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Hybrid Cars Newsletter: Issue No. 006
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~~~ Hybrid Cars Newsletter: Issue No. 0006 ~~~
Moderator: Bradley Berman [email@example.com]
In This Issue:
— Escape Hybrid Ramps Up; Lexus SUV Hybrid Gets Delayed
After a yearlong delay, the Ford Escape Hybrid began production this week and also received its EPA certification. Now, Lexus announces a delay of its own on the Lexus RX400h Hybrid SUV.
– Changewave Study: “Huge Wave of Demand for Hybrid Cars”
In a new survey of over 1,000 professionals involved with technological change, more than one-quarter say they are likely to buy a hybrid car in the next two years.
– Hybrid News from Around the World
Hybrid launches, sales, and tax breaks in Israel, China, India, Costa Rica, Europe, and elsewhere.
– Hybrids Cars in HOV Lanes: Are All Hybrid Car Purchase Incentives Created Equal?
The controversy in California about whether or not to allow hybrid cars to drive solo in the carpool lanes is heating up. Maybe it’s not such a great idea.
– Conventional and Hybrid Battery Comparison
Cold cranking current ratings versus deep cycles. It’s really not that complicated.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The first SUV hybrid came closer to reality last week when the Ford Escape Hybrid began production and received its EPA certification. According to Therese Langer of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, “The success of the Escape Hybrid will have very significant consequences for the view that American manufacturers take of the hybrid market.” The EPA numbers, established for an SUV at over 30 mpg, are somewhat reassuring.
Even more encouraging is a new survey from the ChangeWave Alliance, which suggests that hybrid sales are going to take off in 2005. The hybrid wave has definitely grown from its early days in the U.S. a few years ago, when the numbers resembled what’s going on in Europe and Latin America now. But just how far it might go, and how fast, might depend on government incentives. The government’s role in encouraging growth in hybrid sales is the subject of our story about Hybrid Cars in HOV lanes. A brief comparison of the conventional and hybrid car batteries keeps this month’s newsletter grounded in the everyday realities of driving a hybrid.
>> eBook on Hybrid Cars Is Now Available
I am very pleased to announce the completion of the site’s first publication entitled, “An Insiders Look at Hybrid Cars: How They Work and Why They Matter.” The downloadable (pdf) eBook features the transcribed and edited text of my first nine research interviews for the site. These interviews are used to create the concise webpages for the site, but a lot of visitors have expressed interest in more of the complete story. Details about purchasing the book are available at:
I’m already working on the next set of interviews. The research continues. In the meanwhile, here’s newsletter number six.
Escape Hybrid Ramps Up; Lexus SUV Hybrid Gets Delayed
Ford launched official production of the Ford Escape Hybrid at its Kansas City assembly plant on August 5. The company plans to build 20,000 of the vehicles. The vehicle reached an important milestone, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set the fuel economy rating as follows:
- 33 mpg (36 mpg city/31 mpg highway) for the front-wheel drive version
- 31 mpg (33/29 mpg) for the four-wheel-drive model
- This is pretty much in line with the anticipated fuel economy. Conventional 3.0-liter V-6-only Escapes are rated at 23 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
Dealers in select cities are expected to receive the first Escape models in later September or early October. The bulk of the 2005 model production will be delivered after January 1, 2005.
> More details about the Ford Escape Hybrid
The Ford Escape was originally scheduled for release in 2003, but was delayed by Ford so they could “develop technology and learning in-house.” Now, according to USA Today, Lexus has put off until February the U.S. launch of its RX 400h hybrid sport-utility vehicle. It was originally scheduled to go on sale in December. The delay gives Lexus time to:
Have engineers perform additional checks to make sure the vehicles escape some of the teething problems that have beset other gas-electric hybrids.
Build inventories. One of the biggest disappointments about hybrids is how long it takes to get them. Toyota dealers, for example, have quit taking orders for the Prius hybrid because the backlog is so great. Lexus says dealers have more than 8,000 deposits for the RX 400h. About 24,000 a year are planned for the U.S. market, or about 10% of all RX sales.
The delay will also allow Lexus to call the RX 400h a 2006 model. A December launch would have required a 2005 designation.
Changewave Study “Uncovers Huge Wave of Demand for Hybrid Cars”
According to a new survey by the ChangeWave Alliance—a group of 4,600 business, technology, and medical professionals involved with technological change—the demand for hybrid cars is set to go through the roof in 2005. Their survey of 1,005 of their members yielded the following findings:
Only 1% of their survey respondents currently own hybrids, but 27% report that they are either very likely or somewhat likely to buy one in the next two years.
59% of those likely to buy a hybrid plan to do so in the 13 – 24 month timeframe. This demand is likely to hit in late 2005 (for 2006 model year hybrids).
According to the report, recent increases in gas prices haven’t affected driving trends, but 59% of respondents say that they will be much more or somewhat more sensitive to fuel economy when they purchase their next car. When asked why they plan to buy a hybrid, “Better Gas Mileage” got twice as many votes as “Better for the Environment.”
For more information about the survey, visit http://www.changewaveresearch.com.
Hybrid News from Around the World
It’s obvious that the Japanese are way ahead of the Americans in terms of hybrid production and sales. But what’s happening in the rest of the world. Here’s what I have from my “global hybrid” folder:
- Robert Friedland, chairman of large copper project in Mongolia, predicts that China will be the world’s largest car manufacturer in less than 20 years. He says, “The Chinese Government is smart enough to realize that if they build 500,000 gas-guzzlers, they are going to have a huge environmental issue, as well as a balance of payment issue.”
- Toyota has sold more than 2,500 Priuses in Europe so far this year, and could probably double its annual sales target of 5,000 if it had enough supply, said James Rosenstein, a European Toyota spokesman. Others were less convinced that hybrid would put a dent in demand for diesels, which make up more than 40 percent of the European car market.
- Israel’s finance ministry has decided to offer tax incentives on hybrid cars as part of a policy to encourage their use. The finance ministry has decided that the tax on hybrid models will be 45% instead of 95% on gasoline and diesel cars.
- Thailand will cut excise taxes on electric and hybrid cars by as much as 75 percent to promote the use of fuel-saving automobiles.
- Akio Toyoda, senior managing director at Toyota, told The Times of India: “Whatever technology is adopted – electric or fuel cell – hybrid will be the core. It’s indispensable…India has great potential for growth.”
- In June, Toyota launched the Prius in Costa Rica, its first launch in a Latin American country, according to Agence France Presse.
- Toyota sold 1,000 Priuses in Australia in the past nine months. The hybrid car was recently beaten in environmental rankings by several conventional models – including the Malaysian-made Proton Waja — in the Australian government’s Green Vehicle Guide. Toyota defended the environmental performance of the Prius.
- In Singapore, Borneo Motors stopped selling the classic Toyota Prius and has no plans to import the 2004 model. Honda distributor Kah Motors stopped selling the Insight, and is only accepting special orders for the Civic Hybrid. Distributors say high cost and poor sales sounded the death knell for hybrids.
Hybrids Cars in HOV Lanes: Are All Hybrid Car Purchase Incentives Created Equal?
If doing the right thing in terms of the environment or reducing foreign oil dependency is not going to motivate potential hybrid car buyers to take the plunge, then what will? Considering that demand for hybrid cars is already creating excessively long waiting lists, does it make sense to create additional incentives to encourage sales of hybrid cars?
Hybrid car buyers purchasing hybrids in 2004 can take advantage of a federal tax deduction of $1,500. This deduction, which was $2,000 last year, will be phased out over the next two years. Pending federal legislation may keep the tax incentives going or even increase them by converting them to outright tax credits.
In addition to tax breaks, some progressive local cities are giving free parking to hybrids. Over 200 drivers who purchased hybrid cars from dealers in San Jose, California have taken advantage of the city’s offer for free parking at curbside meters and in city-owned lots. Los Angeles officials are proposing the same exemption. If approved by the City Council, the measure would take effect in September. Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn said, "I think we want to do whatever we can to improve air quality in Los Angeles…I think it will be fun. People will realize they won’t have to fish around for those quarters."
Another incentive, the provision for hybrid car drivers to go solo in carpool lanes, is more questionable. Virginia is currently allowing hybrid car drivers to use these High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes. Florida, Georgia and Arizona have already adopted provisions and are asking to be exempted from the federal HOV rules, which by the way Congress is considering abolishing altogether. California legislation is making its way through state government, and generating a lot of controversy. The bill, AB2628, was authored by California Assemblywoman Fran Pavley to “incentivize not only customers but the manufacturers to accelerate their production of
The details of the bill:
- Permits would be limited to 75,000 hybrid cars, in addition to the approximately 6,000 all-electric cars authorized for solo drivers.
- Hybrid cars made after 2005 would have to meet strict new anti-smog standards and achieve at least 45 miles per gallon to use carpool lanes. Hybrids made before 2005 also must get 45 miles per gallon but would not be subject to the newer smog standards.
- The entire law, if approved, would expire in 2008 — giving officials a chance to judge if the hybrids were disrupting the flow of traffic.
- The bill would require the California Department of Transportation to ban hybrids from congested carpool lanes and to stop issuing permits above the number 50,000 if congestion problems were to arise.
- 67 percent of Californians support allowing hybrid cars with solo drivers in carpool lanes, according to a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, a non-partisan research center in San Francisco. The Public Policy Institute surveyed 2,505 California residents by telephone between June 30 and July 14.
Therese Langer, Transportation Program Director, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy thinks people should look at the hybrid HOV issue critically, and ask “Are you offering the right kind of incentive for a hybrid?"
Therese explained that that the idea of HOV lanes and parking incentives was to encourage carpooling, and as a result, reduce pollution and fuel consumption. But that’s not all. It was also part of an effort to reduce the amount we drive and to manage our overall demand for transportation. “I think it’s not a good idea to put these two agendas in conflict, namely advancing the hybrid technology and reducing vehicle miles traveled,” she said. Therese added that some people view HOV lanes as a “stealth approach to putting in more lanes.”
Therese is not alone in raising these concerns. The California Association of Councils of Government last month called the bill irresponsible and said it "fails to recognize the extent of traffic congestion." San Francisco Bay Area transportation officials say the measure could scuttle their efforts to encourage more commuters to use express buses.
By 2008, transportation officials estimate, California will have about 110,000 hybrid cars on the road. Experts who have studied traffic flow say that just a few dozen extra vehicles in a carpool lane in an hour can cause a noticeable slowdown. 23 of the state’s 56 carpool lanes are reportedly at or near capacity. Estimates of the current number of hybrid cars in California vary from 20,000 to 50,000, still a fraction of the 29 million vehicles on the road.
Ironically, the Hybrid HOV legislation is being cosponsored by California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Just last week, a proposal by a panel created by Schwarzenegger called to eliminate California Air Resources Board (CARB). Under the plan, a new Department of Environmental Protection would replace 16 separate agencies, including CARB and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Some have criticized CARB for setting unrealistic goals for its failed electric vehicle mandate, and for setting stringent greenhouse gas emissions requirements. Fierce opposition to the plan is likely.
I think the only win-win situation is for hybrid drivers to carpool. Isn’t that the best of all
I’ve been working to add more technical content on hybridcars.com. To this end, I’ve been receiving help from Dave Reuter. Dave has been involved in the development of hybrid vehicles since 1999, and worked on the original concept development of the Ford Hybrid Escape. He currently serves as the Chief Engineer of Hybrid Electric Drive Systems at IAV, a German engineering/consulting company in the USA. In his first article, I asked Dave to describe the difference between batteries found in conventional cars and in hybrid cars. He explained that, “They are both rechargeable batteries. The difference is in the construction of the battery’s interior and the amount of energy the battery can store.” Take it away, Dave.
The Conventional Car’s Battery: The Key to Starting Up
The lead acid battery in a conventional car contains enough energy to drive a small electric motor. It is “gear reduced” to generate enough torque to turn over a car engine at about 300 RPMs to start the engine. A burst of energy is needed for a short period of time to do this.
During the winter when the oil is thick and parts are tight, it requires a lot of current from the battery to turn over the engine. Some engines require as much as 600 amps of current to turn over the engine. That’s why when buying a car battery one is concerned with the "cold cranking current rating." These batteries are designed to deliver a burst of current for a short period of time. Otherwise, the battery is only needed to support accessories such as the radio, lighting, security system, power windows, power locks, and entertainment systems while the engine is not running.
When the engine is running, the alternator supports all the required electrical demands of the vehicle. It also charges the battery back to its full potential so it will be ready to turn over the engine for your next start-up.
The automotive battery is designed to always be ready, willing, and fully charged—to discharge a lot of energy for starting the engine. Running this type of battery until it’s fully discharged would quickly kill the battery’s ability to store energy in the future.
The Rechargeable Hybrid Car Battery
A hybrid car uses a conventional lead acid battery for all the same reasons that a conventional car uses one. But a hybrid car also has a rechargeable battery, which is constructed quite differently. It is what is called a deep cycle battery. The internal construction of the battery will allow it to be fully discharged and recharged over and over again. It is very similar to a battery used in electric vehicles (EV) such as GM’s EV1 or a golf cart or new-fangled electric personal scooters. The difference is that electric vehicles need a lot of stored energy since the stored electrical energy is the only fuel the vehicle has to make it move down the road.
These batteries are very large and heavy. For an example the battery pack in the Electric Ranger battery build by Ford in the late 1990s was 1600 pounds. These batteries carried a serious amount of energy. Most of these battery packs are a series of smaller batteries connected together in a series array that adds up to a higher voltage.
The hybrid car uses a mixture of today’s gasoline engine and the battery found in electric vehicles. The hybrid battery has evolved a generation or two since the EV days. Today Nickel-Metal-Hydride (NiMH) is being used for hybrid batteries instead of lead acid to reduce the weight and deliver more energy from a smaller package. Because a hybrid also uses a gas engine, the size of the battery is not as large as a pure EV battery. On vehicles such as the Honda Civic and Insight, and the Toyota Prius, the hybrid battery voltages are 300 volts or greater.
I hope this sheds a little light into the differences between the conventional and hybrid batteries. Expect more on batteries and other technical matters on the site and in future newsletters.
With the completion of this issue, number six, we are settling into a monthly schedule for the publication. An archive of all six issues will be added to the site later this month. Tell your friends about the site, the newsletter, and the eBook. Thanks for your interest.
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