Energy density isn’t the only reason why battery-powered cars have never caught on. As was highlighted in Tesla’s somewhat less than successful media road trip, the amount of time it takes to fill batteries with electrons can be as significant a factor in the practicality of EVs as the amount of electrons those batteries can hold.
Tag: Alternative Energy
Smell that? It’s the gathering scent of a new industry trend towards natural gas. Honda’s expanded its pioneering Civic GX to 50 states, Sergio Marchionne wants to replicate his Italian CNG success at Chrysler (eventually), and now GM is jumping on the bandwagon while it’s still relatively uncrowded. The Winnepeg Free Press reports that GM has signed a development deal with Vancouver, B.C.-based Westport Innovations which could see a prototype light-duty natural gas-powered engine completed “within 18 months” if preliminary study proves promising. A Westport spokesman boasts
If both parties agree to move ahead with commercialization this would be one of the first pure OEM [natural gas-powered] products
You know, except the Civic GX which has been prowling American streets since 1998. Still, with Chrysler targeting CNG commercialization no earlier than 2017, GM could have a strong head-start on a fuel technology that promises to be a viable and promising gasoline alternative, especially if the NatGas Bill [PDF] passes, expanding $7,500 plug-in tax credits to natural gas vehicles. And GM’s got a strong partner in Westport, which has heavy-duty commercial deals with Cummins and Caterpillar. With Nissan all-in on EVs and years ahead of the competition in terms of global EV production capacity, look for other competitors to hedge their alt-energy bets… and natural gas is rapidly becoming the most popular alternative.
There’s been a recent groundswell of interest in natural gas as a fuel for cars in recent months, marked by Honda’s decision to sell a natural gas-powered 2012 Civic in 50 states, Edmunds CEO Jeremy Anwyl’s public paean to the fuel, and the EPA’s relaxation of natural gas conversion regulations. Honda alt-fuel manager Eric Rosenberg enthuses to WardsAuto
We’re the Saudi Arabia of natural gas… Demand [for the Civic GX] has tripled, and that’s actual retail demand. Traditionally, fleet has been about 50% to 55% of demand, but now it’s dropped; now 80% of demand is retail.
And since Chrysler’s new guardian, Fiat, has plenty of (well-subsidized) natural gas experience in Italy, it’s no surprise that Chrysler’s looking to get in on the action (Chrysler’s own experience with the stuff was brief). In fact, just last year Fiat-Chrysler was pushing the idea of natural gas cars as a stopgap until its first EV (the 500) arrives in 2012. Now, presumably because the desired government help wasn’t forthcoming, Bloomberg reports that Chrysler is only promising gassy goodness “by 2017.” Now there’s an interesting way to jump on a bandwagon.
The NYT reports:
The Environmental Protection Agency has revised its alternative-fuel conversion regulations for light and heavy-duty vehicles, making it easier for manufacturers to sell conversions that are compliant with clean-air laws. The 186-page ruling provides an exemption from a Clean Air Act prohibition against tampering when converting an engine to run on alternative fuel.
In the past, a manufacturer of alternative-fuel conversion systems was required to certify its products in the same manner that a vehicle manufacturer certified its vehicles — an expensive and difficult process. The new regulations provide a way to comply with clean-air standards through streamlined testing.
In essence, the rule change creates a graded compliance structure, depending on the age of the converted vehicle, making it easier to retrofit older vehicles. Read all about it at the EPA’s website.
One of the toughest challenges facing industry analysts right now involves determining what the market for electric vehicles actually looks like, what kind of volumes it will support and for how long. It’s a problem that I’ve hashed over at length with an old college buddy who now works at a cleantech investment firm, and let me be the first to say that it’s not an easy problem to pick apart. The number of unknown quantities and moving parts explains why opinions among money managers can vary so wildly even about relatively marginal firms like Tesla.
Luckily, Thilo Koslowski of Gartner Research [and celebrated coiner of the term "the trough of disappointment"] has dedicated himself more thoroughly to the problem, and has some startling findings to report. For example, despite the relentless pro-EV hype present in all levels of the media, Koslowski’s research shows that more consumers are actually considering buying a natural gas-powered vehicle. Looks like Edmunds’ Jeremy Anwyl was on to something when he called for an end to EV tax credits in favor of greater support for natural gas cars.
Today, natural gas is a rational alternative to gasoline that can provide a near-term environmental solution on the road to vehicle electrification. It is the most effective solution, in terms of costs and timing, to lessen this country’s reliance on oil
Chrysler/Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne tells the Detroit News that despite not having an electric vehicles in the works until 2012 (can you believe ENVI was just vapor), Chrysler can sell environmentally-friendly vehicles sooner than that. After all, Fiat sells a grip of natural gas-powered vehicles in Europe (130,000 last year), offering the alt-energy drivetrain on nearly every model. Of course, there’s a hitch. Or three.
There are already agreements between car makers such as ourselves and legislators in Europe, North America and Japan to build up to the mass production of fuel cell cars by 2015. Hydrogen production capacity and refuelling infrastructure will be improved. Pilot-scale production of 1000 fuel cell cars a year will begin for us in two years. Our first cars won’t be fully commercialised [they will probably be leased , not bought outright] but they will allow us to make the final stages of development progress before we begin commercial production of around 10,000 hydrogen cars a year in 2015
Well, Lear’s vapor turbine never ended up being built in the millions by 1975… but the prediction that electric cars would be best for taxis, delivery vehicles, or a family’s second car for commuting and shopping seems to be coming true. Oh, and we all know how the lead or no-lead fuel debate worked out. But with mass-market electric cars getting closer to reality every day, it’s fun to look back at where we once thought technology might be going. This copy of “Cars of the Future” certainly doesn’t fail to entertain on that count.
Europe, and especially Germany, reports declining diesel dependency. From a nearly 50 percent share a few years ago, the share of diesel driven cars in Germany dropped to 31 percent in 2009. Two reasons: The favorable taxation of the oil had been scrapped. And speaking of scrapped, the “Abwrackprämie, or cash for clunkers, had favored a trend towards low displacement gasoline burners. (In January, the diesel share climbed back to 40 percent in Deutschland.) Badly mauled were the manufacturers of bio (a.k.a. “veggie”) diesel. (Read More…)