently emerged from bankruptcy? Does GM even sell a car or truck you would be interested in purchasing? We would like to buy the EV1 and the Electric S-10, but alas, they are no longer being built.

From USA Today:

General Motors is trying to change its image, fast. So it chose the only person on hand that made sense as its image czar: an old car guy with some new ideas.

"(GM's) image is in tatters, and they need a real jump-start," says Peter DeLorenzo, editor of "I think Bob will bring it."

Bob Lutz, 77, was going to retire at the end of 2009, but decided to stick around and help GM revamp its advertising, internal communications and public relations. Lutz is the same guy who propelled GM's product design into the 21st century, and most critics say his tenure has helped the company turn out some pretty good vehicles.

"When I made the decision to retire, I thought we'd be in bankruptcy for a long time. I thought we'd lose our freedom to design and build the products the public wants as opposed to the products the government wants to see on the road," Lutz says. "I thought all of the fun is gone from the business. ... But lo, and behold, the government task force were not a bunch of ogres. They were extremely helpful, and their only agenda was to make GM the best company it could be."

Now, Lutz says, GM has to move fast to convince consumers it's changed. While the product design changes he made are taking hold over years, the ad changes could take hold in a month or so.

"There's a lot of stuff that irks me" with GM's current advertising, Lutz says.

Take, for example, recent print ads intended to talk about GM's car buyback program in case of job loss or illness. They were so weighed down with print, Lutz says, they quickly lost their meaning. He also dislikes the current Buick ads that show a Hollywood director fawning over the Enclave crossover and all-new 2010 LaCrosse sedan.

"That Buick commercial tested very well, which is not the same as saying that it's an effective ad," is how he tactfully put it in a Web chat this week. "I think you will very quickly see a drastic change in the tone and content of our advertising. And if you don't, it will mean that I have failed."

Lutz, a pilot and former Marine with a penchant for cigars who is known to commute by helicopter from his home outside Ann Arbor, Mich., to GM's headquarters in Detroit, has a reputation as a colorful speaker. That's sometimes landed him in trouble, but he's a favorite with the automotive media, who crowd around him at events to get his vivid, tell-it-like-it-is take on whatever he feels like talking about: cars, the state of the economy and global warming (of which he is famously skeptical).

Once he spent the bulk of an interview bemoaning the loss of scantily clad models at auto shows, pointing out that at one time, the Paris auto show was filled with topless models.

DeLorenzo says that although Lutz has said some things in the past that could come back to haunt him — such as once calling global warming "a total crock" — he is in tune with what people want, and has had a role in improving GM's green image.

"He's been one of the chief boosters of the Chevrolet Volt," GM's electric car due on the market in late 2010, says DeLorenzo. "To label Bob as someone who's not appreciative of the green sensibility or where a lot of consumers' minds are going, I don't think is accurate or fair."

Still, Lutz stands by his skepticism on hybrids, which he says are having trouble selling in the current market because gas prices are too low and the cars are not cheap. People still want bigger cars, he says, with more power.

"Other than in the media, there is not a groundswell toward green vehicles in the United States," Lutz says. "In fact, they're a very hard sell."

Lutz returned to GM, where he got his start in 1963, in September 2001 as vice chairman of product development. He spent 12 years at Ford in the 1970s and '80s and 12 years at Chrysler until 1998.

He was asked by former GM CEO Rick Wagoner to rejoin GM and help the company improve its product lineup. He started by giving the designers more control of the cars, rather than allowing the finance department to have the final call.

Ron Stampfl, a marketing professor at San Diego State University, says Lutz helped repair GM's product lineup to a remarkable point, and his challenge now is to get shoppers to consider the cars. "The problem is getting people willing to try a GM product early in their shopping process," Stampfl says. "Right now, it's not even on many people's shopping lists." That's something that can be fixed with effective advertising, Stampfl says.

And it's among Lutz's top priorities. "We must do a far more effective job communicating what we are and who were are," he says. "We have to reconnect with this depressingly large part of the American public who won't give us consideration."

Lutz expects to have impact within a month or so. His first meeting to go over future advertising was Tuesday, and before going into the meeting, he said he didn't expect to approve much of it.

And although he'll be overseeing communications, Lutz says he expects the public relations department also still will need to keep tabs on him and what he says publicly.

"I expect people to step in," he says. "But having said that, I do believe we have to be much bolder and much more self-aware, and in some cases, more controversial or willing to tell it like it is rather than putting out a more sanitized version."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Canadian Government to Offer Up to $10,000 in EV Subsidies

The 2011 Chevy Volt

The Canadian government has just invoked the ire of Toyota Motor Company by offering up to $10,000 on vehicles like the Chevy Volt. The rebates take effect in July 2010 and the Volt will most likely qualify for the maximum rebate. Since Toyota does not have any concrete plans for mass producing plug-in hybrid vehicles, they are crying foul and bitterly complaining.

Currently in the US, Federal tax rebates up to $7,500 apply to vehicles that are electrified, whether they be all electric of plug-in hybrids.

From The Windsor Star:

Toyota Motor Corp. and several other critics are sounding an alarm over the Ontario government's plan to offer rebates of up to $10,000 to people who buy plug-in hybrid and battery-electric vehicles.

Toyota says the move looks like a deliberate ploy to help General Motors Corp., in which the province is now a minority shareholder after it rescued the company, along with the U.S. and Canadian governments.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty chose a GM Chevrolet dealership in Toronto on Wednesday in which to announce that his Liberal government would offer the rebates on new vehicles after July 1, 2010. Stepping in and out of GM's upcoming Chevrolet Volt electric car, he said he wants one out of every 20 vehicles in Ontario to be electrically powered by 2020.

Ontario had to help stabilize the auto industry by providing aid to GM and Chrysler Group LLC, said Stephen Beatty, managing director of Toyota Canada Inc. But he said that was meant to be a one-time action -- step in and get out.

"How long does this continue?" Beatty said. "We can't set up a situation where the future of the industry depends on constant subsidies."

"This suggests that (the government) is prepared to be interventionist beyond their aim to help the industry recover."

Toyota, known for its hybrid technology, was not informed of the government's intention to offer the rebates and was taken off guard upon learning the announcement venue was a Chevrolet dealership, Beatty said. "The question is: Is this a well thought-out industry strategy? Or is it sort of the next stage in advancing a particular product and helping a particular company?"

Industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers echoed Beatty's concern. "A cynic would say this is just government subsidizing a product that is produced by a company they own. I think that is a bit too cynical. I just think it is bad policy, from a variety of perspectives."

Ontario lent General Motors US$3.16 billion as part of an overall US$60-billion rescue package for the automaker. Together with the federal government, it now owns a 12 per cent stake in the revamped GM, which exited bankruptcy protection last week.

"The fact they are offering such a high upfront incentive is an admission that there is high risk for this technology," DesRosiers said. "Years before the vehicles are available, they're putting a bribe of $10,000 in the marketplace, and the only reason they do that is because they anticipate they aren't going to sell."

DesRosiers said the government would have been further ahead if it followed the lead of the U.S., which has invested $25 billion in a fund to promote electric battery technology.

"If the government was serious about helping the electric car industry, they would have put one, two, three, five billion dollars into a fund to promote companies to develop the technology," he said.

Ontario's goal is to become a world leader in building and driving electric cars, McGuinty told reporters.

"This would put Ontarians into cleaner, more efficient vehicles, and expand the electric vehicle market for manufacturers," he said. "Expanding the use of electric vehicles by consumers and government will help create and sustain jobs in the auto sector and put Ontario at the forefront of the new, green economy in North America."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New GM Emerges From Bankruptcy, Now What?

So General Motors has emerged from bankruptcy in a mere 40 days, cleansing itself from all its "toxic" liabilities. The only remaining question is, "What's next?" What will GM do in order to prove it was worthy of all those government handouts and bankruptcy assistance? Is CEO Fritz Henderson the best choice to lead the new company? Time will tell soon enough.

What GM really needs to do is start over since they were able to obtain this clean break. Gone are the days of high profit, high margin SUV's and pick-up trucks. GM needs to sell cars and lots of them. Will the new GM actually offer the vehicles the masses are clamoring for? Low cost, fuel efficient quality vehicles. So far they have not changed much.

GM is betting heavily on the positive public relations benefit of producing the Chevy Volt. Unfortunately, the Volt will only be produced in limited quantities at first and may never reach healthy production volume. Will GM ever offer vehicles like the Honda Insight or the Toyota Prius? Relatively low cost, fuel efficient hybrids? Will GM retain their current paradigm of mediocre 30 mpg vehicles? These are the questions that linger and demand to be answered. GM doesn't have much time to waste and really needs to announce a whole new lineup of green vehicles.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rick Wagoner, Former GM CEO, Gets Retirement Benefits Totaling $8.6 Million

Mug Shot of Rick Wagoner

Ready to become upset? Rick Wagoner, the former CEO of GM who helped drive GM into the ground has negotiated a retirement package of $8.6 million. Talk about hitting the lottery. Only in the US can a retiree come away from a bankrupt company with so much money. Let's be clear, this money is coming directly from the taxpayers, in the form of the $30 billion in bail out funds.

Think about it, when a company goes bankrupt, can its retired employees still receive a pension? Of course not. How maddening it is to see Wagoner be rewarded for his incompetent leadership.

From Automotive News:

Former General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, ousted in March by the Obama administration, will retire in August with a package worth $8.6 million in the first five years.

Wagoner's retirement will take effect on August 1, and he will draw sharply reduced benefits after GM's federally financed bankruptcy, the company said on Tuesday.

The value of Wagoner's retirement package is about 60 percent lower than it would have been at the end of last year, before the largest U.S. automaker fell into a government-funded bankruptcy and its assets were sold to a new GM, federal regulatory filings show.

The former top GM executive reached a retirement agreement with the old GM, now renamed Motors Liquidation Co., on July 8 and will retire officially from the new GM taking benefit cuts consistent with other retirees, the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Over the first five years of retirement, Wagoner will be paid almost $8.6 million, down from the nearly $23 million he was entitled to receive at the end of last year.

Based on 32 years service to GM, Wagoner is entitled to an annual $74,030 under the salaried retirement program and five installments of about $1.64 million under the executive retirement plan.

Wagoner had been entitled to five payments of more than $4.5 million each as of the end of 2008 under GM's executive plan and $68,900 per year under the salaried program, according to the last GM annual report.

Wagoner will continue to receive personal liability insurance until January 1. He also will receive an existing life insurance policy or its cash value, currently nearly $2.6 million.

GM emerged from bankruptcy protection last week as a sharply smaller automaker and with the U.S. Treasury as its majority shareholder after taking in $60 billion in government funding from the U.S. and Canada.

Before his ouster by the White House-appointed autos task force, Wagoner had argued that bankruptcy would be a more costly alternative to an expanded version of the bailout that began in the final days of the Bush administration.

Wagoner was forced out as CEO in March, but nominally remained on the automaker's payroll at the $1 a year salary he had agreed to take until retirement terms could be set.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nissan Explains Its All-Electric Philosophy

Here is a good interview posted on whereby Nissan explains their rationale for going all-electric, as opposed to a plug-in hybrid. If they can produce this five seat sedan with a 100 mile range and a quality ride, then the sales will follow. It will be extremely interesting to see who has more sales in 2010, Nissan or the Chevy Volt.


Nissan has announced that it will be unveiling a global pure electric vehicle in Japan on August 2nd. The yet-to-be-seen 5 seat compact car will begin mass production in late 2010 and will be available in the North American market. It will have a 100 mile electric range. The image above is the mule using a Cube body, and has nothing to do with the final design. I had the chance to discuss this upcoming vehicle and strategy with Mark Perry who is Nissan’s director of product planning.

Other companies are doing gas plug-in hybrids and EREVs, but Nissan has put its money on the pure electric, why is that and what do you think of the Volt?
I only will talk about us. The whole issue on our mind is zero emissions. The only way you can achieve zero emission at the tailpipe is in a pure battery electric vehicle. You’re zero emission all the time, you don’t fall off the wagon after 12 miles or 40 miles. When you make that commitment you’re looking ahead not only to the regulatory pressure that’s coming but the consumer and environmental pressure that’s coming. To achieve zero emissions you have to do it with electrification.

Now you can still do fuel cells or plug-in battery electrics. Every manufacturer has those same two options. But fuel cells and hydrogen are a lot longer away than a vehicle you can plug into the existing electric grid.

I assume Nissan isn’t going to change its whole fleet into electric cars, so why not have a car in between? Obviously there are range limitations.
Again what you’re talking about is, he who wins in the zero emission race is he who gets his costs down and his manufacturing scale high. So how do you start, you start now. You make investments in assembly plants globally. Building hundreds of thousands of vehicles is what we’re setting out to do.

Now we’re not saying that the internal combustion engine is disappearing but long-term to achieve the 90% reduction in CO2 that all the policy makers, all the regulatory folks and the scientists are all calling for, the only way you can do it is through electrification. You cannot improve the combustion engine to achieve a 90% reduction in CO2.

There is also the rational issue and the emotional issue. The rational issue is 98% of the population drives less than 100 miles per day. That’s a fact. Volt has picked 40 because that number is 72 to 76%. So if I have 100 miles of range I’m more than covering people’s daily commuting and transportation needs and allowing them to charge overnight and become zero emission all the time.

The question always comes is this my primary or my secondary car? The answer is what’s your definition of your primary car? If your primary car is the vehilce you use every day you go back and forth to work in you do your chores and your shopping, then this is your primary car. The car you take on vacation or carry seven people or tow your boat with that’s your other car.

So you’re aiming at a very specific market with this vehicle?
Not a specific market, it’s the mass market.

What about range anxiety?
Thats a behavioral issue. People today are used to having no restraints. So you can buy as big a house as you want and spend as much money on credit cards as you want and continue to pollute and drive around in a 5000 pound vehicle with 350 miles of gasoline in your tank. Those things clearly are charging. We know from all the consumer research we have done that there are plenty of people that are looking for that alternative and want it, and are just waiting for somebody to come with a mass market affordable electric vehicle for them to drive. Not some neighborhood electric vehicle or something with 20 miles of range, but something that they can use every day. That’s what we’re looking to do.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Natural Gas Makes A Resurgence in US Legislature

Here is a renewed effort by US Lawmakers to spur on the use and growth of natural gas vehicles. Apparently, this is one of the only ways to effect the adoption of alternate energy vehicles here in the United States. Hopefully, they will also enact legislation that provides similar incentives to electric propelled vehicles.

From Green Car Congress:

US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) last week introduced new legislation, co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that extends and increases tax credits for natural gas vehicle purchasing, refueling and manufacturing.

Under the NAT GAS (New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions) bill (S. 1408), the purchase tax credit cap for a light-duty natural gas vehicle would be increased to $12,500, up from the current $5,000. For the three other covered vehicle weight classes, the purchase tax credit cap would double; the maximum credit would be $80,000 (up from $40,000).

Other provisions of the bill include:

  • A 10-year extension for alternative fuel credits for natural gas used as a vehicle fuel, the purchase of natural gas-fueled vehicle, and the installation of natural gas vehicle refueling property credit.

  • All dedicated natural gas-fueled vehicles would be eligible for a credit equal to 80% of the vehicle’s incremental cost. Only some dedicated natural gas vehicles currently can qualify for an 80% federal tax credit.

  • Makes all bi-fuel natural gas-fueled vehicles eligible for a credit equal to 50% of the vehicle’s incremental cost. This is the first time bi-fuel vehicles would be eligible for a federal tax credit.

  • Includes conversions and repowers. The bill includes a “Sense of the Senate” provision that the Environmental Protection Agency should streamline the process for certification of natural gas vehicle retrofit kits.

  • Increases the refueling property tax credit from $50,000 to $100,000 per station.

  • Allows the natural gas vehicle and natural gas fueling infrastructure credits to be transferred by the taxpayer back to the seller or to the lessor.

  • Allows state and local governmental entities to issue tax exempt bonds in order to finance natural gas vehicle projects.

  • Allows 100% of the cost of a natural gas vehicle manufacturing facility that is placed in service before January 1, 2015 to be expensed and to be treated as a deduction in the taxable year in which the facility was placed in service. This decreases to 50% after December 31, 2014 and is phased out by January 1, 2020

  • Requires that when complying with mandatory federal fleet alternative fuel vehicle purchase requirements, federal agencies shall purchase dedicated alternative fuel vehicles unless the agency can show that alternative fuel is unavailable or that purchasing such vehicles would be impractical.

  • Provides for grants for light- and heavy-duty natural gas engine development, with an annual cap of $30 million.

S.1408 amends the Internal Revenue Code, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. T. Boone Pickens joined the three Senators to announced the introduction of the bill.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Another Prius Conversion, Compliments of ETV Motors

The Toyota Prius has proved to be a great platform for engineers to tweak and test their inventions that enhance its performance. The latest company to do so is ETV Motors, who has replaced the gas engine with a microturbine, making the Prius a range-extended electric vehicle (REEV). One has to wonder why the Toyota company themselves has not done likewise.

From Green Car Congress:

Israeli startup ETV Motors Ltd. (ETVM) completed a proof-of-concept test of its Range-Extended Electric Vehicle (REEV) architecture using a gas microturbine for the range-extending generator. The company had closed a $12M Series A round in April. (Earlier post.)

For the test drive, the company modified a Toyota Prius using commercially available components. ETVM replaced the OEM NiMH pack with a large-format lithium-ion battery, and retrofitted a liquid-fueled, gas turbine generator to the car for the range extender.

The proof-of-concept demonstrator REEV will serve as a test vehicle for the company’s ongoing development work, which is focused on developing a new microturbine and a new Li-ion battery, in collaboration with the electrochemistry team at Bar Ilan University.

This milestone is a major pre-requisite for materializing our vision of plug-in EVs equipped with fuel-efficient, low-emission gas turbines for range extension.

—Dror Ben David, ETV Motors CEO

ETVM is developing its own microturbine, based on RQL (Rich-Quench-Lean) principles. The ETVM turbine will have the unique property of achieving optimum efficiency at two operating points. This “dual mode” property will provide a number of degrees of freedom when matching the microturbine to various drive cycles and vehicle categories.

ETVM expects that its first generation of the turbine, with an efficiency that outperforms the present state of the art by approximately 30%, will be fully functional in Q2 2010.

On the battery side, ETVM is working on two cell chemistries: lithium manganese nickel oxide (LMNS)/graphite to form a 4.7V cell; and LMNS/LiTiO to form a 3.2V cell.

Characteristics of the ETV 3.2V and 4.7V cells compared with the chemistries of selected commercial batteries
Battery chemistryNiMHLiCoO2LFPAdv. rapid chargeLMNSLMNS
Voltage 1.2V 3.7V 3.2V 2.4 3.2V 4.7V
Energy Density
Wh/kg (80-100% DOD)
50-70 180-200 65-110 50-70 120 240
Power Density W/kg 400-500 250-400 2,000-3,000 3,000-5,000 2,000-5,000 1,000-3,000
Cycle-life 300-500 300-500 >1,000 >3,000 >3,000 >3,000
Self-Discharge %/mo. 25% <0.3% <0.3% <0.5% <1% <1%
Projected $/kWh $500-700 $400-500 $200-300 $300-400 $200-$350 $200-$350

Saturday, July 11, 2009

REVA Will Produce Li Ion vehicles and Fast Charging Stations

The India based car company, Reva has announced big plans for its newest car. Their current electric car is the REVAi, or G-Wiz in the UK and the next iteration will be the REVA L-ion which utilizes Lithium Ion batteries. The new model will have a top speed of 50 mph and a projected range of 75 miles. This car is perfect for the urban dweller and can even be driven on roads with posted speed limits of 55 mph, although I would hesitate to do such. Unfortunately, there are no plans to market this car in the United States.

"Reva Electric Car Company (REVA), the maker of the REVAi electric city car (G-Wiz in the UK) has launched the Lithium-ion powered REVA L-ion in Europe.

Based on the REVAi platform, the REVA L-ion offers a range of 120 km (75 miles) per charge and a maximum speed of 80 km (50 miles) per hour. REVA has also developed a new proprietary intelligent battery management system for the L-ion that tracks the performance of each cell. REVA will offer a three-year battery warranty.

REVA is also introducing a fast charge station capable of charging the REVA L-ion to 90% in one hour.

The new REVA off-board fast charge station uses three-phase power and is primarily aimed at organizations that require constant vehicle availability during the day and will be offered to purchase or lease. The REVA L-ion’s normal full charging time is six hours using ordinary mains electricity, with an 80% charge taking 3.5 hours.

The REVA L-ion (classified as a quadricycle under UK and European law) and fast charge stations will be available to pre-order from REVA distributors in Norway, UK, France, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Belgium and Ireland from February 2009, with the first test drive vehicles and customer deliveries commencing May 2009.

Customers will have the option of outright purchase or battery leasing, with prices to be announced by the end of January. REVA is also developing upgrade kits that will enable existing REVA owners with an AC motor and lead acid powertrain to upgrade to the lithium-ion powertrain later in 2009.

The REVAi features a 13 kW (peak) AC induction motor that develops up to 52 Nm (38 lb-ft) of torque.

Bangalore, India-based Reva Electric Car Company is a joint venture between Maini Group of India and AEV LLC of California and is venture-backed by lead US investors Global Environment Fund and Draper Fisher Jurveston."

Friday, July 10, 2009

GM Exits Bankruptcy, Promising "An End to Business As Usual"

Fritz Henderson, CEO of GM, held a news conference at 9:00 AM EST, and outlined the "new" GM. A massive number of white collar jobs will be eliminated and Henderson declared an end to the business as usual paradigm. We shall see whether or not GM is to be believed.

From The Wall Street Journal:

The new General Motors exited bankruptcy protection early Friday after its faster-than-expected stint in court, pledging to "get back to the business of building great cars and trucks" and better serving customers.

he auto maker completed the split of good and bad assets that will see General Motors Co. emerge as the operating entity, a slimmed-down company mostly owned by the U.S. government with a much-reduced debt burden and fewer brands.

Mr. Henderson on Friday unveiled sweeping management changes and pledged to repay loans from the U.S. government "much sooner" than 2015

"Business as usual is over at General Motors," Chief Executive Fritz Henderson said at a press conference at GM's downtown Detroit headquarters, emphasizing the redoubled focus on listening to customers and on making faster decisions at the corporate level.

The company's new Chairman, former AT&T Corp. chief Edward Whitacre, said, "We all want to win, we are going to win."

GM's exit marks a surprisingly quick end to one of the largest industrial U.S. bankruptcies. GM, battered by a sharp decline in sales and high cost structure, received billions of dollars of government aid before filing for bankruptcy protection on June 1.

The new GM will be dramatically smaller, leaner and less encumbered by debt than the 100-year-old auto giant being left behind. As part of the sale, GM's toxic assets will be left behind as a separate company to be liquidated in a sale expected to last several years.

The revamped GM is eliminating much of its regional structure and realigning sales and marketing functions.

Nick Reilly, current head of GM Asia, will oversee all international operations from the unit's base in Shanghai. More than half of group sales come from outside North America.

Regional presidents are being eliminated. Mr. Henderson didn't comment on what role North American chief Troy Clark might assume, but noted 35% of its executive ranks are being cut, with an emphasis on senior staff.

GM also confirmed that Robert Lutz, who had been slated to retire at the end of this year, has decided to join the new GM as vice chairman responsible for all creative elements of new products and customer relationships. With the 77-year-old Mr. Lutz staying on, there would also be a realignment of the North American sales function, now headed by Mark LaNeve.

In an email Friday, Mr. Lutz said the move will allow him to focus more intently on his roots in the auto business. Although educated with a focus on marketing, he had been overseeing GM's efforts in product development since 2001.

"It's the other half of the business that I didn't have before, and I found that somewhat frustrating," Mr. Lutz said. "My entire academic and professional background is in marketing; I was practicing without a license in product development."

Mr. Henderson said GM's ability to repay U.S. government in full rested on its performance, but pledged to make repayments "much sooner" than the existing 2015 schedule.

Earlier this year, the auto maker had said a bankruptcy process would take months, if not years. The U.S. government, keeping GM afloat since December with billions in federal funds, will be majority owner of the newly restructured company, with a 60.8% stake. The Canadian federal government, Ontario provincial government, the United Auto Workers and bondholders in the old GM will hold the remaining stake.

Though the new GM will not be a publicly traded company initially, Mr. Henderson stressed that GM will remain transparent in its financial reporting.

"We expect to take the company public again as soon as practical, starting next year, and to repay our government loans as soon as possible," he said. "We are required to pay off the loans by 2015, but our goal is to pay them much sooner." The government has committed $50 billion in funds to GM.

The restructuring is expected to wipe out nearly 70% of GM's crushing debt load. GM entered Chapter 11 with $176 billion in liabilities to retirees, warranties and a legion of lenders including the U.S. government. A bankruptcy judge said Wednesday the company will exit with $48 billion in debt.

GM's U.S. work force will shrink dramatically as well, to about 64,000 employees by the end of 2009 from 91,000 heading into the year. Also going away are four of GM's eight U.S. brands, nearly one-third of its nameplates and hundreds of dealerships.

Some critics have described GM's product line-up as uncompetitive in some segments. Mr. Henderson said the company would launch 10 new products in the U.S. over the next 18 months, as well another 17 overseas. After trimming its dealer network, GM is also testing a new online auction buying system with eBay Inc.

Mr. Henderson said Friday that "true customer service" represented a "new frontier" for the industry.

Hourly labor costs, including obligations to active and retired workers, also will drop, from $6.4 billion in 2008 to between $4 billion and $5 billion annually over the next several years. By 2014, GM estimates its hourly costs at $4.1 billion, a two-thirds reduction from 2006.

GM is counting on the reductions to stem losses despite depressed auto sales. The auto maker estimates its post-bankruptcy break-even point will fall to 10 million annual U.S. vehicle sales, down from 12.5 to 13 million. The U.S. annualized selling rate has come in below 10 million for much of 2009.

GM will also end its regional operating structure, eliminating its regional president positions, as part of a broader effort to remove layers of management and to speed decision-making. In total, GM will reduce the number of U.S. executives by 35% by the end of this year. Overall salaried employment will decline by 20%.

Mr. Henderson said more details on the new structure and leadership moves will come later this month.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

GM's Bob Lutz Decides To Come Out of Retirement

Bob Lutz, GM's New ???

Just like the NFL's Brett Favre, Bob Lutz has decided to come out of retirement. To be fair, he really has not even begun his retirement although his former position as vice chairman of global product development is currently occupied by Tom Stephens.

Lutz announced his retirement when General Motors discovered they had only one option remaining, namely bankruptcy. Now that the "good" GM is going to emerge from Chapter 11 free from all the "bad" assets, Lutz has decided he wants to be part of the new company. Lutz, 77, may extend his GM career as head of marketing and communications, said sources who weren't authorized to speak about the change. He may also play a role in product design.

General Motors has scheduled a press conference for Friday at 9 am to declare their emergence from bankruptcy and this may be when they share the news of Mr. Lutz's rehiring. The Wall Street Journal said Lutz asked to stay on with the new company, led by CEO Fritz Henderson, and his request was granted. In an interview with Automotive News in February, Lutz said he would reconsider his decision to retire if he were asked. What is unclear is whether Lutz was asked to stay or if Lutz himself asked to stay.

US Legislators Introduce Bill To Encourage Natural Gas Usage

This is basically what it will take for the US to change the current paradigm. Since US auto makers seem completely reticent to change their ways, it will obviously take legislation to force them to change. We need natural gas, electricity, biodiesel and e85 in order to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. If the infrastructure for natural gas could be expanded, then this would be a great alternative. How hard could it be to install natural gas dispensers at existing gas stations?

From Automotive News:

U.S. lawmakers today unveiled legislation aimed at helping the nation wean itself off foreign oil by providing financial incentives for the use of vehicles fueled by natural gas.

Sponsored by Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, the bill would extend for 10 years tax credits for purchasing vehicles that run on natural gas and installing natural gas refueling stations.

"We saw last summer how the wild fluctuations in oil prices helped to wreck our economy, and we've seen how pollutants from dirty fuels are wrecking our planet," Menendez said at a press conference.

He added that the recent economic downturn also had "shined a spotlight on the urgent need for alternative, cleaner and cheaper sources of energy that we don't have to import."

The legislation is backed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.

Recent advances in technology have led to a natural gas production boom in the United States, after years of stagnant growth in the sector.

"We have much more natural gas than we thought we did just a few years ago," Hatch said at the press conference.

He said there were enough reserves to "significantly increase" the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel.

In addition to extending the tax breaks, the bill would also raise the tax credit caps for consumers who buy natural gas-fueled vehicles and provide tax breaks for manufacturers of those vehicles. The bill would also provide grants for the development of light- and heavy-duty natural gas engines.

Menendez said he may be able to attach his bill to energy and climate change packages

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Plug In Hybrid Versions of the Piaggio MP3

I drive a Suzuki Burgman 400 cc scooter in the warmer months and enjoy it thoroughly. I also enjoy the feeling of getting around while only sipping the gasoline and getting 60 mpg. Here is a scooter that makes the Burgman look like a Hummer! The Piaggio MP3 PHEV gets in excess of 140 mpg, meaning that you could commute to your workplace for an entire week on a gallon of gas!

The best feature on the Piaggio hybrid is its ability to flip a switch and run in all electric mode. This is exactly what is needed across the board in the automotive industry so hopefully this technology will catch on and catch on quickly. No word yet on specifics such as top speed and range.

From Green Car Congress:

The MP3 hybrid. Click to enlarge.

The Piaggio Group has introduced the MP3 Hybrid, a plug-in hybrid version of its MP3 three-wheeled scooter. With a grid-chargeable Li-ion battery pack, the Piaggio MP3 Hybrid reduces both fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by more than 50%. The MP3 Hybrid has a Euro 3 emissions rating.

The Piaggio MP3 Hybrid incorporates a parallel hybrid drive in which the 124cc combustion engine and a 2.6 kW, 15N·m synchronous brushless permanent magnet traction motor are mechanically and electronically linked and simultaneously supply power to the wheel. The hybrid powertrain offers combined power of 11 kW (15 hp), with combined torque of 16 Nm (12 lb-ft).

Energy flow in the MP3 Hybrid. Click to enlarge.

The MP3 Hybrid manages the power delivered from the gasoline and electric units with a Ride-By-Wire system: the torque requested by the rider via the throttle and brake is processed by the integrated electronic management system (VMS, Vehicle Management System) which, on the basis of a number of parameters (such as battery charge, for example), splits the power delivery between the power plants. When decelerating and braking, the management system recovers energy and accumulates it in the battery.

Under startup and acceleration, the electric motor can supplements the gasoline unit to provide up to an 85% boost in performance. The electric motor also offers the Piaggio MP3 Hybrid an ultra-quiet reverse mode, which is handy for parking and for manoeuvring out of tight spaces.

Mp3hybriddrivetrain Mp3hybriddrivetrain2
Two CAD renderings of the MP3 Hybrid drivetrain unit (engine, motor and transmission). Click to enlarge.

The Piaggio MP3 Hybrid offers fuel economy of up to 60 km/L (141 mpg US, or 1.7 L/100km), compared with an average of 26 km/L (61 mpg US, or 3.8 L/100km) for gasoline scooters with mid-sized engines. CO2 emissions are 40 g/km compared with 90 g/km for a conventional internal combustion engined scooter (figures for the MP3 Hybrid calculated considering 65% use in hybrid mode and 35% use in electric mode).

The Piaggio MP3 Hybrid can also run on electric power alone; pressing the button on the handlebar disengages the gasoline engine. The rider can switch between the full electric and hybrid mode even while on the move, by simply selecting the desired mode by pressing and holding the "Hy Tech" button for a few seconds. The MP3 offers four operating modes:

  • Hybrid Charge for maximum battery charge
  • Hybrid Power, for maximum performance
  • Full electric mode
  • Reverse mode
CAD rendering of the battery pack location. Click to enlarge.

The battery pack, with integrated control electronics, is hidden away in the compartment under the saddle, which still has enough room to accommodate a helmet and other objects. An indicator integrated into the dashboard lets the rider keep a constant eye on the battery charge level. The vehicle is charged easily from the mains with a normal electrical cable, plugged into the relative socket with the panel switched off. The full charge cycle takes approximately three hours, although 85% charge is achieved in just two hours.