The Truth About Cars » Hydrogen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:58:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Hydrogen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/hydrogen/ US Energy Department Unveils Four-Year Strategy For Alternative Energy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/us-energy-department-unveils-four-year-strategy-plan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/us-energy-department-unveils-four-year-strategy-plan/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:15:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=798026 South_Point_Wind_Farm

The U.S. Department of Energy unveiled last week a four-year plan that would advance the goal of energy security by building upon as many alternative sources as possible, further reducing dependence on imported petroleum.

Autoblog Green reports the 27-page plan illustrates the proposed aims of the DOE to double the amount of energy produced by renewables, improve battery technology, usher in advances in biofuels and hydrogen fuel cells, and push further electrification of vehicles.

In addition, the DOE also has strategies ready for testing the nation’s nuclear deterrent for safety, security and overall effectiveness, as well as boosting the tools needed to bring improvements on the nation’s security infrastructure.

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Fewer Than 4,000 Green Calif. HOV Stickers Remain http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/less-than-4000-green-calif-hov-stickers-remain/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/less-than-4000-green-calif-hov-stickers-remain/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:56:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776521 2012-Chevrolet-Volt-HOV-052_610x407

For potential California PHEV owners, time may soon run out to obtain the Green Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued by the California Environmental Protection Agency for HOV lane use, as only 3,770 of the 40,000 stickers remain available.

Inside EVs reports a huge spike in applications for the green stickers since the start of 2013, with 12,000 issued last year, and 8,000 more since January. This is in contrast to 2012, when around 500 stickers per month were issued in the first seven months of the year.

The stickers, meant for AT PZEVs such as the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt, will likely be gone by the time BMW brings the i3 extended-range model to the United States this summer, and in spite of the automaker’s best efforts, only the pure-electric i3 will be eligible for the White Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued to as many approved EVs, fuel-cell- and CNG-powered vehicles — like the Tesla Model S, Ram 2500 and Honda FCX Clarity — as can be registered.

Both green and white HOV stickers are set to expire New Year’s Day 2019, extended from the same date in 2015.

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Dr. Z Expects a Decade of Disappointment For Fuel Cell Technology http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/dr-z-expects-a-decade-of-disappointment-for-fuel-cell-technology/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/dr-z-expects-a-decade-of-disappointment-for-fuel-cell-technology/#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 11:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=704586 DieterZetscheIAA2009

At a round-table discussion with reporters during last week’s Detroit Auto Show, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche proclaimed that any consumer wanting to be green with fuel cells had better be prepared for a decade of disappointment with the technology.

Zetsche said there were cost issues with the process for creating fuel cells — Daimler’s three-way dance with Ford and Nissan to bring a market-ready fuel cell vehicle by 2017 was done to help spread the cost while accelerating development — as well as a lack of vehicle volume to help further drive down costs, while the few hydrogen fueling stations around the globe aren’t doing anything to help widespread adoption; there are only 10 such stations in the United States alone, eight of which are in Southern California.

Zetsche is more optimistic on the autonomous vehicle front, however, noting the unexpectedly rapid development in the technology. Mercedes-Benz has taken the lead in the space with the new S-Class and its Distronic cruise control system with automatic braking, which can pilot a car on its own for up to 60 miles with a few adjustments to its onboard technology.

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Toyota Will Put Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle On Sale Next Year http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/toyota-will-put-hydrogen-fuel-cell-vehicle-on-sale-next-year/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/toyota-will-put-hydrogen-fuel-cell-vehicle-on-sale-next-year/#comments Wed, 08 Jan 2014 12:30:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=694449 toyota-fuel-cell-vehicle-concept-13

It doesn’t have a name yet, and the prototype that Toyota unveiled at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show was covered in camo, but the Japanese automaker promises that they will be selling a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in the United States next year. The company is claiming it will have a range of 300 miles and will refuel in less than five minutes. The Corolla sized sedan has been tested in North America’s hottest and coldest locations and Toyota says that the emissions free car will have an electric motor rated at greater than 100 kW (>130 hp) and be able to accelerate from zero to sixty miles an hour in about 10 seconds.

“We aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel; just everything necessary to make them turn,” said Bob Carter, Toyota’s senior VP in charge of U.S. auto operations. “For years, the use of hydrogen gas to power an electric vehicle has been seen by many smart people as a foolish quest. Yes, there are significant challenges. The first is building the vehicle at a reasonable price for many people. The second is doing what we can to help kick-start the construction of convenient hydrogen refueling infrastructure.”

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Toyota’s not saying what the car will cost but it claims that it has significantly reduced the cost of building a fuel cell, approximately 95% in a little over a decade. Toyota spokeswoman Jana Hartline says that Toyota will give consumers “a variety of options” when the H2 FCV, including outright sale. That would make the Toyota FCV the first fuel cell vehicle available for purchase in the U.S. Honda has made fuel cell cars available but only on leases.

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Besides the cost of the fuel cells, which typically use precious metals as catalysts, the other barrier to fuel cell vehicles in a lack of fueling stations, so while you’ll be able to buy a Toyota FCV, you’ll only be able to do that in California, which has at least a rudimentary hydrogen infrastructure. Toyota is working with UC Irvine’s Advanced Power and Energy Program to map out where additional stations should be placed, and based on their models, they say that an additional 68 hydrogen fueling stations will be needed when the cars go on sale.

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California currently has nine public hydrogen fueling stations, mostly around Los Angeles and San Francisco. Another 19 are under development. The state of California has approved $200 million in funding to build hydrogen stations in the state in 2015 and another 20 stations are expected in 2016.

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Carter said that Toyota also plans to independently address the issue of fueling stations. “Stay tuned, because this infrastructure thing is going to happen.”

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Gasoline Power To Dominate U.S. Highways Through 2040 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/gasoline-power-to-dominate-u-s-highways-through-2040/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/gasoline-power-to-dominate-u-s-highways-through-2040/#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 13:30:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=684682 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

The green warriors who hoped EVs and hybrids would be the dominate force on the highways of America may need to wait a bit longer: the United States Department of Energy predicts gasoline will be the fuel of a generation until at least 2040.

In fact, the DOE’s Energy Information Administration states in a report issued earlier this week that 78 percent of all vehicles on the road in 2040 will still burn fossil fuels, though more efficiently; the EIA predicts an average of 37.2 mpg at that point in time. While 42 percent of all vehicles will use some form of advanced fuel-saving technology, plug-in hybrids and full EVs will each account for only 1 percent of sales.

As for the pump, the EIA believes a gallon of gas will rise to the equivalent of $3.90, with diesel tagged for $4.73. The agency also predicts 30 percent increase in miles traveled from 2012 through 2040, and overall fuel consumption in the nation’s transportation sector to fall by 4 percent.

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Toyota Aiming For Modest Annual Sales Of Fuel Cell Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/toyota-aiming-for-modest-annual-sales-of-fuel-cell-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/toyota-aiming-for-modest-annual-sales-of-fuel-cell-cars/#comments Thu, 12 Dec 2013 12:15:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=678458 Toyota FCV Concept

Toyota believes fuel cells are the future, becoming a competitive technology up against other zero-emission compliance tech by 2030 at the latest. In fact, the automaker plans to hedge their bets in the near future by setting an annual sales goal of 5,000 to 10,000 fuel-cell powered machines beginning in 2015.

Part of this push is due to falling costs in fuel cell technology; when the above-pictured FCV enters showrooms in early 2015, just over half the $99,000 price tag will come from its smaller fuel cell, down from just over $1 million in 2007 when the tech debuted in the first of many concepts. Component sharing also helps to maintain a lower cost of entry, though Toyota says the FCV won’t be underpinned by the Prius due to differing structures between the two.

The automaker hopes sales of the FCV and other future fuel cell vehicles will rise to tens of thousands of units by the start of the 2020s, no doubt helped by a push to reduce costs through R&D to one-fifth of what a fuel cell costs to make at this point in time.

The FCV won’t be alone in this march toward progress; Honda plans to deliver a successor the FCX Clarity in the same year as the former’s debut, while Hyundai will lease 1,000 Tucsons fitted with fuel cells worldwide in 2014.

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Los Angeles 2013: Honda FCEV Concept http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/los-angeles-2013-honda-fcev-concept-harbinger-of-fcx-successor/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/los-angeles-2013-honda-fcev-concept-harbinger-of-fcx-successor/#comments Thu, 21 Nov 2013 05:13:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=658658 Honda FCEV 06

Honda’s successor to the FCX Clarity isn’t set to arrive on our shores until 2015, but those in LA bore witness to what its successor would look like through the eyes of the FCEV Concept.

The FCEV can ferry up to five passengers due to the totatlity of the drivetrain stored within what Honda calls “the engine room.”

As for power, hydrogen is used to create the electricity needed to drive the wheels forward. The automaker has improved this process since the FCX, managing 3 kW per liter of hydrogen consumed.

Honda expects the FCX’s successor to have a range of 300 miles, with only three minutes spent at the pump.

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Never Say Never: Hydrogen, Diesel En Vogue Again http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/never-say-never-hydrogen-diesel-en-vogue-again/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/never-say-never-hydrogen-diesel-en-vogue-again/#comments Mon, 18 Nov 2013 14:44:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=654082 Honda FCX Clarity

Remember this piece from the Honda Summer 2008 Hydrogen Collection? It was supposed to point the way to future of green fuel technology before the Tesla brought plug-in sex appeal down the ramp with their Roadster and, later on, the S, as well as the trend of compliance EVs from Chevrolet, Volkswagen and Kia.

But with sales of plug-in hybrids advancing far slower than originally expected regulators are taking another look at alternative ZEV powertrains.

Back in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama set a goal for 1 million EVs on the road by 2015, going so far as to place a $5 billion bet on Tesla and Fisker among other automakers. Since then, only 95,000 units have managed to leave the showroom for the open road, with sales of over 500,000 predicted for 2015 by West Bloomfield, Mich.-based Baum & Associates analyst Alan Baum. With the current administration downplaying their role in the EV market, President Obama is awarding $4 million to aid in the development of fuel cell technology and storage for hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Leading the charge toward the hydrogen future is California. Aside from passing a measure to provide 100 hydrogen fueling stations as part of their clean technology vision, the state’s legislature has fine-tuned the Zero-Emission Credit formula to better benefit hydrogen vehicle producers — such as Honda and General Motors, who announced a partnership to develop their respective technologies back in July — while drawing down power from Tesla to as much as 40 percent by 2015 for each S sold.

Back in D.C., Audi is putting the pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to change their mileage formula for the showroom window sticker, and to level the playing field in taxation between diesel and gasoline. The reasoning, according to Audi of American president Scott Keogh, is that the current formula favors gasoline power on the assumption that most driving is done in the city; diesel it at its most efficient on the highway, and is one-third more efficient than gasoline in otherwise equal conveyances according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The diesels used today are cleaner as a result of the advent of ultra-low sulfur fuel and tailpipe exhaust treatment.

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Hyundai Says Fuel Cells Will Be Cheaper Than Batteries, Will Debut Hydrogen Fuel Cell CUV Next Year http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/hyundai-says-fuel-cells-will-be-cheaper-than-batteries-will-debut-hydrogen-fuel-cell-cuv-next-year-for-sale-in-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/hyundai-says-fuel-cells-will-be-cheaper-than-batteries-will-debut-hydrogen-fuel-cell-cuv-next-year-for-sale-in-2015/#comments Tue, 12 Nov 2013 10:30:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=648018 hw062867

Fuel cells are back in the news, with Toyota revealing the FCV concept and Tesla CEO Elon Musk comparing fuel cells to bovine excrement. Now Hyundai says that they are preparing an electrically driven CUV powered by a fuel cell for a North American debut next year. Just before he was apparently forced to resign over quality control issues, Kwon Moon-sik, Hyundai Motor Group’s president of r&d,  told Automotive News that the Korean automaker sees fuel cells and not batteries as the future for EVs. He said that money is the reason, seeing greater opportunities to reduce the cost of hydrogen fuel cells than batteries.

“There is no problem with the technology — only with the cost and profitability,” Kwon said of battery EVs. “We cannot make a profit with them.”

Besides Hyundai and Toyota, Honda, Daimler, General Motors, Ford and Nissan have announced plans to have more hydrogen powered vehicles on the road by the end of this decade. When Toyota puts the FCV into production, it will cost just 5-10% of the cost of their first fuel cell vehicle in 2007, which was said to cost the Japanese automaker a million dollars each. By 2020, Toyota predicts, fuel cell production costs will fall by half again.

Hyundai’s fuel cell vehicle will be based on the Tucson compact crossover, with plans to make 1,000 vehicles for sale around the world by 2015.

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Elon Musk: “A Fuel Cell Is So…” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/elon-musk-a-fuel-cell-is-so-bullsht/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/elon-musk-a-fuel-cell-is-so-bullsht/#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 11:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=632154

Click here to view the embedded video.

Speaking to Tesla enthusiasts at a Tesla service center in Germany, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk insisted that batteries made more sense for powering electric vehicles than hydrogen fuel cells, calling them “bullshit” and saying that hydrogen isn’t safe to use as an automotive fuel.

“Oh god, a fuel cell is so bulls**t. Hydrogen is suitable for the upper stage of rockets, but not for cars,” said Musk, not missing an opportunity to promote his SpaceX enterprise.

Musk was trying to get his audience to become evangelists for EVs and sustainable transportation to get people to see that electric vehicles are the next step beyond burning hydrocarbons. Getting on to the topic of hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells, the Tesla CEO insisted that the major automakers that were investigating hydrogen either as a fuel for combustion engines or with fuel cells for EVs were doing so strictly for marketing reasons.

Musk went on to lay out what he believes are technical reasons for batteries’ superiority to fuel cells, power density relative to mass and volume along with the fact that fuel cells are expensive. Then he got on to an explosive topic, the safety of carrying around a pressurized vessel filled with hydrogen. “Hydrogen is quite a dangerous gas. you know, it’s suitable for the upper stage of rockets, but not for cars,” he said.

The Tesla head was in Germany to help boost sales of the Model S, which have been slow. Hoping to sell 200 to 300 cars per week in Germany by the end of next year, Musk announced that the company was developing an “Autobahn tuning package” for the Model S that will be offered to existing and future owners, though he didn’t give many details beyond improved high-speed handling. It’s possible that the package would allow more high speed accelerations than the current Model S does before artificially limiting power to preserve the batteries. No word on whether that feature will just be available in Europe.

Germany has higher speeds and the faster you go the less range your EV will have, so Musk also announced that installations had begun for the first six of what will be a countrywide network of Tesla Supercharger stations. Totaling between 40 and 50 stations, nobody in Germany would have to drive more than 200 kilometers (124 miles) to find the next charge. Superchargers have also been upgraded from 120 kW to 135 kW with even greater outputs anticipated. Tesla also will be be building enough service centers to have 80% of the German population within 100 km (62 miles) of a Tesla service location.

Musk’s remarks begin at ~16:20 in the video above.

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Honda, GM Team Up For Fuel Cell Technology As Alliance Trend Continues http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/honda-gm-team-up-for-fuel-cell-technology-as-alliance-trend-continues/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/honda-gm-team-up-for-fuel-cell-technology-as-alliance-trend-continues/#comments Tue, 02 Jul 2013 15:11:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493926 FCX_Clarity

When it comes to fuel cell technology, everyone seems desperate to hop into bed with everyone else. The past 12 months has been a whole number of alliances; the start of 2013 saw an announcement between Toyota and BMW to partner on hydrogen technology, while Daimler, Ford and Nissan also banded together on their own fuel cell project. Now we can add Honda and GM to that list.

The two auto makers, who would at first glance appear to be unlikely bedfellows, are teaming up to develop fuel cell technology as well as fueling station infrastructure.  The goal is to create common technologies that the two auto makers can share, while also bringing down costs by consolidating their supplier base.

It’s hard to imagine two more different corporate cultures than Honda and GM, but the two do have a fair bit in common when it comes to fuel cells. Honda has been carrying the H2 torch with its FCV fuel-cell car, while GM has logged over 3 million miles in its fleet of FCV Equinox demo cars.

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Toyota Will Launch 2015 Fuel Cell Car, Volkswagen Won’t http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/toyota-will-launch-2015-fuel-cell-car-volkswagen-wont/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/toyota-will-launch-2015-fuel-cell-car-volkswagen-wont/#comments Mon, 01 Jul 2013 12:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493871 Fuel Cell - Picture courtesy tfl.gov.uk

We’ve been saying it for years that Toyota, along with several other automakers, will launch a hydrogen fuel cell car in 2015. Two years ago, you heard it from Toyota’s  Chief Engineer Satoishi Ogiso. A month ago, Toyota’s America-chief Jim Lentz promised that “the first fuel cell sedan is coming to the U.S. in 2015.” Now, Bloomberg says that “at the Tokyo Motor Show in November, Toyota plans to show a hydrogen-powered sedan that would be sold as a 2015 model.”

Bloomberg did not unearth anything you would not already know:  The 2015 fuel cell model will be expensive. Two years ago, amounts in the neighborhood of $100,000 had been mentioned, but Ogiso wanted to bring the price down. Now, Bloomberg says the fuel cell car “could be available in U.S. dealerships as soon next year for a price comparable to a mid-size BMW or Tesla Model S.”

Bloomberg says “a mass-market for hydrogen cars may be a decade or more away,” but Ogiso wanted to start going mainstream by 2020.

One company will miss the hydrogen year of 2015, and that’s Volkswagen,  R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg told TTAC last week in Wolfsburg:

“We are concentrating on diesel. Fuel cell technology faces an infrastructure problem.  The gas must be transported refrigerated. The total CO2 balance sheet is not so good, local emissions are quite nice. Range is also good.”

Hackenberg said that Volkswagen continues to work on fuel cell technologies, that MQB is ready is ready for it. Volkswagen focuses on diesel and thinks CNG has a future in Europe, and that hybrid seems the way to go in the U.S. and China.

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Lentz: Hydrogen Sedans By 2015 From A Spread-Betting Toyota http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/lentz-hydrogen-sedans-by-2015-from-a-spread-betting-toyota/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/lentz-hydrogen-sedans-by-2015-from-a-spread-betting-toyota/#comments Thu, 13 Jun 2013 11:56:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=491975  

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AutomakerS around the world seem to have colluded to turn 2015 into the Hydrogen year. Yesterday in Nagoya (a trip into which TTAC invested 21,160 yen, and the price of a bento box, no freebie jaunts in Japan) , Toyota’s NA CEO Jim Lentz confirmed that the Hydrogen Year is still on the calendar.

Lentz promised that “the first fuel cell sedan coming to the U.S. in 2015.” Fuel cell technology is a high stakes bet, but it is not Toyota’s only one. Said Lentz:

“We will continue to promote more advanced technologies from plug-ins to EVs as well as fuel cells, and we will continue to make improvements to the internal combustion engine.”

This reiterates statements made by Toyota’s new energy maven Satoshi Ogiso two years ago. It is far from clear which alternative energy will succeed in the market, therefore, betting on just one would be, well, ill-advised. To bet on the right technology, said Ogiso, a large automaker must bet on all:

“We must go multi track. We must improve gasoline and diesel engines. We must increase the number of hybrid models. We must produce the plug-in hybrid. We must develop city commuter electric vehicles. We already started small production of fuel cell vehicles. We must do all these improvements at the same time.”

Of course, Toyota remains bullish on hybrid technology. 15 percent of Toyota’s cars sold worldwide are hybrid-powered, Lentz said. Full-size hybrid trucks and SUVs, powered by a hybrid drivetrain jointly developed with Ford, should become available “later in the decade,” Lentz promised.

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Reshuffling The Stacks: Volkswagen Bets On Hybrids While Toyota Thinks Hydrogen Is A Winner http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/reshuffling-the-stacks-volkswagen-bets-on-hybrids-while-toyota-thinks-hydrogen-is-a-winner/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/reshuffling-the-stacks-volkswagen-bets-on-hybrids-while-toyota-thinks-hydrogen-is-a-winner/#comments Fri, 15 Mar 2013 14:27:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481370

 

Volkswagen has been tinkering with hydrogen for longer than I can remember. Yesterday, CEO Martin Winterkorn said it was all for naught. Hydrogen fuel cells are unlikely to become a cost-effective way to power cars in the near future, Winterkorn told Automotive News at Volkswagen’s press conference in Wolfsburg. He said it’s not Volkswagen’s fault:

“I do not see the infrastructure for fuel cell vehicles, and I do not see how hydrogen can be produced on large scale at reasonable cost. I do not currently see a situation where we can offer fuel cell vehicles at a reasonable cost that consumers would also be willing to pay.”

Automotive News takes that as an indicator that VW won’t join a list of global automakers that want to roll out fuel cell vehicles in the 2015-2020 time-frame, among them Toyota allied with BMW, a Nissan-Renault-Daimler-Ford alliance, Hyundai, Honda, and more.

Instead, VW is seen to embark on a somewhat belated diesel plug-in hybrid strategy, while hybrid pioneer Toyota does not have a problem envisaging fuel cell vehicles at a reasonable cost. Two years ago already, Toyota’s chief engineer Satoshi Ogiso told TTAC that an affordable hydrogen-powered car in this decade is “his job.”

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Volkswagen, Ballard Power Sign Fuel Cell Deal, Worth Up To $100 Million http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/volkswagen-ballard-power-sign-fuel-cell-deal-worth-up-to-100-million/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/volkswagen-ballard-power-sign-fuel-cell-deal-worth-up-to-100-million/#comments Thu, 07 Mar 2013 14:50:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=480440

Canadian fuel cell firm Ballard Power inked a deal with Volkswagen that could be worth as much as $100-million and last up to 6 years.

According to the CBC, Ballard will provide fuel cells for VW’s HyMotion hydrogen lineup, which will consist of a demonstrator fleet for now. Long a darling of North America’s clean energy sector, Ballard’s automotive fuel cell business began to turn south over the last decade, and in 2008, Ballard sold its automotive fuel cell assets to Daimler and Ford.

Ballard remained in the fuel cell business for forklifts, buses and stationary electrical generation, though it continued to keep a foothold in the automotive fuel cell business. But a number of advances in hydrogen fuel cells, from the technology itself to the abundance of natural gas used to make hydrogen to innovative fueling projects that use sewage, have spurred renewed interest in hydrogen as an automotive fuel.

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Reuters Kills The Electric Car. Again http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/reuters-kills-the-electric-car-again/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/reuters-kills-the-electric-car-again/#comments Mon, 04 Feb 2013 18:03:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=476241

Consumers lose interest. Even reporters do.!

A few days ago, we wrote that “EVs run out of juice.” When we did that, we referred to collapsing sales in January only.  Now Reuters says: “Are electric cars running out of juice again?” Reuters means it in a bigger way. Like forever.

In a long article, written by  its best brains, Reuters writes  that electric cars are “still is not ready for prime time – and may never be. In the meantime, the attention of automotive executives in Asia, Europe and North America is beginning to swing toward an unusual but promising new alternate power source: hydrogen.”

Both lovers and haters of electric cars should read the article, written by Reuters’ best automotive reporters around the world, Norihiko Shirouzu, Yoko Kubota, Paul Lienert, Deepa Seetharaman, Bernie Woodall, and their Pulitzer-Prize winning boss Paul Ingrassia.

Executive summary:

  • Consumers continue to show little interest in electric vehicles.
  • EVs continue to be plagued by many of the problems that eventually scuttled electrics in the 1910s and more recently in the 1990s.
  • Problems include high cost, short driving range and lack of charging stations.
  • The  Obama administration backed away from its aggressive goal to put 1 million electric cars on U.S. roads by 2015.
  • Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn  is backing away from EVs and shifts  toward more mainstream gasoline-electric hybrids.
  • Tightening of global fuel-efficiency standards from 2020 on is forcing automakers to assess their options.
  • Large OEM back hydrogen.
Last year,  Toyota’s former R&D Chief and soon-to-be chairman  Takeshi Uchiyamada shocked reporters with the assertion  that
“The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge.”
Slowly, colleagues at other OEMs  agree.
“We don’t regret it yet,” says Nissan’s R&D Chief Mitsuhiko Yamashita of the company’s multibillion-dollar gamble on EVs. “We might in a few years. No, we probably won’t.” If you have invested in EV technology, you can recoup it with fuel cell cars. 

Long-term TTAC readers will find many of these assessments in past TTAC articles.

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Ford, Daimler, Renault-Nissan Alliance Sign Huge Hydrogen Pact http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/ford-daimler-renault-nissan-alliance-sign-huge-hydrogen-pact/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/ford-daimler-renault-nissan-alliance-sign-huge-hydrogen-pact/#comments Mon, 28 Jan 2013 13:47:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=475522

There are people, and some of them comment on TTAC, who are convinced that a hydrogen-powered car is an insanity that will never work, but other people who work at the world’s largest carmakers beg to differ. Today, Ford, Daimler, and the Renault-Nissan Alliance signed a tripartite pact for the joint development of a fuel cell system that promises to be implemented faster, and at lower cost, both to automakers and customers.

The plan is to leverage the considerable economies of scale of the three signatories into “the world’s first affordable, mass-market FCEVs as early as 2017,” as a joint communique says.

All three have significant experience in FCEVs. Their FCEVs have logged more than 10 million km in test drives around the world. There is one problem that faces all presumptive makers of FCEVs: How to make them affordable. If they are affordable, they will hopefully be bought. If there are FCEVs on the road, hydrogen fuel stations will hopefully follow.

This ramp-up is too steep for a single automaker, even the biggest one in the world. After Toyota and BMW, Ford, Daimler, and the Renault-Nissan Alliance formed an even bigger pact. The three companies will invest equally into the project, and amount was not disclosed.

Discounting doubts of TTAC commenters, Thomas Weber, a member of Daimler’s management board, said: “We are convinced that fuel cell vehicles will play a central role for zero-emission mobility in the future.”

Expect more alliances (who’s left, Volkswagen and GM?) and an industry-wide push for FCEVs in the 2015-2020 timeframe.

 

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Japanese And Korean Carmakers Jointly Promote Fuel Cell Vehicles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/japanese-and-korean-carmakers-jointly-promote-fuel-cell-vehicles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/japanese-and-korean-carmakers-jointly-promote-fuel-cell-vehicles/#comments Wed, 10 Oct 2012 13:34:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=463325

Pretty much most of the world’s large automakers plan a commercial launch of fuel cell vehicles in 2015, Hyundai even earlier. One of the hot spots could be Scandinavia. At the end of a month-long hydrogen-powered tour through Europe, Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Hyundai signed an agreement to jointly promote fuel cell vehicles in Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) provides mostly for moral and promotional support and is hoped to be “a catalyst to begin a dialogue between public and private stakeholders in Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark on securing relevant financing and support mechanisms for accelerating market introduction of FCEVs.” What is interesting is that the three Japanese majors are doing something together, and that they are bringing the Korean juggernaut Hyundai on board.

Japanese makers have big hopes for fuel cell technology. Mitsuhiro Ueno, head of Honda R&D Europe called the fuel cell vehicle “the ultimate green mobility.” FCVs don’t have the drawbacks of pure EVs, namely limited range and long charge time. What is holding them back are price and infrastructure.

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European Hydrogen Fusion Between Daimler, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/european-hydrogen-fusion-between-daimler-honda-hyundai-toyota/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/european-hydrogen-fusion-between-daimler-honda-hyundai-toyota/#comments Thu, 13 Sep 2012 11:34:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=460226 Call it synchronicity or call it conspiracy: 2015 is drawing closer, the year when several large global automakers will begin full-scale launches of hydrogen-powered automobiles. Developing new powertrains being costly with unassured payback, automakers form alliances to share the cost. And alliance of Daimler, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota to jointly promote hydrogen use would be surprising, they usually are otherwise engaged. However, the four join hands, forces and cars for a grand hydrogen tour through Europe.

Starting in Hamburg, Germany, on September 13, seven Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) will travel through Hannover, Bolzano, Paris, Cardiff, Bristol, Swindon, London and Copenhagen, and points between. The party is BYOH, bring your own hydrogen: Mobile refueling stations will be set up by H2 Logic Denmark in stopover cities.

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The End Run Of The Fuel Cell Race http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/the-end-run-of-the-fuel-cell-race/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/the-end-run-of-the-fuel-cell-race/#comments Thu, 09 Aug 2012 13:38:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=456059 The excitement about battery electric vehicles seems to die down amidst disappointing uptake. Range, weight and cost are in the way. At the same time, dormant interest in fuel cell vehicles is being rekindled. A month ago, we had a new look at the technology from the perspective of the Toyota/BMW linkup. Today, The Nikkei [sub] takes a broader view and says that carmakers are in the final lap of the fuel cell race. Let’s have a look at the contestants and where they stand.



Says The Nikkei [sub]:

“While many car companies are already in a fierce battle for a slice of the market for environmentally friendly vehicles such as hybrids and electric cars, they are also in the final stages of developing fuel-cell cars, which are widely expected to be the ultimate eco-cars because they emit no greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, or other pollutants.

Leading the charge in fuel-cell development are Toyota Motor Corp. , Honda Motor Co., General Motors Co. of the U.S. and Germany’s Daimler AG. The stakes are high, given the vast sums already spent.”

Roland Berger Strategy Consultants told the Tokyo wire that “the four automakers have already spent a combined 100 billion yen on the technology.” That would be a little over a billion $, and I believe that number is low.


Fuel cell research had been conducted since the last millennium. The 2008 financial crisis slowed it down. Carmakers had to cut R&D even on regular cars. Recently, development revved up again.

Prototypes and test vehicles have been driving around for years without exploding. 2015 is the date several carmakers name for the first commercial launch of fuel cell vehicles. Satoshi Ogiso, Toyota’s man in charge of new technology, thinks that the only challenge is affordability.  During an interview with TTAC last year, he likened the challenge to what had faced him during the launch of the first hybrids in 1995.

Just like hybrid powertrains in the 90s, current fuel cell powertrains are big, bulky, heavy and expensive. Ogiso and his colleagues at other carmakers are working on the problem.

The solution to many ills in the auto industry is scale: Make and sell enough cars with the new technology, and you can spread the price of development over many units. Also, with mass production, the price of components can come down drastically.

Even the largest automakers don’t want to wait until they achieved the necessary scale effects themselves. They forge alliances with other automakers.

  • Toyota, usually a company that does it alone and in-house, famously entered an alliance with BMW.
  • Nissan and Renault agreed with Daimler to expand the scope of their cooperation to fuel-cell cars.
  • Honda appears to be partner-less.
  • GM negotiated a fuel cell partnership with BMW. The Bavarians broke off the discussion and are winding down a new energy alliance with GM partner PSA after hooking up with Toyota.

Says The Nikkei:

“One GM executive who has worked on the automaker’s fuel-cell effort for a long time lamented being handed another setback by Toyota.”

Observers familiar with the matter expect more tie-ups. The Roland Berger consultancy predicts that Toyota will enlarge its circle of fuel cell partners.

It will be a few years until fuel cell cars can compete in the marketplace. In the meantime, there is a fierce and sometimes uncivil competition for government grants.

When the U.S. government did bet heavily on EVs in 2009 and decided to shift funding away from fuel cell vehicle research, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said that fuel cell vehicles “will not be practical over the next 10 to 20 years.” In the meantime, he had a change of heart.

“The development of America’s tremendous shale gas resources is also helping to reduce the costs of producing hydrogen and operating hydrogen fuel cells,” Bill Gibbons, a spokesman for the department, told the New York Times in May.

If an investment into fuel cell vehicles would be successful at last, past investments into EVs would not go to waste. A fuel cell is just another battery. Except that it can be charged in minutes than hours, and except that it lasts 400 miles instead of 100.

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Toyota And BMW Plan To Take The Lead In Commercializing Fuel Cell Cars. Let’s Revisit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/toyota-and-bmw-plan-to-take-the-lead-in-commercializing-fuel-cell-cars-lets-revisit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/toyota-and-bmw-plan-to-take-the-lead-in-commercializing-fuel-cell-cars-lets-revisit/#comments Sat, 30 Jun 2012 10:05:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=450769 The intensified alliance between Toyota and BMW shines a new light on a technology that has been discussed for decades, but that never quite made it: Hydrogen fuel cells. BMW will get access to Toyota’s fuel cell technologies. This most likely spells the end of the fuel cell cooperation between BMW and GM. Let’s take another look.

Toyota is far ahead with the technology. The company had Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicles (FCHV) on the roads for ten years. In 2009, it “launched” its FCHV-adv, basically a Highlander with the hybrid synergy drive from the Toyota Prius connected to a 90kW fuel cell stack. A few months ago, editor-at-large Ed Niedermeyer and I had it on a short test ride through the scenic warehouse landscape of Torrance, CA. Except for an eerily quiet drive, the ride was uneventful.

On a full tank of – this time real – gas, we could have taken it all the way to San Francisco and beyond – no range anxiety here. Fuel cell vehicles have all the advantages of a battery-operated vehicle, i.e. no emissions (the fuel stack produces water), and nearly none of its drawbacks.

If you want to drive tailpipe emission free, your choices are battery, or fuel cell. A fuel cell is basically a battery. Fuel cells and batteries use a chemical reaction to make electricity. When the chemicals in a battery are depleted, you must recharge or throw away the battery. The chemicals of a fuel cell are hydrogen and oxygen. You provide the hydrogen. The fuel cell stack uses free-of-charge oxygen from the air and produces electricity plus H2O – water. Proponents of the technology say that well-to-wheel, fuel cells involve much lower emissions than batteries. Refilling the hydrogen tank should not take longer than filling up with unleaded. Next stop after 400+ miles.

The only way to extend the range of a BEV (if you don’t want to add an ICE) is by adding more batteries. This quickly becomes an exercise in futility. Each added battery cell means more weight, heavier brakes, a larger traction motor, a stronger body to carry the mass, and in turn even more batteries. And most of all, it becomes insanely expensive.

Not so with fuel cells. Fuel cells can make electricity at weights that are between eight to 14 times less than current batteries. Extending the range of a fuel cell vehicle has negligible impact on its weight.

Like electricity, hydrogen is not a way to make energy, it is a way to transport energy. Hydrogen can be made in the same number of ways as electricity.

And why aren’t we all driving around in fuel cell vehicles by now? There were a number of technical challenges, but as Toyota Chief Engineer Satoshi Ogiso had told us last year, the challenges have all been mastered. The only real problem Ogiso is facing with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is money:

“For us, the only remaining real issue that stands in the way of fuel cell electric vehicles is mass production cost.”

Current fuel cell technology is big, bulky, heavy and expensive. With enough scale, package size and price can come down considerably. Toyota plans to launch a commercial FCV in 2015. It still will be expensive, the Nikkei figures 5 million yen, or $62,000. By 2020, Ogiso plans to have an affordable FCV.

Luxury vehicles are much better for early-tech alternative propulsion, because the cars are big enough to hide the heft and expensive enough to mask the price. With their alliance, Toyota and BMW plan totake the lead in commercializing fuel cell cars,” as The Nikkei [sub] writes. Says The Nikkei:

“Other automakers are forging ties over green technologies. Daimler AG is rushing to develop a fuel cell car with capital partner Nissan Motor Co. Meanwhile, Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. are developing fuel cell cars on their own. General Motors Co. has been considering a fuel cell tie-up with BMW, but it may have to change course now that the German firm has opted to partner with Toyota.”

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CARB Wants 15.4 Percent Of New Cars To Be Plug-In, Hydrogen By 2025 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/carb-wants-15-4-percent-of-new-cars-to-be-plug-in-hydrogen-by-2025/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/carb-wants-15-4-percent-of-new-cars-to-be-plug-in-hydrogen-by-2025/#comments Sat, 28 Jan 2012 19:56:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=428435 CARB has mandated that 15.4 percent of new vehicles sold in California by 2025 must be plug-in, electric or fuel cell powered. The new mandate was supported by major OEMs and could mean as many as 1.4 million zero-emissions vehicles (as well as plug-in cars) on California roads by 2025.

Regulators are hoping to offer additional incentives and credits to spur sales of the vehicles. Hydrogen re-fueling infrastructure will also be supported, though details of how this would be approached were scant. The new rules would also favor vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt, as CARB feels that it is closer to an electric vehicle than a conventional plug-in hybrid. The Volt has been dubbed a ”transitional zero-emission vehicle”.

Organizations such as the California New Car Dealers Association say that demand for these types of vehicles has been overestimated, but CARB chair Mary Nichols told a conference call that car manufacturers were in favor of the new rulings. “Probably the most heartening aspect of this whole rulemaking was the level of cooperation that we received from the industry. Overall, the degree of support for the package was just extraordinary.”

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Green Hopes Pinned On The Young: Generation Y Has The Hots For Hybrids, Survey Says http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/green-hopes-pinned-on-the-young-generation-y-has-the-hots-for-hybrids-survey-says/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/green-hopes-pinned-on-the-young-generation-y-has-the-hots-for-hybrids-survey-says/#comments Sat, 21 Jan 2012 16:16:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=427607

The  car industry has high hopes for the young. Automakers have invested and are investing billions into hybrid and electric vehicle, so far with lackluster success. In the U.S., the take rate of hybrid cars is actually coming down from a 2.78 percent peaklet in 2009. The 0.14 percent market share of EVs is too small to move the plotter’s needle. To recoup the investment, new tech vehicles have to be sold in more meaningful numbers. It is the generation Y that is supposed to set the needle in motion. A study of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu promises that Generation Y will make a humongous difference.

Generation Y could be the “generation that leads us away from traditional gasoline-powered vehicles,” Craig Giffi, who is in charge of  Deloitte’s  annual survey of Gen Y auto consumers, told the L.A. Times. The paper summarizes:

According to the Deloitte survey, 59% of Gen Y respondents said they preferred an “electrified vehicle” over any other type of car or truck. They generally defined “electrified” as a hybrid gasoline-electric vehicle. Just 2% said they wanted a pure battery electric vehicle, which reflects the very small number of such cars that people are purchasing.  Just 37% of the respondents preferred vehicles with the traditional gasoline-only powertrain.

Giffi loves the Y generation, so much that he recklessly collides with TTAC’s jargon vigilantes: The enthusiasm for hybrid vehicles turns Gen Y consumers in the U.S. into “game changers,” Giffi said.  And he continued:

“At nearly 80 million strong, they are one of the biggest automobile buying market segments and the largest consumer segment since the baby boomers.

Sure, once they have a job and make money.

Let’s hope Generation Y sticks more to its principles than previous generations. I have seen study after study where customers announced their environmentally responsible intentions, only to reneg on their promise once they were in the showroom.

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BMW And GM Cooperate On Hydrogen Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/bmw-and-gm-cooperate-on-hydrogen-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/bmw-and-gm-cooperate-on-hydrogen-car/#comments Sat, 10 Dec 2011 18:52:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=421957

At the Tokyo Motor Show, the announcement that Toyota and BMW are in cahoots over batteries, diesel engines and possibly more was the talk of the show. Back in Bavaria, BMW displays a promiscuous bent. BMW will cooperate with GM, yes GM, on fuel cells. This at least if the German magazine Wirtschaftswoche is correctly informed.

Sources told Wirtschaftswoche that a cooperation between BMW and GM is as good as done. A MOU will be signed with great fanfare at the Detroit motor show in January, says the magazine.

BMW has no comment, but confirms that there are negotiations with GM. BMW is not known for its fuel cell prowess. According to the information of Wirtschaftswoche, highly profitable BMW will share the cost of fuel cell development with GM, and will be supplied with hydrogen-powered fuel cells by GM.

The on-again, off-again hydrogen fuel cell is definitely on again.  In our interview a month ago, Toyota’s chief for new technologies, Satoshi Ogiso, confirmed that the technology is ready for prime time, the only remaining problem is cost. Toyota will launch a mass produced fuel cell car in 2015. Ogiso promised it will be affordable by 2020. GM is looking back at a long history of fuel cell development and will also sell a hydrogen-powered car by 2015. So will Hyundai. Nissan (cooperating with hydrogen-pioneer Daimler)  likewise signaled that it will not place a single bet on EVs, and that fuel cell cars are in the cards.  BMW once had planned to launch an ICE that runs on hydrogen (see above), but that idea, well, bombed.

 

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Toyota Targets 2015 Fuel Cell Sales… At A Six-Figure Price Point http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/toyota-targets-2015-fuel-cell-sales-at-a-six-figure-price-point/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/toyota-targets-2015-fuel-cell-sales-at-a-six-figure-price-point/#comments Wed, 09 Nov 2011 17:21:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=417339

Think hybrid and electric cars are expensive? Wait until automakers start selling hydrogen fuel cell cars. Toyota tells Automotive News [sub] that it’s targeting global sales of a “few thousand” fuel cell vehicles by 2015. But because the technology will be rolled out due to emissions standards rather than widespread market demand, expect the price for the hydrogen Toyotas to be breathtakingly high. Says Toyota Europe’s Vice President for Product Planning & Marketing Alain Uyttenhoven

We could expect a fuel cell vehicle to retail at about 100,000 euros in Europe.

Phew! All of a sudden those EVs aren’t looking so overpriced, are they? Which might be why Uyttenhoven adds

We see pure battery-powered vehicles to be just a solution for small trips in the city, while a plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid is the best solution both for weekday urban commuting and weekend trips. Our research shows that more than 80 percent of urban daily trips are less than the 20km.

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