Re: ~e; GM u-turns on hybrid-electrics

From Howard Coffman <>
Date Fri, 27 Dec 2002 12:39:09 -0500
In-reply-to <>

Don't discount GM's effort. I know the past, but for the
future they might have their heads on straight. Yes, I know
this is hard to believe.

As someone in the fuel cell industry, I look at what they
are doing from an industry perspective.

I think the hybrid cars are an insurance policy if the fuel
cell stuff doesn't materialize in time.

GM has developed the fuel cell vehicles with the idea that
the hydrogen infrastructure may not be in place. They do
this by allowing for gasoline to be converted via a
"reforming" process to produce the hydrogen the car uses as

Interestingly and this is where they are showing some long
term vision, and smarts, is that they have also developed a
residental fuel cell.

I think they are looking at ways to generate hydrogen that
the car can use and well as the home.

Interestingly, residental fuel cells will have a capacity of
2 to 10kW while the autos will have a capacity of maybe

It could very well be, that the car powers the home, not the
other way around. Obviously local storage of hydrogen will
be needed. They will probably use natural gas to generate
the hydrogen.

I also think we need to give GM credit for the new auto
concept. They used the opportunity to recreate the
automobile not just add a new engine.

No, I do not own shares in the company.

I have had this discussion with other people in the fuel
cell industry. A lot of people are surprised and very much

= Howard 
>  [the news below is significant enough to warrant sending
>  whole story, if only for hope and potentially good news:
>  U.S. automakers may begin turning towards hybrid-electric
>  vehicles and take on the challenge, beyond insignificant
>  legislation for increased fuel-economy, and go beyond the
>  current targets, several fold. while 2007 seems like a
>  time away, the article mentions 2005, and while there is
>  criticism that this is not enough, it is possible a
>  in the right direction is a good deal better than nothing
at all.
>  so, with a sense of hope, this may be a gift for a better
>G.M. to Offer Hybrid Power in 5 Models by 2007
>DETROIT, Dec. 23  General Motors, which has been the most
>major carmaker when it came to the prospects for hybrid
>intends to offer some form of hybrid electric power on five
of its 
>major models over the next four production years, according
to people 
>briefed on the plan.
>G.M.'s plan, which will be announced next month at the
North American 
>International Auto Show here, is a surprising endorsement
of the 
>fledgling hybrid technology, which improves gasoline
mileage by 
>supplementing the internal combustion engine with electric
power. G.M., 
>the largest automaker, will offer several versions of the
>technology. The most advanced will be on the Saturn Vue
sport utility 
>vehicle, while less advanced versions will be available on
the GMC 
>Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks, a coming
Chevrolet pickup 
>called the Equinox and the Chevrolet Malibu.
>The development is a sign that the Big Three are growing
>serious about the technology as a business threat from
overseas. For 
>several years, Toyota and Honda have been the only
companies offering 
>hybrid cars. The Toyota Prius, for instance, has an
electric motor that 
>takes over for the internal combustion engine at low
speeds. The car 
>never needs plugging in, a shortcoming of battery-powered
cars, because 
>the battery is recharged by the gasoline engine. Honda
sells a small 
>aluminum hybrid, called the Insight, and a hybrid version
of its Civic.
>"G.M. needs an aggressive plan just to keep pace with the
Japanese, who 
>view this as a core technology over the next decade," said
John Casesa, 
>an analyst with Merrill Lynch, when told of the plan. "It's
an idea 
>that hasn't arrived yet, but whose time is coming fast.
This is going 
>from an environmental and public relations curiosity to a
>accepted commercial product."
>G.M.'s plan, along with those of the rest of the industry,
could also 
>have considerable tax implications for the country. The
>Revenue Service already allows a $2,000 deduction for
vehicles that use 
>alternative fuels or some form of electric power, and
Congress has been 
>considering further incentives. Toyota has already said it
plans to 
>sell 300,000 hybrids a year worldwide, many of them in the
>States, within five years. The Ford Motor Company plans to
>selling a hybrid version of its Escape sport utility
vehicle a year 
>from now. And DaimlerChrysler has said it will sell a
hybrid version of 
>the Dodge Ram pickup truck next year.
>G.M. is presenting several versions of the technology. The
>advanced, and most like the Prius, will come in 2005, when
the company 
>will offer a hybrid version of the 2006 Saturn Vue with
average gas 
>mileage of nearly 40 miles a gallon, compared with average
mileage as 
>high as 25 for the nonhybrid versions, people briefed on
the plan said.
>In 2004, G.M. will offer a less ambitious version of hybrid
>for the 2005 models of the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet
Silverado. They 
>will use small electric motors that allow the trucks'
engines to shut 
>off at stoplights and restart when a foot touches the
accelerator. The 
>modified pickups are to raise fuel economy about 12
percent. And in 
>2006, G.M. will offer similar technology on a forthcoming
>pickup truck called the Equinox and on the 2007 model
Chevrolet Malibu. 
>The addition of hybrid and other technologies is expected
to increase 
>gas mileage on these models 15 percent.
>All told, the technologies will be used on three chief
>platforms, meaning that G.M. could use it in as many as one
>vehicles and a dozen models by 2007 if the demand
>Environmentalists expressed a mixture of encouragement and 
>disappointment at the news, part of which was reported
today by The 
>Wall Street Journal, and said that the Vue, as described,
would be a 
>significant improvement. "G.M.'s hybrid plans are a mixed
bag," said 
>David Friedman, an engineer and analyst for the Union of
>Scientists. "The full hybrid Saturn Vue appears to be a
move toward 
>good hybrid technology. The other vehicles are an example
of using good 
>conventional technology."
>"Labeling them as hybrids is an attempt to ride the `green'
image of 
>hybrids," he added.
>Russell Long, executive director of the Bluewater Network
in San 
>Francisco, another environmental group, said it was
>disappointing that they would take such a weak approach."
>"You've got to imagine some of this comes from their
anxiety about 
>California and wanting to be prepared for potential
regulations here 
>that would essentially force the use of hybrid
technologies," he said.
>Indeed, because of coming regulations expected on the
federal level and 
>from California, the nation's largest auto market, G.M.'s
plan could be 
>seen as a matter of necessity. Last month, the National
Highway Traffic 
>Safety Administration announced a plan that would raise
federal fuel 
>economy standards 7 percent by the 2007 model year. Though 
>environmental groups derided the plan as a baby step, it is
the largest 
>increase in more than a decade.
>And considerable pressure is coming from California.
Because the 
>state's clean-air laws predated the federal government's,
it has 
>retained the authority to set its own air standards, and
other states 
>can opt to use California's tougher standards. Mr. Long's
group drafted 
>a proposal to cut automotive greenhouse-gas emissions that
has become 
>law in California. The industry is expected to mount a
vigorous legal 
>challenge before the law is to take effect late in the
>Still, G.M.'s hybrid plan is a notable step toward improved
>efficiency for a company that had previously been
noncommittal on the 
>idea of producing a full hybrid vehicle.
>"I don't think anybody's got confidence that the economics
make any 
>sense," Rick Wagoner, G.M.'s chief executive, said in an
interview in 
>August. At a meeting in the late 90's, company officials
decided to 
>throw most of G.M.'s research-and-development dollars
behind hydrogen 
>fuel cells, which the industry has embraced as the power
source that 
>will eventually make the internal combustion engine
obsolete. But there 
>is wide disagreement on when fuel cells will be ready for
>marketing, and on the big challenges like outfitting the
>filling stations with hydrogen instead of gasoline.
>The economic equation will be addressed by relying on
>incentives. G.M. plans to price the hybrids at cost,
meaning that they 
>could cost a few thousand dollars more than the
conventional versions 
>of similar vehicles at first.
>Increasingly, fuel economy is becoming a business issue as
well as an 
>environmental one and attracting the attention of Wall
Street. Mr. 
>Casesa of Merrill Lynch said, "We're moving toward a future
with higher 
>fuel-economy standards, risks to energy supplies and higher 
>environmental consciousness."
>"If we decide to dramatically increase fuel economy," he
added, "there 
>is no way to do that besides making cars smaller, unless
you have a new 
>technology. And this is that technology."
>Copyright NYTimes 2002.
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