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
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 March 12th, 2009 No comments
I mean really. Here’s a few tidbits from a recent “article” on the Insight and the Prius.
Prius price starts at $22,000.
The Honda Insight is more than $2,000 less — base price is $19,800.
Well, that’s not the 2010 pricing, that’s 2009 and who knows, the 2010 Prius may have a higher base, it may not. But when talking about two 2010 vehicles, it’s always helpful to actually compare them, not to randomly insert out of date figures into the discussion.
The 2010 Prius arriving later this spring, is the third-generation model, with beefed up power thanks to first-time use of nickel metal-hydride batteries.
Well, actually no. The Prius has always used Nihm batteries. The “beefed-up” power might come form a larger ICE. 1.8 liter versus the previously used 1.5 liter motor but even that misses the point. The point of the larger motor is more vroom, vroom, it’s running the motor at lower RPMs for better efficiency.
The new Insight is powered by a 1.3-liter gasoline engine matched to a 10-kilowatt electric motor. It is EPA rated at 40mpg city, 43 mpg highway — just a bit less than the Prius.
Is three or four miles per gallon worth a $2,000 price difference? You tell me..
Just a bit? The new 2010 Prius is EPA rated at 51 highway and 48 city. So that “little bit” suddenly becomes about 20%. Not so little really.
And what this ignores, from a writer I suspect hasn’t driven either vehicle, is the physical difference between the two cars. So if you can drive a larger, more comfortable vehicle and get 20% better MPG, is two grand, when you’re spending twenty grand really important?
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 December 1st, 2008 No comments
Lithium ion battery maker to speed output
Posted by Automotive News
KYOTO, Japan–Masked workers in an airtight clean room carefully weld the tops shut on lithium ion battery cells, one-by-one. Colleagues slowly fill them, by hand, with electrolyte. It’s tedious, labor intensive work yielding just 90 cells a day, barely enough for one car.
But GS Yuasa Corp. promises it will all be a sight of the past in April, when the company opens what it bills as the world’s first mass-production line for automotive lithium ion batteries.
In other words, GS Yuasa thinks it can join other Japanese battery makers, such as Toyota’s partner Panasonic, in the quest to create a practical alternative to internal combustion.
The power packs will go into the i MiEV electric vehicle that Mitsubishi Motors will start selling in Japan next summer. GS Yuasa’s new factory will have initial capacity of 200,000 cells, or enough for 2,000 i MiEVs. But that will rise quickly to 100,000, or enough for 10,000 vehicles, and the company is planning plant No. 2.
Issue is cost, not safety
There is no better sign that lithium ion technology has cleared concerns about safety and is now facing the challenge of cost, says Katsuyuki Ono, a managing director at the battery maker.
“Mass production is necessary,” Ono said in an interview at headquarters Nov. 13. “If you make enough for 50,000 cars, you can start to cut the cost. But even that is only by a little.”
GS Yuasa is one of several Japanese companies, including Sanyo and Panasonic, vying to pioneer lithium ion batteries in the race for environmentally friendly cars. It manufactures the batteries through a joint venture with Mitsubishi Motors called Lithium Energy Japan.
Lithium ion batteries are seen as a breakthrough technology because they are lighter and more powerful than the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in today’s hybrid vehicles. But they are prohibitively expensive–partly because of materials, partly because of manufacturing costs.
On the small line at GS Yuasa’s main battery plant in Kyoto, manual processes still prevail. But the factory opening next April in the city of Kusatsu will be fully automated.
Meanwhile, the company is trolling for more customers in Japan, Europe, and North America to boost volume and cut costs. It also has chosen a manganese-based chemistry that is cheaper and more stable than cobalt-based varieties, though it has lower energy capacity.
Rivals Sanyo and Panasonic are moving into lithium ion after years of mass producing nickel-metal hydride batteries for such cars as the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid.
GS Yuasa has yet to see its batteries in any production vehicle. But it remains undaunted. The company started manufacturing lithium ion batteries in 1993 for cell phones and now makes them for a wide variety of uses including satellites, rocket ships, submarines, and trains.
“We are the rechargeable battery department store,” says Masanori Kitamura, general manager of strategic planning. “We can apply our fundamental technology to any application.”
Posted on November 7th, 2008 No comments
I always thought the real challenge with hydrogen was actually creating the hydrogen (and I still think that is the case). Here’s one opinion where the tank is the issue.
FUTURE TECH NEWS
New hydrogen tank is lighter than batteries
But is still heavier than air. How crazy is that?
BMW’s hydrogen car could benefit from lightweight alloy tanks
One of the biggest obstacles to using clean-burning hydrogen in cars and fuel cells is finding a way to safely and conveniently store the explosive gas.
New research by VU University Amsterdam has shown that one of the best storage media may be a lightweight alloy of magnesium, titanium and nickel.
A decade ago, researchers at the VU discovered that certain materials lose their reflection by absorbing hydrogen.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the lightest of them all?
A technique known as ‘switchable mirrors’ enabled them to test thousands of different metals for absorption efficiency, resulting in the discovery of an alloy that enables hydrogen tanks to be up to 60 per cent lighter than equivalent batteries.
Driving four hundred kilometres with a Toyota Prius, for instance, would require 317Kg of modern lithium batteries. With the new alloy, the same distance need a hydrogen tank of only 200Kg.
The British company Ilika in Southampton wants to build a hydrogen analyser using the new technique, although researchers warn that the discovery of the ‘holy grail’ of hydrogen storage is still “some way off”.
Posted on November 5th, 2008 No comments
Storing electricity is the future. Whoever comes up with the best method wins.
Panasonic eyes Sanyo; bets on solar power, hybrid cars
By Kiyoshi Takenaka
Panasonic Corp, the world’s top plasma TV maker, is betting on a green future of solar power and hybrid cars as it negotiates a price for rival Sanyo Electric Co that analysts say could be up to $8.7 billion.
A key driver for Panasonic is Sanyo’s auto batteries business that powers increasingly popular hybrid and electric vehicles, but it would also secure a foothold in the solar cell industry, another with strong growth potential amid concern about global climate change.
Sanyo is the world’s seventh-largest solar cell maker and competes with bigger rivals such as Germany’s Q-Cells.
“This isn’t a bad combination,” said Mizuho Investors Securities analyst Nobuo Kurahashi. “Sony doesn’t make auto batteries, at least not yet. When hybrid and electric vehicle demand takes off, Panasonic and Sanyo will be far ahead of everyone else.”
Panasonic runs a car battery venture with Toyota Motor Corp, while Sanyo offers nickel metal hydride batteries to Ford Motor Co and Honda Motor Co Ltd and develops lithium-ion batteries for cars with Volkswagen AG.
Panasonic has around $10 billion in cash and cash equivalent, some of which could be used to build a large-scale solar plant, which would be needed to make cost competitive solar panels.
In addition, Sanyo is the top supplier of rechargeable batteries that are used in cellphones, laptops and MP3 players, ahead of rivals such as Sony Corp and Panasonic.
A Panasonic/Sanyo combination would create Japan’s largest electronics maker by revenues, overtaking Hitachi Ltd.
“The deal … could propel the two firms to become the comprehensive electronics maker of Japan that can rival some of the major electronics makers overseas,” said Masaru Hamasaki, a senior strategist at Toyota Asset Management.
Reuters and other media reported on Saturday that Panasonic, formerly Matsushita, was in talks with Sanyo’s top three shareholders, Daiwa Securities SMBC, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Co and Goldman Sachs, to take control of Sanyo.
Sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters that Panasonic President Fumio Ohtsubo and Sanyo President Seiichiro Sano agreed in principle to Sanyo becoming part of Panasonic, but no price had been set.
And then there’s this…
GREEN: New Battery Technology Coming – NiZn
By Rex Roy
Surprisingly, it’s been nearly two decades since the last major advance in battery technology – the commercialization of the lithium-ion cell. This battery type remains the industry’s standard for pure electric vehicles because it can deliver more power over a longer period of time at a lower cost than any competitive technology.
However, for what the automotive industry refers to as High Efficiency Vehicles (HEVs) – a.k.a. conventional hybrids – a new battery technology is on the horizon that will make these vehicles less costly, less weighty, and more green (in terms of battery-pack recyclablility).
The new technology comes from the California company PowerGenix. The company holds twenty-three patents (granted and pending) on nickel-zinc batteries. The base formulation for NiZn batteries isn’t new (Thomas Edison attempted but gave up on making the formulation work), but as PowerGenix CEO Dan Squiller notes, “What the engineers and chemists at PowerGenix discovered was how to make the elements play nice together and last for an extended period of time while charging and discharging.”
Currently, HEVs use nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries. The new NiZn formulation packs 30 percent more power into a package that weighs 30 percent less than NiMH power cells. Moreover, the PowerGenix cells cost 20 percent less and are, according to Squiller, “inherently more recyclable than any other rechargeable battery chemistry commercially available today,” partly because NiZn batteries don’t require electrode stabilizers. PowerGenix has retrofitted a Toyota Prius with its batteries, reporting solid results from the lightened Toyota.
In spite of this success, don’t look for PowerGenix brand batteries to be on sale at your local Radio Shack or under the hood of a Prius anytime soon. Although the company already manufactures its NiZn cells for use in power tools, electric scooters, electric bikes, and for companies selling rechargeable AA and AAA batteries (check out the NiZn cells at Ritz Camera), PowerGenix has opted not to create a brand name for its batteries (the company doesn’t want to take on the big-spending bunny). Regarding automotive applications, PowerGenix plans to license its technology.
Posted on October 22nd, 2008 No comments
This is a trend which will continue, as reported in Consumer Reports…
Replacement costs drop for hybrid batteries
A frequently voiced concern about hybrids centers around the high cost of replacement batteries, which have ranged up to about $3,000. Now some relief may be on the way. Toyota announced last month that it has reduced the price of replacement batteries for the current (2002-2009) Prius by $686, to $2,299. Batteries for the first-generation Prius dropped $397 to $2,588.
That still seems like a lot of money. But overall, we have found hybrids to be very reliable in our subscriber surveys and relatively inexpensive to own. Automakers are required to warranty batteries for 8 years and 80,000 miles nationwide or 10 years and 150,000 miles in states that follow California emissions regulations. Relatively few hybrids have exceeded that mileage yet.
Given the length of the battery warranty, even if a hybrid owner does have to replace the battery pack after 80,000 or 150,000 miles, the cost is comparable to the cost of a transmission, which would likely have failed in other cars before that point. And hybrids have fewer other issues, which more makes up for any added battery cost.
Toyota says it has been able reduce costs in part by building its own batteries through its joint venture with Panasonic, through Panasonic EV Battery Corp., thereby reducing the impact from the battery middleman. And the company says it expects battery price drops to continue.
The nickel-metal hydride batteries in the all of the current hybrid vehicles are also recyclable which may help with price reductions.
Cheaper batteries are good news for more than owners of hybrids today. Electric cars, and hybrids that plug in for extra power are the most promising near-term alternative to oil consumption. And those cars will require bigger and better batteries to meet consumer demands for performance and range.
The next generation of advanced batteries are called lithium-ion batteries, like the one we had installed in the plug-in Prius we are testing. Lithium Ion batteries are smaller and lighter for the same energy storage capacity and so lend themselves better to full electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. However, they cost even more than nickel-metal hydride batteries. And expensive lithium-ion batteries are the biggest stumbling block to building more electric cars. So the race is on to lower the price of batteries across the board.
Toyota will start building lithium-ion batteries in 2009 and mass-producing them in 2010, the company says. But Toyota’s National Manager of Advance Technology Vehicles Bill Reinert says the company is already looking beyond lithium ion for future energy storage.
Dilithium crystals or a Flux Capacitor, anyone?
Posted on October 15th, 2008 No comments
Of course, one of the problems with lead acid is their weight but still, any advance is probably good.
AUSTRALIAN researchers have found a way to produce cheaper and more powerful batteries to run hybrid-electric cars.
CSIRO researchers in Melbourne have developed a new type of lead-acid battery to replace nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries used by environmentally friendly hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius.
Lead-acid batteries are cheap and can store large amounts of energy.
But if they are repeatedly and rapidly charged and discharged – as happens when used in a hybrid car – the battery plate becomes coated with chemical deposits, meaning the batteries wear out faster than NiMH batteries.
But the UltraBattery, developed by Dr Lan Trieu Lam and his CSIRO team, combines a lead-acid battery with a supercapacitor.
The combination stores as much energy as a standard lead-acid battery, but without the messy deposits on the plate.
“By acting as a buffer during charging and discharging, the capacitor boosts the battery’s life to match that of NiMH batteries,” Dr Lam said.
During lab tests, the UltraBattery lasted four times as long as the best lead-acid batteries, while producing 50 per cent more power.
A test vehicle running until the UltraBattery fails has so far covered 185,000km, while being recharged as needed.
The cost of the battery is also expected to be a third to a quarter of NiMH batteries and a sixth of the lithium-ion batteries used in some high-performance electric cars.
Independent testing has yet to be carried out.
Posted on October 15th, 2008 No comments
From an article in AutoWeek…
Most of us know by now that a plug-in hybrid is a car with a hybrid drivetrain that can have its batteries recharged from the power grid. It’s turning out, though, that such cars may come in more flavors than Starbucks has syrups.
Case in point: We drove a prototype version of the plug-in Prius, or PHEV, that Toyota will offer corporate and fleet customers starting in late 2009. Our experience was a short tour of downtown Portland, Ore., and for the most part, it was what you’d expect: It drove just like a Prius, but one that runs less often on its engine, more often (and at somewhat higher speeds) in pure electric mode.
More striking is the way this PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) operates distinct from what we are hearing about the Chevrolet Volt that General Motors will offer in late 2010. Toyota’s approach is to start with a Prius and add plug-in rechargability. So the car retains the firm’s hybrid-synergy drive, using what Toyota calls a series/parallel arrangement between the gas engine and electric motor.
In the PHEV version, there’s a button (in the prototype, it was on the dash to the left of the steering column) labeled “EV mode” that lets the driver choose to run the car only on electricity. If you’ve recharged the batteries by plugging in to the electric grid and then select this mode, the prototype will deliver six or seven miles of pure electric driving, burning no gas. The target for the production model is 10 miles of such range, enough for a lot of the trips many drivers make.
After that–or if you demand more performance in the short term than the small motor or the battery-pack state of charge can offer–the engine kicks in. As with any Prius, the engine drives the wheels through the transmission when you need more power or range.
During our drive, when we’d been moving around in pure EV mode for several blocks, we wanted to get out from behind a diesel city bus as we climbed one of the many bridges over the Willamette River. Booting the accelerator for an uphill surge from less than 25 mph to more than 40, we saw a dashboard gauge indicating that we were demanding more energy than was available from the batteries. The engine kicked in briefly until we let up on the pedal, even though we selected EV mode. After the acceleration, the car almost immediately returned to pure EV mode.
Pushing the EV-mode button again, to turn it off, returned the car to what Prius owners would regard as “normal” operation. A perhaps crucial distinction is that when the engine’s power was not needed to move the car, the control systems are set up to charge the pack of nickel-metal-hydride batteries. In theory, after a period of such use, the batteries would be replenished and the owner could again press the EV-mode button and go another several miles without gasoline.
A side note: Our first response to being stuck behind the bus was to hit the climate-control button to recirculate the air inside, rather than taking in not-fresh air from outside. (We were using neither heating nor A/C). The Toyota rep riding in the back seat was eager to have us turn off the climate control, especially the recirc mode –it runs the ventilation fan at a high speed, a drain on the battery.
PHEV drivers would have to judge for themselves, with feedback from the gauges, whether it is better to draw down the battery in this way or by accelerating to pass. You probably could learn to modulate the pedal up to the borderline just before the engine kicks in, though we wouldn’t be eager to do that on the open road, where the higher priority is safety, not consuming a little gasoline. Regardless, the experience was too short, and so was the indicated remaining pure-EV range of less than three miles, to allow such experimentation.
Posted on October 1st, 2008 2 comments
Hybrids trick out, plug in
By Marsha Walton
The owner of Luscious Garage is wondering whether the electric wall outlet will be the “gas tank” of the future.
Drivers of gas-sipping hybrid vehicles are increasingly interested in converting their vehicles from gasoline powered to electric, according to garage owner and lead technician Carolyn Coquillette.
While drivers of conventional gasoline-powered vehicles complain about higher fuel prices, clients of the San Francisco garage are investing big bucks to make their green cars even greener.
That’s being done through plug-in conversions and adding more powerful batteries to currently available gasoline/electric hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius.
“The regular Prius is a gasoline dependent car; it doesn’t get energy from anywhere but the gas tank,” said Coquillette.
“What this [conversion] allows me to do is get energy through an [electric wall] outlet, so [the wall outlet] is like my electric gas tank,” she said.
Coquillette, who has degrees in physics and English, said she gets three or four calls or e-mails a day, asking about the conversion. And, she says, with gas prices at more than $4 per gallon, she expects even more interest.
A lot of the cars that pull in to Luscious Garage are Toyota Prius hybrids, which Coquillette calls, “the Volkswagen Beetle of our times.”
Coquillette showed off the garage’s psychedelically painted Prius, which has undergone the conversion. Watch how Luscious Garage converts hybrid vehicles »
Its original nickel-metal-hydride battery packs have been replaced with lead acid batteries to extend the distance the car can travel on electricity. Coquillette expects to begin conversions to even more efficient lithium batteries soon.
The plug-in conversion costs about $7,500.
“Gas becomes optional,” with this conversion, Coquillette said. “Gas isn’t required to move this car anymore. If you want to drive a really long way, without recharging, yes, gas is required, but it gives you the flexibility of not having to burn gas anymore if you don’t want to. And that’s very liberating,” she said.
The garage itself strives to be green, with much of its power coming from solar panels.
And with gasoline approaching $5 per gallon in the San Francisco Bay area, “plugging in cars make a whole lot of sense right at the pocketbook,” said Korthof, who works for Energy Efficiency Solar.
What kind of people are converting to this conversion?
“We’ve seen such a diverse group of people,” said Coquillette. “We have some people who come in who are entrepreneurs, who are business people, there are some people who are diehard environmentalists, but there are some people who come in, they just want to burn less gas.”
The corporate folks at Toyota don’t have any official position on plug-in conversions. They don’t endorse or discourage it. iReport.com: Show us your first car
But for hybrid owners who demonstrate exuberant efforts to find more energy efficiency, “we really appreciate the fact that the Prius is the vehicle of choice,” said Jana Hartline, environmental communications manager for Toyota.
Hartline said the Prius was not designed with any conversion possibilities in mind, but she said the company welcomes any technology that pushes the envelope on plug-in batteries.
While the nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery will remain the choice for Prius, Camry and Highlander hybrids, Toyota is doing some research and development with lithium ion batteries.
Hartline said Toyota will be using lithium ion batteries in some commercial fleets in late 2009, mostly to learn more about charging behaviors.
Although the current batteries are “durable and reliable,” Hartline said lithium ion batteries pack more energy into a smaller space.
Much more research is needed, she said, about how hybrid owners would use their vehicles. For example, how often and for how long owners would plug in to the electrical grid, or a solar supply.
Also, as more drivers become interested in alternative energy, they will need to learn more about infrastructure.
• Will companies, malls or fast-food joints provide charging stations?
• Will they charge for the charge?
• In what other ways will the energy infrastructure have to change?
While the 2004-2008 Prius is the most popular hybrid conversion, it is also possible on 2005-2008 Mercury Mariner and Ford Escape hybrids.
And, as Coquillette says on the Luscious Garage Web site, “Any car can become a plug-in hybrid, if you have enough money.”
And driven customers don’t seem to be letting cost discourage them from the conversion.
“Customers are not coming to me and saying, ‘I’ll do this if there is a rebate.’ People come to me and say, ‘I want to do this right away,’ ” said Coquillette.
Luscious Garage will soon open a second location for the growing number of really green hybrid owners.
“Hybrid technology is one thing. Then there is plug-in hybrid technology, which is the next step, which genuinely removes your dependence on fossil fuel,” said Coquillette.
However, most U.S. electricity is created from burning fossil fuels — about 70 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency of the Department of Energy. Just under 49 percent comes from coal-burning power plants, about 20 percent from natural gas and about 1½ percent from burning oil.
Posted on September 24th, 2008 No comments
by Alan Boyle
Utilities are starting to think about electrical power the way phone companies think about cellular service, or the way gas companies think about filling stations – and it may not be long before you think that way, too.
The paradigm shift could come when plug-in electric cars (hybrid as well as all-electric) become a significant factor in the automotive market, as described in my Auto Tech story today. Some experts estimate that 19 million plug-in hybrids will be on U.S. roads by 2020 – and if even some of those drivers take their cars to work or go on an overnight trip, they’ll probably want to charge up at their destination.
It’s one thing to plug your laptop or cell-phone charger into someone else’s outlet, but what about plugging in your car?
Rich Feldman, a senior policy adviser in Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels’ office, said utilities are already talking about an arrangement that would allow electricity users to bill battery fill-ups back to their home account.
“It’s like the old cell network: It’s a roaming benefit, to some degree,” he said. “When I go to my mom’s house, I want to charge up my car, but I don’t necessariliy want it to show up on her electric bill.”
Jim Francfort, a researcher at Idaho National Laboratory who studies the economics of plug-in vehicles, said the cost of a home battery charge is so low that Feldman’s mom probably wouldn’t care. At a cost of 10 cents per kilowatt, it just takes 50 cents’ worth of electricity to charge up a plug-in hybrid Prius equipped with a Hymotion booster battery.
At that price, you might even get away with charging up at the hotel down the highway. “If they’re going to charge $150 for a hotel room, I don’t see why they wouldn’t give you 50 cents of electricity,” Francfort said. “It’s a marketing opportunity: ‘Free charge for your plug-in.’”
When it comes to plug-ins, the real cost of charging up isn’t necessarily tallied in money, but in time and convenience. It takes about four hours for a full recharge of the plug-in Prius with your typical 120-volt plug – and while that may be fine for an overnight stay at your mom’s house, that might not work so well while you’re at the office.
That’s where filling stations could fill a role. Back in the 1990s, electric charging stations started to pop up to serve the expected wave of electric cars. (This was before GM’s EV1 electric car was killed.) Now, companies such as California-based Coulomb Technologies are reviving the concept. Subscribers to Coulomb’s Smartlet service can pull up, enter their code and plug into the juice while their car is parked on the street.
Up the road from California (and down the road from Seattle), Portland General Electric is installing free charging stations as part of a pilot project that has also brought in businesses such as Nike. Such stations could eventually become status symbols for eco-conscious companies.
Do such developments represent a paradigm shift for the electric grid? Will electric cars (and hybrids) finally break our dependency on oil? Or is all this merely a sideshow in the great energy debate?
We haven’t really talked about where the electricity comes from – and that can range from coal-fired power plants, to nuclear, to certified wind power and rooftop solar (either on your house or on your car). You might want to address that side of the energy equation as well. So, feel free to weigh in with your comments on plug-in vehicles, pay-as-you-go electricity and other power plays.