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  1. #1

    Interesting report on advanced cars


    I remember when this project started under the Clinton administration- I was in highschool at the time. Unfortunately, the program was less than a success and shows just what can go wrong when technological solutions are embraced as a panacea when a combination of political and regulatory solutions would work better. The only success was it stimulated the Japanese to research hybrid-powered cars.

    The biggest cause of the failure of the Project for the Next Generation of vehicles- the program had no "pulls". It was a technology transfer from the US citizens to Detroit, without anything in return. Without some incentive to purchase fuel-efficient cars, there was no reason for automakers to build a hybrid car.

    Another cause of failure was hostility from some environmental groups and state governments. The main focus on the technology was building a simple diesel-electric hybrid with a parallel powertrain, utilizing a heavily-aluminum based construction (much like the Insight). The goal was specificly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce depedence on oil. Unfortunately, stiffening environmental laws in California and New York focusing on traditional tailpipe emissions meant that any hybrid cars produced from the program could not be sold there.

    An example of how technically successful this program was- imagine a car similar to the Honda Civic Hybrid or Prius, except it would get 80 miles per gallon (the GM Precept and Ford Prodigy achieved this). But the technical success did not directly translate into the original goals of the program: increase vehicle fuel economy and help Detroit remain competitive. Ironicly, Detroit is losing even more ground to Japanese and Korean carmakers, and fuel economy actually dropped during the 1990's.

    But, it did lead Toyota and Honda to take the threat of very seriously. The Japanese governments and private industry invested alot of money into research, and as a result actually had production hybrids well before the PNGV was scrapped. Now that the Japanese know the US government was less-than-serious about the PNGV, my guess is that Toyota and Honda are taking the "Freedom Car" with a big grain of salt. Notice that Toyota and Honda are not jumping on the hydrogen car bandwagon; probably because they feel they have seen this paper-tiger posturing before.

    US taxpayers should also not take the Freedom Car initiative seriously. Instead, they should demand this mandate-less corporate snow job be axed. That's a billion dollars we could spend somewhere else.

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  3. #2

    Interesting report on advanced cars

    Using that money to offer incentives to Hybrids car buyers (or any car with better than 50mpg Hwy) would seem to make more sense right now - and certainly would give immediate results.

    I've also wondered what is would take to offer retro' kits that do IMA fuel saving on engines - that seems to be mostly computer controlled fuel / cylinder management....

    My predict is that within 5 years IMA and Hybrid will be standard and you will pay a premium to get a "standard" car...

  4. #3

    Interesting report on advanced cars

    A retrofit kit for simple stuff like integrated starter motor generators could probably be done for alot of cars, but it comes down to a question of cost. It costs manufacturers only about 400-600 dollars to install it in a car (and also they save money on not using an alternator or starter), but it would cost a consumer much more, it's not simply a matter of dropping one into a car and driving off. There's all kinds of electronics in a moder car- lots of computers that are all expecting certain things (in most cars, the computer is even expecting a certain transmission in the car, if the car or truck has a turbocharger, it factors that in too- many cars are even going to drive-by-wire, no mechanical linkage, all computer controlled- diesel cars and trucks have been like this for some time). And you'ld probably have to switch over the entire electrical system to something with higher voltage (this is one reason there's a push in the automotive industry to move to 42 volts, but just like antiquated computer technology like serial and PS/2 ports, it takes time to switch over).

    It might help if the government gave people a tax credit for retrofits, in the same way a person gets a tax credit for buying a hybrid. Otherwies, I just don't see it making economic sense. Something like a starter generator is only going to increase fuel economy by 10-20 percent in city driving, and almost nothing in highway driving. And you are probably looking at 2,000 dollars at least to fit something like this into the typical car.

    I expect commercial/corporate fleets of trucks or vans might be more willing to do retrofits, especially if it saved them money in the long term. They usually put on mileage faster than the average driver. A good example would be a UPS or postal truck- they stop alot, so they could end up saving alot of fuel.

  5. #4

    Interesting report on advanced cars

    I'm not a big fan with retrofits.
    Building a car for better MPG is more than just adding a hybrid system: it's the whole car:
    If just one thing is done the results will likely be less than expected.

    We only need to visualize the shape of a Prius or Insight, and learn of all the other devices designed around fuel efficiency.

    For example, my HCH has more FE devices than the hybrid system alone. To name a few it has electronic assist steering: no belt or pump for the engine to run, heat rejecting glass, low rolling resistance tires, panels underneath reduce wind drag, etc.

    I'm not sure in the case of Ford's hybrid cars but Toyota and Honda sure develop the whole car.

    Typically, a person would see vastly better results in learning how to drive for efficiency, rather than spend the money on a hybird retrofit. As an added benefit the skill could be applied to whatever vehicle they drive:
    Car, truck, diesel.

  6. #5

    Interesting report on advanced cars

    About 50% of cars on the road in the USA are less than 8 years old. 90% are less than 14 years old. Since a retrofit kit could never even hope to offer the same benefits as a fully integrated, manufacturer produced system, you're better off putting more money towards incentives on new hybrids.

    Buying habits that change today will be fully mainstream in less than a decade based on the stats. Taking the law of unintended consequances into account, if you gave people an incentive to keep their OLD car (such as tax breaks for a half-assed hybrid retrofit) then you're actually cripling your future because there's less of a reason to go to fully integrated hybrid systems.

    Over a 15 year view, offering incentives only on fully integrated systems would be much more beneficial. If you want to introduce government force rather than personal tax breaks, then just start raising CAFE, or better yet, do away with the separate CAFE for trucks versus cars. Since that's money that the manufacturer has to pay if they don't meet the CAFE limit, they would reach a point where it's cheaper to spend the money on R&D to get better gas mileage than to spend the money in government fines.

  7. #6

    Interesting report on advanced cars

    The project for next generatio vehicles failed because the leaders of the big three are short sited. They have no vision for the future. The US gov gave them every incentive to develope these cars. GM and the others pissed away the opportunity. They took the money but did not commite to actually producing the cars. It's just like GM develping the EV1 and then doing everything possible to scuttle Californias plan increase the use of electric cars. The big three love the hydrogen idea, why because they can talk all day about the technology of the future without having to produce it.

    Meanwhile the japanese are eating detroits lunch.

  8. #7

    Interesting report on advanced cars

    here's a concept:

    "What if" we had TWO tanks in a car. one with regular gas, one with water. use the hybrid technology to recover energy & store in batteries. use the electric from the batteries to split the hydrogen from the water, and burn the hydrogen in another motor?

    just a thought - might be still another way to stretch gas further & further.

    see ya

  9. #8

    Interesting report on advanced cars

    The likely economic fallout of higher oil prices and the resulting credit crunch will make new hybrids out of reach for many people who are still making payments on "cheap oil" cars. Also, the market value of "cheap oil" cars will plummet, trapping many people in their current late model vehicles.

    A retrofit kit, regardless of the effectiveness, is likely to attract enough buyers so that you will see them.

    The computer controls are readily available as well as the know how.

    When mass produced for the most popular models, the price will come down and meet with rising oil prices to make a profitable product.


  10. #9

    why not develop electric

    why not develop electric cars with universal battery packs that can easily be removed and exchanged at a service station so the driver of the electric car can recharge his car and go while the service center recharges the exchanged battery for the next customer. Because when you really look at everything the only feasible solution to global warming and the possibilaty of fuel shortages would have to include some kind of help and assistance for those about 70% of the population who cannot afford new cars that is really where the problem lies and no one seems to be discussing any propositions for a sollution and it prbably would be more beneficial to develop some kind of retrofit,redesigning, backwards enginnering project for the gas eatting cars that are already on the road we can not really expect a few new cars to really make that big of a impact when the people who does the most driving are those who have to drive to work and do not make enough to really afford a new car but by the same rate this is the group who really is the reasson why any given politician obtains office but the politicians never do anything to help the working poor they only seem to care about the concerns of the rich and the middle class which is wrong because the working poor doe make up the majority and the government is not doing anything to help, to fix our energy problem is going to have to involve some sort of sollution that is not just obtainable to the upperclass.

  11. #10

    christopher, The battery

    The battery swapping idea has been tried several times, however, as you say, it requires "packs that can be easily removed and exchanged". Unfortunately, it is never "easy" to remove a 1000 pound object with regularity. Instead, fast charging (10 minutes to 1 hour) seems like a more technically feasible idea.
    As far as getting efficient automobiles to the poor who can't afford new cars: This can be handled with efficient cars the same way as it is with today's gas burners. The poor will simply buy used cars that are initially purchased by the rich and middle class.
    I guess we need to get the rich and middle class to start buying efficient cars soon so they can trickle down to the masses. This is Tesla's plan and it appears that a lot of wealthy and dedicated people are stepping up to the plate. Hopefully, this will work.

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