Posted on January 11th, 2010 No comments
Straight from Toyota to you…
DETROIT, January 11, 2010—Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A, Inc., today unveiled the FT-CH dedicated hybrid concept at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The FT-CH is a concept that would address Toyota’s stated strategy to offer a wider variety of conventional hybrid choices to its customers, as it begins to introduce plug-in hybrids (PHVs) and battery electrics (BEVs) in model year 2012, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCHVs) in 2015 in global markets. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on January 10th, 2010 No comments
One way to find out what will not be happening in the consumer trends for just about anything is to listen or read “industry analysts”. I tend read a lot of this stuff and I’m astonished at how often these people can be staggeringly wrong and go on to make fourteen new predictions the next week as though they’ve never stumbled.
Here’s a piece from the Detroit Free Press on why EV’s will continue to be a very small niche product until at least 2020 according to the Boston Consulting Group. BCG is a gun for hire, management consulting company. The obvious question here is, who’s paying for this study?
Curiously enough, there was an interesting link in the Free Press story by Justin Hyde, this blog post from, of all places, gm-volt.com, says that the Mini-E chokes in the cold, badly. I’m somewhat surprised to hear this but this is exactly companies test prototypes before going to production.
According to the writer of the gm-volt.com blog post, who is testing of the Mini-E’s, not only are the batteries battered by the cold but the driving performance in snow and ice renders the car almost unusable. The writer admits he hasn’t followed BMW’s recommendation to change the all-season tires to snow tires however.
Posted on January 10th, 2010 No comments
Like financial sites reporting on the auto biz, it’s always a little scary when gadget sites start talking about cars. Engadget is one of the better sites for electronics geekery but I ran across this article this morning and stopped for second because of the lead in:
As Tesla continues on its commendable journey to surpass Ford, GM, Toyota and everyone else in total sales, it’s evidently hoping a tie-up with Panasonic will help it accomplish said goal.
That’s a very long journey my engadgety friends. Tesla is still, very much, the struggling startup and for good reason, their cheapest offering is now nearly $50k. Given that the only other vehicle they make sells for over $100k, it’s not likely anyone at Ford, GM, Toyota, Kia, Hyundai, Dae Woo, Suzuki, Nissan, Fiat, BMW, Volkswagen, or even the folks at Chrysler are going to be worried about seeing Tesla in their corporate rear view mirrors. I suppose I take umbrage at the idea that Tesla is even in the same league with Ford, GM and Toyota. They’re not and it’s bloody unlikely they ever will be.
Now, Tesla’s leading edge attempt at creating all electric car is certainly helping to push EV development but it would push those companies a lot harder if they actually developed, say a $25K EV. Taking the EV out of the realm of the high-priced niche would be a great goal, a goal which, I do not think, Tesla is really positioned to do.
Enough of that, on to the point of the article which is:
The two outfits have just agreed to work together in order to develop next-generation battery packs to be used within electric vehicles, which are based around “Nickel-based Lithium ion chemistry.”
Which is exciting especially if it leads to something practical.
Posted on June 17th, 2009 No comments
Not necesarily from Joanthan Welsh’s WSJ column…
Q: I was interested in buying a 2010 Toyota Prius, but was surprised that they didn’t put the new lithium-ion battery in it. It was rumored to get close to 70 miles per gallon, as opposed to the 50 mpg the current version gets. Is it worth waiting another year for the new battery?
—Jim Nemetz, Newton, Mass.
A: You may as well buy a 2009 Prius instead of shelling out more for a new model. Frankly, after test-driving a 2010 Prius for the past few days, I haven’t found the latest model’s fuel economy to be significantly better.
I had also heard about a lithium-ion powered Prius that delivered much better mileage coming to market soon, as well as a plug-in version able to travel longer distances on electric power alone. The good news: Toyota plans to test a plug-in Prius with a lithium battery in municipal fleets later this year. The bad news: Toyota says it has no immediate plans to sell these cars or any with lithium batteries to the public.
My response: First and foremost, don’t base important buying decisions on rumors. Second, there will always be something better coming down the pike, as it were. Waiting will almost always get something better than what you can buy right now. So how long do you really want to wait? What are you willing to pay for this upcoming (things seldom get cheaper)?
As for Welsh’s advice, buying a 2009 isn’t a bad call. There are incentives on the vehicle and it’s a great deal. That said, the 2010 is, in my opinion, worth the waiting list and worth a few extra bucks. As I said, that’s my call and it may not be true for someone else.
Posted on March 12th, 2009 No comments
The CEO of the Korean electronics giant, LG, said recently that nickel metal hydride batteries were “primitive” and would be soon replaced by “advanced” lithium-ion batteries for use in the electrification of vehicles. This comment was pure hype and was biased by the fact that LG has won the contract to supply lithium-ion batteries for the 40 mile range, pricey golf cart performance matching Chevrolet Volt. The aforesaid CEO does not, of course, want to take note of the fact that the development of “advanced” nickel metal hydride batteries has continued even beyond their “primitive” use in the hybrids mass produced and sold as the Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry, Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner, Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Honda Insight to name the most prominent. These so-called “primitive” batteries have a record of reliability, durability, overall life, and recyclability that is second to none. In addition their pricing has steadily dropped(!) since their introduction.
Toyota, for its part, says that the NiMH battery in the 2010 model is a significant improvement over the currently supplied NiMH battery.
Posted on February 12th, 2009 No comments
Sometimes, lazy writers just toss together a combination of exciting buzzwords rather than write an actual article or report that has any basis reality. You might opine that this doesn’t happen often. I would suggest it happens all too often and this particular case is especially egregious.
This idiot figured, well, rather than me explain it, let me show you a few key sentences and phrases…
Aside from that nice young mailman your grandma ran over when she forgot where the park gear in her Prius was located, hybrids haven’t killed anybody … yet. However, all that could change if the world’s business and political interests converge on a desolate, sun-baked Bolivian wasteland known as the Salar de Uyuni.
Known as the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” Bolivia has half of the world’s known deposits.
The deep divide between rich and poor in Bolivia fuels civil unrest, and when there’s money to be made from a valuable mineral, you can expect violence to follow.
So think about that before you go out and buy a hybrid.
As innocuous and endearingly ugly as it may be, the Toyota Prius may be the vehicle for destabilization in South America.
First one has to wonder if the author realizes that the Prius does not currently use Lithium batteries. Yes Toyota plans to use lithium assuming several things, none of which, by the way, have happened yet. It might be a bit premature to assume hybrid owners are causing destabilization in Bolivia since current hybrids aren’t using lithium. Now if the point of the article was that Toyota was destabilizing Canada…
Nah. I’m not going there. It will give the punters some ideas they don’t need.
And I don’t mean to be intentionally shortsighted any more, I suppose, than author of this piece means to be intentionally misleading but laying the blame for possible future problems in Bolivia on current hybrid owners is stupid and factually wrong.
Posted on February 4th, 2009 No comments
Fascinating interview with Mr. Bill Reinert in Energy Tribune…
Energy Tribune Speaks With Bill Reinert, Designer of the Toyota Prius
By Robert Bryce
Bill Reinert knows cars. He helped design the Prius, perhaps the most iconic “green” vehicle on the road today. Over the past few years, Reinert, an affable, irreverent engineer not known for holding his tongue, has become one of America’s most-recognized experts on automotive and technology issues. For some hard-core electric car advocates, Reinert is something of a villain. I met Reinert about three years ago at an energy conference and I consider him to be a friend. In the few hours that we have spent together (all of which have been highly entertaining and educational) I have found him to be the ultimate pragmatist. He looks at automotive technology and energy technology through the three essential lenses: energy density, cost, and scale. If the technology delivers on those three fronts, he’s willing to pursue it. If it doesn’t, forget it.
As the manager of Toyota’s advanced technology group, Reinert works out of Toyota’s Torrance, California office, where his team focuses on a variety of new technologies including hybrid-electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrids. He was a leader in the effort to get Toyota to consider how the company would deal with a hydrocarbon-constrained world. That push led the company to commission a multi-year study from Dubai-based geologist Peter Wells, who has used a meticulous field-by-field analysis to estimate the peak in global oil output. Wells has predicted that peak output will come in about 2017. (Energy Tribune covered this issue last year.) Before joining Toyota in 1990, he worked on energy issues at Hewlett Packard. Reinert has a bachelors degree in biopsychology from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and a masters degree in energy engineering from the University of Colorado. He lives in Rancho Santa Margarita, California.
RB: You are one of the designers of the Prius. But you have made it clear that oil is going to be a key transportation fuel for a long time to come. Why?
BR: Well, oil and petroleum products have a lot of inherent advantages. Two of these are of particular interest: First, there are relatively large resources available and they are pretty easily developed, and second, petroleum products have marvelous energy density, which means we can provide adequate performance and range at a price the customer can afford.
This isn’t to say there aren’t problems, because of course there are significant issues with climate forcing emissions and criteria pollutants. Beyond that of course, are geopolitics (commonly referred to as energy security) and the whole process of oil production, transportation, and refineries. However, looking into my fine-tuned crystal ball, I can see tremendous advances into high-efficiency spark ignited engines and breakthroughs in catalyst technologies. When combined with hybrid technology you get a powertrain that is low in carbon emissions, criteria pollutants are nearly absent, and the customer can afford and embrace the end product.
It’s important to keep in mind that petroleum is also useful in a wide variety of industries, and is a source for many of the products we use today. Of course, in the fullness of time society will find new and better replacements, it will just take awhile.
RB: During the Toyota meeting in Portland last September, I met Mary Nickerson, the national marketing manager for cross vehicle marketing. She told me that in Toyota’s most recent survey of potential car buyers, the prospective purchases said that their number one concern was oil availability. That’s a remarkable fact. Is that still the case? Does that help explain the popularity of the Prius?
BR: Unfortunately I’m not that close to our marketing groups so I’m not all that involved in their studies. Shooting from the hip, I’d say you’d need to consider the context at that time. Energy prices were skyrocketing and gasoline was $4 per gallon and rising. Well, times have changed now, and while I don’t have any direct evidence to prove it, I’d wager customer feelings have changed as well.
Today our news is dominated by loss of jobs and an economy in decline. At $2.00 per gallon, energy is, at best, a back-page story. Despite all of this I don’t think there’s any single explanation for why the Prius is so popular, why it’s become an icon. There are thousands of considerations that are made when you develop a new concept, fuel economy is just one of them. Nail each one and you have an icon, miss on a few and it’s just another car.
RB: What are the key concerns for car buyers in how they choose what they drive?
BR: Despite the hard times our economy is in, I think buyers still want a car that meets their basic needs both actual and projected. And one they can afford. Beyond that, safety still drives the buying decision. Cost of operation including fuel economy and insurance is still a consideration and the environment is gaining as a buying aspiration; much like luxury and performance before.
RB: All of the carmakers have been hit hard by declining sales. But Honda and Toyota have done better than their American counterparts, GM, Ford, and Chrysler. Why?
BR: I certainly wouldn’t want your readers to think we’re not suffering because of the economic downturn, because we are: 2008 was the first year we lost money in the auto business.
I’m not in a position to speak about the other manufacturers, but Toyota has always run lean. We’re always looking a ways to reduce waste and energy use in all aspects of our business. We try very hard to provide the cars our customers’ want, when they want them. In that sense our goal to keep our inventories low has help us weather the storm, but the next year isn’t going to be easy for any of us.
RB: A decade ago, fuel cell-powered cars were two decades away. Today, they are still two decades away. Why?
BR: You need to consider fuel cells in the same cold light as with any new energy program. Whether it’s solar, or wind, or batteries, or ethanol or fuel cells, it’s been the same story. Every new market entrant has been marked by an initial period of over promising and under delivering.
It’s pretty understandable how this happens. We’re working in the labs and a certain technology looks promising. But once the technology goes public, a lot of folks see only the promise and not the limitations or challenges. New startups are generated and there’s a lot of buzz and a lot of hype. Money is funneled into the technology and it becomes the next killer app.
The trouble is the limitations that were there originally are still there and overcoming them is a long-term process. As I said in your first question, there are specific advantages in using petroleum products to power cars, overcoming these advantages, with any technology is not going to be easy. Having said all that, I’m still very bullish on the promise of fuel cells. There are several manufacturers that are turning out very promising cars, cars that couldn’t be realized without using fuel cells. Most of us have solved many of the initial problems including energy density and cold weather performance. We still have some cost problems, but at least we can see a clear pathway. Energy storage is still an issue, but we’re learning how to design around that.
I think the biggest issue facing the emergence of fuel cells has nothing to do with the products and everything to do with the infrastructure. Despite all the work the auto companies have done to develop the cars, there isn’t a corresponding effort on the infrastructure side. We can develop the best car in the world, but if the customer can’t find fuel for it, they’re unlike to adopt it.
Posted on January 22nd, 2009 No comments
A Los Angeles car customizer who designed vehicles for “The Beverly Hillbillies” and TV’s original “Batman” said his latest passion is sprucing up dull hybrids.
George Barris, 83, said he has customized six Toyota Prius hybrids and is currently working on a seventh that will have cost more than $100,000 by the time it is finished, USA Today reported Wednesday.
Barris said the Prius he is customizing for Silicon Valley entrepreneur Satish Dharmaraj features upward tilting doors, flared fenders, a metallic gold and orange paint job, yellow-tinted glass, 20-inch rims and panels over the
windows. He said he is planning to further customize the car with a notebook computer, a lithium-ion battery kit to allow the car to drive 75 miles per gallon of gas, LED lights and dual rear video cameras to replace the side mirrors.
“I love taking something that nobody wants to do anything with and make it look better,” Barris said.
Barris said the final product will have cost more than $100,000 to construct — not counting the additional $20,000 needed to purchase a stock Prius.
“Takes aim” is right. Based on the Barris Prius I’ve seen and this description, it sounds like the man who gave us the “Beverly Hillbillies” cars is amking some ugly Prii. Dubs and yellow glass? ew.
Posted on December 24th, 2008 No comments
you have to start somewhere…
Toshiba Plans Big Production Jump for Fast Charging Battery
Martyn Williams, IDG News Service
Toshiba is planning a big increase in production of a new type of Lithium Ion battery that can charge to 90 percent of its capacity in a few minutes and is highly-resistant to short circuits.
The Super Charge Ion Battery (SCIB) is a Lithium Ion battery based on proprietary technology developed by the company and is targeted at both industrial and electric vehicle applications and consumer laptop computer use.
Production of the battery, which has been in development for several years, has already begun for the industrial market at the relatively low volume of 150,000 cells per month.
Toshiba will increase that to several tens of millions of cells per month at a new factory it plans to build in Kashiwazaki in Niigata prefecture in north west Japan, it said Wednesday. Construction of the factory will begin in late 2009 and production is scheduled to begin a year later, said Hiroko Mochida, a Toshiba spokeswoman.
Initial production at the factory, which represents an investment of several tens of billions of yen (several hundred million US dollars), will likely be aimed at the industrial and electric vehicle markets although the same lines will be able to make SCIBs for laptop computers, she said.
At September’s Ceatec show in Japan Toshiba demonstrated a laptop running on an SCIB. The battery will keep its performance through up to 6,000 recharges — more than ten times that of typical Lithium Ion batteries — meaning a laptop should be able to run its lifetime on the SCIB without need to replace the battery. Due to its design it is also much less likely to catch fire or short circuit if crushed or damaged.
Each SCIB cell offers a nominal voltage of 2.4 volts and a capacity of 4.2 ampere hours. Ten of them are typical combined to make a battery for industrial use and less would be required for a laptop battery.
Posted on December 22nd, 2008 No comments
Article from hybridcars.com here.
A group of US battery companies teamed up this week to boost American manufacturing of lithium ion batteries. The new alliance aims to compete with Asian companies that currently dominate the lithium ion battery market.
Posted on December 18th, 2008 No comments
Honda Motor Co said it would team up with battery maker GS Yuasa Corp to produce and sell lithium-ion batteries for gasoline-electric hybrid cars, eyeing growth in demand for the fuel-efficient vehicles.
The move marks a big step for Honda, which was conspicuously lacking a partner in the next-generation battery business, seen as key to advancing in the field of alternative-fuel vehicles.
Posted on December 18th, 2008 No comments
Car batteries a matter of national security
The Detroit auto makers have not played the security card publicly, as they wrangle with governments in Canada and the United States for financial assistance. But they are working the national security angle behind the scenes.
Here’s the Detroit side of the argument: there is not one single lithium ion manufacturing facility in North America and to create one would cost at least $250-million (all figures in U.S. dollars). In a nutshell, Asian battery makers have cornered the automotive battery market, and there is absolutely no chance of that changing if the Detroit auto makers stumble and fail.
Read the rest of the article at the link above.