By on May 22, 2011

Though The Department of Energy has offered only the flimsiest of evidence for the practicability of President Obama’s electric vehicle goals, Energy Secretary Steven Chu is out writing checks about the future of EVs that the industry may not be able to cash. Speaking at the installation of the 500th ChargePointAmerica charging station in Southern California, Chu explained his vision for the future to the LA Times.

“Because of increased demand, we’ve got to think of all the other things we can do in transportation. The best is efficiency,” Chu said.

Batteries are the “heart” of electric vehicles, he said, adding that the Department of Energy is funding research that will drop the cost of electric-vehicle batteries 50% in the next three or four years and double or triple their energy density within six years so “you can go from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on a single charge,” he said. “These are magical distances. To buy a car that will cost $20,000 to $25,000 without a subsidy where you can go 350 miles is our goal.”

So, a 300+ mile car costing less than $25k without a subsidy, within the the 2017 time frame. Which essentially means that within six years, the Nissan Leaf would have to triple its range and lose the equivalent of the government subsidy’s $7,500 in costs. That’s not a wholly unreasonable goal, but what’s not clear is how it will be reached. After all, the Leaf is already behind on the government’s volume predictions, and starting next year the Volt will be too. A tripling of range in one long product cycle (or two short ones) seems as optimistic as the government’s EV volume projections, which imagine 120k Volts being produced next year, as well as 5,000 of the nonexistant Fisker “Nina” PHEV. Chu’s vision is commendable, but at this point the DOE’s credibility is more than a little strained when it comes to the future of EVs.

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32 Comments on “DOE: The Cheap, Effective, Unsubdsidized Electric Car Is Coming...”


  • avatar
    tparkit

    Chu is fond of predictions. As a global warming alarmist, he forecasts environmental disaster unless unless we change course NOW… and spend massively on alternative energy fantasies.

    Accordingly, he is a big supporter of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Export Initiative:

    http://www.energy.gov/news/9864.htm

    A major beneficiary of this program is ward-of-the-state GE (a.k.a. Government Electric):

    http://www.solarthermalmagazine.com/2010/12/14/g-e-reaches-it-renewable-energy-target-for-2010-as-part-of-6-billion-investment-strategy/

    It just happens that GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt is the chair of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

    And does GE have investments in EV-related batteries and infrastructure? You betcha…

    http://www.gereports.com/ge-better-place-to-partner-on-ev-infrastructure/

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-09/ge-backed-a123-to-supply-electric-car-batteries-to-china-s-saic.html

  • avatar
    Andy D

    This quest reminds me of cold fusion.

  • avatar
    John Fritz

    Can someone remind me again why anyone needs or even wants an electric car? The market for electric cars is an artificially created one, thanks to various governments worldwide spending other people’s money. EV’s are impractical, costly and nowhere near ready to compete with ICE driven automobiles. I’m tired of hearing how they’re always “gonnna get a lot better” one day real soon. You can’t legislate electric cars. But you sure can spend a lot of money trying.

    • 0 avatar

      Part of the impetus is all the dough our country sends abroad for petroleum, particularly to nasty dictatorships. Drastically reducing petroleum is a very reasonable geopolitical goal. Of course, that doesn’t make the electric car any more immediately feasible, and there are undoubtedly more cost-effective ways to reduce petroleum use, such as a tax on petroleum that would encourage Americans to buy more energy efficient cars.

    • 0 avatar

      The extraordinary claims of revolutionary advances in battery tech and cost require equally strong proof. I’ve seen too many breathless claims of huge advances in other energy technology such as Fuel Cells and Photovoltaics.

      I’d happily pay 20% more for an Electric fueled by Domestic Coal or Natural Gas. As a nation its a step in the right direction of energy security and flipping the bird to the Chávezs and Bin Ladens of the world. I look foreword to the day that we don’t have to tie down half our military securing the oil supply in the bad ‘hood that is the Middle East.

      I’m cautiously optimistic about the future of EVs and Plug-In Hybrids. Mr. Dykes recent write up of living with a Leaf for 3 days shows that its not quite there yet. However the 1st Gen Prius and Insight were also overpriced Smug-Mobile niche products that have evolved into good vehicles in their current incarnations.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Right after they balance the budget and pay off the debt.
    We should see unicorn farms right about then too.

  • avatar
    hans007

    what i can’t believe is how ridiculous these claims are.

    i mean battery techn is used in everything. you don’t see laptop makers claiming we will have laptops with 20 hour batteries in 2017 . and laptops tend to have state of the art batteries.

    i mean this guy is supposedly a scientist, but he’s doign the same old, lets just make up some really great sounding number and say it’ll happen just like the CAFE mpg projections that are just made up out of thin air.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Most weight in a laptop is the battery. Low weight is nice especially if you carry it so laptop have been sold with the smallest batteries people could get away with. That is why you don’t see 20 hour laptops though they are easy to make as it only requires the use of a bigger, heavier battery

      And laptop batteries did become much better, sadly the electronics in the laptop needed more juice so as end consumer there was no noticeable difference

  • avatar
    69 stang

    Just one more example of the hubris of our current President and his administration. They all think because they are so smart that if they “will it to be” it will happen despite the laws of man and nature. He’s also decided he is going to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via a really moving speech. Unfortunately most Americans would rather buy his BS than work on actual solutions so he will probably have another term. Since hybrid and electric cars are using the same limited technology as other products, the post about the laptop batteries points out the obvious flaw in their thinking. Like many Americans I’m not in the position to buy a new car even if one did make sense because my income is down and my taxes are up.

    • 0 avatar
      MoppyMop

      He’s also decided he is going to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via a really moving speech.

      Name another president since the end of open hostilities with Egypt in ’79 who hasn’t tried to do the same.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I think I’ll pick up some stock in these companies pushing vaporware products subsidized by the taxpayer. GE might be a buy at this point, they definitely have an inside track on this, plus the best tax accountants in history.

  • avatar
    George B

    I don’t think Steven Chu understands the problem. The problem is EVs have competition from better, cheaper alternatives. If you could buy an EV for the cost of a beater, the low utility would be forgiven. I would love to own an EV for short drives if I could get one for low thousands. Interesting toy. However, charge a real car price and I start to demand more utility for the money. Raising the range to 300 miles doesn’t really help utility that much because it still takes much longer to recharge a battery than it does to put a fluid into a fuel tank. A compressed natural gas car has many of the problems of an electric car, but I could refill the fuel tank in a few minutes just like a gasoline fueled car if the fuel stations were widely available. Even battery life killing fast charging doesn’t get you back on the highway that quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      dhanson865

      “Raising the range to 300 miles doesn’t really help utility that much because it still takes much longer to recharge a battery than it does to put a fluid into a fuel tank.”

      That mentality still ignores the fact that the average car sits parked 95% of the time and therefore should be fully charged at the beginning of the average day.

      As an example my car sat in the garage all day yesterday (Sunday) because 6 of us hopped in a Ford Minivan (father in laws vehicle) and went to an amusement park. There is no reason that my vehicle couldn’t have been charging for more than 24 hours from the time I went to bed Saturday night to the time I woke up Monday morning (actual time sleep to rise was 34 hours but I could have easily started charging Saturday afternoon instead of waiting to 11PM). Such a long charge on L1 or L2 EVSE would ensure I had reserves for any deficit in charging on a weekday night assuming the battery could do even 150 Miles let alone 300.

      My car sits in a garage within 3 feet of a wall with a AC outlet. Realistic case is the power cord would have to travel half the length of the car + 5 feet to make it to the outlet (12 feet of cord would be enough for my garage). Apparently most EVSE’s have 20+ feet of cord and people use extension cords for the worst case scenario. If I ever bought an EV I’d still have to pay an electrician to add a 240V plug and If I had a 2nd EV I’d just charge one on 120V while the other charged on 240V and if needed alternate which one charges on 240V.

      If a 300 mile battery isn’t enough to keep you from ever running out of charge you just drive a PHEV (Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) like the 2012 Prius with the PHEV option or a 2005 – 2009 Prius with a PHEV conversion.

      If you can’t stand the thought of driving a EV or PHEV then you can drive one of the millions of used cars, trucks, SUVs that still run on gas, diesel, or heaven forbid ethanol (seriously don’t make E85 your fuel of choice).

      I still buy 100% gas for my Prius. I got 62MPG on the 10 mile trip from the gas station home the other day at 75F with some AC used (AC set to 65F but turned on and off manually).

      I’d love to avoid the out of the way trip to buy 100% gas. The nearest E10 gas is about 3 miles from the house. I’d be happy to charge in the garage instead of waiting in line at the pumps of the nearest gas stations (E10 or 100% gas).

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I don’t think Steven Chu understands the problem. The problem is EVs have competition from better, cheaper alternatives.

      You are correct in the short term.

      However, Chu understands something that you’re missing, which is that there’s no fundamental reason why gasoline must remain cheaper than EVs. In fact, every time you buy gasoline, you make it more expensive, because you use a (very small) fraction of the amount of oil that’s left — and it will take millions of years, or energy-intensive chemical processes, to make more. In the past, we’ve been finding more oil than we use, but that’s been slowing down a lot lately and demand has been increasing. There’s a lot of debate about when oil will change from a buyer’s commodity market to a seller’s market with higher prices and more limited availability — some people think it’s already happened, some people don’t. Lots of people have never considered the question. I’m pretty sure it’ll happen some time between now and the time when my 16 month old son is my age.

      Another factor is the amount of effort that goes in to acquiring oil from foreign countries that don’t like us very much, as well as the cost of having the US Navy protect oil tankers from pirates and governments that don’t like us very much. The human cost of supporting regimes that sell oil to us but oppress their people very much is something to consider, if your values allow you to. And, before anyone says that drilling within the US is going to solve the problem, oil production in the US peaked in 1973 and has never returned to that level. The shape of the curve is interesting and reflects new extraction technologies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_Oil_Production_and_Imports_1920_to_2005.png) — and new drilling and new extraction technologies could do something, but I don’t think it’s a solution. A lot of people who have examined the issue think that the world’s oil production will follow a similar pattern.

      So, if you take the long term view, having EV technology established in the marketplace over the next few years or so would be very wise choice, even if it’s gawdawful expensive and only interesting to efficiency-geeks like myself (and not terribly interesting to a financial pragmatist like yourself).

      P.S. I’d also like to point out the extreme economies of scale that occur with car manufacturing — there’s hardly a low-volume vehicle of any kind that costs less than $100k, and low-end conventional cars can be had for about 12% of that. A decade ago, EVs were all hand-built prototype vehicles that cost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to produce (when built by a professional engineering teams), or one-of-a-kind “hot-rods” built by skilled amateurs. It’s just in the last year that the LEAF and the Volt have been built on real production lines, which has brought the cost down from Tesla territory down in to performance/luxury car territory. I expect that I will be able to afford one soon. There’s no reason that you need to buy one now (unless you’re an efficiency minded geek who wants to be prepared for an uncertain energy future), and I’m happy to pay as much early-adopter premium as I can afford, so that you can change your mind later if/when the world changes. And, in the meantime, dude, I’ll have an electric car to show off to all my geeky friends! :-)

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      @dhanson865:

      I’ve been following the development of the Volt since the concept was first made public in 2005, and it makes a pretty good claim about not using gasoline in the first 40 miles. You can force it in to hybrid (“mountain”) mode if you want with a switch, though. But, there was some talk about using the gasoline engine for heat in some cases, and other things like that. It’s clear that the vehicle is designed to drive around with some gasoline in the tank, and it’s designed to burn that gasoline off when the computer thinks it could be going stale. This is a very good thing, but it may be that a BEV fits my personal goals better. Especially if the Volt (and the siblings that GM has implied) remain in the $41.5k range. But given that the Volt would probably use about 2% of the gase we currently burn in our Prius, it would be a fuel-reduction win if I could convince my wife to let me buy a $41.5k car.

      I’ve heard fewer technical details about the PHEV Prius, but it sounds more like a beefed-up HSD where whumping on the accelerator will light the dino-fires under all circumstances. That’s consistent with Toyota’s philosophy of constant incremental improvement, and the plugin Prius certainly would be an incrimental improvement over the existing Prius. So, if you’re light on the accelerator and don’t drive at full highway speeds, you could go 7-9 miles on the battery, and then continue in hybrid mode. My father-in-law’s commute was an exact match for this car’s electric capabilities before he retired, so it will be a perfect match for some people. The fuel-saving that comes from this system is a very good thing, of course, but I’m not sure that it’s what I’m looking for in my next green car — despite the most-excellent ownership experience we’ve had with our 2nd-generation Prius (it’s a reliable and efficient transportation appliance that is disproportionately useful for such a small car).

      P.S. My driveway is likely to have two vehicles for a long time — one green daily driver, and a “do everything the green car can’t do” vehicle. We have a 2nd-gen Prius and a beat up old Ford Ranger. I’m leaning toward a Leaf and a beat up old Subaru Outback or Forrester with a towing package for the next round, but we’ll see. After owning the Ranger, I have a personal hangup about driving vehicles that are taller than I am, which limits the possibilities somewhat.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Living in The Capital of the Free World as I do, I wonder how it is that otherwise normal, rational and intelligent people like Secretary Chu begin spouting such errant nonsense once they hold a high appointed position in the bureaucracy:

    Toilets that save water because they don’t flush anything.

    60 mpg gasoline-powered cars.

    EVs with 300 mile range.

    Everything is possible! Just publish a regulation or two in the Federal Register, and it will happen!

    Congress needs to launch an investigation into the hidden supply of nitrous oxide that seems to be polluting the air of these bureaucrats’ offices . . . right after they check the Capitol building and the White House for the same.

    I could use a little myself . . . maybe they should just release it into the air around here generally, instead of hogging it for the privileged few.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      You’re wrong about the toilets. I got a couple of Kohler low-flow toilets a couple of years ago, and they flush wonderfully. Looking at the shape of the bowl, it’s clear that the designers of the toilets used a lot of computer simulations to optimize the way the water flows and manage the energy that comes from dropping the water (nearly all at once) from the tank into the bowl. These are newer low-flow toilets, and they flush a LOT better than 5-gallon toilet and the 1990s low-flow toilets they replaced.

      Can’t really speak to the rest of your comments, though, since I’m a computer systems engineer..

  • avatar
    Bridge2farr

    Steven Chu. Unqualified Cal Berkley product who rides his bike to work. Best described as a tool.

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    @Edward Niedermeyer

    “imagine 120k Volts being produced next year, as well as 5,000 of the nonexistant Fisker “Nina” PHEV”

    I don’t understand why the Volt which is a PHEV makes the mention all the time but the Prius PHEV doesn’t. Even the DOE does it in that 4 year projection they list cars with only 1000 units but they don’t list the Prius PHEV in 2012 through 2015. Are they really unaware of Toyota’s future products or is the exclusion of Toyota PHEV products a case of spin?

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      The Volt is designed to run primarily off battery 90+% of the time. And “Chevy Volt” = “Electric”.

      The Prius, not so much, because “Prius” = gas-burning Hybrid.

      • 0 avatar
        dhanson865

        @SVX pearlie,

        You apparently are unaware of the meaning of PHEV or what is meant by PHEV Prius.

        You also seem to be unaware that the Chevy Volt has a gas engine. According to the big W it’s a “1.4-liter 4-cylinder internal combustion engine (Opel’s Family 0)”

        PHEV version of the Prius can run in electric only mode for a significant distance.

        Saying that the PHEV version of the Prius isn’t in the same class as the Volt because the Prius uses gas is implying that the Volt doesn’t ever use gas (even though it does).

        If you think I’m talking about the regular run of the mill Prius that you see on the street in the US then you still don’t understand what PHEV means or how few there are on the road and you should read more about the PHEV Prius instead of using the old tired comparisons to a car I’m not specifically referring to.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        You asked an incredibly stupid question, why the well-known and earlier-launching Volt gets the press over the less-well-known red-headed stepchild of the hybrid Prius family.

        I answered it for you, in simple terms that the layman would understand, based on how laypeople currently understand the Volt and the Prius brands as they have been established in the public.

        The Prius is being marketed as a type of “hybrid”, so it’ll be marked as a gas-burner until they change the message.

        If you were half as intelligent as you think you are, then you wouldn’t have asked the question in the first place.

        OTOH, if your real reason was simply to pump up the Prius, then that’s unnecessary fail on your part.

      • 0 avatar
        dhanson865

        “I answered it for you, in simple terms that the layman would understand, based on how laypeople currently understand the Volt and the Prius brands as they have been established in the public.

        The Prius is being marketed as a type of “hybrid”, so it’ll be marked as a gas-burner until they change the message.”

        No, I’m not a shill. I don’t have a vested interest in any car company nor am I paid by any obvious or hidden source of funds related to autos in any way.

        The study was mentioned in http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/doe-obama-ev-goal-is-possible-if-you-believe-the-hype/ which is linked in the article you and I are discussing. Following the link from there takes us to http://images.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/1_Million_Electric_Vehicle_Report_Final.pdf which contains this text

        “Major auto manufacturers such as Chrysler, BYD, Coda, Honda,
        Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo are not included in this table, but have announced or are expected to introduce EVs in this time period. Because the U.S. is a major market for these automakers, it is likely that additional production capacity of
        several hundred thousand EVs is not accounted for in this table.”

        So it wouldn’t be that hard for a site called the TRUTH about cars to make sure people knew there are options coming especially when they are doing an article about the views from multiple sides of the argument.

        It’s no joke there are bad numbers out there but it’d be nice to at least see a list of all the contenders in one article than to just ignore a major factor in a calculation that is under contention and getting lots of press.

        And if you think it’s odd for me to point it out so be it. I think it’s odd any time there isn’t balance between the forces at bay.

        I think it’s perfectly natural for a large percentage of TTAC regulars to use the term slushbox and I enjoy reading those sorts of articles/messages. So long as it’s accurate/justified I want to hear the good and the bad about every car. I also want to hear from the TrueDelta/CR/pennypincher crowd with what may be opposing views on the very same vehicles and I don’t want to have to see nonsensical inaccurate strawman responses anytime someone in that crowd makes a valid/justified comparison.

        If you had made the same first 3 paragraph’s and left out the “half as intelligent” and “real reason” parts I would have considered your response informative enough. As is I think it gets more “inciteful” than insightful but I wouldn’t ask someone to mod you down or delete your post.

        Oh, and In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics.

      • 0 avatar
        dhanson865

        oh and on the message thing

        I find it odd that anyone would treat the Volt as anything other than a “hybrid” gas-burner no matter what the “message” is. The Volt is PHEV and sure the P and E are both eletric related but the H isn’t any more or less hybrid in the general sense just because the marketing says it’s different.

        You can argue about how many miles or km the Volt can go on a full charge vs how many any other PHEV can go but then you aren’t talking about types of capabilities you are talking about extent. And that is the sort of logic that brings up the old joke:

        Man: Would you sleep with me for a million dollars
        Woman: uh, Yes
        Man: Ok, how about $5
        Woman: what kind of woman do you think I am?
        Man: We’ve established that now we are negotiating price.

        Marketing can call the Volt an Electric Car with “range extension” and any other PHEV a Hybrid that burns gas but in reality that’s just wordplay and I’d rather see Truth about cars.

        So if you know of upcoming PHEV’s that will likely sell in quantity before 2014 made by

        Chrysler
        BYD
        Coda
        Honda
        Mitsubishi
        Hyundai
        Volkswagen
        Volvo

        I’d love to know about them as well. Toyota isn’t the only company I’m willing to read about.

        But I would like to see some discussion around here about comparisons other than just Leaf vs Volt or Leaf vs Fit. There are more than two or three options in the market. Gas, Hybrid, EV it’s a range/spectrum of possible options for the engineers to explore and customers to benefit from not a simple checkbox for marketing and political purposes (and the marketing is the part I’m least interested in).

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        IIRC Prius can’t drive at highway speeds purely electric. It also has a battery size which equates to a maximum range of around 5 miles. Which for commuting is near why don’t you just walk?

        ps. I think you can jerry rig any starter motor do drive the car 5 foot but i don’t think you would call it an electric vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        dhanson865

        @ Charly

        “IIRC Prius can’t drive at highway speeds purely electric. It also has a battery size which equates to a maximum range of around 5 miles.”

        As to highway speeds let me quote someone from another forum

        “Volt fans love to wave the 62 mph limit of the Prius PHV as if it was a big deal, but most Volt fans do not really understand the limit. > 62 mph does not mandate petrol consumption, it mandates ICE spin. Nothing prevents the ICE spin energy to be sourced from the traction battery if the demand is low enough and the battery SOC is high enough (how low and how high are software determined.) I travel in ‘EV’ mode at greater than 62 mph in my Prius routinely, although the window of SOC and power demand is narrow.”

        We are discussing the PHEV which has a much longer range than just 5 miles. The existing Gen II or Gen III Prius can do electric only for that range. The PHEV is expected to get 3 times that range on battery alone. And it’s still expected to be significantly cheaper than a Volt which gets greater range on EV.

        “The production version will let you choose to either:

        1) Blend gas and battery above 60mph. Since it will use both, battery maybe drained off the highway.
        2) Turn on HV mode to retain the charge for later EV local miles”

        “ps. I think you can jerry rig any starter motor do drive the car 5 foot but i don’t think you would call it an electric vehicle.”

        Again we are discussing a PHEV which has additional batteries not found in the standard Prius. Please leave the strawman arguments out of this and read up on the conversions and/or the new factory option that is coming.

        If you are still confused by the term PHEV maybe the phrase “Plug in Hybrid” would make more sense?

        Maybe look at the ranges here http://www.eaa-phev.org/wiki/Template:Prius_PHEV_Options or the article here http://www.greencarreports.com/blog/1057287_2012-toyota-prius-plug-in-by-the-numbers-would-it-work-for-you

        All it takes is 150 pounds of batteries, a button on the dash, and a EVSE to turn a Prius into something more capable and efficient than a Volt.

        Why? Because the Prius has the EV button on the dash in Japan so the US version needs it added back. The computer already knows how to deal with the extra batteries and handle EV only operation. The only thing that kept them from selling a PHEV in the past was battery prices.

        It’s not like we are talking about taking a Yugo and strapping a bunch of batteries in the back seat. A Prius PHEV is just as fully designed to run in EV mode as the VOLT they just choose to use less battery to keep weight down and MPG up so when you do use gas you’ll use less of it.

        Now if you want to say it isn’t your cup of tea or you don’t think its worth the money just say so but don’t go making beater vs hybrid comparisons or say that you think the Volt is in a different class just because the EV range is longer than the Prius PHEV’s EV range.

        You’ll easily get 2x the EV range with the Volt but that doesn’t mean you aren’t getting practical EV use out of other PHEVs. Try and do some real accurate comparisons please.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        It’s true — I’ve driven my wife’s 2nd-gen Prius at around 75mph on electric. Downhill with a tailwind.

        If you take green car blogs as gospel, you’d think that this car would have to turn on the engine to go that fast. But, in reality, it’s not about the speed of the vehicle — it’s about the power the driver is asking for, and the amount of power in the battery. Ask for more power than the electric drive can deliver, and the gas engine fires up and goes. Ask for less power than the electric drive can deliver, and it’ll do it without the engine until the battery depletes.

        In this particular case, the battery was full from running WOT up a mountain. The engine software seeks sweet spots in the power/efficiency curve and stores the excess energy in the battery — so if you insist on driving fast through certain mountains on the Interstate (but not as fast as the car could possibly go), it’ll charge the battery when going uphill and discharge when going down. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but it really does achieve the goals of the HSD.

        As for differentiating between a Prius-like PHEV and a Volt-like PHEV, the question that matters to me is: can I use the car normally with the gas tank empty? My reading about the Prius PHEV suggests that the answer is a solid “no”, since it sounds like the gasoline engine will start if you mash the accelerator, regardless of the battery’s SOC. My reading about the Volt suggests that the answer is a qualified “no”, since the computer expects to run the gasoline engine periodically in order to keep the cylinders from rusting, stir up the oil, and burn off stale gasoline. At the moment, I may only be able to achieve the kind of control I’m looking for by buying a BEV and keeping the Prius in the gas-guzzler slot.

      • 0 avatar
        dhanson865

        @Luke42 How to they behave when out of gas?

        Leaf = Turtle mode 35mph governor when you get below a certain battery level. Just depends on battery temp and battery condition/aging how accurate the miles remaining are. You might make it to an electrical outlet or you might be calling for a tow truck.

        Prius – I’m not sure but I believe the effect is similar. You are on battery only and the Prius electric engine is slightly weaker than the Leaf so expect to be going slow unless it’s all downhill. Should be able to limp a mile or two on the battery but you definately want to turn off the AC/heater/radio/headlights anything you can safely turn off and still drive without getting hit by another driver.

        Volt – I don’t know but I’d have to assume it handles this as well as the others. Surely they programmed a 1 or 2 mile limp to the gas station mode?

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @ dhanson865,

        Limp-home modes are great, but you missed the point I was trying to make. I probably wasn’t explicit enough.

        The point that I was trying to make is that the dividing line for me is whether the car can really operate without gasoline. Since the LEAF does not have a gas tank or an internal combustion engine, I feel comfortable saying unequivocally that it *can* operate without gasoline. Yes, the LEAF requires energy (and lots of it), but that’s not exactly the same thing as using gasoline, and the distinction matters to me.

        But, since the PHEV Prius and the Volt are likely to require, I don’t think either can be called anything other than a hybrid. These are gasoline AND electric vehicle, rather than a gasoline OR electric vehicle. (I’m using AND and OR in the boolean sense.)

        To be fair, the amount of gasoline used by either a PHEV Prius or a Volt will be a small fraction of what a conventional vehicle would use, and I usually argue that incremental steps are worthwhile. I think those are legitimate arguments.

        But, I personally would like to have the option run a bi-fuel vehicle with no gasoline in the tank or no electric charging. The stock 2nd-gen Prius in my driveway gets all of its motive energy from gasoline (even during electric-limp mode), so it’s a single-fuel vehicle. The easiest way to achieve the kind of choice I’m looking for may be just to own two cars — one conventional vehicle with a gas tank, and a battery electric vehicle. That way, I can choose which fuel is appropriate for the day’s task by choosing which car I get in to.

        Anyway, that’s what I meant, even if the meaning was hidden inside a bulky paragraph that left some of what I was saying as an exercise for the reader…

      • 0 avatar
        dhanson865

        Oh, ok. in that sense

        Leaf = no gas ever

        Prius PHEV = would drive without gas but only for extremely short ranges. Would enter limp home mode pretty quickly even on a full charge unless you paid an aftermarket 3rd party to mod the system for EV only use. Since the computer knows the fuel levels just mashing the pedal wouldn’t make it try to start on an empty tank but you wouldn’t get normal performance on an empty tank. It’d be way more sluggish.

        Volt – I’m not sure if it’d act like a Leaf with no gas or if it’d act more like the stock Prius with no gas. That’d be a very good question.

        I agree it’d be nice to be able to just press a button or flip a switch or even just charge it and let it run out of gas to force EV mode. I’m sure from the reading I did this morning that Toyota isn’t designing their car to do that just like you said but maybe Chevy did?

        While I think it could be cost effective to take a Gen II Prius and turn it into a PHEV, going the next step and trying to make it a full EV is not something that is cost effective. It’d be cheaper to buy an EV outright than to covert a Prius to full EV. Even a PHEV conversion could be net negative if you pay too much.

        Yes, it’s definitely cheaper in most states to just have a spare vehicle but unfortunately in some states they tax you out the wazoo for having any car so your gas car better be a beater if you want to avoid taxes in those states. Oh and in some states it has to be a beater by Blue Book values not just what you could buy or sell it for as they tax a wrecked parts only clunker just as hard as a pristine floor model if you want tags for it.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Either this guy’s really optimistic or nobody has begun putting any effort into battery design until now. At that rate, modern batteries will be obsolete in six years.


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