Sunday, March 01, 2009

Electric Cars at Detroit Auto Show

I am a little late in reporting this, but electric cars where the name of the game at the Detroit Auto Show. Earth2Tech writes Auto Industry Revving for EV Renaissance, or Stuck in Neutral?, Wired adds Automakers Sing the Body Electric and The New York Times: Detroit Goes for Electric Cars, but Will Drivers?

Fuel cell vehicles are out and everyone now has a long term goal of creating battery powered electric cars. Sounds good to me, as the hydrogen economy never made much sense to me. The key to the transition will be how quickly battery prices decrease.

GM sees the importance of battery technology and is going to start manufacturing their own.

As a manifestation of its rapidly developing advanced battery strategy, GM will establish its own lithium-ion battery pack manufacturing facility in the United States—the first such in the US solely operated by an automaker—to produce the 16 kWh Li-ion packs for the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle.
The first to electric cars for many companies is plug-in hybrids, with the GM Volt getting the biggest headlines. GM added to its plug-in lineup with the Cadillac Converj.
The gorgeous Cadillac Converj concept that made its worldwide debut is little more than a sexier, more luxurious version of the Chevrolet Volt range-extended EV that GM is sparing no expense developing.
While nice, it still takes a back seat to Fisker's Karma S convertible (see picture) announced at the Auto Show (last year they announced the Karma sedan).
The Karma will work much like the Chevrolet Volt, delivering 50 miles of all-electric range before the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine kicks in to drive a generator that will recharge the 22.6-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery and provide juice to keep the car moving.

Beneath the car's aluminum-and-composite body lies an aluminum spaceframe chassis that cradles two electric motors that together produce 300 kW (408 horsepower) and a stunning 959 foot-pounds of torque. Fisker claims the sedan, which weighs 4,650 pounds, will do zero to 60 in 5.8 seconds. Top speed is limited to 125 mph. The convertible added just 15 percent to the cost of building the sedan, which carries a retail price starting at $87,900.
Toyota announced it will release a plug-in Prius later this year and plans to launch an all-electric city car and roll it out by 2012.

Chrysler jumped in with a new 200C EV concept car, and unveiled updated versions of the Jeep Patriot EV, Dodge Circuit EV, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited EV and Chrysler Town & Country EV with one supposedly being ready for production in 2010. Ford Motor vowed to release an EV commercial van next year and an EV commuter car in 2011 using batteries supplied by Johnson Controls-Saft. They also have a plug-in Escape SUV on the table for launch in 2012 (check out the video of it in action).

But, the company I am really keeping my eyes on is the Chinese battery manufacturer BYD. Last year they announced they were building a plug-in hybrid, this year they added to that with a release date for the US and a fully electric car the e6 (pics here).
China’s BYD Auto showed the production version of its F3DM (dual mode) plug-in hybrid electric vehicle at the North American International Auto Show. The PHEV, which has gone on-sale in China, will begin US sales in 2011, according to the company. The company also showed the F6DM, a larger version of the F3DM due to go onsale this year, as well as an all-new battery-electric crossover, the e6.

BYD Auto, which is a subsidiary of China-based BYD Group, the leading provider of NiCd batteries (65% global market share) and lithium-ion cell phone batteries (30% global market share), uses BYD lithium-ion iron phosphate cells in its energy storage system. BYD says that its battery packs retain 80% of initial capacity through 2,000 full charge and discharge cycles, and have a 10-year lifetime.

With a high-capacity power charger it will be able to achieve a full charge in three hours. Amazingly, at a fast-charge station the car can quick-charge to 50% in ten minutes, allowing someone to travel an estimated 120 miles.

The BYD battery pack is capable of producing at minimum approximately 101 HP but, with a full battery pack and larger motor, an estimated 269 HP. The full configuration will, according to the company, propel the vehicle to 60 MPH in less than eight seconds with a top speed of approximately 100 MPH.
While I thought that electric vehicles would start as expensive play things for the rich and then work their way down in cost, I had to revisit that with the success of inexpensive electric 2 wheel vehicles in China. This Chinese battery manufacturer might just be able to get an inexpensive electric car on the market before the Tesla and company can bring their prices down.
In China, the F3DM is priced at 150,000 yuan, or $22,000, and BYD expects it to sell for a similar amount in the U.S. The Chevrolet Volt, by contrast, may be priced at $40,000 or more when it hits the market in late 2010.

By late 2009, BYD plans to mark another milestone by launching in China the BYD e6, an all-electric car capable of going 180 miles (or maybe 250) on a single full charge of its battery.
Of course, there are some obstacles when switching from manufacturing batteries to cars.
In early testing, reviewers said the car still has some kinks. The gasoline engine in the F3DM, for instance, rattles and can be noisy when it kicks in. The steering wheel also tends to get stiff when making a turn.
Lots of great stuff on electric cars is going on. Hopefully the recession will end soon so we start seeing these babies rolling out the door.


Sam said...

This is indeed a good news altogether. After all these years, the car companies have woken up after deep slumber and gathered some facts together. I agree with you, as the year progresses and recession ends, we hope to see a lot of electric vehicles on the road with enhanced quality.

Арсений said...

Eah, great news

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