Bateries/Transportation/EVAA page 051013
EVAA Conference and Exposition
Battery - Hybrid - Fuel Cell
by Shirley Georgi
The EVAA (Electric Vehicle Association of the Americas) Conference and Exhibition in December 2001 brought together 673 attendees to celebrate the accomplishments and to learn more about what needs to be done in creating vehicles with low or little emissions. The Conference had the support of the U.S. Departments of Energy and Transportation as well as the Environmental Protection Agency. California was a perfect place to hold the conference since this state leads the U.S. with its clean air mandates governed by its Air Resources Board (CARB) and its global transportation testing facility operated by the Fuel Cell Partnership (CFCP). Being in Sacramento, the capital city, expectations were to hear some encouraging words from Governor Gray Davis. Although scheduled to speak at the opening session, he canceled his appearance. Perhaps not having him attend would not so disheartening if one had not listened to news during those conference days to find out that he was out politically campaigning. The question then arises in one’s mind, “How much ‘true’ commitment does the Governor really have for the clean air transportation programs?”
Pure Electrics (EVs)
To satisfy the California 2003 mandate, Toyota will sell (or lease) its RAV4-EV in California.
Although designed and manufactured several years ago, Toyota thinks it has its best chance of selling full-sized EVs that are sport’s utility vehicles. Although the initial price tag is $42,000, the customer will only pay $30,000 after the federal tax credit and state buy-down incentives are applied. Electric vehicles are expensive to produce; without state and federal aide, the consumer, perhaps even the environmentalists, would not be able to consider buying the vehicle because of the premium price.
When sales personnel were asked about a customer profile of a buyer for this vehicle, they tended to indicate that the environmentalists and knowledgeable individuals such as those attending the conference would be the first customers. Beyond that, even with mass advertising, it is difficult to predict who the customer might be. The potential customer will be presented with an RAV-4EV which is powered by 24 sealed Nickel-metal hydride batteries with a cruising range on a single charge up to 126 miles.
As for other EVs, Ford is still showing its Ranger pick-uptruck (powered by Lead-acid or Nickel-metal hydride batteries) and is touting its new city pilot program for its TH!NK city car by bringing 400 of these urban EVs to the U.S. this year. These vehicles are being powered with Nickel-cadmium batteries. However, other batteries, even VRLA batteries, may be considered for future models. At EVAA there was a prototype Ford Th!nk City model which used Avestor’s Lithium-metal-polymer battery in a demonstration vehicle. Ford is banking on the TH!NK and not on a standard-sized vehicle. John Wallace, executive director of Ford’s TH!NK Group, said, “There is no such thing as a full-function battery electric vehicle. When you try to make one, you drive your costs so high there is no chance of its being a viable product.”
General Motors (GM) kept a very low profile on pure electric vehicles. The company was unable to convince Dr. Alan Lloyd and other members of CARB that their 2003 mandate would not accelerate the cause for clean air. The company argued that after a multi-year effort to market their EV1, there was sparse interest by consumers because of cost, range, and infrastructure issues. GM filed a petition for a hearing with CARB on several key consumer and technical issues, but their petition was denied. Thus, to stay within the statute of limitations, GM and several of its California dealers filed suit in California Superior Court in February 2001 seeking review of the state’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate.
Nissan’s Altra EVTM is the first production electric vehicle powered by Lithium-ion batteries available in the U.S. The batteries were developed by Nissan and Shin Kobe. Although expensive, Nissan chose Lithium-ion because it has three times the energy density of conventional Lead-acid batteries and offers a greater energy charge from a smaller, light battery pack. Another characteristic of the Lithium-ion batteries is their ability to not lose capacity while inactive. The Altra EVTM has a combined city and highway driving range of approximately 80 miles. Currently, the Altra EV has been made available only to a select number of demonstration fleet users in California; definite expansion market plans for the consumer have not yet been released.
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs)
Commercialization has already begun with the popularity of the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight, the two best-selling hybrid vehicles globally.
Toyota - Hiroyuki Watanabe, Toyota Motor’s Senior Managing Director, announced at EVAA that Toyota would increase the U.S. allotment of Prius vehicles by 40% this year. The increase will bring the annual number of these gas-electric hybrids available to 17,000. As of this date, Toyota has sold more than 70,000 Priuses worldwide, including some 20,000 in the U.S. Keeping in line with Toyota’s goals in its own Environmental Action Plan, the company plans to increase production of HEVs to 300,000 units by the year 2005.
Toyota has also released an HEV Estima minivan this past summer; the vehicle is not currently sold in the U.S. Although both the Prius and Estima use Nickel-metal hydride batteries, a third hybrid, called the THS-M (“mild hybrid”), utilizes a 36 Volt valve-regulated Lead-acid (VRLA) battery in a 42 Volt power system along with a 12 Volt starter battery.
Honda - Honda’s new Civic Hybrid represents a challenge to the Toyota Prius sedan. Its first public airing was at EVAA. The Civic hybrid, a four passenger sedan, will have a 1.3 liter engine with the performance of a “normal” Civic with a 1.7 engine. Honda has improved the IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system on the new hybrid, resulting in greater availability of power gleaned from the vehicle’s regeneration braking, according to Steve Ellis, Honda’s advanced technology specialist. Power is stored in a Nickel-metal hydride battery pack just as it is on the Insight. The sales price is targeted for $20,000; availability should be in 2002.
GM’s emphasis is on hybrids and not pure electrics. They have built a 40-foot bus with a GM/Allison drive. Ken Stuart, GM’s Advanced Technology Vehicle brand manager, stated that the company will be bringing out electrically assisted light trucks for 2004 and beyond.
The lion’s share of the presentations and conversation at EVAA centered on fuel cells. Although the Freedom Cooperative Automotive Research (Freedom CAR) partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy was not announced until the Detroit Auto Show in January 2002, there seemed to be an anticipatory aura of more government support for fuel cells, and this “newest kid on the block” was on center stage. In order to cover the topic in depth, BD will reserve specific space in the March issue for fuel cell information from the EVAA conference. BD How the Toyota Hybrid System Works