Batteries/Automotive/Hybrid Sales page 051027
A report, “Hybrid Vehicle Registrations Increase 81 Percent in 2004,” accentuates the positive. New vehicle registrations totaled 83,153, an 81 % increase over 2003. In looking back only four years, the sales in 2000 were only 7,781; this translates into 960 % increase for hybrids. Leading the celebration was Toyota Motor Company where sales sales held 64% of the market last year. (Report by R.L. Polk & Co., 04/25/05. For more details, see http://www.polk.com/news/releases/2005_0425,asp.)
The “euphoria” for escalating sales figures is not yet over, Toyota Motor has sold 22,880 Prius vehicles during January, February and March of 2005, according to Autodata Corp., and expects to produce 100,000 Prius models for the North American market this year.
With the price of oil escalating, more consumers are interested in owning hybrids. The Union of Concerned Scientists note that market studies indicate that at least 25% to 30% of consumers are interested in a hybrid rather than a conventional vehicle. Consumers seemingly are beginning to take note that “in 2015, we would cut our national oil use by 2.3 million barrels per day-nearly as much as we currently import from the Persian Gulf -if we increased fuel economy to 49 m.p.g. over the next decade.” (“A New Road,” Hybridcenter.org, Union of Concerned Scientists, 2005)
Revisiting Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) for fuel savings
In the U.S., 27.2% of all energy is used for transportation, and of that figure, 97 percent of transportation fuel is oil based. This fact does not bode well with higher costs of gasoline/oil and national security issues. One answer is to revisit plug-in hybrids - especially for city driving.
In May, EDrive Systems LLC demonstrated a gas-optional hybrid technology with a Toyota Prius which has been “redesigned” with an added feature - a plug-in which accepts a charge from a conventional 3-prong, 110 Volt home electrical outlet. The company states that by combining gasoline power with electricity from a home recharge, an EDrive-equipped vehicle can average 100 to 150 m.p.g. for about the first 60 miles of the day, compared to 45-55 m.p.g. for a conventional Prius. The vehicle can also run in “electric only” mode at neighborhood speeds. This can result in using only one-half to one-third of the gasoline used by a conventional hybrid. This concept vehicle won the hybrid category in Tour de Sol’s Monte Carlo - Style Rally this month. (Note, the EDrive product is engineered by Energy CS and distributed by Clean-Tech LLC.)
This “retrofitted” Prius, with a plug-in feature, has also had a change in the battery pack. Rather than using a 1.3 kiloWatt-hour Nickel-metal hydride battery, the pack is composed of 9-kWh Lithium-ion Saphion(R) batteries manufactured by Valence Technology. Although not yet commercially available, the company hopes to have this ‘affordable retail option’ available to consumers by 2006. However, retail pricing will not be in the same range as for the current hybrid (Prius). Due to the higher cost for Lithium-ion and larger-size batteries for plug-ins, the price will escalate by a few thousand dollars.
Plug-ins (whether pure electric or a hybrid version) seem be purported as the perfect town cars for short trips by such groups as The California Cars Initiative, the Center for Security Policy, The Set Free America coalition and EPRI (the Electric Power Research Institute). In fact, for most trips to the grocery store, the neighborhood shopping center or a sporting event at the local school - all trips under 30 miles round trip could be accomplished by charging up the vehicles’ batteries the with home-based electricity.
But to date, the concept of plug-ins has not been well-accepted by the consumer. However, fleet users have tried them in various locations. Currently, DaimlerChrysler is building a fleet of 40 PHEV Sprinter delivery vans in cooperation with EPRI, government agencies and several utilities. EPRI estimates that there will be a 50% savings in gas mileage. Other than DaimlerChrysler’s project, none of the big auto companies have embraced plug-ins for serious commercialization.
In early March, the city of Austin, TX passed a resolution which provides rebates for plug-in vehicles, thus promoting local business and government agencies to buy these vehicles which improve air quality and reduce costs of driving.
Hybrids - Status and Expectations
Meanwhile, in the non-plug-in world...
Toyota is heralding its top sales of 22,880 Pruis for Jan.- March. 2005; the company has positive sales projections for the newly-introduced Lexus and will soon be introducing the highlander SUV.
Honda is celebrating its April sales of 5,579 Civic, Insight and Accord hybrids. Although the Accord was just recently introduced, it commanded one percent of the market in the first three months of 2005.
Ford is touting its 2,566 Escape hybrid SUVs sold during the first quarter of 2005 and 1,705 hybrid Escapes in April. (Incidently, Ford also has a Escape Hybrid SUV being sold in the European market; it has a diesel engine with manual transmission and has better fuel economy than the model sold in the U.S. According to Ford’s marketing study, as stated by Englbert Spijker from Ford-Germany at the April 2005 Symposium and Exhibition of EVS 21 in Monaco, Americans only want the gas powered version with an automatic transmission so only that model is sold in the U.S.) Ford’s next hybrid in the U.S. is the Mercury Mariner which will be debuting possibly this year. Two more mid-sized sedans are scheduled for 2008.
Meanwhile, Hyundai and Kia are reporting that they will introducing the Hyundai Accent and the Kia Rio to the U.S. later in 2006; larger hybrids may be introduced later in 2008 or 2009. Interestingly, Lee Hyun Soon, a senior executive vice president said, “The number that we ship to the United States will be very few to see the reaction. I don’t think we can make a profit with hybrids in the United States.”
General Motors has been bypassing hybrids for the past years, except for a few mild hybrid trucks and some prototype buses. However, in December of 2004, the company said that they would be developing a gasoline-electric power system along with DamlierChrysler. Although GM and Toyota have collaborated since 1999 on research directed on alternative fuel systems, Toyota is not transferring hybrid technology to GM. In a statement made on Mary 11th, Toyota Chairman Hiroshi Okuda said, “As of now, we are not thinking of working together with GM on hybrid vehicles at all.” (Japan Today, Japan News)
Nissan and Saturn are working on hybrids but will not have models ready until 2006.
Batteries - Status and Expectations
As in every other battery application, hybrid vehicle batteries are desired with smaller size, less cost and more power. Sometimes, batteries are noted to be the largest technological hurdle in making hybrids a more successful category in auto sales. Honda has estimated that the battery in its hybrid Accord accounts for about 60 percent of the $3,300 premium required to create to this model. However, progress in cutting costs has been made. Today’s Nickel-metal hydride battery packs average about $2,000 to $3,000. When the Prius was first introduced in 1997, the cost was double.
Only three manufactures are set up for production of Nickel-metal hybrid batteries for hybrids. They are Sanyo Electric and Panasonic in Japan and Cobasys in the U.S. Batteries seems to be in tight supply; for example, Toyota delayed the launch of its Lexus RX 400 hybrid for this reason. Bill Ford Jr. says his company could sell more hybrids if it could get the batteries.
When smaller and more powerful batteries are discussed, Lithium-ion is almost always mentioned. Although there has been much research and development in this area, there are no commercial vehicles powered by this chemistry. In fact, John German of American Honda Motor has noted that volume production is 10 years away.
Back to celebrating success
Toyota is celebrating succeess by bringing to the U. S. market a new hybrid based on the the ever-popular Camry model; production is scheduled to begin in Kentucky in 2006. Toyota sold 420,000 Camrys with internal combusion engines in the U.S. last year; this mid-sized sedan is the best seller in the U.S. auto market and its hybrid counterpart should appeal to many consumers.
With sales increasing, Toyota, Honda and Ford should sell about 210,000 gasoline-electric hybrids in 2005.
New hybrid registrations are growing in large cities where air quality is a major concern. In 2004, Los Angeles reported 10,339 new hybrid registrations while San Francisco and San Jose had 8,051. California’s total was 25, 021, which is a growth rate of over 102 percent in one year. Other states reporting on a large number of new hybrid registrations were: Virginia, Washington, Florida, Maryland, New York and Texas. (Source - R.L Polk & Co.)
Growth in hybrids is steady. The doomsayers report that hybrids represent less than one percent, an insignificant number, of the 17 million new vehicles sold in 2004, but each week there is an increasinlg number of testimonials and articles written in favor of the electric-gasoline drive. It is because there is documented growing interest amongst consumers, the major automakers are planning to introduce another dozen new hybrids in the next three years.