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 But when talking about two 2010 vehicles, it’s always helpful to actually compare them, not to randomly insert out of date figures into the discussion.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 February 5th, 2009 No comments
Ask.com blows a simple one. Wait for it…it’s the old canard, Can I have a Prius that drives in the snow?
Is the Toyota Prius difficult to drive in the snow?
I’m considering a Toyota Prius, but while scanning various blogs and websites I see that the Prius has trouble in the snow. Can you tell me if this is true? I live in Colorado and would love a Prius but have a job like the mailman…rain, snow, sleet or shine. And my job requires lots of driving!
Jennifer G. Parker, Colo.
We road tested the Toyota Prius last winter and got some snow time with the hybrid. Senior editor Joe Wiesenfelder gives details in his review of the Prius:
“Mother Nature even threw some snow at the Prius, and in that situation it performed fine. The only drawback is that my car’s traction control was a bit intrusive. The electronic stability system definitely made for safer travel, but the electric motor’s high torque easily spun the drive wheels. Every time traction broke, the system would intervene, keeping the car in control but resulting in halting acceleration.”
A concern for hybrid drivers in the winter isn’t only the snow and road-holding, but also temperatures that greatly affect hybrid’s gas mileage. Hybrids are less efficient at colder temps, as Wiesenfelder explains:
“A major drawback of the Prius and all other hybrids I’ve tested is their winter performance. Cold temperatures decrease battery capacity, just as they do for the average 12-volt battery (which is why older batteries that were OK in summer may not start the car when it gets cold out). As a result, the engine must run at first to top off the battery and then more often throughout use to keep it charged. The mileage hit is not small. We’re talking several mpg on average. Chicago’s maddening weather actually came in useful in this test because I drove for days in temperatures below freezing and at times near 0 degrees. The trip computer said I was getting between 30 and 40 mpg in mixed driving. Then the temp shot up close to 60 degrees, and suddenly I was getting more than 50 mpg without even trying.”
Point One: I keep asking and to date no one can explain what the advantage of being able to spin your tires is. Can someone help me here? Other than making a lot of noise, does it help get you out of situations? In my thirty years on the road I would say no but apparently, some folks don’t feel fulfilled until they can go forty miles an hour without moving. Hey, it takes all kinds.
Point Two: Yes, hybrids (and the Prius specifically) do get the same MPG in the winter as the summer. At that, it’s better than anything else. I drove from Lancaster, PA to Washington D.C. and back, well over two hundred miles round trip and the trip back it was snowing the entire time (we got about six inches Monday night). Total MPG for the trip, 48.2. The author above is also confusing the affects the cold and the heavier drain on a standard 12volt lead acid battery suffers in winter with how the Nihms in my Prius perform. The two do not perform or react in the same way. And it’s not so much the cold that kills lead acid batteries in the winter as it is the drain on the batteries from the heavy cranking.
Final point, if you have to a 100% reliable car and you live in Colorado, almost all four door sedans might let you down. I would think you would want something four wheel drive. Now, I’m being a bit facetious but underneath that, I am serious. If people depend on you, get something that will get through anything the Rockies can throw at you. If it’s otherwise, then the Prius will work just fine, as it does for hundreds of thousands of us up here in the great white north.
Posted on September 16th, 2008 No comments
Let’s talk about the Volt and upcoming hybrids.
First off, a little fun. Since GM released what they call “production images” of the Volt today let’s compare those with what they spent the last year or so promoting as the Volt.
You’ll note the differences between the two and, as I’ve pointed out here before, the similarities to the Prius. That’s one thing. Promising something and delivering something else. One might opine that’s a quality GM has perfected.
Now, about GM’s promises for the Volt’s performance and technology.
GM has not offered many details on the Volt’s fuel economy and didn’t respond on Monday to a request for more specifics. But early estimates indicate that the Volt will deliver a significant boost in mileage and be cheaper to operate than a gasoline car.
Plug-in electric cars also stand to reduce, although not eliminate, air pollution.
“The Volt story has gotten much more interest than other (GM) product introductions because it represents such a dramatic departure. Historically, things were more incremental,” said David Cole, the chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.
GM says the Volt will get the equivalent of 50 miles per gallon on longer trips where an expected four-cylinder engine will be engaged.
But mileage will improve substantially if a person stays within the batteries’ 40-mile range. GM designers targeted a 40-mile battery range because most people drive less than that in a day.
In all-electric mode, drivers can expect the equivalent of about 100 miles per gallon, said David Goldstein, the president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Washington D.C.
In a mixed mode, where the gasoline engine kicks in, Golstein thinks that overall mileage for a 100-mile trip would be about 50 miles per gallon, but would go down to 35 miles per gallon for a 200-mile trip because the gasoline motor is working more.
35 MPG is not the quite the green warrior GM has been championing in their commercials. I do think that most people, if the Volt performs as GM claims (and that’s a really big “if”), will be able to beat that 35 MPG considering the type of driving most people do. There’s no question it has potential. The real questions are what will the real world performance and reliability of the Volt be?
One of the main ways GM and the other car companies sought to undermine the spread of the Prius was by questioning the life of the batteries. You can see this claim repeated endlessly in the media often time with little or no real world reporting. Toyota’s conservative approach had them using Nihm batteries in the Prius as they were reliable and relatively inexpensive (and have gotten much cheaper in the last few years). But GM is pushing Lion cells as the answer to be sure, Lion cells would be a much better answer. They deliver more power for their weight. But, as we have also heard and as many of us, Lion cells have, up till now, limited uses because of scalability issues. Just because Lion cells works great in your cell phone doesn’t mean five hundred would work great in your car.
This report from the Argonne National Labs through the Guardian UK highlights some issues:
Lithium battery for many vehicles seen a ways off
By Andrew Stern
ARGONNE NATIONAL LABORATORY, Ill., – Vast improvements are needed to extend the life and lower the cost of lithium batteries before they can efficiently power vehicles, a U.S. government official who tracks high-power battery development said on Monday.
Lithium-ion batteries are widely predicted to replace nickel metal-hydride batteries currently used in most hybrid vehicles, such as Toyota Co’s hot-selling Prius.
But among the challenges to overcome are extending the life of high-power lithium batteries and bringing down their relatively high cost, Tien Duong of the U.S. Department of Energy said on the sidelines of a lithium battery conference held at this government laboratory.
“Life means 10 years, plus. For hybrids we know (their batteries) last 10 years plus. For the PHEV (plug-in electric vehicle), we don’t know,” Duong said. He did not specify what the costs should be.
“One of the phenomenons that cuts short the life of the battery is power. You may have a lot of energy, but if you run out of power, that’s no good,” he said.
Soaring costs for gasoline and the effort to cut emissions to stall global climate change have added incentive to produce vehicles powered by electricity.
Duong said it will take time to develop a lithium battery that can meet the Department of Energy’s goal: a plug-in electric vehicle with a 40-mile range by the year 2016.
Plug-in vehicles like General Motors Co’s Volt — a proposed electric vehicle equipped with a regular gasoline-powered engine to provide backup electricity to the battery — are seen as promising because charging could occur overnight when power costs less.
“The beauty of the plug-in is charging overnight at lower rates,” Argonne Labs’ engineer-economist Danilo Santini told the conference. “And slower charging is cost-effective as well.”
Attendees at the three-day conference at the government research laboratory outside Chicago included automakers, battery makers, investors and scientists.
Lithium batteries that deliver low power have been used for years to power laptop computers and similar devices, but prismatic lithium batteries that deliver more power in a smaller package, and hold a bigger charge safely without overheating, are seen as the next generation to power cars.
A presenter from Toyota, Noboru Kikuchi, implored the assembled scientists to scale the technological barriers and build a safe, commercially viable lithium battery.
In the meantime, he said, Toyota aims to increase sales of its hybrid line, which employs metal hydride batteries, to 1 million vehicles annually by 2020. There are 1.5 million hybrids on the road currently, since the Prius was launched in 1997.
“Toyota is making quite an effort to build a lithium-ion battery … but simply giving up nickel metal hydride batteries seems like a bad idea,” Kikuchi said.
South Korea has been aggressive, with three large manufacturers — LG Chem, Samsung, and SK Energy — aiming to produce a viable lithium battery for vehicles. The goal is to produce a lithium-powered plug-in vehicle by 2013, three years before the United States’ target, Yung Myun Yoo of the Korea Automotive Technology Institute told the conference.
“That’s fine,” Duong said, when asked about South Korea’s progress.
Asked whether the United States was falling behind in building electric or hybrid cars, Duong said: “We’re losing the race in manufacturing, but not in R and D (research and development).”
He said there is a lot of discussion in Washington of funding a Department of Defense $1 billion battery project. (Editing by Matthew Lewis)
It’s not that simple, is it? And this applies to Gm and Toyota and anyone else who thinks slapping a bank of Lion cells in the trunk is going to solve the problem. Today, the Prius’ technology has proven with over a decade of use in the field. The Nihm batteries in the Prius do hold and do deliver promised performance. But to predicate all of your predictions upon technology unproven, as GM is doing with the Volt is to make your customers your guinea pigs, guinea pigs at a proposed $40k a pop I would point out.
Back to the Cnet story above for a little more depth…
Recent reports said that GM is planning to charge about $40,000 for the Volt, more than what was originally anticipated. For the price to go down, there needs to be a multi-year ramp-up in battery production.
“Anyway you look at it, out of the box, this is going to be expensive. These are going to be expensive batteries,” Cole said.
In its report, MIT estimated that plug-in hybrids will be commercially competitive with gasoline cars in eight to ten years.
The battery will weigh 400 pounds, be 5 feet long, and be placed under the car, Bob Boniface, GM’s Chevy Volt design director said in an interview. Boniface said GM had to make a break from the initial concept car design to improve the aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.
Once again, GM has more or less created a situation for themselves in that someone (read: American car companies) has spent a lot of time in the last few years pushing the idea that hybrids need “pay for themselves”. Where we never bothered to do that math before, suddenly hybrids are judged by a standard that means they must pay back, through savings in fuel, on the cost of the vehicle. Has GM hung itself with this paradigm and a likely to be expensive Volt?
Add in the factor of a completely unproven technology (Lion cells in cars) as we have a very tenuous situation in a field where customers really don’t like to be experimental subjects.
And just to toss a bit more silliness, here’s what Mercedes is pushing…
Ten years after Toyota and Honda introduced hybrids to the world, Mercedes Benz is jumping on the bandwagon with a $100,000 gas-electric luxury sedan and a promise that one in five cars it sells will be a hybrid by 2015.
The S 400 hybrid uses a lithium-ion battery and gets almost 30 mpg, and it’s the first of what Mercedes says will be seven hybrid models it will offer by 2015. Mercedes says it is offering a hybrid land yacht because not everyone wants an econobox.
The S 400 hybrid has a 279-horsepower 3.5 liter V6 gas engine coupled with a small electric motor driven by a lithium ion battery. The battery isn’t much bigger than a conventional car battery, and Mercedes says it’s integrated with the car’s climate control system to ensure that “the battery always works at an optimal system temperature of between 15 and 35 degrees Celsius,” or between 59 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. BusinessWeek says the motor and battery add 165 pounds to the car.
The S 400 won’t run on electricity alone; the motor is there to boost fuel economy by assisting the engine. The car reportedly generates the power of a V8 with the fuel economy of a four, and Mercedes says it’ll do zero to 60 in 7.3 seconds. Mercedes says the S 400 hybrid consumes 7.9 liters of gas per 100 kilometers, which translates to 29.77 mpg. The automaker claims CO2 emissions of 190 grams per kilometer, placing it ahead of the Lexus LS 600h hybrid’s 21 mpg and 219 g/km. The Prius, by the way, emits 104 g/km.
All that for only $100K. See what six figures will get you.
All of which brings me back to this (from a different Wired story)…
Priustoric: GM Builds A Plug-In Hybrid… In 1969
By Chuck Squatriglia
Toyota and General Motors are neck-and-neck in the race to put a plug-in hybrid in your driveway, but they’re recycling an idea GM explored almost 40 years ago and tossed aside like a depleted battery.
The concept car with the cumbersome designation XP-883 was nothing more than an experiment relegated to history, but it worked a lot like the Toyota Prius and Saturn Vue plug-in hybrids the two companies are working on today. It was sufficiently ahead of its time for Popular Science to call it “radical” and ask, “wouldn’t it be great to have a car that changed from electric drive for use around town to gasoline power for highway driving?”
“It makes so much sense,” the magazine wrote in July, 1969, “that we feel they’re missing a bet if they don’t put it in production.”
The XP-883 looked like an Avanti hatchback or the AMC Gremlin’s prettier sister. At 122.2 inches long, 57.3 inches wide and 46.3 inches high, it was a little bigger than a Smart ForTwo and a little smaller than a Honda CRX. It had a fiberglass body for light weight, but just what it weighed has been lost to history.
The heart of the car was a 35 cubic inch (573 cc) two-cylinder engine – small enough to be exempt from the emissions rules of the day – coupled with a DC motor powered by six lead-acid batteries just like the one under your hood. You could tool around in all-electric mode or in gas-electric mode, according to PopSci. In hybrid mode, the electric motor did all the work to about 10 mph, at which point the gasoline engine took over. If you needed to really get up and go, the engine and motor worked in tandem. Still, the car was as slow as it was advanced. Top speed was just 60 mph, and it needed 28 seconds to get there — making it only slightly faster than a Citroen 2CV6.
The series-wound motor was placed coaxially with the front driveshafts and drove them through a planetary reduction gear and a differential. The engine was mounted ahead of the motor. The batteries were mounted under the cargo area between the rear wheels, just like modern-day hybrids. A flywheel alternator kept them charged, and there was an on-board charger you could plug into a 115-volt socket to top them off at home. “You may think this little hybrid is pretty far advanced,” PopSci wrote, “but the fact is it could be built today. It’s not held up because the engineers are searching for a breakthrough.”
So what’s taken so long?
Photos copyright GM Corp. Used with permission, GM Design.
Can you imagine how different things might have been in the last forty years if we had adopted vehicles like this?