Carmakers on Plug-Ins: "Yes, But Not Yet"
Plug-in hybrids now have much more legitimacy, with GM saying it plans to produce them—but all carmakers are still far away from commercialization. At the CalCars website, we have reorganized our page, "How Car-Makers are Responding to the Plug-In Hybrid Opportunity." First, all the entries back to early 2005 are now in reverse chronological order. And at a time when carmakers are speaking more positively and announcing future plans, as part of our effort to highlight and then help bridge the gap between intentions and actions, we’ve added a big-picture overview at the top of the page.
If you ask, "Have the major automakers come around on Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV)?", today’s answer is "Yes—but not yet." None have committed to a schedule for production. As you can see in our collection of media reports, comments on PHEVs have been contradictory. They’ve evolved as awareness expands and interest grows, and as they get more pointed questions from journalists and customers. The objections they raised for years—"No one is interested, no one would plug in, the benefits are minimal, it’s just shifting the pollution from the tailpipe to the smokestack, there’s no demand for these cars"—still show up occasionally, but are by and large history.
What remains is "not yet viable." Their response to real and specific concerns about battery lifetime, up-front costs, and safety issues is to focus on engineering and testing for an unspecified number of years. We are working to find ways to address all these issues so they can get started now, putting demonstration fleets of "good-enough" PHEVs in the hands of eager fleet and early adopter customers, with better production PHEVs arriving as batteries steadily or rapidly improve.
Here’s our quick summary:
- General Motors: Intention to produce PHEV of Saturn Vue, but not for years. More announcements in January. Wants to be first.
- Toyota: "Pursuing" plug-in hybrids, but not viable for years. Wants to be first.
- Ford: "Keenly looking" but nothing to announce. Slowing down entire hybrid program.
- DaimlerChrysler: PHEV prototypes on 15-passenger Sprinter program, no commitment to production. No plans on passenger vehicles.
- Nissan: Unconfirmed media report of a PHEV around 2010.
- Honda: Federal research and development is all that’s warranted at this stage.