Chrysler, Mazda, Hyundai, and Nissan announce plug-ins — Honda stands alone against PHEVs

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"Chrysler, Mazda, Hyundai, and Nissan announce plug-ins — Honda stands alone against PHEVs"

The number of companies planning plug-in hybrids is growing steadily. Some recent announcements can be found here. Calcars maintains an excellent update on “How Carmakers are Responding to the Plug-In Hybrid Opportunity.”

As for Honda, last year, the Wall Street Journal reported

Honda Motor Co. Chief Executive Takeo Fukui said so-called plug-in hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles [PHEVs] offered too few environmental benefits for his company to pursue, and noted that an advanced hybrid vehicle called the Chevrolet Volt that General Motors Corp. is aiming to launch in a few years made little sense.

But while pretty much every other major automaker in the world has realized the need to start developing a plug-in, Bloomberg reported last week, “Honda, Citing Battery Limits, Avoids Rush to Plug-Ins.”

Yes, the batteries still need improvement, but that is hardly a reason not to aggressively pursue what is certain to be the car of the future. What is particularly ludicrous about Honda’s position is that they remain enthusiastic about hydrogen cars — indeed, they are probably the only major automakers still drinking the hydrogen-flavored Kool-Aid– even though the technological hurdles are infinitely greater. Bloomberg reports:

While Honda may offer a plug-in at some point, for now it will continue refining the fuel-cell system in its new hydrogen- powered FCX Clarity sedan, [Masaaki] Kato [president of Honda’s research unit] said. Based on advances the company has made with the vehicle, including improving range to 280 miles, “we believe it’s easier than battery innovation,” Kato said.

Wow. If that’s really what the head of Honda’s research unit believes, one should fear for the future of the company.

Such a choice isn’t unusual for Honda, said Michael Omotoso, powertrain analyst for market-research firm J.D. Power & Associates in Troy, Michigan.

“This fits in with their reputation for conservative product decisions,” Omotoso said. “They opted not to offer V-8 engines and stayed out of big trucks, and they’re doing well this year because they focused more on small cars.”

I see. It’s risky to pursue plug in hybrids — which major car makers are planning to introduce commercially in two years — but it’s conservative to pursue cars that can’t be fueled anywhere, that “cost several hundred thousand dollars each to produce,” and that don’t even have lower greenhouse gas emissions than a Toyota Prius (see “The Last Car You Would Ever Buy — Literally“). Well, analyzed, “powertrain analyst for market-research firm J.D. Power.”

Honda notwithstanding, it looks like consumers are going to have a lot of choices for electric vehicles and plug-ins over the next several years.

Related Plug-in Posts:

Related Hydrogen Posts:

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21 Responses to Chrysler, Mazda, Hyundai, and Nissan announce plug-ins — Honda stands alone against PHEVs

  1. paulm says:

    China Planning Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

    China is rushing in to build its own network of electric charging stations.

    State Grid Corporation, the world’s largest electric power transmission and distribution company, is speeding up its plans to build electric car charging stations.

    Hang on a minute, isnt coal the real culprit…doesnt this mean all these vehicles are going to be burning more coal.

    This could be worse than sticking to oil?

  2. Robert says:

    Exactly. The rush to EV’s is driven by high oil prices not climate change. The danger is that the world continues to consume all the available oil AND then adds to that a burgeoning EV fleet dependent on coal fired power stations.

    Fixing AGW must start with a global decision to reduce fossil fuel consumption year on year. Any other starting point will fail.

  3. Lou Grinzo says:

    Prediction: Before the Volt ships, Honda will be on the PHEV bandwagon.

    The consumer reaction to PHEVs will be so positive and strong, even before they ship, that Honda will have no choice. And once they make the announcement, we’ll all be saying, “Gee, they sure added plug-in capability to the new Insight awfully fast–almost as if they’d been working on it all along.”

  4. Bob Wallace says:

    China is installing plug in stations powered by coal.

    The coal part is bad. The station part is good.

    China is also aggressively installing wind and working hard on solar. As they increase their wind/solar abilities they’ll use more in their energy mix. As costs for wind and solar fall coal will start to phase out.

    And they will have a network of charging stations up and running.

    Would it be better for the environment if China would halt their growth until it can be fueled with non-polluting energy? Sure.

    Going to happen? Nope.

    Just as US and European economies aren’t going to shut down until adequate renewables get built. And remember that on an individual basis we, in the western world, still use a lot more energy and produce a lot more pollution than do people living in China.

    Let’s be careful about throwing rocks while living in glass houses.

  5. Ronald says:

    What Honda says and what they really think aren’t always the same thing as with every company and person. (Just ask me if I think my wife looks fat in anything.)

    Honda has to say something to make it look like they have a research program. But it doesn’t have to cost to much to keep spending something on hydrogen compared to their overall budget.

    It’s costly to be a pioneer, that’s why they get all those arrows in their backs. Much better to let other companies to do the heavy lifting research and development on these cars and batteries. Then when they are all on the market, reverse engineer the designs, pick the best ones and build it themselves or buy what’s out there. The race doesn’t always go to the fasterest or even slowest, but sometimes to those who spent the least and are the most efficient.

  6. Rick C says:

    paulm Says:

    September 22nd, 2008 at 11:14 am
    China Planning Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

    …Hang on a minute, isnt coal the real culprit…doesnt this mean all these vehicles are going to be burning more coal.

    This could be worse than sticking to oil?…

    The switch to electric cars or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles where coal is part of the energy mix on the electrical grid still results in CO2 reductions. First, roughly 50% of the electricity on the grid is derived from coal. The reductions in CO2 can be anywhere from 11% to 100% depending on the sources used to generate electricity for the grid.

  7. charlie says:

    Hmm. I suspect Honda management knows a hell of a lot more about the car industry than Joe Romm.

    [JR: I’m sure they do. But it turns out they don’t know more than me about hydrogen.]

    What is also interesting is that the $25 billion bailout covers Honda — as a company making cars here in the US for over 20 years.

    Look, I would love to pay for no gas — and in a plug-in I wouldn’t since I drive less than 40 miles a week. HOWEVER, since I don’t drive much it doesn’t make much sense to pay a PREMIUM for a plug-in vehicle.

    And if I do drive that much, in the US that means a lot of highway miles, where a plug-in hybrid is not going to have a huge advantage over, say, a Honda Fit.

    Honda is playing it smart. Wait to see if consumers will pay the 5-10K premium for plug-ins, then sell them a cheaper second generation car.

    I loathe Honda and its cars — but there is no question this is one smart car company.

  8. charlie says:

    I also forgot to ad that if I am a heavy driver — leasing a plug-in doesn’t make sense because of the mile limits of a lease. And how will I pay for a 30K car — probably lease it.

  9. Rick C says:

    charlie Says:

    September 22nd, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    … Look, I would love to pay for no gas — and in a plug-in I wouldn’t since I drive less than 40 miles a week. HOWEVER, since I don’t drive much it doesn’t make much sense to pay a PREMIUM for a plug-in vehicle…

    charlie,

    You’re probably right about not needing a plugin if you drive 40 miles or less provided you have a sure fire certainly there will be no gasoline supply disruptions for the life of your car. All indications are that there is plenty of reason for concern about supply disruption. First Gustav and Ike underscore the potential for damage, not only to offshore oil platforms, but to refineries on shore in the Gulf Coast area. The Gulf Coast from Houston to New Orleans accounts for around 45% of refinery capacity. If you take away even a small fraction of that you will have gas shortages and cost rises, excepting a colossal deflationary financial catastrophe of course, you will have long lines and fuel price spikes due to the declining spare fuel capacity and decline in refined oil products due to the loss of refineries.

  10. charlie says:

    Dear Rick:

    Oh, a peak oilest. How fun.

    Actually, since I don’t drive much, I’ve calculated that I can afford to keep driving until oil gets to be about $20/gallon.

    Since at that point inflation will be at 20% a year, widespread unemployment, and nobody will have a TV since we can’t ship anything in from China (and they wouldn’t take US dollars anyways, only petrodollars), I’m not too worried. I’ll just get my shotgun out and take YOUR plug-in vehicle.

    Anway, since since gas at 20/gallon would probably result in electricity being at several dollar a kilowatt hour, I’m not sure I’ll even want to drive your plug-in. I’ll stick with my mountain bike.

  11. Robert says:

    What an irrelevant debate.

    Road transport in the US represents a small piece of one country’s contribution to AGW. If there is a transition to EV’s (of any flavour) it will be market-driven not climate-change driven, hence is unlikely to result in a net reduction in emissions.

    Joe, what is this obsession with EVs? Why not obsess about something which really matters, such as banning all coal fired power stations worldwide? Now that really would make a difference.

    [JR: Cutting GHGs in electricity is easy whenever we get serious about climate. Not so with transport. EVs and PHEVs here and abroad are a core climate solution. And I diss coal fired plants an awful lot on this blog.]

  12. Greg says:

    According to the calcars link you provided, Honda are working on pure EVs. It seems a bit unfair to beat them up about hydrogen without mentioning that they are doing pure EVs too.

    Quote:
    Honda sees PHEVs as having “unnecessary fuel engine and fuel tank; promises all-electrics “assuming we can come up with a really high-performing battery __that we are working on currently__.” Doubts PHEVs have environmental benefits.

    Anyways – keep the posts coming – I enjoy the read.

  13. Ronald says:

    I have read in other articles that toyota thinks that GM has reached to far with their Chevy Volt. Toyota claims that it’s to much to put into a production vehicle with large potential volumes. Toyota said GM needs more experience with the cars at lower volumes before they build as many as GM hopes. GM agreed that they are taking a big risk with the vehicle. Practically betting the company on it. If the Volt car gets out there and there has to be a large recall, with the other financial problems, that might be the company. There isn’t room for error.

  14. Earl Killian says:

    A number of comments cited concern with powering plug-ins (PHEVs and EVs) with coal instead of gasoline. (1) The efficiency of EVs slightly exceeds the dirtiness of coal, so the a coal powered EV would generate less CO2 than a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV) on wells-to-wheels basis. (2) Only a fraction of any country’s grid is coal (in 2006 it was 49% in the US and 69.7% in China). (3) Coal power plants usually run at constant output; other kinds of power plants are used to handle variations in load above the minimum usage. Therefore the only way that EV power will come from coal is if EVs raise minimum usage and new coal power plants are built in response. EPRI’s Comparing the Benefits and Impacts of Hybrid Electric Vehicle Options suggested that EVs in the US would be primarily charged off of marginal power coming from natural gas. (4) While the ICEV to EV comparison is fairly clear, even on coal power, the hybrid (HEV) to EV comparison does depend on the fraction of coal power on the grid (#2 above). I remember once calculating that in the US, only 5% of the population lived in states where HEVs would be better than EVs because of the CO2/kWh in their state.

  15. Robert says:

    Make a big difference if people stayed at home instead of driving all over the place. Negamiles?

  16. Earl Killian says:

    Ronald wrote, “Practically betting the company on it.

    Even if the Volt succeeds, its volume will be tiny even by GM’s downsized standards for many years. I don’t see that as betting the company on a vehicle. I see it as GM’s attempt to leapfrog others in technology that can then be applied across its product line. Eventually it will make a difference to GM’s long-term place in the automotive world. But it won’t make or break the company in the next 8 years.

  17. Earl Killian says:

    Robert, in case you didn’t see it, I posted on California’s attempt at negamiles: http://climateprogress.org/2008/09/10/california-targets-sprawl-to-reduce-co2/

    That’s probably not enough “nega” for you though.

  18. DWV looking for the best young scientists from the area of hydrogen and fuel cells
    Also for the year 2008 the awards back to the DWV Innovation Award Hydrogen and Fuel Cell to young scientists. The now-established tradition has become an annual award goes to the best Diplom-/Masterarbeit from Germany or dissertation on the subject of energy or hydrogen fuel cells, together with all ancillary areas.

  19. msn nickleri says:

    That’s probably not enough “nega” for you though

  20. shop says:

    Yes, the batteries still need improvement, but that is hardly a reason not to aggressively pursue what is certain to be the car of the future. What is particularly ludicrous about Honda’s position is that they remain enthusiastic about hydrogen cars — indeed, they are probably the only major automakers still drinking the hydrogen-flavored Kool-Aid–