As automakers are unveiling plans for battery-operated, plug-in automobiles, Honda Motor Co. released news that is will increase its commitment to the movement by working to supply new lithium ion batteries for hybrid vehicles. This joint venture with GS Yuasa Corporation will use over $170 million dollars of capital to introduce new, high power lithium batteries. In their current agreement, Honda will hold a 49 percent share of the operation.
Honda's hopes are to take current hybrid solutions and truly bring them into vehicles in the mid to larger size range. This will provide a good short term solution to reduction carbon dioxide emissions. The lithium ion battery packs being built will provide the power needed for hybrids in these sizes of vehicles, but the technology and powered density of these batteries will be too much for the purely electric cars. This will be the first time that Honda will offer lithium packs in hybrid vehicles, given that lithium ion batteries are smaller and lighter for a given energy density (but are more expensive).
The Toyota Prius will be under going numerous tests for a lithium ion, plug in only car model in 2009, while GM hopes to release plug in volts by 2010. In 2010, Nissan has plans to introduce a new model of plug in cars that have the ability to travel up to 100 miles on a single charge.
Setup and finalizing the venture with GS Yuasa has caused a set back in Honda's other plans for clean-diesel autos, and has suspended for an indeterminate amount of time the plans for the release of fuel efficient diesel cars in 2009. The reasoning is that cleaning up diesel is a much more expensive process, especially with the ever increasing gap between gas and diesel prices. Honda's plans for offering more hybrids are expected to bring down the price of individual components, which may ultimately help in working with diesel and using its cleaner carbon content with out extra cost.
Current hybrids utilize nickel-metal-hydride batteries, which are heavier and only hold little more than half of what lithium ion battery can provide. The problem lies in the difficulty in producing large lithium ion packs, which is a more costly than other batteries. GS Yuasa is a supplier for lead-acid batteries and lithium ion packs for the Asimo robots. The batteries of today are not good enough to make the electric hybrid a viable option for electrical cars. The technology has to move forward, taking batteries with it.
Honda is looking to obtain aid from the government as the current economy is crumbling all over. This has cut into car production and profits for the automaker. Honda's profits have dropped by a third over the last fiscal year. With the development of these new lithium ion packs, a venture that will begin in the spring 2009 it is hopeful that Honda can pull itself out of a tough place.
In today's day and age, hybrid has become a synonym for what is good in the eco-friendly movement. Not all hybrids are created the same, and in actuality many rate quite poorly. Whether it is poor fuel economy or a negative impact on the environment, these hybrids show that bearing the moniker of hybrid, does not necessarily mean that the car will have a positive impact on the planet or your wallet.
When automobile owners hear the word hybrid, their thoughts immediately go to gasoline. Those gallons of gas will be saved in the switch to hybrid vehicles. Take for example the Chevrolet Tahoe 2-Mode hybrid. The 2-mode system gives the Tahoe dynamic control over two or four wheel drives. This imparts a forty percent improvement to mileage, at an MSRP of over fifty thousand. This is the problem with the vehicle as a hybrid. Despite the extent of improvement in fuel economy, the total benefit to the driver will not match the benefits for other hybrids. Worse yet, it will be unlikely that an SUV such as the Tahoe would not come close to meeting or exceeding the benefits from other vehicles. It is for this reason that consumers should investigate all variables when looking into a hybrid to purchase. These include prices, mileage for the hybrid and non-hybrid version, internal space, vehicle weight, and so on.
Another way that hybrids are not the best choice is when they fail tests that should not be failed. Vehicles like the Honda Accord Hybrid were not able to pass their initial emissions test. After Honda pulled the car and worked the internals to address the problem, the hybrid once again failed the test. All of this equates to costs for the owner, because not only will their vehicle fail emissions, but they will have to pay for the fix, and then pay for retesting. Before the retest, the driver can not legally drive the vehicle. This situation shows how vital it is to research not only the specifications provided by the manufacturer, but also news reports regarding the vehicle and issues it may have. The manufacturer can edit their web page, but not online news sources will forever exist in the digital ether. Honda's website shows their non standard hybrid on the webpage, while information on the Accord is hard to come by. A hybrid which fails emissions is not really getting the point.
Most hybrids on the market have passed their emissions, and are true deals for their owners. These hybrids will have passed emissions tests in many states and high mileages. Despite this, there are a few bad apples. These bad apples hurt the environment, with their failing emissions, and hurt the wallets of their owners. These hybrids serve as poor investments, and for those consumers looking for a hybrid that is eco-friendly as well as good for the wallet, then a good deal of research into the best hybrid is necessary. Look at manufacturer specifications as well as news reports into the reliability and any press worthy issues that may arise.
You might not think the current recession will have much effect on the production and sales of green hybrid electric cars, at least not any more than it affects sales of cars in general. Car sales are at a low right now with manufacturers like GM closing plants for a month to save money, forcing employees to take unpaid vacation time and implementing other drastic measures to try to cut costs without having to lay off more employees.
This affects car production overall, but is especially dangerous for the emerging popularity of green hybrid electric cars that are currently in production and scheduled to be released soon like the Chevrolet Volt. When car companies were lining up and begging Congress for a multi-billion dollar bailout to avoid bankruptcy, rumors swirled about Volt production coming to a halt thanks to the poor economy and car makers' troubles.
Considering that part of the condition for a Congress bailout was a plan put in place to show how the car makers planned to revamp their business plans to make themselves profitable again while providing quality products, one might think that the fast release of green hybrid electric cars that are good for the environment and consumers' pocket books might be part of those improvement plans. Since future product plans are such an important condition of the bailout, it seemed unlikely that they would abandon the project.
Now that the bailout has been approved and the government is loaning auto makers billions of dollars to be repaid at approximately 5% interest, it turns out that the green hybrid electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, has not been abandoned after all, but the talk of it being put on hold or halted was just a rumor. The plant where the drive train would have been manufactured is no longer going to be the plant to do so, but that task will fall to a different plant rather than being abandoned altogether. The green hybrid electric cars made by Chevrolet are still scheduled to hit the roads in the United States in late 2010, just as the company had planned before.
The Toyota Prius is an imported car, but there were plans to build a plant in Mississippi for American manufacture of the Prius. The current economy has put those plans on hold because Toyota is struggling with poor sales, like all car manufacturers. And Prius sales have dropped dramatically, probably due to the plunging price of gas. A green hybrid electric car seems less important when gas is under $2 a gallon, as opposed to how important it seemed when the national average price of gas was close to $5 a gallon. The plant will still be built, but plans to manufacture the Prius there have simply been postponed.
Like everything else, consumer interesting in green technology comes in waves that seem to follow the economy more than anything else. Recessions don't last forever, and the price of gas will rise again prompting renewed public interest in green hybrid electric cars.