Rise of the Electric Hybrids
By EV World
Suddenly the race to build electric hybrids has taken on a new urgency.
Just as General Motors was trying to tone down public expectations for a 2010 introduction of the Volt range-extended electric car, first introduced exactly 12 months ago, along comes Toyota announcing that it too will offer an electric (plug-in) hybrid in 2010.
After months of down-playing its efforts to develop its own 100 mpg+ hybrid because of the slower than expected pace of battery development, the Japanese giant has suddenly said it will start deploying its own plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) -- presumably a variant of the Prius -- to selected commercial fleet operators, presumably as part of its technology development pathway. It followed a similar strategy when it introduced the RAV4 EV, their battery electric sport ute, many of which are still cruising the streets of California. (Ford did the same with its first Escape Hybrid prior to offering it for sale to retail customers.)
But GM and Toyota aren't the only OEM's announcing the introduction of electric hybrids (1). China's BYD, a company whose main line of business has traditionally been batteries and electronics, brought their own PHEV to Detroit, the F6 DM, a PHEV with 60 miles of EV-range and another 190 on its gasoline engine. Unlike most of the other manufacturers, BYD's vehicle uses an internally-developed ferrous (iron) battery that it claims is safer and charges faster than lithium-ion batteries. Recharge to 50 state-of-charge is only 10 minutes.
The clear favorite of the show is the Fisker Karma, a low-slung, long-nosed piece of automotive art reminiscent of the classic Auburn. It's sleek, muscular stance just exudes power and sophistication. Capable of hitting 150 mph and 0-t-60 in under 6 seconds, the company claims the Karma will be able to drive 50 miles on electric-power and another 570 on gasoline.
Visionary Vehicle's Malcolm Bricklin was also on hand in Detroit to announce that his company and lithium polymer battery maker Electrovaya will form a separate company to build batteries for his electric hybrid called the EVX, which he is hoping to produce in 2009 and sell for under $35,000.
The first company to actually demonstrate a working 40-mile electric hybrid (apart from the U.C. Davis team) is AFV Trinity who showcased one of three converted Saturn Vue Green Line vehicles. Unlike the other plug-in contenders, AFV Trinity isn't interested in manufacturing their XH hybrid. Instead, the company hopes to license its drive system hardware and software to other manufacturers.
Chrysler LLC (formerly DaimlerChrysler, formerly Chrysler Corp.) had no intention of being left out of the party. It rolled out three -- count 'em -- three electric-drive concept vehicles: the all-electric ZEO, the Chrysler ecoVoyager and the Jeep Renegade Concept, the last two grid-charged hybrids. The Renegade would have 40 miles of electric-only range and a diesel range-extending engine. The ecoVoyager offer the same electric range, mated to a hydrogen fuel cell giving it a 300 miles range.
General Motors brought three electric hybrid concepts to the show: the Cadillac Provoq; the Saturn VUE Green Line which is being touted as the first GM product to equipped with the E-Flex range-extended electric drive. Initial electric range likely to be around 10 miles at slow to moderate speeds. Also highlighted is the very attractive Saturn Flextreme, which was co-developed with GM's Opel subsidiary in Germany. It's emission-free range would be over 30 miles. Range would be extended with a 1.3L turbo-diesel engine.
While they've made no formal announcement, rumor has it that Tesla is considering offering its own electric hybrid, perhaps in the WhiteStar sedan program.
The Electric Hybrid Tally So FarHere are the announced programs from the 2008 Detroit Auto Show. This list may be incomplete. If you know of other programs, please let us now.
- Saturn VUE [conversion/XH drive]
- F6 DM [pre-production]
- Jeep Renegade [concept]
- Chrysler ecoVoyager [concept]
- Karma [pre-production]
- Saturn Vue Green Line [pre-production]
- Cadillac Provoq [concept]
- Saturn Flextreme [concept]
- Chevy Volt [pre-production - introduced 2007 NAIAS]
- Prius [production 2010]
- EVX [concept]
(1) We use the term 'electric hybrid' to underscore that much of the energy that will power the vehicle will come from electricity, most generated by the power grid and hopefully increasing percentages of clean, renewable energy like solar and wind... and to continue our friendly rivalry with our colleague and friend, CalCar's Felix Kramer who favors the term "plug-in."
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