New Ford Electric Car and Hybrid Car Choices

New Ford Electric Car and Hybrid Car Choices

ford focus electricby John Addison

 

With gasoline prices over $4 per gallon in many states, Ford is rolling out a variety of exciting hybrid cars and electric cars.

In April, consumers will start buying the new Ford Focus Electric. Yesterday, I rode in this beautiful compact hatchback. I silently cruised down the streets unless you cranked on the impressive sound system. Drop the 60/40 split backseat and you could put a couple of mountain bikes in the back or a work project or home improvement tools and supplies. With the backseat up, you can seat 5 adults.

Ford is pricing the Focus Electric at $39,200, about $4,000 more than the Nissan LEAF. The 23kW Ford battery pack, with LG Chem lithium-ion cells, charges at twice the speed of the LEAF and has about 10 percent more range. By the end of the year however, the 2013 LEAF will charge at the same rate. Unlike the Focus, the LEAF includes an ECO mode, which may equalize the ranges. The LEAF also includes a DC Fast Charge port while Ford waits for a future SAE Level 3 standard.

Although you might gulp at paying $39,200, savings include a $7,500 federal tax credit, incentives in many states, and saving $1,000 or much more on gasoline. These tax breaks seem unfair to many, but keep in mind that our gasoline is half the cost of Europe due to U.S. subsidies and breaks for the oil industry.

Ford increasingly believes in customer choice. The gasoline sipping Ford Focus SE gets 40 mpg highway and is not even a hybrid. It starts at about $18,300.

Ford C-MAX Energi and Hybrids = Crossover SUVs with Great Mileage

Ford C-MaxIn the fall of 2012, Ford brings unparalleled fuel economy to the 5-seat crossover SUV segment. The C-MAX plug-in hybrid will allow you to drive the first 20 to 30 miles on a garage electric charge before engaging a fuel-efficient engine. It may rate over 100 mpg. The C-MAX lives up to its name. It maximizes the cargo and passenger space that can be fit on the popular “C” sized vehicle platform. Like the Focus, the C-MAX is a 5-seater. Drop the back seat and you have much more cargo space than the Focus. Price has not been announced. Our guess is that it will be under $40,000.

For customers that want to pay less up-front, Ford will also offer the C-MAX as a hybrid. It will be as roomy as the C-MAX Energi, but never get plugged-in. With a lithium-battery pack it will have excellent fuel-economy. The C-MAX Hybrid will compete head-on with the new Toyota Prius V, which gets 42 mpg combined and has 40 percent more cargo than the best selling Prius Liftback.

Ford Intends to Take Midsized Market Share from Toyota

When the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid goes on sale at the end of this year, it will offer the best fuel economy of any midsized sedan. It is targeted to deliver 46 mpg highway, 44 city, and 46 combined, beating the Toyota Camry Hybrid with its famous Synergy Hybrid Drive System. I have been very impressed with test drives of both hybrids, which are roomy, quiet, and smooth as silk to drive. The Camry uses NiMH batteries; the Fusion Hybrid uses lithium-ion.

Outdoing Toyota, Ford will also offer the Fusion Energi, a plug-in version that will deliver the first 20 to 25 miles of driving on a garage charge before engaging the gasoline engine. Pricing has not been announced. Ford will also emphasize customer choice with the Fusion available with a variety of non-hybrid configurations.

Ford’s Strategy to Lower the Cost of Hybrid and Electric Cars

Ford built 2.5 million “C” platform vehicles last year with many common components. The Focus Electric and C-MAX offerings will be built with over a dozen other vehicles on the same assembly line in Wayne, Michigan. Ford controls cost with flexible manufacturing, where it can quickly adjust to market demand.

Ford’s team of more than 1,000 engineers working on hybrid and electrification programs – including Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid – has grown so fast that the company today is announcing the conversion of its 285,000-square-foot Advanced Engineering Center in Dearborn, Mich., to electrified vehicle development. The new jobs are part of Ford’s plans to add more than 12,000 hourly and salaried jobs by 2015 in the United States. The company also has announced it is tripling production capacity of its hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles in the U.S. next year compared with 2011.

Over 80 percent of the Fusion Hybrid and Energi components will be the same, allowing Ford to achieve more cost efficiencies. With the C-MAX, we will see that Ford powersplit hybrids and blended plug-in hybrids share about 85 percent of the same components including electric traction motor, generator, inverters, DC/DC converters, electric accessories, transmission, and engine. Both the C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid models, with a common chassis, will be built alongside the all-new 2012 Ford Focus and Focus Electric at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich.

Three years ago, lithium battery packs cost about $1,000 per kilowatt. Now the cost is closer to $500. By the end of the decade, costs may only be $250 per kilowatt. Ford makes all of its lithium-packs and works with several lithium cell manufacturers to get the best price and battery chemistries separately optimized for battery-electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid. Ford’s pack and volume strategy will lower costs of hybrid and electric cars.

Ford will Sell 100,000 Hybrids and EVs with Lithium-Batteries

Lithium batteries are everywhere. They are in your mobile phones, iPads, notebook computers, game players, music players, and a lot more. Soon lithium batteries will be in millions of hybrid and electric cars.

As electric and hybrid car competition intensifies, Nissan, GM, Toyota, and Ford are in a race to sell the most vehicles with lithium batteries. I have driven cars from each of these automakers that use lithium batteries. The cars performed beautifully and delivered great fuel economy.

Toyota is bringing to market three vehicles with lithium batteries – The Prius PHV, the RAV4 EV, and the Scion IQ EV. These three give Toyota a shot at being the first automaker to put 100,000 vehicles on the road with lithium batteries. Toyota has over 3 million hybrids on the road with NiMH batteries. Why fight success? Toyota will be careful in switching to lithium-ion. Economics, reduced vehicle weight, and more interior room will eventually make the switch compelling.

Over 10,000 Nissan LEAFs have been delivered, putting Nissan ahead of the competition in the electric car race. Nissan will deliver up to 50,000 LEAFs globally this year. In 2013, a new plant opens in Tennessee with the ultimate capacity of 150,000 LEAFs per year plus 200,000 lithium battery packs per year.

General Motors and LG Group are jointly designing and engineering future electric vehicles, expanding a relationship built on LG’s work as the battery cell supplier for the Chevrolet Volt and Opel Ampera extended-range EVs. In 2012, GM will deliver up to 60,000 Volts and Amperas with LG Chem advanced lithium battery cells.

Ford will only use lithium batteries in all Ford hybrids starting in calendar year 2012 when it announces the new Focus using the Ford global C platform. Ford is currently second only to Toyota in global hybrid sales. Ford may be the first car maker to sell 100,000 cars annually that includes lithium batteries. When I lasted interviewed Nancy Gioia, Director Ford Global Electrification, she said that Ford has a 2020 goal of 10 to 25 percent of its vehicle sales including lithium batteries. Her best guess is that 70% would be hybrids, 20 to 25% plug-in hybrids, and 5 to 10% battery-electric. Everything from technology innovation to oil prices will affect the future mix.

100,000 Electric Car Sales in U.S. in 2012

100,000 Electric Car Sales in U.S. in 2012

SAP SV Forum Electric Cars ChargingBy John Addison (updated 1/27/12; original 1/20/12)

Gartner, the largest technology market research firm, presented a scenario for 100,000 electric car sales in 2012 in the United States. Yesterday, I took in the presentation at the SV Forum and then talked with Thilo Koslowski, Vice President of Gartner’s Automotive and Vehicle Practice. He acknowledged that 100,000 is quite a jump from the 18,000 sold in 2011 which included 9,674 Nissan LEAFs, 7,671 Chevrolet Volts, and 655 other plug-in cars.

A week after this article was originally published, Mr. Koslowski sent a clarifying email, ” The 100,000 unit number isn’t our formal forecast.  The number is what you arrive at based on manufacturers’ plans/expectations for 2012.  I believe this number is rather ambitious and actual new EV and plug-in vehicle sales for 2012 will probably be around 40,000 to 60,000 vehicles.”

In 2011, Japan’s earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown affected everyone’s supply chain. The recession left most cautious about spending $30,000, $40,000, or more for unproven vehicles. Although some 280,000-gasoline cars catch fire in the U.S. annually, fires in some Volt test crashes lead to safety concerns. It was only mid-year that the Nissan LEAF received the top five-star safety rating from NHTSA.

Clean Fleet Report considers 100,000 to be a good forecast for U.S. EV sales in 2012. Nissan is manufacturing 50,000 LEAFs this year, then greatly expanding production next year with a new Tennessee plant. The Renault-Nissan Alliance is betting billions on electric vehicles and lithium batteries. GM has expanded manufacturing for global sales of 65,000 electric cars. At the SV Forum, Byron Shaw, who manages the Advanced Technology Office for GM in Silicon Valley, discussed GM sales of two plug-in hybrids in 2012 – the Chevrolet Volt, which he drives and the Opel Ampera in Europe and GM 2012 sales of a pure battery-electric Chevrolet Spark.. The new Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid has also been on display at auto shows.

Electric Cars with Lowest Prices

Electric city cars will also fuel sales in 2012. The Mitsubishi I has a starting price of only $29,120 – $6,000 less than the LEAF. Toyota will enter the electric city car competition with the Scion IQ Electric. The Honda Fit Electric is no for sale. Car rental and car sharing providers are adding over 1,000 electric cars to their fleet. Car2Go already has 300 Smart Electric Drive Cars on the streets of San Diego in daily use.

Ford’s customer choice strategy will also attract more mainstream car buyers. The new Ford Fusion is available as an efficient EcoBoost engine or as a hybrid with better mileage than any midsized sedan or as a plug-in hybrid that allows many trips to use zero gasoline. The Ford Focus is also available as a pure battery-electric. The new crossover SUV Ford C-MAX is also available as a plug-in hybrid.

Toyota knows how to sell millions of hybrids. The new Prius Plug-in Hybrid looks and drives just like the best selling Prius. The new Toyota RAV4 EV is a pure battery-electric that looks like the popular RAV4 SUV. In 2012 and 2013, Toyota leverage its hybrid brand into plug-in cars.

One hundred thousand electric car sales in 2012 is less than one percent of the 13.4 million U.S. vehicle sales forecasted by Gartner.

It is difficult to forecast which will have greater sales, pure battery electric or plug-in hybrid. With early enthusiasts, the battery-electric LEAF is the winner. The SV Forum was hosted at SAP that has 16 charge points and at least 20 employees EV drivers at its Silicon Valley office. LEAFs outnumbered Volts in visitor parking for the forum. The typical U.S. household has two cars. My wife and I share a Nissan LEAF and a hybrid. In 8 months, range has never been an issue. If one of us is driving over 60 miles we take the hybrid. As we progress from early enthusiasts to early adopters, however, the plug-in hybrid may win by eliminating range anxiety. Most compacts and city cars may be electric; most larger cars, crossovers, and SUVs may be plug-in hybrid.

By the end of the decade, according to several at the conference, the fuel cell may prove to be the better way to extend the range of an electric vehicle. They see the most fuel cell vehicle progress in Japan and Germany. GM, Toyota, Honda, Mercedes and others continue fuel cell vehicle development. Hyundai is building 2,000 Tuscon ix FCEV.

Challenges for 1,000,000 Electric Cars by 2015

According to a new report from Pike Research, around 410,000 PEVs will be sold between 2011 and 2015 in the United States, and cumulative U.S. sales will not reach the 1 million mark until 2018. Nevertheless, PEV sales are expected to ramp up strongly in the second half of this decade.  Global PEV sales are expected to surpass 1 million vehicles per year in 2017 and, by 2020, worldwide sales volumes will reach 1.7 million units annually forecasts Pike.

Manufactures will certainly have the capacity to build a million electric cars by 2015. Renault-Nissan and GM are investing billions in plants in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Battery giants like LG Chem, Panasonic, and Samsung are also investing billions. The real question is will U.S. buyers have purchased or leased a million battery-electric and plug-in hybrids by the end of 2015.

Gartner’s Koslowski sees two big challenges. First, can the automakers create brands and marketing campaigns that make these vehicles compelling buys. Second, can automakers and battery giants continue to drive down the cost of lithium batteries or storage alternatives? Most buyers will not pay a premium for a hybrid or electric. Then again, millions each year buy premium cars, SUVs and trucks.  When drivers want a vehicle, millions convince themselves that one over $30K is right for them.

Thilo Koslowski sees 5 to 8 percent of all vehicles being battery-powered by 2020 and 20 to 30 percent by 2030. Urban markets are most promising, but many city dwellers do not have access to garages for charging. The political and media influence of oil giants could slow adoption in some countries. High oil prices could speed adoption. Since Europe and Asia have less appetite to subsidize gasoline prices, they could soon be bigger markets for EVs.

By the end of the decade, millions of electric cars are likely to be on the road. Exciting customer experiences, falling cost of ownership, and the price of alternatives will determine how many millions.

Kia Optima Hybrid Car Test Drive and Review

Kia Optima Hybrid Car Test Drive and Review

Kia Optima Test DriveBy John Addison (1/9/12)

It’s an ideal California day for this test drive of the Kia Optima Hybrid. As the day warms, we will be able to open the sunroof, even though it is January. The sky is so clear that we can see the Farallon Islands 26 miles from shore. The drive will combine city streets, freeway acceleration, hill climbing, and navigating curves over steep cliffs descending to the ocean. It will be interesting to compare this to my test drives of other midsized hybrids including the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrid.

I have driven this Optima Hybrid a few times during the week. My wife joins me on this drive. As we approach the car we admire the distinctive styling, the butterfly shaped grill, and the black roof contrasting with the satin metal body. I easily sit because the drivers seat has automatically slide back for added room. When I touch the start button the driver’s seat returns to the position of my previous drive – nice touch. My wife and I both enjoy the wide comfortable seats. The Optima Hybrid is a four-door, five-passenger, midsize sedan. Three can sit in the backseat, or the armrest can be lowered giving added comfort for two.

Test Driving the Kia Optima Hybrid

Kia Optima DisplayThe model I’m driving has the Premium Technology Package. The backup camera adds to the safety. The navigation system includes a bigger screen and voice controls. Dual 12-volt adaptors are handy for portable electronics. I use the special adapter for the Apple iPod/Pad/Phone and my playlist and album menus appear on the bigger screen. With a button push, the moonroof for front and backseats opened, letting the filter sunlight stream inside. I select a favorite playlist and away we go.

The car defaults into Eco mode, instead of making you select the mode like other hybrids. Going quite slowly, the Optima Hybrid stays in EV mode, but quickly leaves it. It’s easier to stay in EV mode in a Ford Fusion Hybrid and much easier in a Toyota Camry Hybrid. In city driving, the 2.4L gasoline engine and electric motor work together. The hybrid car battery is a 270V, 5.3Ah, LG Chem lithium polymer battery.

Kia Shift The sedan easily accelerates on the freeway. On an 8 percent grade, the Optima Hybrid accelerated to 80 without working. Electronic steering is responsive as we reach windy curves overlooking dramatic cliffs to the ocean. I pull the shift to the left and power shift down to avoid breaking. For fun, you can shift manually or have the automatic take care of it for you. Our drive is rewarded with an invigorating hike.

Kia Optima SunroofWhen back in the car, I explore other music choices. Unlike some competition, Pandora is only available from mobile devices that can be connected with audio output, USB, or Bluetooth. I USB connect my Droid and settle from a random selection from my MP3 files. The day has warmed so with a single touch I open the sunroof for both front and back seats.

Like other sedan hybrids, the trunk size is a bit small and the back seat does not lower if you want to load lots of cargo such as work projects, school sports, or luggage. There is a pass-thru slot when the backseat armrest is lowered.

The Kia Optima Hybrid has a suggested price of $26,500 plus $750 freight. The model that I drove had an extra $5,000 of options.

Midsized Hybrid Car Comparisons

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is quite similar to the Kia Optima Hybrid, although I think that the Kia’s styling is a bit more distinctive. The Sonata has a 5-star NHTSA rating; the Optima Hybrid is not yet rated. Both have roomy interiors. The Sonata has 11 cubic feet of trunk space to the Optima’s 10. It’s worth comparison-shopping the two cars.

Toyota Camry Hybrid LE achieved much better fuel economy in my test drive. It is rated 43 city mpg, 39 highway and 41 combined versus 37 combined for the Optima Hybrid. It has 13 cubic feet of trunk space to the Optima Hybrid’s 10.

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid is available as a conventional hybrid and as the Energi Plug-in Hybrid. The Fusion Hybrid is rated at a record setting 47 mpg city, 44 highway and 46 combined 46 mpg – far better than the 26 mpg of my Optima Hybrid test drive or its 37 mpg rating and far better than the 2012 Fusion Hybrid’s 39 mpg combined. The new Fusion Hybrid will have more interior space than the Optima Hybrid and 15 cubic feet of trunk space. The downside is that you won’t be able to order the Fusion Hybrid until the fall, probably not get delivery until 2013, and pay more than the Optima Hybrid.

Toyota Prius Liftback offers as much interior room as a midsize sedan plus the ability to lower the backseat for much greater cargo. Many prefer the classic look of sedans; others like to proudly display their fuel economy with the Prius look. The Prius will save hundreds each year at the pump and can cost a bit less than midsized hybrid sedans.

Kia Takes Market Share

In 2011, Kia and its sister company Hyundai continued their strong growth, taking market share from Toyota, Honda, Ford and several others. This Kia hybrid is made in Korea and has benefitted from availability at a time when Japanese makers have suffered from the earthquake and nuclear meltdown problems in Japan and floods in Thailand.

The Kia’s 10-year / 100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty will appeal to many. It may well achieve the same top ratings as the similar Sonata Hybrid. Availability, reliability, and safety will appeal to drivers who have had problems with their last Toyota, Honda, Ford, etc.

The Kia Optima Hybrid is a beautifully designed midsized hybrid inside and out.  It has all the electronic goodies that most need. Although its fuel economy is not best in class, it is good. With a 10-year warranty, buyers get good value for their money. Take one for a spin. You’ll enjoy the drive.

Ford Challenges Toyota in Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid Cars

Ford Challenges Toyota in Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid Cars

By John Addison (11/22/11)

Here at the LA Auto Show, car buyers are paying a lot of attention to midsized and compact sedans and crossover SUVs. Buyers want passenger and cargo room, versatility, and safety. They want the latest electronics for safe navigation, entertainment, and always-on internet connection. On the practical side, many car buyers want a car that will meet all their needs for years and a car that can save hundreds and eventually thousands of dollars at the gas station.

Toyota Leads with Prius Family

For years, Toyota Motor Corporation has dominated with car buyers that want “all of the above,” first with its classic Prius, and now with over a dozen hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars.

Toyota General Manager Bob Carter stated, “Prius has the highest brand awareness of any hybrid, literally defining what a ‘hybrid vehicle is,’ with one out of every two hybrids sold in the U.S. being a Prius. Since it first went on sale, more than two million have been sold worldwide, including more than 1 million here in the U.S. And one of the things I’m most proud of, and an area some early skeptics questioned, is that in the U.S., 97-percent of all Prius sold are still on the road today.”

Here at the Auto Show three different Prius models and on display. By summer, you will have four choices in the Prius family (officially called “Prii”):

  • Prius Liftback – Midsized interior, 50 mpg, hybrid bestseller for 12 years
  • Prius V – Crossover SUV, 42 mpg
  • Prius C – smaller hatchback, best hybrid mpg, priced Summer 2012
  • Prius Plug-in Hybrid – Midsized interior, 87 mpg, 15-mile electric range

The Prius V is an exciting offering from Toyota that is causing many car buyers to turn their attention away from traditional SUVs like the Ford Escape. The Prius V stretched and expanded the classic Prius into a compact SUV with expanded room for 5 people, great cargo space and flexibility, and mileage that no other SUV can touch.

Ford C-MaxFord is challenging the new Prius V with the Ford C-MAX Hybrid,  another beautiful crossover SUV 5-door, 5-passenger compact crossover SUV. Mileage has yet to be announced, but Ford is using a lithium battery pack and Toyota is sticking with its proven NiMH batteries in all hybrids except the Prius Plug-in. Stay tuned to see if the Ford C-MAZ Hybrid beats the Prius V in fuel economy.

2012 is the last year for the Ford Escape Hybrid. In 2013, Ford SUV lovers who care about mileage will choose between Ford Escapes with efficient 1.6L and bigger Eco-Boost engines and the new C-Max Hybrid.

The automakers will come up with fancy new category brands for these crossover hybrids with words like “active” and “multi-function.” Call them what you want, the point is that active families and busy professionals will value the room for 5 people and the flexibility to drop one or both back seats and fill the back with sports equipment, everything that work demands, or luggage and goodies for a long-weekend escape.

Ford Fusion Hybrid versus Toyota Camry Hybrid

Ford Fusion HybridA couple of years ago, Ford announced a new mid-sized sedan with 8 miles better city mileage than the Toyota Camry Hybrid. Toyota executives were stunned with the market share attack on their best selling Camry. The Ford Fusion Hybrid was beautifully appointed inside, delivered a midsized sedan breakthrough of 39 mpg (EPA combined city/highway), and did not look like that “funny looking” Prius. Mainstream America finally had a car from Detroit that didn’t require new oil wells in the Mideast or new tar-sand strip mining in Alberta.

The Fusion Hybrid’s great mileage, EV range, and quiet ride upsets Toyota who strikes back with the 2012 Camry Hybrid which matches the elegance, room, and quiet ride of the Fusion Hybrid and beats it with 41 mpg.

In model year 2011, Ford was the midsized sedan mileage champion. In 2012, Toyota is the winner. In 2013, Ford will switch to lithium batteries in the Fusion hybrid and try to beat Toyota. These sedans keep getting better and using less gasoline.

The classic lines of the sedan appeal to many, but you cannot lower the backseats of these hybrid sedans. Cargo flexibility, sporty handling, and best mileage make the Prius and C-MAX Hybrids appealing to active families and professionals.

Luxury Features in Premium Hybrid Sedans

Lexus is the premium brand of Toyota Motor Corporation and Lincoln the premium brand of Ford Motor Corporation. Lexus now offers six different hybrid cars including the sport compact Lexus CT200h that delivers 42 mpg and the Lexus RX450h SUV with FWD and AWD mileage that Lincoln cannot touch.

Lincoln MKZ InteriorThe Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, however, is a luxurious midsized sedan that delivers 39 mpg combined. Lexus does not come close to that fuel economy in a midsized sedan. The 2013 Lincoln MKZ may do better than 40 mpg with a new lithium battery.

Ford May Overtake Toyota with Plug-in Hybrids

The success of the Chevrolet Volt is not lost on Ford or Toyota. Volt owners are delighted with rarely adding gasoline to their extended range electric vehicles. Various plug-in hybrid cars now allow you to drive the first 15 to 50 miles on an electric charge before a small engine is engaged making the car drive like an efficient hybrid.

The new Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid looks and drives like the Prius Liftback, except that the first 15 miles are in electric mode. The new Ford C-MAX Energi will offer more room inside its 5-door, 5-passenger, crossover and get at least 30 miles in electric mode before running like a fuel-sipping hybrid.

According to a Ford insider, the plug-in hybrid battle will soon extend to the popular midsized sedans. At the January Detroit Auto Show, two new concept cars will be announced: the Ford Fusion Plug-in Hybrid and the Toyota Camry Plug-in Hybrid. Since both are popular hybrid cars that can stay in EV mode for brief stretches, it makes sense to add electric charge ports, lithium batteries, and give them electric ranges of 15 to 30 miles. Expect exciting news in the next 60 days, as the market share battle for plug-in hybrid leadership gets hotter.

And the Winner is…

The hybrid market share battle between Toyota and Ford has lead to a growing choice of excellent cars for their customers. Diverse needs are met with versatile hatchbacks for active families and professionals, luxurious classic sedans, crossover SUVs and smaller cars with sports handling and performance.

In the hybrid hatchback arena, Toyota will continue to dominate with a family of four Prii and more for the future. The Ford C-MAX Hybrid is a viable challenger to the Prius V. For the moment, Toyota has the midsized sedan hybrid market leadership with the Camry Hybrid, but Ford is taking market share. In electric cars and plug-in hybrids, however, Ford is moving more aggressively than Toyota. Ford is more innovative with lithium batteries and electric drive systems. Electric car leadership at the end of the decade is up for grabs between Ford, Toyota, and also Nissan, General Motors, and several others.

The continued mileage improvement has lowered the lifetime operating costs for the owners of these hybrids. Most of these hybrid cars meet U.S. 2016 CAFÉ standards; some even exceed 2025 CAFÉ standards. The improved mileage has enabled the automakers to compete not just in the USA, but also globally. The competition remains intense and the car buyers are the ultimate winners.

Race to Make 100,000 Vehicles with Lithium Batteries

Race to Make 100,000 Vehicles with Lithium Batteries

By John Addison (updated 11/22/11)

Lithium batteries are everywhere. They are in your mobile phones, iPads, notebook computers, game players, music players, and a lot more. Soon lithium batteries will be in millions of hybrid and electric cars.

As electric and hybrid car competition intensifies, Nissan, GM, Toyota, and Ford are in a race to sell the most vehicles with lithium batteries. I have driven cars from each of these automakers that use lithium batteries. The cars performed beautifully and delivered great fuel economy.

Nissan will be First with 100,000 Freeway Speed Electric Cars

Nissan LEAF batteryOver 20,000 Nissan LEAFs have been delivered globally, putting Nissan ahead of the competition in the electric car race. My wife and I took delivery of our LEAF in late April and have enjoyed driving it ever since. Nissan backlog grows as it expands sales to more states. Nissan is currently constrained to making 50,000 LEAFs per year to by production from one plant in Japan.

Nissan will deliver 50,000 LEAFs in 2012. They heroically recovered after Japan’s tragic earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns. As part of the Renault-Nissan alliance, the lithium battery numbers are much higher. In 2013, a new plant opens in Tennessee with the ultimate capacity of 150,000 LEAFs per year plus 200,000 lithium battery packs per year.

Nissan’s Mark Perry, Director of Product Planning, “Electrification of transportation is no longer an ‘if’ rather a when. Most manufacturers have active programs in HEV, PHEV,EV and FC. New 2025 CAFE regulations will require more advanced technology deployment to achieve 54.5 targets than today. Nissan forecasts 10% market share will be pure EV by 2020.”

The LEAF lithium-nickel-manganese polymer battery packs are produced by AESC, a joint venture of Nissan and NEC. The new Nissan hybrid system uses the same AESC li-ion design as the LEAF with fewer kilowatts being needed. By switching from NiMH batteries to li-ion, weight can be removed from the vehicle. A wider state-of-charge with lithium can also improve mileage. All 2012 Nissan hybrid cars use lithium batteries including the Altima Hybrid and the Infinity M35H.

General Motors Leads with Plug-in Hybrids

Chevy VOLTGeneral Motors and LG Group are jointly designing and engineering future electric vehicles, expanding a relationship built on LG’s work as the battery cell supplier for the Chevrolet Volt and Opel Ampera extended-range EVs. The GM-LG joint development will expand the number and types of electric vehicles that GM makes and sells by using LG’s proven expertise in batteries and other systems. In 2012, GM will deliver at least 60,000 Volts and Amperas with LG Chem advanced lithium battery cells.

“Many solutions for tomorrow’s transportation needs may be available more quickly by building on our partnership strategy,” said GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky. ”Consumers benefit by getting the latest fuel-saving technology faster if we work with the best suppliers and we save time and money in the development process.”

The success of the extended-range propulsion system in the Volt and Ampera led to exploring other collaborations in the electrification of the automobile. Teams of LG and GM engineers will work on key components, as well as vehicle structures and architectures. Vehicles resulting from the partnership will be sold in many countries.

The GM-LG relationship that began with LG delivering the cells for the battery pack of the Chevrolet Volt and Opel Ampera expanded last year with work on a demonstration fleet of Chevrolet Cruze electric vehicles. These vehicles were used as official vehicles of the G20 summit in Seoul are now in the phase of market-testing to learn more about capabilities and requirements.

GM is not putting all of its eggs in one basket. The new pure-electric 2013 Chevrolet Spark EV will use A123 lithium-ion nanophosphate prismatic cells.

Ford Switching to Lithium Batteries for All Hybrids

FORD C-MAX ENERGIFord will only use lithium batteries in all 2013 model Ford hybrids which start selling in the middle of calendar year 2012. Ford is currently second only to Toyota in global hybrid sales, thanks to vehicles like the Escape Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid.

Although the Renault-Nissan Alliance is most likely to be first with 100,000 lithium-battery cars, Ford may be the first car maker to sell 100,000 cars annually that includes lithium batteries. When I lasted interviewed Nancy Gioia, Director Ford Global Electrification, she said that Ford has a 2020 goal of 10 to 25 percent of its vehicle sales including lithium batteries. Her best guess is that 70% would be hybrids, 20 to 25% plug-in hybrids, and 5 to 10% battery-electric. Everything from technology innovation to oil prices will affect the future mix.

Ford Motor is admired for refusing bailout money and returning to strong profitability. Ford’s electrification plans have the potential for better profit margins as it builds many vehicles for the global market on a common platform. For example, we will see a growing number of hybrid and electric vehicles on the C platform including the Ford Focus Electric, Transit Connect Electric, and new C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi.

With the C-MAX, we will see that Ford powersplit hybrids and blended plug-in hybrids share about 85 percent of the same components including electric traction motor, generator, inverters, DC/DC converters, electric accessories, transmission, and engine. Both the C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid models, with a common chassis, will be built alongside the all-new 2012 Ford Focus and Focus Electric at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich.

Ford, however, will use different pack design and cell chemistry for its hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery-electric. While some of Ford’s competitors focus on joint ventures with a single battery company, Ford controls pack design and assembly. Different cell manufacturers are considered for different vehicles. Lithium cell providers include LG Chem/Compact Power (CPI) for the Ford Focus Electric and Johnson Control for the Transit Connect Electric.

Toyota’s Incremental Approach to Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Car

Toyota Prius PHVToyota Motor Corp is bringing to market four vehicles with lithium batteries – the Prius PHV, the RAV4 EV, the Scion IQ EV, and rumors of a Camry Plug-in Hybrid. These electric vehicles give Toyota a shot at selling 100,000 vehicles with lithium batteries in 2013, but Toyota is not likely to be first with 100,000. It will be Nissan, GM or Ford.

Toyota has over 3 million hybrids on the road with NiMH batteries. Why fight success? Toyota will be careful in switching to lithium-ion. Economics, reduced vehicle weight, and more interior room will eventually make the switch compelling.

Toyota is not afraid to partner with potential competitors if it accelerates time to market for the right vehicles. Toyota, which owns 2 percent of Tesla, contracted with Tesla for lithium battery packs and drive system integration for the new Toyota RAV4 EV. Toyota has a long history with battery giants Panasonic and Sanyo. Recently, Toyota and Ford announced that they would equally collaborate in the development of advanced hybrid systems for rear-wheel drive trucks and SUVs.

Clean Fleet Report Forecasts One Million Vehicles with Lithium Batteries

Production of electrified vehicles is gearing up all over the world, and automakers are planning to launch an increasing variety of new models over the next few years.  Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will all share the market stage as electrified vehicles continue to capture a larger portion of the total vehicle market.

Clean Fleet Report forecasts that in 2014 over one million vehicles will be sold with lithium battery packs and electric motors as demand grows for electric cars and hybrids. With manufacturing volume and technology improvements, lithium battery pack costs continue to drop. Three years ago, automaker pack costs were around $1,000/kW. Today, they are around $500. By 2020, they could be at $250/kWh. If oil prices rise, we could see the tipping point in this decade where electric cars are less expensive than gasoline and diesel powered cars.

According to a new report from Pike Research, cumulative sales of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), the category that includes both PHEVs and BEVs, will reach 5.2 million units by 2017, up from just under 114,000 vehicles in 2011.  By the same year, cumulative sales of HEVs will represent an additional 8.7 million vehicles, for a combined total of 13.9 million units in all electrified vehicle categories.

Energy storage is a $30 billion industry with steady growth. Michigan is now home to 17 advanced battery companies in various stages of construction and production, representing nearly $6 billion in capital investment and expected to create an estimated 20,000 new direct jobs over the next 10 years. The state is expected to make approximately 20 percent of the world’s lithium ion batteries. The Battery Show will be held October 25-27 in Novi, Michigan.

Some automakers want to be first to market with electric cars and advanced batteries; others want to be first to volume. As Nissan, GM, Toyota, Ford, and other automakers compete for hybrid and electric car leadership we will continue to see technological advancements and cost reduction in advanced batteries, electric motors, and electric drive system components. The race is on and the car driver is the sure winner.

Top 10 Electric Car Makers