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.
The newest car solution seems to be to meet the gas crisis by putting out more green hybrid electric cars. With gas prices fluctuating and the state of the economy up in the air as it is, driving a car in America has become quite a hassle and many people are turning toward other options because it feels like continuing to operate their vehicles will be a waste of money when there are scooters, motorcycles, bicycles, rideshares and public transportation to consider. Alternatives like public transportation and car pooling are becoming much more prevalent in this day and age, and the demand for gas guzzling options like the newest SUV to hit the market is not as high as it once was because gas prices simply are not cooperating.
Luckily, the big three automakers in the United States are wising up to this fact and seem to plan on combating the low turnover for new automobile sales by creating new vehicle options that cater to the needs of people looking for hot new vehicles that also happen to be hybrid electric cars. More demand is being placed on used cars and smaller cars because they are more affordable, and in many cases can offer better mileage, so the big three automakers in the United States are going to make less money until they nip this problem in the bud by producing vehicles that will create increased demand, and this is where hybrid electric cars are coming in.
The big three automakers really need to find a way to push out more green hybrid electric cars, as well as hybrid trucks, SUTs and SUVs, offering them at competitive and affordable prices in order to drum up some support and demand. This is going to take care of the fueling crisis, because there will be new style preferences and model preferences and less stress will be placed on trying to find a fuel efficient vehicle when there are so many options on the market.
If the big tree automakers continue to lobby for and invest in electric refueling stations and other similar concepts, they would gain more popularity for their companies while offering new chances for consumers to get hybrid electric cars, which save money and cut down on harmful greenhouse gas emissions. If there were more refueling stations out there for green hybrid electric cars, then there would be more hybrid cars and more electric cars, and the sales of these vehicles would also increase significantly because these dynamics absolutely go hand in hand with one another. Even as the gas prices go down, it is still incredibly wise for green hybrid electric cars to take over the street, because these cars offer exceptional benefits. More electric and hybrid car sales and more refueling stations for these green hybrid electric cars will absolutely lead to more profits for these automakers, which in turn would lead to more jobs and less layoffs, benefiting not only the consumers, but the companies and their employers as well.
This will not just be a Prius with a solar panel in order to power the AC, according to the Nikkei. Toyota's goal is to design a completely solar-powered car, with a twist. In addition to solar panel on the car, there is also a set of solar panels for the home. The home based panels collect energy, and transfer it upon plugging the electric vehicle into the home. In the future, Toyota will want to produce a completely electric vehicle that relies solely on the solar panel mounted on the car.
The futuristic vehicle is promising to take Toyota and bring them to the forefront of automobiles being offered as ecological personal vehicles, but it will be a few years off before being available for purchase. In the interim, the plan to utilize the home as a secondary source of electricity via solar panels enables the company to use current technologies to make their vehicle operate under green power.
This step towards green vehicles is all part of the plan to boost profits in today's economic climate. This comes after recent news that Toyota has run into their first operating loss in over 70 years. The global economy is to blame to the reduction of sales which has many automakers in a pinch. Combined with the ever growing yen in the Japanese market, and you have the makings of a grave financial need. Despite all of that however, Toyota is still the leader in green technologies and has vowed not to cut back on R&D research.
The solar panel technology currently considered is already in use by the main manufacturing plants of the Lexus and Camry vehicles in order to offset their energy costs during manufacture by generating their own electricity. The solar panels roughly cover an area of 60 tennis courts and could power 500 homes. That is equivalent to a CO2 reduction of 740 tons every year. Toyota will also stand to gain when their partner Panasonic takes over Sanyo Electric, an industry leader in solar technology.
So this move by Toyota looks to really push the car giant ahead of the pack. With demonstrations of the potential for the solar panel technology, it is clear that once Toyota incorporates the new technology into their vehicles, there will be a steady decrease in the amount of carbon dioxide emissions. The performance will improve with the acquisition of the Sanyo Company by Panasonic. One should keep their eyes peeled for the new Toyota solar cars, which for know will get part of their energy from panels on you home's roof.
Will this technology be what pulls Toyota from financial trouble?
They already have demonstrated the capabilities of the systems that are using now. Combined with the new technology they hope to get, and the one, two delivery system of the current release plans, and they are poised to really take off. One can hope that other car manufactures will take Toyota's lead and develop their own iterations of green cars.
Having branched from the Rocky Mountain Institute this January, Bright Automotive is currently building a concept hybrid electric car that can achieve 100 miles to the gallon. The most important part is that the automobile builder will be keeping the car reasonably prices for the consumer, thanks to a reduction in the battery size. This reduction is also how the car can reach 100 miles to the gallon. This is what has been holding back consumer interest in electric hybrids - the prohibitive cost of batteries.
This is part of a larger scheme to drop weight and focus more on aerodynamics, friction from rolling, building with new materials and other factors. The overall wind resistance has been reduced, which combined with the lost weight lead to a car capable of much longer distances and a more energy efficient design. The engine will not have to accelerate as hard, which in turns allows the car to rely less on the batteries. Overall, the design is a modern evolution of concepts that was born a century ago.
Now improving the aerodynamics is not anything new, it has been done by many companies who are also looking to use new materials. However, on the side of Bright Automotive is the work experience stemming from working on the GE EV1 battery and the lithium ion battery manufacturer Ener1. Many of the executives possess training and work experience from the automotive industry.
What causes cars to spend excess fuel is that the vehicle is too heavy and the design increases wind resistance to an extraordinary degree. For example, the USPS fleet of mail trucks is over an eighth of a million strong and each gets only 10 miles to the gallon, with 18 miles a day per. Assuming a 300 day work year, the USPS consumes almost 90 million gallons of gas, just for the little white mail trucks. The technology and design offered by the Bright Automotive group could save 80 million gallons. To put it in financial terms, a single dime increase in the gas price is equivalent to the USPS needing an additional $80 million dollars of tax payer money.
Right now, the technical details are sparse, but a working prototype was shown to a VIP crowd in December. The new vehicle will be shown off at a car show in May, and a commercial release can happen in two to three years. The vehicle will run for 30 miles on the battery before the gas engine kicks in, and both engines will have a combined 400 mile range. The vehicle is based around a parallel architecture, where both the gas and electric engines are capable of propulsion. This is as opposed to series vehicles which are electric propelled and the gas motor serves to keep the battery charged. The series style is thought to be a cheaper hybrid, but the complexity of the system design and the fact that the electric motor has to be much more powerful causes the series design to be more expensive.
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.
Recently, Ford automotive submitted to congress a business plan of attack, covering all angles, detailing the automobile manufacturer's plans for profit. The most notable of features for the plan involves the company's dedicative approach to the introduction of newer hybrid and full electric vehicles. This move hopes to save the company from potential bankruptcy. In order to be able to make the transition, Ford is asking for a temporary loan to help it through the economic crisis (or a competitor should go bankrupt. The loan will be for up to $9 billion dollars, but Ford is hopeful that said money would not be needed in its efforts to get ahead. It would serve only as a safety against the potential failing of the system.
Ford's plans are centralized towards the market's desire and demand for newer cars that are much more fuel efficient. These vehicles will include a full battery hybrid and a full plug in electric car. The company hopes to be able to formulate their plan and get the ball rolling on the advancements. Ford expects that the break even point will be reached in the year 2011. Part of the results will depend upon the potential selling of the Volvo brand car manufacturer, in order to make the numbers balance on time. Up until now, the automobile manufacturer has sold off Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and its majority share of Mazda as well.
Ford also has in place a great deal of fuel efficiency research in order to improve their entire line of vehicles, with an average of 14% better fuel usage for 2009 models up to 36% better fuel usage by 2015. Over the range, Ford hopes to save 16 billion gallons of gasoline. Part of how Ford will achieve this is through the introduction of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and full battery automobiles. The major work will be in designing the batteries and transmissions of the cars to better draw energy out of gasoline. Its ultimate goal in this regard is toward the research and production of a consumer affordable full battery vehicle.
Another way Ford will cut costs will be to reduce the parts supplier base, more efficiently buying many components from single stores. This will enable to auto manufacturer to pick those companies who will provide much more efficient parts while still reducing costs to the shop. Obviously Ford is taking great steps to making new vehicles that are more consumer friendly, as well as that will reduce costs for consumers and manufacturers alike. Their business plan shows that they are ready to take great strides in this industry, creating battery reliant vehicles that cut down on harmful emissions and offer greater gas mileage and fuel economy as a result.