~~~ Hybrid Cars Newsletter: Issue No. 0055 ~~~
Moderator: Bradley Berman [[email protected]]
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IN THIS ISSUE:
Sorting Out Hybrid Brake Issue: Safety Issue or a Different Feel?
Did media coverage of Toyota’s safety issues blur the lines between a potentially fatal problem with the accelerator pedals and the hybrid braking issues that largely may be based on perception?

Prius Owners Mostly Unfazed by Recall
Most industry observers believe the recall will have little impact on sales of the Toyota Prius and other hybrids.

GM: “We’re Forced to Make Hybrids.” But Which Ones?
Last week, General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz repeated his long-held opinion that hybrid gas-electric cars have a limited market and will not be profitable for the company. Yet, GM is planning more hybrids. What gives?

Where Are the High-MPG Small Hybrids?
The original two-seat Honda Insight delivered 70 mpg in real-world mileage for many of its drivers. Where is the next generation of small high-mpg hybrids?

BMW Plug-in Hybrid Sports Car Coming in 2013
BMW’s 356-horsepower, plug-in hybrid 2+2 concept sports car is headed for production in 2013. That’s more proof that some of the world’s fastest, most exotic, and most expensive sports vehicles will utilize some form of efficient electric-drive technology.

Will EV Rapid Chargers Kill the Gas Station?
Rapid chargers for electric cars will allow electric car drivers to roll up, fill up, and drive off almost as fast as they do today in gas-powered cars. John Aker, president and CTO of Aker Wade, explains.

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Greetings, Hybrid Car Enthusiasts,
The global recall of the 2010 model of the Toyota Prius may be the biggest test yet of the longevity of electric-drive vehicles. The media frenzy made it difficult to figure out if Prius brake problems are a minor software issue—or a serious safety threat. There’s no doubt that the Toyota brand has been damaged, and that hybrid technology is being questioned like never before. But as the days pass, it appears that hybrid and electric cars may have only suffered a temporary setback. Read on, and judge for yourself.

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Sorting Out Hybrid Brake Issue: Safety Issue or a Different Feel?
https://www.hybridcars.com/safety.html

After several days of speculation, Toyota issued a recall of the 2010 model year Priuses as well as the Lexus HS250h luxury hybrid. Only the 2010 model year vehicles are involved because previous generations had different brake system software. The repair, which involves loading new anti-lock brake software onto the car, takes about 30 minutes to perform.

Toyota says the 2010 Prius is completely safe. If the brakes feel unusual, keep pressing firmly on the brake pedal. Don’t pump brakes. Instead, keep the pedal firmly pressed down.

Coming at the heels of Toyota’s problems with sticking accelerator pedals, news of the braking problems on the 2010 Toyota Prius and Lexus HS250h hybrid raised legitimate concerns among hybrid owners. Yet, media coverage of Toyota’s safety issues may have commingled coverage of a potentially fatal problem with the accelerator pedals—resulting in a massive recall of 4.5 million Toyota vehicles—with hybrid braking issues that largely may be based on perception.

Toyota doesn’t believe there are any “defects” and any problems related to the driving experience will easily be fixed by the software patch. That’s exactly the position taken by Ford to some customer complaints about braking in the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2010 Mercury Milan Hybrid. “While the vehicles maintain full braking capability, customers may initially perceive the condition as loss of brakes,” said Ford. “There have been no injuries related to this condition.” Toyota informed HybridCars.com that “there is no loss of braking control.”

Aaron Bragman, an automotive analyst at HIS Global Insight, told The Wall Street Journal that some drivers are unfamiliar with the idea that hybrids drive slightly differently. “The brakes are different and the regenerative system is different. It’s a learning curve when you’re driving a hybrid.”

Regenerative braking is a key function of hybrid cars—as well as the plug-in hybrids and electric cars expected in the coming years. These systems have been put to use in hybrids since 1997 in Japan, and since 2000 in the United States. There are nearly 2 million hybrids in use in the United States.

See all our coverage of hybrid safety issues:
https://www.hybridcars.com/safety.html

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Prius Owners Mostly Unfazed by Recall
https://www.hybridcars.com/safety/prius-owners-mostly-unfazed-recall-26622.html

On the first day or the announced recall of Toyota Priuses, the reaction from hybrid owners was remarkably muted. Media reports from around the country reveal that few Prius drivers seem overly concerned about a potential problem with uneven braking. The calm reaction could be explained by the devotion of Prius drivers to their hybrids—or to the Toyota brand—or by the fact that Toyota’s much larger and potentially dangerous recall involving unintended acceleration makes the Prius problem seem minor. Or is the public growing weary of the Toyota recall story?

Here’s a sampling of responses:

Cleveland.com: “Auto industry experts say the brake issue probably won’t have much of an impact on Prius sales. Hybrid owners adore their cars and are far more forgiving than other Toyota buyers.”

CNet.com: “So am I losing sleep over my Prius? So far, no. Toyota made technical mistakes and apparently fumbled in acting on the problem. But I don’t think I’ve encountered this specific problem, even over potholed roads.”

Jacksonville.com: “Toyota’s announcement Tuesday about recalling the 2010 Prius to update computer software for its brake system didn’t bring a wave of calls to Jacksonville dealerships like Toyota’s earlier recall of eight models for potentially faulty gas pedals.”

Edmunds.com: “Most Prius shoppers aren’t looking for anything else and are likely to be willing to wait until they feel the problem has been fixed rather than going to another hybrid.”

Learn more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/safety/prius-owners-mostly-unfazed-recall-26622.html

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GM: “We’re Forced to Make Hybrids.” But Which Ones?
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/gm-forced-make-hybrids-which-ones-27259.html

Last week, General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz repeated his long-held opinion that hybrid gas-electric cars have a limited market and will not be profitable for the company. Yet, he believes GM will be forced to make more hybrids because of tougher fuel efficiency regulations. This begs the question: What hybrids should we expect from GM?

According to Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics, GM’s two-mode system will be migrating down to rear-drive sedans—the Cadillac ATS and CTS. The ATS, a luxury compact sometime referred to as a “baby Caddy,” is expected to go on sale in the US next year. Hall expects that the next-generation CTS, scheduled for 2012, eventually will offer the next-generation hybrid system. Hall’s viewpoint is supported by GM’s announcement last month that it will set up a $246 million facility to build electric motors to power future hybrids. GM said that the newly designed electric motors would appear in 2013.

“In the future, electric motors might become as important to GM as engines are now,” said Tom Stephens, GM vice chairman, global product operations.

If cost is the worry about hybrids, then GM might try to produce less expensive mild hybrids. That’s what the company has been hinting at for about two years. In 2008, former GM CEO Rick Wagoner promised big: “We plan to roll out this next-generation hybrid technology globally, across our brands and regions, starting in 2010 in North America, and we expect that volumes will eventually exceed 100,000 units annually.” (In 2009, GM sold about 16,000 hybrids.)

Last year, at the SAE 2009 World Congress, Larry Nitz, GM’s executive director of hybrid powertrains, said the company will offer mild hybrids with power roughly equivalent to the 2010 Honda Insight. Nitz, once again, emphasized that the mild hybrid system is a strategy for making hybrids cost-effective.

Add it up: In the course of a couple of years, GM could be producing mild hybrids in decent numbers, full hybrids in small numbers, and a few standout electric-drive vehicles, most notably the Chevy Volt.

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/gm-forced-make-hybrids-which-ones-27259.html

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Where Are the High-MPG Small Hybrids?
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/where-are-high-mpg-small-hybrids-27248.html

It was once thought that the great promise of gas-electric hybrids was to offer new levels of fuel efficiency. In other words, adding even a modest battery pack and motor to a compact or subcompact car could boost the fuel efficiency of a small car from the mid-30-mpg range into the 40- or 50-mpg range. The original two-seat Honda Insight delivered 70 mpg in real-world mileage for many of its drivers. Where is the next generation of small high-mpg hybrids?

Honda Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo recently told Bloomberg that the 2010 Honda Insight might have compromised too much size in the name of efficiency. The company will soon introduce another small hybrid, the two-seat Honda CR-Z, followed by a gas-electric version of the Honda Fit. “There are plenty of people who think that the current Fit meets their needs already” with its fuel efficiency, Kondo said. “A hybrid version might seem expensive. Our engineers are really struggling.”

Toyota is showing off its Toyota FT-CH—the CH stands for compact hybrid—on this year’s auto show circuit. The company has also hinted at a smaller version of the Prius, and plans to unveil the Lexus CT 200h, a premium compact hybrid, at the upcoming Geneva auto show. If Toyota delivers on its promise of more hybrids throughout its entire lineup, at some point it will need to get small. Hybrids haven’t been big sellers in Europe, but perhaps the small hybrid format is better suited to European drivers. The CT 200h apparently will only be available in Europe, to take on the Audi A1.

Other automakers have been thinking about future small hybrids, including Volkswagen, which showed it New Compact Coupe concept at last month’s Detroit auto show. The NCC mates a hybrid powertrain to its direct-injection gasoline engine to yield around 45 mpg. Upcoming electric cars, including the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric, are also compacts.

As long as gas prices are low, the numbers are tricky and the concepts are remaining in research and development labs. Yet, if and when gas prices take a jump, the move to small hybrids that can get 50 or 60 mpg could happen quite quickly.

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/where-are-high-mpg-small-hybrids-27248.html

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BMW Plug-in Hybrid Sports Car Coming in 2013
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/bmw-plug-hybrid-sports-car-coming-2013-26567.html

A senior BMW executive told Edmunds.com that its 356-horsepower, plug-in hybrid 2+2 concept sports car is headed for production in 2013. Only time will tell if the comment is backed by a real commitment from BMW. Regardless, the vehicle follows an emerging trend that some of the world’s fastest, most exotic, and most expensive sports vehicles will utilize some form of efficient electric-drive technology. It also, once again, shatters the image of a hybrid as slow and dorky.

“It’s the sports car of the future, the way BMW imagines it.” That’s how Adrian van Hooydonk, director of BMW’s group design, described the “BMW Vision EfficientDynamics” two-door vehicle that was unveiled at last year’s Frankfurt Auto Show. BMW’s overarching goal was to combine breathtaking speed and groundbreaking efficiency. In the BMW Vision, that boils down to 4.8-second 0-to-60 miles per hour acceleration and 63 miles to the gallon.

First, BMW engineers combine a turbocharged three-cylinder diesel engine and the mildest forms of hybrid technology and drive both through the rear axle. Then they add a second motor to drive the front wheels exclusively by electricity. When both are called into service, the overall system can put out 356 horsepower. The car’s slippery design boasts a drag coefficient of 0.22—beating out the Toyota Prius’s 0.25. With great aerodynamics and a lightweight polycarbonate glass skin, the Vision’s 10.8 kWh battery provides enough grid-supplied energy storage to travel 30 miles purely on electricity.

BMW executive said volume could be between 5,000 and 10,000 units. No word yet on price, but if you have to ask, it’s too expensive.

Check it out:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/bmw-plug-hybrid-sports-car-coming-2013-26567.html

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Will EV Rapid Chargers Kill the Gas Station?
https://www.hybridcars.com/types-systems/will-ev-rapid-chargers-kill-gas-station-26527.html

Think, the electric car producer, announced last month at the Washington Auto Show that it is partnering with AeroVironment to commercialize rapid chargers. This could mean charging an electric car to about 80 percent capacity in 15 minutes. Richard Canny, Think’s CEO, called the move to so-called Level III rapid charging “a major leap forward for electric vehicles.”

Weeks earlier, Aker Wade Power Technologies and Coulomb Technologies announced an agreement to develop public charging stations capable of charging an electric vehicle in 30 minutes or less. Allowing electric car drivers to fully recharge in minutes rather than hours could alleviate “range anxiety”—the concern that a pure electric car could run out of energy and its driver could be stranded for hours until the vehicle is adequately recharged.

HybridCars.com caught up with John Aker, president and CTO of Aker Wade, to learn about the vision of EV rapid charging.

HybridCars.com: Is Level III rapid charging a pipe dream?

John Aker: No. Level III is here and it’s here right now. It’s being done on the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV in Japan. There are about 30 or 40 chargers distributed around Tokyo that have taken the range anxiety from the users of EVs, because they know they can fill up quickly if they need to.

HC: How fast can they charge up?

Aker: Today it will take 20 to 30 minutes to fill the battery with a Level III system. In five to 10 years, we’ll see that drop to 10 to 15 minutes. This will be helpful in situations where people need to fill up quickly and be on their way such as a highway rest stop or a gas station.

HC: You’re talking about decades into the future, but what are the steps along the way?

Aker: Today, with gas at about $3 a gallon, it’s cheap. You’re going to get early adopters [of electric cars] now. But you have a billion Chinese and a billion Indians that want to drive cars. And the Chinese standard of living is going up. They are now a bigger market for cars than we are. Within the next five to 10 years, they’re going to have a bigger fleet than we do. The price of petroleum is going to shoot through the roof. As the prices go up, it’s going to make electric cars more and more attractive.

In the meantime, electric [transportation] is going to gain a foothold and incrementally move up. Early adopter and fleets are going to step in and volumes will grow. You’re going to see a crossover point about 2025. You’re going to see more EVs than internal combustion engine cars. By 2040 or 2050, we’ll look at the internal combustion engine as you and I look at the Model T. It’s cute. It makes noises. It’s fun to drive around the parking lot. But hey, I got this really cool fast EV.

Read the entire interview:
https://www.hybridcars.com/types-systems/will-ev-rapid-chargers-kill-gas-station-26527.html

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WRAP-UP

There you have it. Both the peril and promise of the bold new automotive landscape. The plot will only get thicker from here. And we’ll be here to tell the story.
Happy Driving,

Bradley Berman
[email protected]