Toyota and GM Fight for Plug-in Market

Toyota and GM Fight for Plug-in Market

Toyota Pruis Plug-inBy John Addison reporting from the LA Auto Show (12/4/09, updated 12/15/09)

Electric cars and hybrid cars are prominent here at the LA Auto Show. GM highlighted big plans for the Chevy Volt. Toyota, owning some 65 percent of the U.S. hybrid market, displayed the Prius Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (PHV) along with a growing family  Toyota and Lexus hybrids. The Volt will have triple the electric range of the PHV. Toyota may have a $10,000 price advantage over the Volt.

For extended driving, the Toyota plug-in will normally blend power from the 1.8L gasoline engine and from the 60kW electric motor, just as the Prius does now. The Volt, however, is powered purely with its electric drive system, with a  one liter gasoline engine configured in series to act as a generator. Although series designs have been used for years, GM insists that the Volt is in a unique category – the extended range electric vehicle (EREV). What may be unique is consumer confusion. Clean Fleet Report refers to both the Volt and Prius Plug-in as plug-in hybrids.

In 2010, Toyota will put 500 PHV into fleet tests with car sharing services, corporate and government fleets, and some individuals; 150 will be in the United States. At first glance, these PHV look identical to the 2010 Prius. The Prius Plug-in however use lithium-ion batteries instead of the NiMH batteries of the Prius. The PHV can travel 14 miles in electric range at up to 60 miles per hour. The Prius Plug-in 5kWh Panasonic lithium-ion batteries can be recharged in 1.5 hours with 220 volts.  Three different pack configurations will be tested.

The Volt will have a 40 mile electric range; triple that of the Prius Plug-in. The Volt has a 16kWh battery pack being jointly developed by GM with LG Chem. A 220 volt recharge may take 4 hours. GM 16 kWh hours may add $10,000 to the vehicle cost over Toyota’s 5 kWh hours. Neither automaker has announced sale prices or lease rates.

Both automakers will first emphasize the California market. Most of the nation’s 40,000 electric vehicles are now on the road in California, a state with zero-emission vehicle mandates and greenhouse gas cap-and-trade being implemented.

GM has produced 80 Volt prototypes so far. In late 2010, Chevrolet starts taking orders for the Volt. In his keynote speech, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz estimated 2011 Volt deliveries at 8,000. Early in 2011, 400 Volts will be put into 2 year tests similar to GM’s successful Project Driveway that placed 100 Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles. Four utility partners will deploy 100 Volts each: Southern California Edison, Sacramento Public Utility District, Pacific Gas and Electric, and the Electric Power Research Institute. In parallel with these tests will be dealer sales to consumers and fleets.

These utilities and EPRI have worked closely with automakers to establish the new smart charging standard J1772. They have tested V2G, which will someday allow customers to sell power from the vehicle batteries at peak hours. All utilities have expressed interest in repurposing the lithium batteries in utility applications after 10 years of use in autos.

Plug-in hybrids will more aggressively use batteries than hybrids. Bob Lutz expressed confidence in a 10 year life for Volt batteries; he said the will use an 80/30 charge discharge cycle.

Premium Hybrids

The initial plug-in market share battle will extend up and down the product line of both automakers. Lexus currently offers four hybrid models; two have such good fuel economy that they are part of the Clean Fleet Report Top 10 Hybrids.

In the luxury model, GM may offer the Cadillac Converj plug-in hybrid to leapfrog Lexus. Converj is a concept car with breathtaking design; it has attracted cars at auto shows. The roomy luxury coupe would utilize the Volt drive system.

As competition gets interesting between Toyota and GM, they will have dozens of competitors to worry about. Nissan is actively promoting its battery-electric Leaf. Ford will be offering several models of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid.

What is Next?

Jim Lentz, TMS president, said, “Toyota’s hybrid leadership will continue to expand in the U.S. and around the globe. With 10 new hybrid models between now and 2012 in various global markets, we plan to sell one million gas-electric hybrids per year, worldwide, sometime early in the next decade.”

Toyota has announced that it wants all of its cars to have a hybrid option by 2020. Ford wants the hybrid option for 90 percent of its cars much sooner. Competition will force Toyota to keep moving forward.

Toyota will start volume manufacturing of the Plug-in Prius in 2011. 2012 manufacturing of 20,000 to 30,000 Prius Plug-ins are expected. Toyota has not yet finalized pricing. With only a 5kWh battery, Toyota will significantly under price the Chevy Volt.

In 2012, Toyota will also start selling the less expensive 2-door FT-EV, a pure battery electric vehicle. This little car will probably be similar to the IQ concept car that it has shown for a few years. In the U.S. in 2012 Toyota will face intense EV competition with Nissan, Ford, and dozens of innovative younger companies such as Tesla.

The customer will be the winner in the battle for electric car market share.

Top 10 Electric Car Makers

Ener1 Takes Stake in Electric Vehicle Maker Think Global

Ener1 Takes Stake in Electric Vehicle Maker Think Global

TH!NK City with EnerDel Lithium Batteries

TH!NK City with EnerDel Lithium Batteries

(8/27/09)

Ener1 (HEV) took the lead among a group of investors that plans to inject $47 million of equity funding into Think Global AS, the Norwegian electric cars producer. Ener1 effectively expands its existing 10 percent stake to a 31 percent stake in Think. Ener1 is the parent company of EnerDel, a leading manufacturer of advanced lithium-ion automotive battery systems and an existing supplier to Think.

Ener1 Chairman and CEO Charles Gassenheimer stated, “Ener1 and Think have collaborated for years on systems development, and today possess a unique ability to bring together category-leading technologies in a fully integrated platform, to suit a wide variety of vehicle applications.” Ener1 appears to be pursuing a business model similar to Bosch Automotive and Magna. Gassenheimer added, “As a key battery supplier and now partner in the production and marketing of electric drivetrain solutions for a range of next-generation vehicles, Ener1 looks forward to a strong future relationship with this industry leader.”

EnerDel and Think have also agreed to enter into a new long-term battery supply agreement as part of the transaction. EnerDel will receive certain exclusivity rights for the supply of lithium manganese titanate batteries for Think’s current and upcoming new vehicle models.

“This investment cements our partnership with one of the leading advanced battery manufacturers in the world,” said Think CEO Richard Canny. “In addition to ensuring supply of high-performance battery systems, the new deal will enable us to more fully capitalize on our advantage in the marketplace with the only ‘plug-and-play’ electric vehicle drive system with prismatic lithium-ion technology.”

Ener1 develops and manufactures compact, high performance lithium-ion batteries to power the next generation of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric vehicles. In addition to the automobile market, applications for Ener1 lithium-ion battery technology include the military, grid storage and other growing markets.

Ener1 also develops commercial fuel cell products through its EnerFuel subsidiary and nanotechnology-based materials and manufacturing processes for batteries and other applications through its NanoEner subsidiary.

Think is a pioneer in electric vehicles, and a leader in electric vehicle technology, developed and proven over 19 years. Think is also a leader in electric drive-system technology, and was the first to market a ‘plug and play’ mobility solution in the business-to-business sector.

The equity funding allows financially struggling Think to exit court protection and resume normal operations with the production of the ready-to-market TH!NK City.
Also participating in Think’s restructuring is Valmet Automotive, a provider of automotive engineering and manufacturing services of premium cars. In 40 years the company has produced over 1,100,000 high-quality vehicles in Finland. Valmet Automotive manufactures Porsche Boxster and Porsche Cayman for Porsche AG. The manufacturing of Fisker Karma hybrid vehicle starts in 2009. The company is a part of Metso.

Diversifying into system integration around a technology platform is an intelligent strategy for Ener 1 who faces tough competition from battery giants who have joint ventures and strategic relationships with major auto makers. Competition includes Panasonic, Hitachi, NEC, LG Chem, and Johnson Controls-Saft.

Top 10 Electric Car Makers