~e; e-vehicles on the horizon

From bc <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Sat, 15 Dec 2001 10:49:45 -0600

  [from my understanding, the e-vehicle mandate in California was
  overturned in some way after the change in the US administration,
  at least in part. the reasoning for fleets of low-emission e-vehicles
  not being a great solution is pinned to their need for electricity from
  powerplants, and limited mileage/distance, before refueling. then there
  are hybrids, gas-electric vehicles which seem to be a nice middle-ground
  in terms of lower-emissions and maximizing fuel-efficiency, until a real
  fuel-cell vehicle could compete in the market (in terms of distance, and
  the needed hydogen or whatever type of infrastructure is needed to make
  it happen). the hybrids, though, as with electrics, are tied to the power
  grid and the same geopolitical forces that are nowhere near stable these
  days. so anything tied to the gas or electric grids for fuel intake could
  suffer similar consequences as the gas-guzzlers in an energy crisis/war.
  what is an interesting development, which was voiced on CBS' evening
  television news in the US last night, was the role of Russian oil supplies
  should OPEC decide to have a price war. double-edged, as cheap-oil does
  not encourage people to switch to higher-cost vehicles, and as the previous
  article stated, 2.50US/gallon would make people more likely to switch to
  the new technology, whereas today it is around 1/gallon US dollars in the
  midwest right now. this does not seem to be a political issue where people
  are divided over the ideas, as from my experience, talking with people, a
  person of opposite views offered that if the cars were just made available
  that people would buy them (having the choice to do so), given the way the
  world is going with related issues of global pollution, diminished/threatened
  natural resources, and growing the market for alternative modes of moving
  about. the one question that nags me is an electric car engine, and 
the electro-
  magnetic fields generate by such an 'engine'. maybe it is not that simple, but
  i wonder if driving an electric-only car at 50mph on a highway would have
  any impact on someone with a pacemaker who is driving it around, as the
  fields could influence the space around them, especially in unusual 
  not normally encountered in close quarters. if anyone has an idea of if this
  is a valid issue for such cars, and their ability to motor forth, 
please tell.]

 From Wired News, available online at:

Electric Cars Try to Turn Corner
By John Gartner

2:00 a.m. Dec. 14, 2001 PST

SACRAMENTO, California -- Carmakers say electric vehicles may soon put
a dent in the sales of America's gas-guzzlers.

But convincing car buyers to use a technology that many people
associate with golf carts and taking seniors to bingo will require 
navigating serious obstacles.

At this week's Electric Transportation Industry Conference, several
major automakers unveiled vehicles that will provide alternatives to 
combustion engine cars.

American Honda announced the Civic Hybrid, a more fuel-efficient model
(50 mpg) of the world's best-selling small car. The company has 
adapted technology from its first hybrid, the Insight, which includes 
both a combustion engine and electric motor.

Like other hybrids, the Honda models use the electric motor to
supplement the gas engine. The car recharges the battery by capturing 
energy from the brakes.

The Civic Hybrid goes on sale in Japan starting Friday, and will be
sold in the United States starting in the spring of 2002 for about 
$20,000. Honda will produce 2,000 cars per month for the U.S. market.

The cars will be manufactured in Japan on the same assembly line as
the standard Civics, and will be available in 5-speed and automatic 
transmissions, according to Honda spokesman Robert Bienenfeld.

Toyota said it will begin selling the electric-powered RAV4-EV SUV to
retail customers in California in February 2002. Toyota began selling 
the SUV to corporations and utilities in 1997, and 900 of the 
vehicles are now in use.

The zero-emission car has a top speed of 78 mph, and has a range of
between 80 and 100 miles per charge.

Ernest Bastien, Toyota marketing manager, said dealerships in the
major markets in California will have RAV4-EVs for sale.

The car comes with a five-year or 60,000 mile warranty, but Bastien
said that if the electric battery system fails after the warranty 
expires, the replacement cost is $30,000.

The list price of the cars is a hefty $42,000, but Bastien said that
this is before a $9,000 incentive rebate from the state of California 
and an IRS credit of $3,000.

To encourage car companies to develop these and other cleaner energy
cars, the state of California has developed the incentive program and 
mandated (PDF) that 10 percent of all vehicles sold there in 2003 fit 
its low- or zero-emission classification.

Ron Pernick, co-founder of clean-energy consulting company Clean Edge
believes that hybrid vehicles will make up the majority of 
low-emission-vehicle sales during the next few years. Pernick said 
the market for clean-energy cars would become a $10 billion business 
by 2005, and increase to $48 billion by 2010.

But hybrid car sales are running under the yellow flag so far. Toyota
has sold 75,000 of its Prius cars, making it the top-selling hybrid 
car thus far. Honda's Bienenfeld said the company has sold just 8,500 
Insights since its inception in 1999, which is less than 1/10 of 1 
percent of the more than 1 million cars Honda sold this year.

Although none are commercially available today, fuel cell-powered
vehicles are expected to begin competing with hybrid cars by 2003. 
DaimlerChrysler, Honda and Ford all showed off fuel cell concept 
vehicles at the conference.

DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Town and Country Natrium minivan has a top
speed of 80 mph and has a range of 300 miles before refueling.

Fuel cells use a catalyst to combine hydrogen and oxygen, and produce
only water and energy as byproducts. Hydrogen can be stored as a 
liquid, or under pressure as a gas.

While most fuel cell vehicles store hydrogen as a gas, the Natrium
generates its hydrogen on demand from sodium boro-hydride, a compound 
related to borax, a naturally occurring substance used in laundry 

The Natrium generates non-toxic sodium borate as a byproduct, which
can be reprocessed and reused in vehicles, according to Thomas Moore, 
vice president of DaimlerChrysler's Liberty and Technical Affairs 
group. Moore said that when the minivan is taken to a fueling station 
for a refill, the sodium borate will be simultaneously extracted. 
Tanker trucks would then pick up the sodium borate from the fuel 
stations and deliver it to regional processing plants.

The Natrium gets the equivalent to 30 mpg of gasoline, and has a
storage tank that runs the length of the vehicle under the floor.

Katherine McHale of Millennium Cell, which designed the Natrium's fuel
processing system, said that if the tank is punctured, "all you would 
get is a clean street."

McHale said the company chose to derive hydrogen from borax because
the mineral is widely available and inexpensive. The world's largest 
borax mine is in California's Mojave Desert, and the mineral is also 
found in the Andes mountains.

DaimlerChrysler has not set a price or release date for the vehicle.

Other fuel cell vehicles on display included a car from Ford, which
recently tracked 1,500 miles in 24 hours at an average speed of 58 
mph, and Honda's fourth-generation FCX-V4.

Many of the largest car manufacturers are expected to begin selling
fuel cell vehicles by 2004, according to the industry coalition 
California Fuel Cell Partnership. The CFCP includes DaimlerChrysler, 
Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen.

Michael Wang, vehicle and fuel systems analyst at Argonne National
Lab, said fuel cell vehicles have a long way to go before being 
cost-competitive with combustion engines. Argonne recently completed 
a study of 26 fuel cell fuels for General Motors. Wang said the 
research found that combustion engines cost $50 per kilowatt hour, 
while fuel cell processors today cost $500 per kilowatt hour to 
generate energy.

For the short term, hybrid cars will win out, according to Clean
Edge's Pernick. He predicts that a standards debate over hydrogen 
fuels and a slowly developing infrastructure for delivering hydrogen 
will cause fuel cell cars to roll out incrementally.

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