Kleiner Perkins hints at plug-in car launch this week and they have said it “it is not an electric vehicle” and then said “do not think batteries”. My guess? It IS an electric car but it doesn’t use batteries. I mean what other kind of propulsion system would the car run on? It’s really annoying but modern vernacular confuses automotive propulsion with energy storage with regularity. For instance, a “hydrogen fuel cell” car IS an electric car … it just uses H2 as is energy storage and a fuel cell to convert it to electricity.
My guess is that this car in fact does use a fuel cell technology — possibly hydrogen fuel cell — and the real breakthrough is that they’ve come up with a more efficient way of using on-board electrolysis to make hydrogen gas (or whatever gas the fuel cell consumes). If that is true and the economics of this storage system compete with battery technology that could have a huge impact on the automotive field.
The new Chevy Volt will get 230 miles per gallon using the EPA’s standard approach to measuring “fuel efficiency”. That’s a pretty eye-popping number but it is weighted in the fact that a vast majority if not all city driving will only be using the electric engine. While this number may still be impressive it no longer really measures energy efficiency in a meaningful way or in any way indicates the cost to the consumer of powering the automobile. Still, I’m sure it will continue to get headlines and help the marketing department of Chevrolet. :^)
What if a car were faster, bigger, more fuel efficient, and cost less (notice I didn’t add sexy). Sound too good to be true? Well that’s what preliminary estimates are looking like from the Prius camp for their new 2009 edition. If this pans out to be true — and let’s not delude ourselves, it might not be — it would appear to be a strong signal that the internal combustion engine (ICE) is going to die sooner than most people think. When the Prius opened up the hybrid market nearly 10 years ago it did so because electrics were “good enough” to be price competitive for upper-middle class families. Now that the market has been established the much higher potential of electric engines to find new efficiencies as compared to the ICE marketplace means that this proven market will get more and more attractive. When this economic reality hits it will trigger more aggressive competition from manufacturers (leading to even more accelerated innovation and more competitive pricing) and at the same time drive up customer demand.
While it has been easy to see that this transition should take place for several years, the realisation of it is still of a huge import. If the Prius really does introduce this car — where all changes are moving to the positive — expect to see a lot of Prius’s sold in 2009. For me, I’ll wait until they make it look sexier. Fuck the planet. Just kidding (about the planet, not the car).
points to the Chevy Volt as a potential eye turner with three digit fuel economy. That would be sweet. Hitting the mass market with an attractive, sporty, vehicle that performs and looks good. The biggest question mark is still the price tag. Fingers crossed it’s still in the mass-market after that’s released.
On other news, Tesla has announced that their second automobile — the whitestar sedan— will come in two configurations. The all electric as one would expect from Tesla but also a REV (Range Extender Vehicle) configuration as well. For those of you not up on the the latest three letter acronyms, a REV is a car that runs on an electric engine but has a small internal combustion engine on-board to charge the battery when needed. The primary feature of which is extending the driving range of the vehicle. These vehicles are also (exclusively?) plug-in electrics, allowing you to plug into a normal electrical outlet to recharge.
You’ve heard me rant about electric cars before (the next step in evolution beyond the “hybrid”) but they are getting close to hitting the streets. The Tesla Roadster will be ready by November of this year and the Chevy Volt will be start road testing by the spring of 2008. Both the Volt as well as the new White Star sedan from Tesla are aiming at being available to the public in 2010: