The Electric Drive Transportation Conference 2004
Did it Mobilize the Market?
by Shirley and Donald Georgi
Several hundred people were in attendance at the Electric Drive Transportation Conference (EDTC) in Orlando in September. Of course, with Hurricanes Charlie, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne all pounding on the State of Florida in a period of just over one month, it is no wonder that some individuals, awaiting better forcasts for weather, chose not to attend
But all was not lost, for it gave those who did come a great opportunity to dialog with presenters, participate in Ride’n’Drive without waiting in long lines and discuss new product offerings with vendors in a comfortable, non - hurried setting. BIG is not always the winner for those who choose to interact and truly become an active participant in the conference as an attendee.
The Conference began with the official Ride’n’Drive, an excellent icebreaker to get attendees truly involved in electric drive. Amongst the offerings for actual driving and riding, in contrast to just viewing, were the Ford H2 RV Hydrogen ICE HEV, The Ford Focus FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle), the Honda Civic Hybrid, the Toyota Prius and various bikes and scooters.
A brief historical perspective
The Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) 2004 Conference and Exposition has evolved as a direct result of the progress made in the quest for cleaner ground transportation. Just a decade ago, clean air goals were to be met with 100 % battery-powered autos which were mandated principally by the California’s Air Resources’ Board, which assumed that technological development could be dictated by legislation. By the time the mandates became effective, it was soon discovered that the limited range, highly priced, battery - powered vehicles could neither meet performance requirements nor customer pocketbooks, sending the California mandates to the wayward wind.
At the dawn of the new millennium, the experiences with these EVs (electric vehicles) had refocused on the ICE/battery hybrid with Honda and Toyota committing to commercial production despite no market acceptance guarantees.
Concurrently, the quest for fuel cell power has assumed a dominant role sparked by government funding. Early systems combined on board reforming of hydrocarbon fuels because of their current availability even though there was the penalty of additional complex hardware, limited reliability and cost.
Celebrating the electric drive today with the hybrid
This year’s EDTA meeting showed the results of the hybrid auto development with the evolving Honda/Toyota successes in cars and welcomed the new offerings of Ford’s hybrid SUV (the Escape) and the General Motors Silverado large-sized, mild hybrid truck. DaimlerChrysler is also entering the hybrid market with a Dodge-Ram pickup truck which will use a Cummins diesel.
Toyota continued to celebrate its hybrid success with the 2005 model of the Prius. Toyota is proud to announce that it has sold more than a quarter-million hybrid vehicles since the introduction of the Prius in December 1997. From January through August of 2004, Toyota sold 31,406 Prius sedans in the U.S. and it will double its allocation of Prius hybrid cars for the U.S. in 2005. Also, early next year, the Toyota Highlander Sports Utility Vehicle will also be a model hybrid consumers in the U.S. can select to purchase. Perhaps no other auto company can match Toyota’s goal - that is selling 300,000 gasoline-electric vehicles globally by the end of 2005.
Honda is also hot on the trail to sell gasoline-electric hybrids since it began offering the Honda Insight seven years ago. Its Insight hybrid was first hybrid exported to the U.S. from Japan in 1999. Having added its Civic model to its hybrid family, Honda is now introducing to U.S. consumers a hybrid version of its popular Accord sedan.
And, what about the batteries? To ensure consumer confidence in the large battery pack, current hybrid manufacturers such as Toyota, Honda and Ford are all providing an 8-year/80,000 mile warranty. A 100,000 mile warrantee is also available in California.
General Motors (GM) tends to look at hybrid fleet and bus markets; the company also notes that U.S. consumers want large powerful SUVs and trucks. GM’s Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck comes equipped with a 120-Volt outlets to power outdoor electrical equipment such as lawn mowers and chain saws. Eugene Zeltman, President and CEO of the
New York Power Authority, especially noted that the Silverado could be particularly attractive in New York State’s “Green Care Clean Air” program which provides rebates for systems’ purchases of such equipment that replace gasoline-powered lawn equipment.
Are electric plug-in hybrids still a viable option?
The Electric Power Research Institute, Southern California Edison and the Hybrid Vehicle Working Group presented an ancillary event to the EDTC. DaimlerChrysler announced it will test a plug-in hybrid electric drive train with an internal combustion engine in its Dodge Sprinter vans in early 2005. Featuring technology spearheaded by the Palo-Alto-based Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the U.S. test marks the domestic launch of a collaborative venture that will gauge the technological feasibility of such vehicles and monitor market acceptance.
A rechargeable battery provides the electric power for the hybrid drive train in the Sprinter. It can be charged through a standard 110-or 220-Volt outlet. Running on electricity alone, the Dodge Sprinter will travel up to 20 miles before the engine is needed. The 20-mile range represents 50 percent of all daily travel driven by Americans, who drive an average of 12,000 miles annually, EPRI reports. In his keynote address at EDTC, Eugene Zeltman of the New York Power Authority said, “We see plug-in hybrid technology as a promising option for the future. With EPRI and Southern California Edison, we’re co-funding DaimlerChrysler’s pilot demonstration of the Springer van - an all purpose plug-in hybrid utility vehicle. Cost is still a big problem, but we think that will ease as battery technology improves. We hope to join EPRI and others in putting an additional 30 demonstration vehicles on the road in the next two years.”
Is the consumer hybrid market a success?
So, is the hybrid market growing by leaps and bounds? Are hybrids mobilizing the market forces for less dependency on oil and cleaner air? Such a loaded question can be answered either from a positive or negative point of view.
• Those looking at the glass half full would say hybrid sales grew 30% last year in the U.S. and sales could even reach 100,000 this year. And isn’t it good news that Ford has had 60,000 consumers registered to receive additional information about the Escape Hybrid on their website!
• Those viewing the 50% empty space in the glass would say the market is relatively small. Of the 16.5 million vehicles sold in the U.S. last year (2003), fewer than 3 percent (only 47,500) were hybrids.
(BD note: There is perhaps no greater mechanism of defeat than to be told constantly that what has been done or accomplished is insufficient. A seed is tiny and takes positive nourishment to grow. If it produces a plant which is aesthetic and useful, it will be cultured by many admirers. The seeds of hybrids have been planted and are producing positive results for the vehicle industry. Acceptance and desire to own a hybrid is slowly becoming a widespread consumer goal, not a government mandate. And if the a recent forecast by the U.S.. Department of Energy is correct, 9 percent of the expected 17 million new vehicles sold nationwide in 2008 will run on high-tech diesels, gas hybrids or diesel hybrids.)
A Hybrid Vehicle Deduction - good news but a bit late for a celebration at EDTC
On October 4th, President Bush signed a tax bill that included a hybrid vehicle deduction. In the passage of H.R. 1308 - the “Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004,” qualified hybrid electric vehicles are eligible for the full $2,000 tax deduction in 2004 and 2005, but the deduction remains at $500 in 2006.
In addition, the bill also included measures designed for use of qualified heavy-duty battery electric and hybrid electric vehicles used by fleets and other businesses. Qualified clean-fuel vehicle property includes motor vehicles that use certain clean-burning fuels such as electricity and hydrogen. The maximum deduction is $50,000 for a truck or van with a gross vehicle weight over 26,000 pounds, or a bus with seating capacities of at least 20 adults; a deduction of $5,000 is available for a truck or van with a gross vehicle weight between 10,000 and 26,000 pounds.
Visioning 15 years into the Future
A definite message at EDTC was that the 2010 dated goal for commercializing fuel cell transportation has been extended to least 2020. In a panel discussion on Fuel Cell Vehicles (“What will it take to make the business case? and when?”), Bill Reinert of Toyota said, “The science is not there yet!” Ethan Brown of Ballard Power Systems mentioned that the electricity produced by fuel cells is still too expensive, and to make fuel cell transportation viable, it must be competitive with the IC (Internal Combustion) engine powered by gasoline. The cost for fuel cell transportation must come down to $50/kiloWatt hour; no fuel cell research team involved in the transportation arena is close to that figure.
Yes, there are prototype vehicles such as the Honda FCX that were available at the Ride & Drive, but the cost to build the FCX was almost $2 million. Currently, Honda is test driving five of these vehicles in California.
While awaiting technical challenges and material costs of the fuel cell to be solved, several auto companies are building prototypes using an IC engine powered by hydrogen gas. Ford had its H2RV Hydrogen ICE HEV at the Ride’n’Drive. Using a 5,000 psi tank of hydrogen, the vehicle had a range of about 150 miles. The next step will be to utilize a larger tank with 10,000 psi, but that will only increase the range by 50% rather than 100%. And there is a safety issue in using hydrogen in its gaseous form as a fuel; stronger tanks will need to be made which can perform well in crash testing as well as in a multitude of environments.
Today, hydrogen is its gaseous state may not be the winner. It is yet to be determined if liquid hydrogen or solid hydride storage might be better avenues to use. The bottom line is that there is no one standard that rules on how hydrogen will best be transported, stored and ultimately be used by a vehicle. Just as gasoline is governed by a set of codes and standards, hydrogen will also need to undergo the same regiment.
At the end of the conference a panel of experts from the five major global motor companies (American Honda, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors and Toyota Sales, USA), facilitated by Robert Stemple of Energy Conversion Devices, discussed their viewpoints about fuel cells and hydrogen in relation to transportation. The following are just a few brief remarks:
• Gunnar Lindstrom, senior Manager of AFV Sales and Marketing, American Honda Motor Company
- Mr. Lindstrom was proud to state that his company had the first certified fuel cell car (FCX) in the U.S. He said consumers will only accept fuel cell vehicles if they do not have to give up any performance.
• Lawrence J. Oswald, Director of GEM and EV Production Team, DaimlerChrysler
- Mr. Oswald said, “Innovation must matter!” Customers will ultimately determine what vehicles will win; fuel cell vehicles will have to make business sense. Customer preferences in choosing a vehicle are based on: 1) performance 2) reliability 3) range and 4) cost (Ed. Note: Safety doesn’t seem to matter.)
• Scott Staley, Assistant Director of Sustainable Mobility Technologies, Ford Motor Company
- Mr. Staley felt it was important to work on research and demonstration with hydrogen-ICE vehicles first to study the storage of gaseous hydrogen and its possibility for future development in fuel cell vehicles. At this point, customer acceptance, which is in the range of 300-350 miles before refueling, is not attainable.
• Ken Stewart, Director of Marketing, New Ventures, General Motors Corporation
- Mr. Stewart took a global view of the auto industry and stated that only 12% of the worldwide population has personal vehicles. With China doubling their mobility every 8 years, it may be that GM will sell more vehicles in China than in the U.S. in the not too distant future. He also had positive comments on the hybrid buses which save 60% in fuel over a conventional bus and cut emissions by as much as 90%. Larger vehicles such as buses may be the best opportunities for hybrids.
• Ed LaRocque, National Manager of Advanced Technology Vehicles, Toyota Motor Sales, USA
- Mr. LaRoque emphasized Toyota’s commitment to clean energy and the environment by stating that the company had sold 212,788 Prius hybrids worldwide and that Toyota already had 18 fuel cell vehicles on the road being driven and tested, with 7 of them in the United States. He said to obtain public awareness and acceptance of hybrids and clean vehicles, it is critical to form strategic partnerships with environmental groups, government, national parks and trade associations.
Is the market being mobilized?
Yes, hybrids are being sold; they perform well and are gaining in acceptance by some consumers as a car of choice.
As for fuel cells and a move toward a hydrogen-based fuel for commercially viable transportation applications, the goal is futuristic, whether it be 15, 20, 25 or more years. Will the pursuit be truly be an effort like the Apollo Project where $$$, technology, government and public support work together. Or, will it be more like the search for the Holy Grail, which everyone talks about but yet efforts and goals among various groups, corporations and agencies are too illusive and too diverse to succeed? Today, at EDTA, the jury is still out!