Tesla/NY Times Factual Dispute Reveals Different Truth

Tesla/NY Times Factual Dispute Reveals Different Truth

Over the past few days, a debate has unfolded between the start-up electric vehicle company, Telsa, and the New York Times on the subject of a test drive that ended with the car running out of juice. Telsa has released data logs that undercut the reporter’s account, the newspaper is standing by the story, and a group of Tesla owners is hitting the road to prove the Times wrong. Putting the unfortunate dispute aside, there’s a few lessons to be learned. As with any new technology, there’s a learning curve, but the fact is drivers of all-electric cars quickly become accustomed to their vehicle’s limitations and strengths, and are amongst the most satisfied owners on the road.

Firstly, it’s worth noting that the majority of plug-in cars today are plug-in hybrids, whose drivers have no range limitations at all. If you want one car to do it all, a plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt, Toyota Plug-in Prius, Honda Accord Plug-in, Ford Fusion Energi, or Ford C-Max Energi, is a great option. For your daily driving needs, you can drive on electricity, a cleaner fuel, at a price that’s equivalent to driving on buck-a-gallon gasoline, and after you’ve gone beyond the all-electric range, the car operates as an efficient gasoline hybrid.

Most all-electrics, such as the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus EV, Mitsubishi-i, BMW Active-E, Fiat 500 EV, Coda, Chevy Spark EV, or Honda Fit EV, have ranges between 60 and 100 miles. Most households in America have multiple vehicles. An all-electric is perfect for the daily commuter, providing significant savings relative to gasoline and the convenience of refueling at home. When it comes time to go to Grandma’s on the weekend, you can always take the other car.

Tesla_ModelS

The Tesla Model S offers range, luxury and performance without gasoline

The all-electric Telsa Model S, Motortrend Car of the Year, comes in packages that offer EPA certified ranges between 208 and 265 miles. Regardless of your view on the dispute between the New York Times and Tesla, it’s clear the reporter behind the wheel was not accustomed to the vehicle’s technology. There’s an important difference between taking a car on a test drive and taking one home.

Researchers from UC Davis found that drivers who leased an all-electric version of the Mini Cooper for a year quickly progressed through a discovery phase, in which they became accustomed to the car’s range, rapid acceleration, sporty handling, and regenerative braking that allows for “one-pedal” driving. After living with the cars, every participant in the study reported that electric vehicles are suitable for daily use.

Those findings jive with similar research done on the other side of the pond. After three months, 95% of drivers participating in a field trial in the UK found that all-electric cars were just as easy to use as gasoline cars. Likewise, during the course of those three months, drivers became much more confident exploring the limits of the car’s range.

Beyond academia, there’s clear evidence that those who buy electric cars are happy with their decisions. The all-electric Nissan Leaf and plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt rank at the top of Consumer Report’s Owner Satisfaction Survey, with the Volt taking first prize for the last two years.

My parents just bought their first smart phones. I’ve had to act as tech support a few times as they explore a device that can do almost anything, but they’re learning quickly and they didn’t grasp for rotary phones the first time something went wrong. They love the things and can’t imagine how they ever lived without them. Ask an electric car owner, and you’ll get a similar story. In fact, if you go to drivingelectric.org, you can ask an owner near you any question you’d like and even take a spin in a plug-in.

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

Toyota Expands Hybrid Car Models

Toyota Expands Hybrid Car Models

Toyota Pruis Plug-inBy John Addison (11/17/09)

Over 1,000,000 Hybrids in U.S.

Toyota Motor Corporation continues to dominate the global market for hybrid cars with its Toyota and Lexus brands. Last March, Toyota became the only car maker to have sold over one million hybrids in the United States. Hybrid sales are pushing 10 percent in Japan and even higher in some U.S. cities.

In our recent survey, Toyota captured four of the Top 10 Hybrids with Best MPG.

Toyota Prius continues to lead hybrid cars in fuel economy and lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. This perennial favorite midsize 4-door hatchback delivers 50 miles per gallon (mpg) and is lowest on the list with 3.7 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for the EPA annual driving cycle. Yes, 3.7 tons of CO2e is a lot; but many cars, light trucks, and SUVs create three times that emission; to get lower emissions you would need a plug-in car. The hatchback design allows for more cargo, especially if you drop part or all of the 60/40 back bench seat.

Lexus HS 250h is a stylish compact 4-seat sedan that delivers 35 mpg and 5.3 tons of CO2e per year. The Lexus brand lets your friends know that are using less petroleum by choice; you can afford a bit of luxury.

Toyota Camry Hybrid delivers good mileage for a midsize with an automatic transmission. The EPA rating is 5.4 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 34 mpg.

Lexus RX 450h with more acceleration and room than the others, costs more, starting at over $42,000. For a powerful SUV, it still conserves with 30 mpg and 6.1 tons of CO2e. Haul 5 people and lots of stuff without sacrificing quality and styling in the RX450h. The all wheel drive version has slightly better mileage than the Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD.

Some Toyota offerings are more about performance or image, than about great mileage. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid also sells well with those who want a midsized SUV with either 2WD or 4WD. LS 600h L luxury hybrid sedan, is the world’s first vehicle to feature a full-hybrid V8 powertrain.
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.

The Toyota Auris will be offered next year in Japan with better mileage than the Prius. It is expected to be a compact hybrid.

A Toyota Yaris with better mileage than the larger Prius has been long rumored for the U.S.

We continue to hear rumors of a larger Prius in the form of a crossover, wagon, or SUV. Behind this rumor may be a debate within Toyota to establish Prius as an independent brand, as Toyota Motor Corporation has done with Lexus and Scion.

In demonstrating what might be in our future, LF-Ch concept hybrid vehicle from Lexus offers dramatic style and premium features. If you have multiple drivers in your household, one could drive the LF-Ch for fuel economy while the other could be out playing Grand Prix with this sporty five-door. A drive mode-switch allows the driver to select between four modes: Normal, Eco, EV, plus a Sport mode that amplifies throttle response for the most enthusiastic drivers.

Toyota Plug-in Prius Sales will Jump in 2012

Toyota will start volume manufacturing of the Plug-in Prius in 2012 according to Reuters. 2012 manufacturing of 20,000 to 30,000 Toyota Prius PHEV are expected. Toyota has not yet finalized 2012 pricing. Full featured models may be priced from $40,000 to $50,000 and be competitive with the Chevy Volt in the U.S., Ford’s PHEV offerings, and the Mitsubishi EV in Japan. The added lithium batteries in the plug-in version of the Prius will make it priced much higher than the hybrid Prius.

Toyota is currently leasing 500 plug-in Priuses in Japan and the United States in fleet demonstrations. Smart grid charging will be an important part of U.S. demonstrations. The plug-in is a cautious step forward, with a freeway-speed electric range of only 12 miles before the engine is engaged.

Dr. Andy Frank, the father of plug-in hybrids, had lunch with me this week at GreenBeat 2009. He thinks that Toyota is smart to lower the cost of the Plug-in Prius by only using 5 kWh of lithium batteries, even though it limits the EV range. GM may have an added $10,000 per vehicle cost over Toyota by using 16kWh in the Chevy Volt, although that cost differential is moderated with a $7,500 tax credit for using 16kWh.

Toyota will place ten Prius plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with Xcel Energy’s SmartGridCity™ project in Boulder, Colorado. The vehicles will be the focus of an interdisciplinary research project coordinated by the University of Colorado at Boulder Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), a new joint venture between the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The vehicle’s first-generation lithium-ion battery will be built on a dedicated PEVE (Panasonic EV Energy Company, LTD) assembly line. PEVE is a joint-venture in which Toyota owns 60 percent equity. The first generation lithium-ion batteries were developed in-house by Toyota Research and Development, and a dedicated battery development team is already working on the next battery “beyond lithium.”

Panasonic is in the process of buying Sanyo, subject to anti-trust scrutiny, which will extend its market share leadership and add auto OEM customers such as Ford.

In 2012, Toyota will also start selling the less expensive 2-door FT-EV, a pure battery electric car. 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.

Because hybrids cost more, some take years to make up for the added cost in fuel savings. Some of the performance and luxury models are never bought to save money. Rising oil prices and an improving economy will bring more people to hybrid cars. Toyota is determined to lead. It is auto show season. Look for more announcements in the months ahead.

Toyota Plug-in Prius Sales will Jump in 2012

Toyota Plug-in Prius Sales will Jump in 2012

Toyota Plans 2012 PHEV and EV Leadership

Toyota will start volume manufacturing of the Plug-in Prius in 2012 according to Reuters. 2012 manufacturing of 20,000 to 30,000 Toyota Prius PHEV are expected. Toyota has not yet finalized 2012 pricing. Full featured models may be priced from $40,000 to $50,000 and be competitive with the Chevy Volt in the U.S., Ford’s PHEV offerings, and the Mitsubishi EV in Japan. The added lithium batteries in the plug-in version of the Prius will make it priced much higher than the hybrid Prius.

Toyota is currently leasing 500 plug-in Priuses in Japan and the United States in fleet demonstrations. Not waiting for a commercial plug-in from Toyota, several hundred have converted their Prius to a plug-in using kits such as the A123 Hymotion.

Reuters reports that the Toyota’s plug-ins will be able to run 20-30 km (12.4-18.6 miles) on lithium-ion batteries produced by its joint venture with Panasonic EV Energy Co.

In 2012, Toyota will also start selling the less expensive 2-door FT-EV, a pure battery electric vehicle. In the U.S. in 2012 Toyota will face intense EV competition with Nissan, Ford, and dozens of innovative younger companies such as Tesla.

Top 10 Electric Car Makers