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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.

Adobe Photoshop ImageBeing that the Ford’s gas-electric hybrid  Escape was the popular “new kid on the block,” it received extraordinary attention. As a crossover Sports’ Utility Vehicle (SUV) built on a car platform, the regular IC engine powered  Escape proved to be popular , selling almost 170,000 a year, so Ford chose this  SUV to be basis for its hybrid design . The hybrid version of the  Escape  has a 2.3-liter cylinder engine rated at 133 horsepower, a 400-Volt electric motor and a Sanyo manufactured battery pack with 250 Nickel-metal hydride cells under the cargo door.  The hybrid Escape is the first SUV vehicle  created for the U.S. “mainstream” audience, who are known to love Sports Utility Vehicles but yet also want a positive image of being environmentally friendly.    Owning an hybrid  SUV may enhance one’s image, and for that attached value,  the $3,500 added dollars to the sticker  for a hybrid system may seem to be an acceptable price to pay.  The Escape has been doing well and its salespersons are quick to report that the waiting list to receive a vehicle is already six months. Quality service is also promised in that Ford has trained service technicians in dealerships nationwide to service and repair hybrids.  In 2005, the Ford Escape Hybrid’s expected sales are  somewhere in the region of  17,000 and 20,000 vehicles.  At this point, Ford might even choose to produce more hybrids  if factory capacity wasn’t limiting them.  (Photo is courtesty of Ford Motor Company.) +

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.

Adobe Photoshop ImageEntrants to the Hybrid market are being divided across product lines. Honda and Toyota have brought sedans to the market, Ford is bringing a small SUV and General Motors is selecting a full - size pick up truck in the Chevrolet Silverado line. The truck has a flywheel starter to allow start/stop operation at speeds lower than 13 mph. Regenerative braking adds to fuel economy. A 2400 Watt generator provides power for four 120 Volt power outlets. Only available in the warm weather areas, the base price of the four wheel drive version is $33,140.00. +

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.  

Adobe Photoshop ImageWhile the hope for a nationwide fleet of full electric autos has not materialized, there has been a progression of niche application demand for the DaimlerChrysler/Gem line of neighborhood electrics. The body styles have continued to expand as evidenced by this fully enclosed cab version. In the past year, sales of the Gems have increased. +

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

Adobe Photoshop ImageWhile public level images of the ‘hydrogen economy’ power fuel cells with hydrogen, there is another hydrogen possibility -using the IC engine. Ford has modified an IC engine to run on pure hydrogen in its Focus. Using 5000 psi hydrogen necessitates the addition of three tanks  in place of the gasoline tank. Two tanks, located in the trunk, reduce the storage capacity. Even with the extra tanks, the limited energy of the stored hydrogen allows less than 190 miles of driving range. Anticipation of the 10,000 psi storage tanks will increase distance, but not by a factor of two as the doubling of hydrogen pressure might suggest; additional space and mass will be required to contain the gas at higher pressure. As the world awaits a competitively priced and durable fuel cell ‘engine,’ the first entrance into the hydrogen economy could be with the Hydrogen ICE. Not as clean as the fuel cell driver, Hydrogen ICE engines still produce nitrous oxides from combustion of inlet air.+
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.  

Adobe Photoshop ImageThe Federal Transportation Administration fuel cell bus has had route experience with the Sunbus Line in the Cochella Valley of California. Busses are a favorable platform for conversion to fuel cells because of the large amount of space available for power plant and fuel storage. They also return to a central refuelling site regularly. Replacing diesel power means elimination of gaseous and particle pollutants within the high population density regions supported by such busses. +

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.  

Adobe Photoshop ImageShirley takes the wheel of Honda’s new hybrid Accord, an upscale sedan in the $30,000 class. Consistent with Honda’s performance, the new offering has a 255 hp V6 IC engine with a 14 kW electric motor to add energy from the Nickel-metal hydride battery pack. The hybrid combination is estimated to save owners about $350 in fuel costs per year in California.  +

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.”

Adobe Photoshop ImageFor those who think that hybrid battery transportation is for sissies, they might try the  giant Enova System’s hybrid truck tractor with enough batteries to make ‘sail kitties’ out of SUVs. Even Rodney Dangefield could gain respect with this giant which improves mileage, lowers emissions and facilitates energy independence. +

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.  

Adobe Photoshop ImageThe 2005 Honda was available for BD’s Technical Editor to drive. With its ultracap assist, the performance was up to Honda’s standards, with the added almost silent glide across the roadways. The 2005 version has a 20% improvement in fuel economy to 62/51 highway/city miles per kilogram (mpkg). Since one mpkg of hydrogen is roughly equivalent to one mpg of gasoline, the efficiency of the hydrogen fuel - cell powered auto is in the ballpark of  gasoline performance without the pollutants. The stack is capable of starting at -20 0C. For those who want that implied superiority over Rolls and Lamborgini’s, FCX drivers can drive secure in knowing the cost of an FCX is in the $1.7 to $2 million category. +

• 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.
Adobe Photoshop ImageLate to the show, but ready for demonstration was the Toyota Highlander full sized SUV powered by a fuel cell. It has four 5,000 psi hydrogen tanks which provide a range of about 180 miles. The fuel cell stack provides 90 kW of electricity to drive a 109 hp electric motor and charge the on board Nickel-metal hydride batteries. The vehicle has been certified by the California Air Resoruces Board (CARB) as a zero-emissions vehicle. Two Fuel CellHybrid Vehicles (FCHVs) have been delivered to the University of California, one at Davis and the other at Irvine. Four more are scheduled to be delivered next year. +

(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.)   

Adobe Photoshop ImageOn the left, Joseph Romm from the Center forEnergy & Climate solutions, and on the right, David Sperling of the Institute of Transportation Studies, U. C. Davis provided both a fact - filled and entertaining point-counterpoint set of arguments for the hydrogen fuel cell future at the midday luncheon. Dr. Rommis  has written a popular book, The Hype About Hydrogen.  He argues that hydrogen cars face an insurmountable challenge in the near future; in the near term, hydrogen would need to be converted from fossil fuels so there is little to be gained in saving energy or cleaning up the air quality  problem of greenhouse gases.  He feels that the emphasis of government dollars could be spent on stationary power where the technology is more advanced and emissions could be reduced much sooner than in transportation.    Dr. Sperling, co-author, with James Cannon, of  the Hydrogen Energy Transition notes that hydrogen transportation may be decades away, but government research dollars must be put into this area now in order for  hydrogen  transportation to become a reality and thus have success in replacing fossil fuels. +
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.

Adobe Photoshop ImageMr. Robert Stemple of Energy Conversion Devices was the ideal moderator for the closing session summaries by representatives of the five global auto companies which promote electric transportation. With the wide range of topics presented, it was necessary to have a person of Bob’s capability to set the stage for this session. We might think of him as the ‘Senior Mentor’ of Electric  Drive because of his decades of wide ranging commitments to its development. +

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.        

Adobe Photoshop ImageEditor Shirley, an avid pedal bicyclist, could not refuse the EDTA ride and drive opportunity to take a spin on the Wave Crest electric bike. With the motor in the back hub and Nickel-metal hydride batteries in the front hub, the frame is unobstructed. Speeds to 20 mph and range of 20 miles, without regenerative input or recharge, make it a formidable machine. Despite the electric assist, it  is still classified as a bicycle. +

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.

Adobe Photoshop ImageEach of the major companies has a unique view of fuel cells and hydrogen  in its future vision for hydrogen transportation.  Discussing the accomplishments and challenges that lie ahead  were Gunnar Lindstrom of American Honda Motor Company, Lawrence J. Oswald from DaimlerChrysler,  Scott Staley of Ford Motor Company, Ken Stewart of General Motors, and Ed LaRocque of Toyota Motor Sales, USA.  +

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.

Adobe Photoshop ImageAs the sun set slowly in the clear blue Florida sky, the finale was the poolside gala sponsored by Ford,  Honda, Nissan and Toyota. Positioned among one of Florida’s worst hurricane seasons, the EDTA Conference enjoyed peaceful weather. The gala offered all  attendees to have the last collaborative time to review information and make plans for continuation of electric drive. EDTA staffers, led by Bryan Wynne President and Jennifer Watts Communications Associate,  created an ideal setting with a tasteful calypso band setting the mood with music at enjoyable and comfortable sound levels. It was a fitting finale for a conference filled with practical platforms pursuing cleaner transportation which could lead to future energy independence. +

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!   
BD