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The Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy
Updates: Chapter 25 – Personal Transportation

Last updated 2008.10.05

[Since 2010 I have been doing my updates on transportation and energy at the site and blog.
But in summary, oil prices have gone up, the oil industry continues to reap massive taxpayer subsidies, and still jacks the price of gasoline faster than the price of crude oil justifies. Tesla happened, and Nissan put out a more affordable EV, and some folks were smart enough to reduce the amount of gas and diesel they were buying, or stopped altogether. In the meantime, the hydrogen industry (pretty much wholly owned by oil and gas multi-nationals) continues to produce hype and media releases, while the automotive industry tries to figure out how to survive the imminent arrival of very capable and inexpensive EVs intended for urban use. Keep an eye on BYD to deliver vehicles like the Dolphin in Mexico (2024) and Tesla to deliver their 'Redwood' in early 2025. Buying another gasser before those arrive is going to look like a massive financial blunder by 2026.]

2008.10.04 - The LSV - Made in Canada Solution, Not Welcome in Canada

Here is the paper (MS Word format) I presented at the international Transportation, Traffic and Mobility 2008 conference.

My slideshow for the presentation at the conference.

2008.07.23 - GM starts the Chevy Volt stall campaign

So, with the looming self-imposed deadline for putting the Chevy Volt on the market for the 2010 model year looming nearer, and higher gasoline prices in the summer of 2008 increasing public anticipation for the first OEM plug-in hybrid, and political pressure in response to high oil prices mounting, it was only a matter of time before GM had to blink in this game of high-stakes automotive chicken. As I have said elsewhere, don't hold your breath waiting for GM to actually produce the vehicle they still can't quite define. (Sometimes it's a battery EV, sometimes it's a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, sometimes it's a series hybrid, sometimes - as in this article - it's a plug-in hybrid).

It appears the stall games have begun. Here's one article:
GM, utility companies study electric car impact

Let's interpret some of what GM has to say in this article.
"The Detroit automaker said the partnership, which includes the Electric Vehicle Research Institute and large utilities such as Southern California Edison and Duke Energy Corp., will deal with issues from tax incentives for the vehicles to where and when they can be plugged in for recharging." In case you didn't get the message the first time, it's restated later in the article.

"The consortium will work on everything from policy issues including tax incentives for purchasing what is likely to be an expensive car to whether the electric generation system can handle the increased power demand."

EPRI has already done the grid capacity studies - several times. SCE is on record (2005) as saying they can absorb over sixteen million plug-in vehicle for overnight charging with no additional generating capacity or transmission enhancements required. That's just in one part of California.

Tax incentives means GM has money problems and need another taxpayer bailout.

Where and when they can be plugged in means GM wants to force the entire industry to adopt its inductive charging technology (which they did not maintain properly for the EV-1 when it was available).

Time of use pricing will be adequate to encourage vehicle owners to do their electric refueling when electricity is on sale - every night and weekend.

There is no reason why this vehicle should be inordinately expensive. From a component costing standpoint, it's essentially a smaller version of the Prius with more battery and a smaller engine. The Prius is selling for well under US$30,000, and that's when it is still in high demand and commanding a premium price. This bit of fluff from the GM talking heads is called 'managing expectations'. But then, what can you expect when GM insists on presenting a prototype with a body that screams 'muscle car / tire burner' and a set of performance specifications that say commuter mission / errand runner / grocery getter. That's a market niche previously served by the Geo Metro and its sister vehicles and competition (currently selling for US$12,000 and less).

"It is being designed so it can be recharged from a conventional household electrical outlet. ... But automakers and utilities will have to work out ways to decide how to stagger recharging so local substations do not become overloaded, Gross said."

If the Volt is limited to a standard 15-amp, 120-volt outlet, the maximum current it can draw continously (per electrical code) is 1.44 kW. Less than a hair dryer or many vacuum cleaners. Unless we're parking more than two of these per household, or the bulk of charging is done at times when electricity is priced high, that simply should not be an issue for the grid.

This sort of mixed messaging from GM is nothing new. GM has been promising electric vehicles to car buyers since the 1960s, and usually not delivering. In the one instance where they did get outmaneuvered and actually did have to deliver several hundred EV-1 electric cars in the 1990s, GM's behaviour demonstrated they did not want them on the road. GM delivered the EV-1s with batteries with known problems. GM issued a spurious recall on the EV-1 related to their inductive chargers. The same recall did not apply to the E10 electric trucks that used the same charger, and GM appears to want to use the same inductive charging connection on the Volt. GM refused to sell any EV-1s. When leases on the EV-1s expired, the vehicles were picked up, impounded, removed and crushed - despite assurances from GM spokespeople that this would not be the case, and despite the public demonstrations of the lessees who offered to buy the cars. Most of this is well-documented in the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car?" (recommended viewing).

In short, GM does not want you to have an electric car, even a plug-in hybrid. If GM wanted to produce electric cars, they could re-start production of the EV-1 tomorrow. They already had prototypes of the EV-1 with advanced NiMH batteries and as hybrids. If you want an electric car anytime soon, it's still up to you to make your own.

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