No conclusions have yet been reached regarding the cause of the fire. We are continuing to monitor the situation.
But it seems that the investigation is coming home, as Bloomberg just reported that a Chevy Volt caught fire at a NHTSA facility, shortly weeks after being crash tested.
The Volt caught fire while parked at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing center in Wisconsin, three weeks after a side-impact crash test, said an agency official. The official, as well as the three other people familiar with the inquiry, said they couldn’t be named because the investigation isn’t public.
The fire was severe enough to burn vehicles parked near the Volt, the agency official said. Investigators determined the battery was the source of the fire, the official said.
Our second day with the Leaf gave us a chance to really dive into the charging realities of driving an electric vehicle. Most of us are used to filling up our car when the tank is empty or well on the way to empty. If you are shopping for an electric car, throw this mentality out with the oil changes. Think of your car like a 1990s cell phone: plug it in often if you want to be able to use it later.
Just in time for today’s tour of Michigan’s “battery belt,” the Obama Administration has released a study [full PDF here] of its electric vehicle stimulus efforts which concludes that the money was all well spent. Though the report covers a number of programs, from the ATVM “retooling loan” program which is backing companies like Nissan, Tesla and Fisker, to charging station subsidies, the major accomplishment of these billions of dollars is encapsulated in a single claim:
By 2012, thanks in part to the Recovery Act, 30 factories will be online and the U.S. will have the capacity to produce 20 percent of the world’s advanced vehicle batteries. By 2015, this share will be 40 percent.
As you can see from one of the report’s graphs (above) the US will achieve this 40 percent share of the world’s EV battery production just as two-thirds of the cost is beaten out of the things. And because batteries don’t follow Moore’s Law, it’s all diminishing returns from there. So what happens come 2015?
With analysts already worrying about Lithium-ion battery oversupply in Japan and the US, the Korean government is shaking up the sector even more by announcing an investment of 15 trillion won ($12.5b) in the country’s battery sector. Called “Battery 2020 Project,” the money will be spent on building up Korean R&D capabilities, with the goal of improving the country’s ability to source Li-ion components. Korea currently imports many of the components needed for its domestic battery industry, and according to Yonhap, this investment will seek to develop Korean sources for up to 75 percent of the battery industry’s components by 2020. A government official explains:
South Korea’s Samsung SDI and LG Chem already control 38 percent of the market, but actual percentage of local parts and technology used to make these products stand at less than 20 percent
After one year of ownership we would expect EV residual values to be above the segment average expressed in terms of pound values. But, if the battery is owned rather than leased, and lacks the appropriate extended warranty, the value of the typical EV will then fall dramatically until the vehicle is five years old, at which point the car will have a trade value little more than 10 per cent of the list price
So says Andy Carroll, managing director of the British car-buying bible, Glass’s Guide. He tells BusinessCar that Nissan and other firms launching EVs in Britain should take out the battery cost and lease it to customers with minimum monthly performance clauses. This, he says, would dispel concerns, drive sales, and transform the resale picture. It’s also what Project Better Place is doing, albeit in a complete regional package with battery-swap stations and charging infrastructure.
In typical Carlos Ghosn style, the father of the Nissan EV throws down the gauntlet. gm-volt.com quotes him from a talk with reporters:
“Frankly, I mean so far there is no competition. Let’s be serious. It’s not because someone is coming with a prototype and one car that this is competition. The question is how much capacity are you building. What I am sure is that in 2011, I am going to be the only one on the market”.
In that regard, Ghosn has put production capacity where his mouth is with Nissan planning on 500k in global sales by 2012: “The numbers are big,” Ghosn said. As a frame of reference, GM has indicated production of 8k Volts in 2011, and an ability to ramp up to about 50k annually thereafter. Did GM bet on the wrong horse with its smaller battery but range-extending generator equipped Volt? GM NA Prez suggests that might well turn out to be the case. (Read More…)
Zacks Investment Research reports that Ford will invest $500 million in Michigan for developing and building batteries for their hybrid and electric vehicles. In return, they have asked the Michigan government for a tax break between $85 to $120 million. Michigan haven’t confirmed whether they’ll give this tax break, which is handy because Ford have indicated that they will look elsewhere if the tax break isn’t given. This investment will create 1000 jobs. Each job will cost at least $85000? Shocking!
Crank up production of the big green Hybrid stickers, ’cause the Regal is going to sport some serious hybrid regalia. No less then two of GM’s raft of hybrid systems may find their way into the Opel/Buick. gm-volt.com cites a report in Ward’s Auto [subscription] that GM will start production of an updated version of their not-even mildly successful mild-hybrid belt/alternator/starter BAS system in late 2011. The current version of that hybrid in name only system was available on the Malibu, but its economics compared to the four cylinder/six speed automatic made it irrelevant, as in canceled. But this new version has a plus symbol attached, so its going to really fly this time: (Read More…)