Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Big 3 Look to Federal Loans to Help Refine, Not Reinvent Plug-in Cars

By Barbara McClellan

Commentary: The past is nothing if not a signpost to the future, as history has proven.

So, as the 2008 U.S. presidential election draws near, it’s a good time to remind the candidates, and their respective political parties, that plug-in electric and other fuel-efficient technologies the Detroit auto makers are racing to develop are not a recent phenomenon.

While nearly every global auto maker is hurrying to get such vehicles to market, General Motors hopes to have the first high-volume entry with its Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle.

American auto makers long have been in the forefront of powertrain innovations that often are credited to foreign competitors. What’s changed is the substantial capital investment required by the industry to retool plants and accelerate research in order to meet fuel-efficiency targets set by Congress in last year’s Energy Act.

Federal loans are needed to keep the Detroit Three competitive in putting cleaner vehicles on the road at affordable prices in this era of technical revolution, not to bail them out from their perceived misdirection in producing large trucks and SUVs to meet customer demand.

Indeed, the Motor City was well ahead of its time 100 years ago when the Anderson Electric Car Co. began producing cars in Detroit powered by a rechargeable lead-acid battery. For $600 more, an Edison nickel-iron version was available.

Anderson Electric Car

Detroit Electric-brand cars were said to be capable of traveling 80 miles (130 km) per charge, with a top speed of 20 mph (32 km/h), considered sufficient for the times.

Doctors needed a car they could depend on, as gasoline engines at the time were not easy to start, nor reliable. And because hand-cranking gas engines required lots of muscle, the electric cars also were popular with women, Detroit says on its website.

Ironically, this contributed to the electric car’s downfall, as it soon became thought of as a woman’s vehicle and men did not want to be seen driving one. To try to overcome this aversion, some models in later years were designed with a faux radiator grill.

Kettering Electric Self-Starter

Another factor in the EV’s demise was the invention of the first working electric starter in 1911 by Charles F. Kettering, of Dayton Electric Laboratories, initially used by Cadillac in 1912.

Additionally, battery-powered cars were expensive. The asking price for a Detroit Electric car in 1914 was about $2,650, compared with $600 for a Ford Model T, the website says.

Anderson Electric changed its name to The Detroit Electric Car. Co. in 1920, but filed for bankruptcy after the stock-market crash in 1929. A buyer kept the company alive by building cars to order, with the last delivered in 1939.

Meanwhile, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford decided to work together to make the electric car the main form of transportation in the U.S. Their vision was to have an infrastructure of charging stations available to the public. But the grand plan never came to fruition as gasoline became a plentiful and cheap alternative.

History repeats itself as the industry once again finds its focus on electric vehicles, only this time with ultra-clean models that have much longer driving ranges than the failed EVs of the past.

The next U.S. president needs to understand American auto makers don’t need loans to reinvent the wheel; they just want to make it better.

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GEM Introduces The Peapod - Neighborhood Electric Vehicle

The "Chrysler Peapod" is actually made by "Global Electric Motorcars" (GEM). It's all-electric range of "community vehicles" has been on sale for ten years now. The Peapod is the latest concept set up for a debut in GEM's 2009 lineup, which also gets an updated and greenwashed name - GreenEcoMobility.

Seems like an electric, four-passenger, 25 MPH, 30-mile-range overgrown golf cart. What do you think?

Cute, Huh?

GEM Introduces The Peapod - Neighborhood Electric Vehicle – the Next Generation of Clean and Green Transportation – No Gas. No Emissions. Pure Electric.

* Chrysler LLC's neighborhood electric vehicle gets a new name - 'GreenEcoMobility' - and new styling that will define and set a new standard for environmentally responsible vehicles.

* Sleek, streamlined styling and breakthrough innovations converge in the next-generation eco-friendly car.

* More to come as Peapod leads expansion of GEM's 'no-gas, no-emissions' clean vehicle lineup.

Auburn Hills, Mich., Sep 23, 2008 - Clean and green transportation gets a new look and feel as GEM, a Chrysler LLC company, introduces the next generation of clean, gas-free and emission-free, battery electric vehicles.

The vehicle’s innovative, groundbreaking design, with its striking pod-like shape and sleek lines, reflects the environmentally friendly nature that has been the hallmark of GEM since its founding 10 years ago.

The user-friendly mood of the vehicle, named the GEM Peapod, is enhanced with the newly designed center console that will offer iPod integration, as well as hands-free operation of the customer's iPhone. Other innovations include ergonomic, supportive, mesh seating, which enables air circulation for comfort and uses eco-friendly recycled and recyclable materials.

“We have evolved the GEM design language to better reflect its eco-friendly performance and its upbeat, positive image,” said Peter Arnell, Chrysler LLC’s Chief Innovation Officer who led the design process. “These vehicles use no gasoline and emit no pollutants. So whether it’s a trip around the neighborhood or the drive to school or work, the GEM Peapod is the ideal way to contribute to a greener planet, and a healthy lifestyle."

GEM will also get a new name – GreenEcoMobility, Arnell said, signifying the company’s goal to redefine environmentally friendly vehicles.

Chrysler will show the styling model for the production 2009 GEM at the company’s headquarters Sept. 23. The re-designed GEM is scheduled for production in 2009.

The Peapod represents the first in a series of product launches that will redefine the future of electric vehicles, said the company’s CEO Bruce Coventry.

“With this next generation GEM, we will broaden the market for this clean, emission-free technology,” Coventry said.

In addition to the 2009 GEM Peapod neighborhood electric vehicle, Coventry said, GEM has plans to market a new light-duty, battery electric commercial truck and a larger city electric vehicle, with more range and performance. These vehicles are scheduled for production within the next year, he said.

Today’s GEM is the nation’s No. 1 zero-emission electric vehicle, with 38,000 produced and in use. GEM vehicles are used in settings such as city centers, planned communities, military bases, college campuses, corporate and commercial centers, and city, state and national parks.

“Over the past decade, GEM has established itself as the nation’s leading battery-powered, pure electric vehicle,” said GEM President and COO Rick Kasper. “We have done that by responding to the needs of our customers for safety, utility, versatility and performance in environmentally friendly vehicles."

GEM cars are available in six models: two-, four- and six-passenger cars and three utility vehicles. GEM neighborhood electric vehicles have a top speed of 25 miles per hour, a range of up to 30 miles per charge (battery charge is extended through use of regenerative braking) and are street legal in more than 40 states. The vehicles can be recharged anytime, anywhere with a standard 110-volt outlet. Recharge time is approximately six to eight hours.

By replacing conventional vehicles, GEM vehicles can reduce overall emissions of pollutants, particularly during short trips when conventional vehicles create the most tailpipe emissions. GEM vehicles have been driven a combined 200 million miles and averted more than 150 tons of pollutants from reaching the air, while saving 10 million gallons of gasoline.

About Global Electric Motorcars

Global Electric Motorcars LLC assembles and markets neighborhood electric vehicles. The 10-year-old company is based in Fargo, N.D. For more information about the company and GEM vehicles, to build your own GEM or to locate a dealer, visit, or find out more about the Peapod at


The Making of the Chevy Volt - Lutz defends Volt design

General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz on Tuesday, Sept. 16, wrote a lengthy defense of the newly unveiled Chevrolet Volt on his GM fastlane blog.

Here is a copy of the posting:

We've weathered a lot of skepticism since the Chevrolet Volt concept was introduced at the 2007 Detroit show. The Volt has been called "vaporware" by some members of the media. We've heard executives from other manufacturers tell the press that the battery technology won't work. We've even been accused of using the Volt to "greenwash" our image.

Well, as everyone knows now, the Volt is real, and the covers have come off. And it represents nothing less than the first step in the reinvention of the automobile.

The vehicle's design has come under some criticism, most of it, to me, unwarranted. The challenge to the designers wasn't to design the most beautiful car imaginable and accept the compromises you have to make to do so. It was, make no compromise to fuel efficiency and electric range, and then do the most beautiful design possible, around those aerodynamic dictates.

When you look at the exterior of the Volt, you might notice certain aerodynamic shapes and design elements of some other cars you might see on the road. But beneath the skin, it shares very little with any other car that's ever existed. So I submit that while it's typically design that makes an emotional connection with buyers, in this case, the Volt is going to be bought for emotional reasons, but it will be for the emotion tied to the technology contained therein.

The Volt means a lot to General Motors, and to the industry, on a variety of levels. First of all, this is solid technology that is going to be proven reliable. It's a practical way that we can electrify the automobile and drastically reduce our dependency on imported petroleum. It's also important to GM to help reinforce and continue its proud history of technological innovation, and to help restore the image of leadership that accompanied that history.

In terms of the impact of Volt on the automobile industry, I think you'll see lithium-ion technology filter out to the rest of the industry, even to our competitors who initially said it wouldn't work. I think they've figured out that we may well be onto a winning formula here, with 40 miles of driving powered by electricity from a battery and a small engine -- powered by gasoline or E85 -- to create additional electricity to power the vehicle for several hundred additional miles. I suspect most of our competitors will have vehicles with technology similar to the Volt within four or five years.

What does that mean for society at large? I think it can have an enormous benefit. Our statistics show that 78 percent of Americans drive 40 miles a day or less. That means that nearly 80 percent of Americans can commute powered by electricity from the grid, never using a drop of gas.

When we achieve substantial production, and if our competitors do as well, and the public takes to this new way of driving -- and there's no doubt in my mind they will -- we will drastically reduce gasoline and/or diesel consumption and we will simultaneously be drastically reducing our dependency on oil. This puts the country in a much more comfortable place geopolitically and also helps the environment. So at this point, I think it's very hard to overestimate the importance of the Volt for GM, for the industry and for society in general.

The production version of the Volt represents our progress, and our commitment to seeing that all become a reality in short order. We'd like nothing more than to see everyone drive a Volt and stop going to the gas pump so often to fill up on ever-more-expensive fuel imported from an ever-more-unstable part of the world.

With the Volt, you go home, you plug it in, and you're done. And for roughly 80 cents' worth of electricity, you've got a fully-charged battery, ready to take on another forty miles of gas-free and tailpipe-emission-free driving. If that's greenwashing, then come on in -- the water's fine.

Link to Automotive News source article:
Posted in Bob Lutz, Volt

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

7 Sexy Hybrids You Can't Buy Yet

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1. Aptera's Typ-1 to bring space-age looks to Earth

Mere Earthlings will likely do some serious rubbernecking when the Aptera Typ-1 three-wheeled vehicle hits the road, perhaps as early as this year. The vehicle, shown here, is officially classified as a motorcycle and looks more like something out of "The Jetsons" than Detroit. The California-built machine will come in all-electric and hybrid flavors, the latter getting more than 300 miles per gallon of gas. Top speed exceeds 85 mph, and the vehicle goes from 0 to 60 in under 10 seconds, the company says. About four hours plugged into a standard socket recharges a drained battery.

2. Yet unnamed Honda hybrid to duel the Toyota Prius

Next April, Honda will release a yet-to-be named gas-electric hybrid-only five-door hatchback priced at less than $20,000. The gambit aims to steer market share away from the popular Toyota Prius. An official name and full details of the car will be released later this year, though the company says the exterior will employ a design evocative of the FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle, shown here. Honda hopes to sell 200,000 of the cars worldwide next year, including 100,000 in the U.S.

3. Is a hybrid-only Lexus brand the future?

Lexus, the luxury arm of Toyota, already makes hybrid versions of its GS and LS sedans and RX utility, but will a hybrid-only model akin to the hot-selling Prius ever join those on the showroom floor, shown here? Katsuaki Watanabe, the company president, reportedly announced at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show that the answer is yes. Plans for the hybrid-only Lexus will be unveiled at next year's gathering of auto enthusiasts in Motown. Stay tuned.

4. Chevy Volt, the resurrected electric car

The production model Chevy Volt is slated to charge onto showroom floors sometime in 2010. A concept model, shown here, was unveiled to much fanfare at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show. General Motors Corp. is banking the car will rev up the company's "green" cred, which suffered for putting the kibosh on its EV1, a tale told in the 2006 documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?". The Volt will use a battery-powered electric motor that can run the car for about 40 miles on a single charge. After that, a gasoline-powered engine kicks on to keep the car rolling and re-charge the battery. Top speed is estimated between 100 and 120 mph. It recharges in about six hours with a standard 110 volt wall plug.

5. Tesla Model S to come with a hybrid option

Tesla Motors, maker of the all-electric Tesla Roadster shown here, announced in February that its next project will include a gas-electric hybrid option. While most details of the car are under wraps, executives have let slip that the four-door sedan will cost around $60,000 and get in the neighborhood of 225 miles per charge. This June, the company also announced it will manufacture the sedan in its home state of California, not New Mexico as earlier planned.

6. Porsche Panamera to have hybrid option

Porsche, the German car company more known for brawn than environmental sensitivities, is jumping on the hybrid bandwagon. Its Cayenne, an SUV, will come with a gas-electric hybrid option by 2010. And in January, the company announced its upcoming four-dour Gran Turismo, the Panamera, will also have a hybrid option that uses the same drive concept as the Cayenne's. A schematic, shown here, indicates the battery will be positioned below the luggage compartment and the hybrid module is sandwiched between the engine and transmission. Drivers will have the option to use one or both drive systems, depending on conditions. A release date for the hybrid Panamera is not yet known.

7. Will the Venturi Astrolab be commercialized?

At the 2006 Paris Motor Show, the Venturi Astrolab was introduced as the world's first solar-electric hybrid to be commercialized. But commercialization plans are now on hold, Clément Dorance, a spokesperson for the French company, noted in an e-mail. The concept vehicle, shown here, has 38.8 square feet of photovoltaic cells to charge the battery from the sun, even on the go. A plug allows battery charging from the electricity grid when or where the sun doesn't shine. Fully charged, the futuristic vehicle has a range of about 70 miles and can reach a top speed of 75 mph. If interest in the car is sufficient, the company might consider a limited production, Dorance noted.

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Sexy Hybrid Article Credits:

1. Aptera's Typ-1 - Business Wire
2. Honda Prius - Koji Sasahara/AP
3. Hybrid-only Lexus - Itsuo Inouye/AP file
4. Chevy Volt - General Motors via AP
5. Tesla Model S - Gus Ruelas/Reuters
6. Porsche Panamera - Porsche Cars North America, Inc.
7. Venturi Astrolab - Michel Zumbrunn
Link to source article:

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

No gas? No problem: Electric car sets example for future

John Wordin and his electric car are trying to set an example for Molokai's environment.

By Sara Kennedy
Molokai News : Environment

Driver concerned about gas prices and the environment

Have you seen a car that looks like no other driving around Molokai? You might mistake it for a fancy golf cart or even a space-age vehicle from The Jetsons.

In fact, it is not an ordinary car, it's an electric car and it's the only one on Molokai.

Owned by Kala'e resident John Wordin, the Dynasty Sedan, shipped from British Columbia, "generates a lot of interest."

To feed the curious minds, he actually does plug the car into a regular wall outlet. Every night, he plugs the car in, and when he wakes up, it's charged. According to Wordin, the car takes four hours to fully charge, equaling one kilowatt-hour, and will run for approximately 30 miles at 25 mph. The vehicle uses a lot of energy uphill, but with a full charge, he makes it around town just fine.

Wordin paid $14,500 for the car, and combined with shipping costs, the total price was around $20,000.

At his Kala'e home, 40 solar panels charge his vehicle and run the house. His water heater and outdoor power equipment are solar as well.

The car, if charged twice a day, costs Wordin an extra dollar on his electric bill and gives him approximately 30 miles. In comparison with gas prices, Wordin can travel 150 miles on five dollars, the cost for approximately one gallon of gas.

Besides helping his wallet, the car helps the environment. The average new vehicle has a smog/pollution index of 0.53 percent, while the electric car emits no pollution into the air.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for every gallon of gas burned, 20 pounds of pollution and carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

Wordin's concern about the environment has been growing since 1998. He read books and articles on the subject of America's fuel dependency and has been preparing himself for the necessary changes.

"My interest in this has evolved over a period of time," he said.

Wordin is trying to provide an example for the community. He has seen gas prices continue to rise, the economy fall and the environment suffer.

"People are still buying SUVs; something is definitely wrong," he said. "They just don't get it, oil is running out. The world is changing and I see examples everyday."

Wordin's dream is to see the whole island driving electric cars.

"Sure, it's possible," he said. "People just have to realize there are profound changes in the economy, as well as the environment."

Peter Rosegg of Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) said the time is not too distant when electric cars will cost less and be more readily available on the market. HECO is looking at the situation, "closely and optimistically." Sometime in the near future the company will be changing its meters to an advanced system that will let customers charge electric cars overnight for a cheaper rate.

Studies done by the Natural Resources and Defense Council and the Electric Power Research Institute have shown that, electric cars are cheaper than driving cars running on fuel.

eVehicles in Honolulu specializes in electric vehicles and can be reached at 589-2347.