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Plug-in Hybrids May Not Go Mainstream, Toyota Says

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the charge-up-before-wyoming dept.

Transportation 519

mattnyc99 writes "Honda's challenger to the Prius — the Insight hybrid that we discussed so lividly a month ago — got its official unveiling today at the Paris auto show, with insiders confirming it would be cheaper than the world's most popular 'green' car while still hitting the same fuel-efficiency range. But the hybrid-electric showdown comes in the midst of a sudden rethink by Toyota about plug-in hybrids. Apparently all the recent hype — over the production version of the Chevy Volt, plus Chrysler's new electric trio and even the cool new Pininfarina EV also unveiled today — has execs from the world's number one automaker, and alt-fuel experts, questioning how many people will really buy electric cars, whether people will really charge them at night to keep the grid clear, whether batteries will make them too expensive and more. "

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Electric Gas Cans? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25238703)

What is the electric equivalent of a gas can? When my batteries go flat a couple miles from home, what will I do?

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (5, Informative)

Altus (1034) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238789)

Plug in hybrids still use gas. That's why they are hybrids, otherwise they would simply be electric cars.

The idea here is to juice up the batteries at home and use them for the first x number of miles (hopefully enough to handle your commute). After that, when the batteries are low, a small diesel (or gas) engine will start up and begin charging the batteries providing you with more range. So if your out of juice you would simply fill up just like a regular car.

Of course I'm curious how they will report the millage on these cars. I would want to know the range on the electric system and the millage when running purely on gas, but I worry they will come up with some new way to measure it that has little to no meaning.

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (2, Interesting)

RabidMoose (746680) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239213)

I would want to know the range on the electric system and the millage when running purely on gas
They never run purely on gas though. Like you said, the gas engine merely charges the batteries, it isn't directly connected to power the wheels at all.
Personally, I'd like to see a MKw measurement (miles per kilowatt) become standard. Then, for the gas generators, you could get Kw/gallon.

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (1)

Altus (1034) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239247)

I guess at this point I'm just not so concerned with the number of watts it takes to go a mile. But you have to figure that electricity costs are going to go up over time, especially if lots of people are using cars like this. So maybe by the time I'm buying one that will be more of a concern.

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (2)

mweather (1089505) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239417)

Electricity costs will go up, but nowhere near the rate oil prices will. We have a ways to go before we hit peak coal.

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239345)

I think you mean miles per kilowatt hour.

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25238809)

Keep spare batteries in the trunk?

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25238819)

I'm thinking something along the lines of one of those battery-powered car battery jumpers. Of course the point is moot in this case, since we are talking about hybrid gas/electric vehicles, so you can just use a regular gas can with regular gas.

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (4, Funny)

TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238827)

unlike gas, which you can only get from one place, electricity would allow you to charge your car while you push it home. Convert calories to green energy, what a win-win situation.

So what could you do to charge your car?

* hook a generator up to a stationary bike
* lay out a few yards of solar panels for a few minutes (if you are only a few miles from home)
* knock on someone's door with an extension cord in your hand and ask to use a few cents of power
* harness some wind power using a wind strip

and last/worst case

* actually use a gas can and use a generator to charge for the few miles home.

converting energy into electricity is so easy and so flexible, it's hard to think what couldn't be used.

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (1)

jmashaw (1099959) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239269)

Plus, when they finally are able to use everyday garbage to spurn a nuclear reaction, we will be already set to go.

I am already looking forward to our Mr. Fusion powered overlords.

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (1)

jmashaw (1099959) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239289)

crap. spurn != spawn.

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238865)

Kick yourself for not watching the meter, then push/tow your car to the nearest charging station. Maybe call a charging service. It's not like most americans now walk to a gas station and back when they run out of gas.

 

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (1)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238879)

That's the beauty of the plug-in hybrid model: You still have the gas as a backup and for long trips. Personally, I would jump at the chance to own a plug-in hybrid. The argument that people wouldn't plug them in during off-peak times is a little silly. The most obvious way to use them is to commute to and from work on electric power, and plug them in overnight. How is overnight not off-peak?

As for the batteries making them too expensive, it's true that for now that may be the case, but as adoption rates increase, the prices of batteries will fall. The Chevy Volt is slated to be in the 35-40k range, which is about the price of an upscale sedan. This means the masses won't be snapping them up right away, but they probably weren't going to do that anyway. Just like all new tech, the early adopters will come in first and help drive the price down to where the ordinary schmo can reasonably afford one.

I'm not sure what Toyota's strategy is in downplaying the plug-in hybrid model. Are they not able to come up with a good way to do it themselves? Are they trying to steal GM's thunder and delay the buzz until Toyota can catch up? Did the CEO of ExxonMobil threaten to have the CEO of Toyota shot if they started producing plug-in hybrids?

Time Based Charge (3, Interesting)

autocracy (192714) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238979)

A lot of electric providers allow a system where electricity is charged at a higher rate in the day, and a dirt-cheap rate at night. Plug in the car when it's in the driveway, use a timer on the plug. Tada.

Re:Time Based Charge (4, Informative)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239059)

I ordered an electric vehicle, and am building another one from scratch. To charge them, I built a charge controller that fetches the current price of power from my utility, and only charges the vehicles when the price of power is below a threshold. This way I take advantage of Time Of Day pricing (1-2 cents/kwH between midnight and 4am, Nuclear power in Northern Illinois).

Re:Time Based Charge (5, Informative)

SaDan (81097) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239175)

The volt has a charge timer built into the car's charging system. Set the timer once, and plug the car in any time. It will start charging (and/or stop charging) when you specify.

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (4, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239189)

I often wonder why Toyota pulled the plugin capabilities from the Prius, the hardware is there in the first generation models, my friend has a kit to convert his once the battery warranty is up and there's not a lot to it, just a plug that attaches to some internal terminals and a chip mod to delay the engine warm-up until the battery is much further drained.

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (1)

bonkeydcow (1186443) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239399)

I agree, and so what if it is not off peak? It's still better than gas. I mean say my car has a 40 mile range and i have a 35 mile commute each way. heaven forbid i charge the car while I work.

Toyotas opinion is irrelevant (1)

CdBee (742846) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239411)

There is a real demand for plug-in hybrids despite whatever concerns Toyota management sees with the adoption of the technology.

As with Diesel Hybrids - Toyota may not want to make them but if there is a demand - and there is, for economy & ecology reasons in both cases - they will be made and sold. But Toyota wont get the profit from making them. That'll go to a more enterprising car company that makes what people want.

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238999)

You'll call a tow truck and get a jump.

Of course, that will take a little time....

Seriously though, tow-trucks already have an oversized alternator and an extra battery for jumpstarting gasoline engines. I could easily see them adding a full-blown generator designed to put a charge into a pure electric vehicle'ss batteries in a few minutes. Enough of a charge to get a few miles, anyway.

Re:Electric Gas Cans? (1)

atlasdropperofworlds (888683) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239171)

You will learn to plan better. Do you run your car near Empty all the time? What do you do when that behaviour burns out your fuel pump a few miles from home? A gas can doesn't help you in that situation.

However, if you're driving an EV a city, there's a good chance you'll be near an outlet when your batteries go flat, so find it and plug in. Electricity is amazingly easy to find.

If you're in the middle of the wilderness, well, you probably should have been paying attention, but if there's a station nearby (where you would otherwise get gas), I'm sure there would be a tow truck that would get you to an outlet fast.

Emergncy backup (1)

CdBee (742846) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239463)

I daresay a 50cc lightweight diesel or petrol (gasoline) engine connected to a generator and set up to run at its most efficient speed will become commonplace.. mounted underfloor in most electric vehicles

If it produces say 20% of the power needed to run the vehicle in normal use, that would provide a limp-home facility or the ability to charge the battery by leaving the vehicle parked with the internal generator running for an hour or so... or alternatively the ability to extend the range by that proportion by starting it as you start your journey.

I work in the power industry (5, Insightful)

dj245 (732906) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238711)

The grid can handle this. Millions of cars aren't going to be plugged in overnight. Yes, it takes years for a large power plant projects and big high-voltage lines to be planned, designed, and installed. It also takes years for a new car to become a significant percentage of cars on the road. When you consider that the economy is starting to squeeze people, its pretty clear that millions of people aren't going to run out and buy a new car just because its shiny.

Re:I work in the power industry (0, Flamebait)

No2Gates (239823) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238801)

There is no way the grid can handle so many cars being plugged in to recharge at night. You may feel nice and fuzzy warm about getting an electric vehicle, but then, you get a whoop-ass dose of reality when you find out, low and behold, your electric provider uses COAL FIRED plants to create this invisible power. What is the dirtiest method of power?????
But you tree huggers just go bury your head in the sand and don't think about the logistics.

Re:I work in the power industry (1, Insightful)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238861)

I get my electricity from nuclear powerplant. So what now?

Re:I work in the power industry (4, Insightful)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238955)

Unfortunately, unlike you and I, most "greens" are dead set against expanding nuclear power. They seem to think wind/solar/"biofuel" will be able to get the job done (no, covering the surface of the Earth with solar panels or wind farms is not practical, feasible or desirable). Most of them don't bother to think of the logic behind their positions so it's no wonder they don't have an answer to where all this new electricity will come from. All they know is that their trendy new EV doesn't burn any evil hydrocarbons.

Re:I work in the power industry (3, Insightful)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239065)

Some greens don't even like wind power because it kills the birds. Some even don't like solar because they have a feeling that we'll ruin the deserts. The greens don't seem like they have any specific leader they follow, so they seem to be all over the board in what they think is bad for the world. The sad thing is that nuclear is probably more green than most other power because of the advances we made in the last few decades, but no one can seem to change the image of nuclear to the people... If there was ever the need for public relations for something, I think nuclear could use it. There is no reason some people should have to pay most of their income just to keep warm through the winter.

Re:I work in the power industry (3, Insightful)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239353)

Um... have we managed to find a place to store nuclear waste? Have we uncovered an unlimited trove of radioactive material? Most intelligent people realize that a change is coming where we're going to have to move away from the oil economy. Oil is finite. Do we really want to spend all our time and money on building infrastructure that's also non-renewable? Nuclear is a lot of money and risk for a non-renewable energy source.

That said, will we add more nuclear as we move away from oil? More than likely. Should it be a goal? No. It's unsustainable.

Re:I work in the power industry (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239361)

They may not follow a specific leader, but I drew up a Venn diagram, and the overlap across "Obama", "Starbucks", "Apple", "Al Gore", and "Trendy fucking hipster" is overwhelming.

And yes, nuclear power is what we need.

Safe clean cheap powerful.
Nuclear waste? It's still radioactive, and can be used in smaller plants. I'd LOVE nuclear reactors for every large city, and smaller nuclear reactors smaller cities. Less dense areas could be served by smaller, unmanned units (I think Mitsubishi made one designed to power a few blocks), that run on otherwise unused "waste" from the larger plants.

But no, we're too busy rocketing to the "3rd world dictatorship" line.

Re:I work in the power industry (0)

polar red (215081) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239395)

covering the surface of the Earth with solar panels or wind farms is not practical,

not necessary. even just covering all roofs with solar panels is enough to fulfill our energy needs. or ONE windmill per mile highway.

feasible

sure it does

or desirable)

highly desirable: no need for wars over oil or nuclear fuel.

Re:I work in the power industry (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238897)

What is the dirtiest method of power?????

Burning wood. Runner up: burning gasoline in your car.

Re:I work in the power industry (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238963)

A ULEV is fantastically clean. Most existing coal plants are *far* dirtier. Of course, nuclear plants (and eventually solar plants, when the tech gets there) are far cleaner than you could ever make power from fossil fuel.

Re:I work in the power industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25239109)

(and eventually solar plants, when the tech gets there)

Two words: molten salt.

I think that should be the focus where viable (like here in Florida).

Re:I work in the power industry (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239173)

Molten salt is a dangerous way to store power, with efficiency that leaves a lot to be desired, and doesn't scale down at all well. Still, it hints at how revolutionary "magic battery + efficient solar power" would be.

Re:I work in the power industry (2, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239223)

Nah, unless you are completely flat like Florida the reverse flow water storage is significantly more efficient and cheaper than molten salt.

Re:I work in the power industry (5, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238935)

You may feel nice and fuzzy warm about getting an electric vehicle, but then, you get a whoop-ass dose of reality when you find out, low and behold, your electric provider uses COAL FIRED plants to create this invisible power. What is the dirtiest method of power?????

The dirtiest would be a tiny mobile power plant burning fossil fuels that can't afford to have large-scale scrubbers on them because, being mobile, this power plant has to carry its own weight so any emissions controls directly effect the amount of fuel needed to travel.

Being large and stationary means coal plants can be made more efficient and have more environmental controls with minimal impact on operation. Even with electricity generated from coal, an electric car is producing less pollution per mile traveled than your gas car.

And hey maybe you didn't know but us tree huggers are also pushing for more green power generation. So while your gas car stays as bad as it is for its entire life, the tree hugger's electric magically becomes more green every time someone builds a wind farm.

Re:I work in the power industry (4, Interesting)

lgw (121541) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239117)

Winds farms don't scale, and do affect the environment some. Hydro doesn't scale, and building new dams just to make power certainly screws with the local environment. Geothermal doesn't come anywhere close to scaling, and may affect the environment in surprising ways.

Right now, nuclear is the only scalable choice for clean power. Eventually, solar will work too, but since solar isn't reliable it will never be a primary power source until someone invents a magic battery. However, with a magic battery, solar power is "fusion power too cheap to meter" so hopefully somone makes that happen.

ULEV cars are *far* cleaner than existing coal plants, and may be cleaner than a pure-electric car depending on where you live.

"Serial" hybrids (motor turns generator, not axel) are a fantastic idea, because they allow turbine engines to replace reciprocating cylinder engines. Gas turbines can be may much *more* efficient than 4-stroke engines, because you can make good use of the waste heat. I think the theoretical limit for a turbine is double tht of a 4-stroke - anyone know for sure?

Re:I work in the power industry (5, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239001)

Dude, the Department of Energy says you're wrong:

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/09/excess_nightime.php [treehugger.com]

One common critique of an electric car revolution is that the increased energy demand might just lead to the generation of new power plants, negating some of the cars' positive environmental benefits. Well, according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Energy, those critiques are misguided. The study shows 84% of the 198 million cars, light trucks and SUVs on America's roads could be fueled by the existing energy infrastructure if switched to plug-in hybrid vehicles. When you add vans and other vehicles in the "light duty fleet," 73% of the 217 million vehicles could be powered with the power plants we have in place today. In switching from 6.5 million barrels of oil every day to electric cars fueled by off-peak power production, the study estimates a reduction of greenhouse gases by 27%.

Even with America's current power mix, with a heavy dose of coal power generation, electric vehicles are show to reduce total greenhouse emissions, however the picture isn't all rosy. The Department of Energy study also points to an increase in total particulate emissions with the grid pumping power all night. This, however, is much easier to tackle than petroleum-based pollution. As alternative energy gains a greater share of the American power pie chart, we can look for less particulate emissions as well. In the meantime, check to see if your power company offers green power or try to generate your own. Then, when you get your electric speedster, you can rev it up without worry.

Emphasis mine.

Re:I work in the power industry (1)

Copperhamster (1031604) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238943)

Millions of people buy new cars every year. Because they are shiny, usually. 15.5 million is the running estimate for 2008, and that's a 10 year low. That's in the US. (Numbers found by google, and estimate made as of April. Actual results may vary).

If they are able to produce an electric vehicle without the 'electric premium cost', they could easily get a few million more on the road in a year or two.

(And for the record, where I work there are around 100 people. That I know of 20 or so of them have traded in perfectly serviceable cars or light trucks, usually while still paying on them, for new, shiny, high gas mileage vehicles, with even larger payments on them. When it doesn't really add up financially to do so.)

Re:I work in the power industry (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239105)


The grid can handle this. Millions of cars aren't going to be plugged in overnight.

No, they're not. But how much would the grid suffer if they were? Would power plant needs double, triple, quadruple?

You're correct that this won't happen (literally) tomorrow. But what if just 10% of drivers are using electric in 8 years? What about 20%? How much does the system need to increase if one of these two happen? These are the questions I'd like answers to, rather than just spit balling it a saying "both don't happen over night" in a literal sense.

Re:I work in the power industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25239111)

I am pissed. If I can't get a flying car I should at least be able to get an electric one. It's 2008 for god's sake!

Why so doubtful? (2, Informative)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238783)

These same american car companies seemed all too eager to give us bigger, less fuel efficient tanks while demand was high. Obviously, that was a fad that was unsustainable, but they kept churning them out. Here we have clear proof that people want more efficiency and at least to feel like they're driving green, yet car companies aren't convinced they should give us them? Why is that stopping them now? Surely they haven't learned their lesson to think long-term rather than "Everyone is buying this right now, if these trends continue forever, and they will, then WOO HOO!"

Um (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239049)

These same american car companies seemed all too eager to give us bigger, less fuel efficient tanks while demand was high.

Toyota is a Japanese company. Just an FYI.

Re:Um (0, Offtopic)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239307)

Yes, the same company that gave us the prius, is apperantly less reluctant to tap into the green car market, and seemed to realize that the american craze of huge gas guzzling SUVs wasn't going to last forever. I was talking specifically about american car companies, they're the ones that were gung ho to give us what we wanted when that was bigger and don't want to do that now that it's smaller.

The problem isn't plugging them in (1, Interesting)

Swizec (978239) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238787)

The reason these vehicles will never get adopted to the extent they should doesn't have anything to do with having to plug them in overnight, hell I'd venture to say many find that less of a nuissance than having to make a trip to the petrol pump.

The real reason we won't be seeing a large scale adoption of these is that they're ugly. Why can't somebody just give us a green car that actually looks good?

Re:The problem isn't plugging them in (1)

BigGar' (411008) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238919)

Well there's this one http://www.teslamotors.com/ [teslamotors.com] , but its a tad pricey. It's all electric not a hybrid, but has a range of 220 miles on a single charge, and great performance, though pushing the pedal to the floor would reduce your range a tad.

Re:The problem isn't plugging them in (2, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239107)

The Roadster mileage is now 244 miles/charge. A significant efficiency gain was had with the transmission fix (which really we beefing up the inverter and the motor).

Re:The problem isn't plugging them in (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239135)

(which really was beefing up the inverter and the motor).

Spelling error fixed.

Re:The problem isn't plugging them in (5, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238961)

The chevy volt will fail because it will cost $50,000.00US by the time it's released. Only the rich eco-trendy will buy that car.

If you want to get hybrids and eco friendly cars to be adopted widely you gotta get the price down to where it's dirt cheap. $19,000 is the MAX price for the low end model. They refuse to make a car like that so they only end up as curiosity toys for the rich.

They gotta get the price way WAY down. two seaters that are tiny and hybrid are the answer. If you get a Smart fourtwo as a hybrid that get's 80-100mpg for $19,000 you will have a car that will out-sell any other car in history.

Problem is, The car makers and the oil companies do not want that car to exist and will do what they can to keep it from existing. The current smart is one of the safest cars on the planet yet it was a uphill fight to get the thing in the USA and then they had to "add safety features" to a car that was already a 5 star crash rating car.

add safety features? why? oh to make it more expensive... I see. They wanted to make sure that the masses would not go out and buy it in droves destroying sales of higher profit margin cars.

If you make a cheap efficient small commuter car, everyone will buy one. I'd rather blow 12mpg on the weekend in my high power sports car on the back roads and clear highways than at 32mph stop and go, in 5 lanes wide traffic on 696 in detroit.

people wont want to plug it in? oh come on, the populace is not THAT lazy.

Re:The problem isn't plugging them in (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239165)

If you get a Smart fourtwo as a hybrid that get's 80-100mpg for $19,000 you will have a car that will out-sell any other car in history.

I question whether it would be practical to "hybridize" that small a car. That car is already pretty close to the limit of practicality without having to add in the electric motor, a battery pack, the regenerative braking stuff, the transmission linking, etc. not the mention the not-inconsiderable weight of said stuff.

Doesn't want us to buy them? (3, Insightful)

wurp (51446) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239261)

You are living in some weird cynical fantasyland. Plug in hybrid cars are expensive because they are new technology. The factories to build them have to be built, we haven't spent enough time figuring out ways to keep individual unit costs down, and R&D costs haven't been amortized over long periods of selling millions of units as with standard ICE.

The first electric cars will be expensive. Probably the only ones that will sell well will be expensive luxury cars, because the people who can afford to spend $38,000 on a plug-in hybrid car that looks like crap & has no features probably prefer to spend $50,000 on a plug-in hybrid car that looks nice and is fun to be in.

Then we'll get better at making individual units cheaply, the manufacturing infrastructure will become more established, and car companies will get more comfortable about how many PIH cars will sell. And then they'll get cheap.

Car companies would gladly sell us cars that never required fuel if they could figure out how to make them at prices people would pay. If 90% of car companies elected not to sell cars that don't use petroleum (or use less petroleum) which everyone could afford simply because the people making decisions have a stake in petroleum sales, the other 10% of car companies would put them out of business.

Dammit (1)

wurp (51446) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239267)

I hate that the "No karma bonus" flag is persistent now.

Re:The problem isn't plugging them in (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239317)

The chevy volt will fail because it will cost $50,000.00US by the time it's released. Only the rich eco-trendy will buy that car.

To be fair, part of the reason is that to get a suitable range solely off of battery charge for a daily commute (50mi if I remember off the top of my head), they have to use LiIon batteries which are still expensive. I doubt the Tesla Roadster will make much of an impact in that regard, even though it has enough batteries to give the car a 250mi range. Hopefully something can bring the prices down and make something like the Volt reasonable. You know, like one of those breakthroughs I keep hearing about on ./.

They gotta get the price way WAY down. two seaters that are tiny and hybrid are the answer. If you get a Smart fourtwo as a hybrid that get's 80-100mpg for $19,000 you will have a car that will out-sell any other car in history.

I was baffled when I found out the Smart wasn't a pure electric, or even a hybrid. And that it gets the same gas mileage than my Toyota Echo, which can (technically) seat 5 and has a decent sized trunk and everything. Though that's not really fair, cus I'm comparing the rated mileage of the Smart to my measured economy, but still, I expected a hell of a lot more. As a pure gas vehicle, it's just not that exciting.

Wikipedia says they're going to release a pure EV version in the US with 120mi range, but it's going to cost $35,000. Whoa. 20k? Absolutely, best selling car ever. But 35? Not likely. That's better than the volt, though...

add safety features? why? oh to make it more expensive... I see. They wanted to make sure that the masses would not go out and buy it in droves destroying sales of higher profit margin cars.

Don't forget it also makes it heavier and thus reduces fuel economy.

people wont want to plug it in? oh come on, the populace is not THAT lazy.

The populace is not too lazy to make a stop at the gas station to fuel up, so yes, I agree that's ludicrous.

Re:The problem isn't plugging them in (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238965)

Why can't somebody just give us a green car that actually looks good?

I remember hearing that there actually was a normal-looking hybrid that preceeded the prius. There are many alternative explanations as to why it didn't sell as well, one of which may have been low gas prices. But at least one theory is that prius owners like the distinctive look because it lets other people know that they're driving a hybrid. The article I was reading had a quote by some loon saying that was half the point. Ridiculous I know. I kind of suspect that automakers are resistant to change and don't like the hybrid movement so they try to squelch it by giving us only ugly options. That's based on nothing but cynisism though.

Re:The problem isn't plugging them in (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239277)

I remember hearing that there actually was a normal-looking hybrid that preceeded the prius.

The original Honda Insight (2000-2006) preceded the Prius, but it was much smaller and less normal looking (as subcompacts go, IMO, not unattractive, but certainly rather distinctive). The earlier (compact) Prius was less distinctive (and, IMO, less attractive) than the current (midsize) Prius.

Frankly, aside from very expensive exotics, I can't think of a better-looking, generally available car on the road, to my tastes, than the current Prius, but degustibus non est disputandum, I suppose.

Re:The problem isn't plugging them in (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238989)

Honda offers a version of their Civic with a hybrid configuration and it looks fairly similar to all the other cars in its class on the road. It is less popular than the more unique and recognizably shaped Prius.

Re:The problem isn't plugging them in (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239085)

Why can't somebody just give us a green car that actually looks good?

Honda made one, and no one wanted it. Hybrid owners want people to know they're driving a hybrid.

Plug ins need bigger batteries (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238791)

and battery technology is still the most expensive and weakest link.

Toyota is doing well (business wise) with its regular hybrids. It just does not make sense to try sell something that is self-competitive and confuses the market.

What Morons (1)

mrbill1234 (715607) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238793)

If Toyota don't build an plug in hybrid, someone else will. Like it or not, electric cars are the future. The combustion engines are not going to go away any time soon, but as soon as EV's become mainstream (in the next 5 years I think), two car households will have one ICE and one EV.

One has to wonder what Toyota is thinking. The RAV4 EV which they discontinued and even tried to have destroyed was a perfectly fine vehicle, and many are still running today. I wish they would just re-introduce that vehicle, perhaps with modern batteries.

Re:What Morons (1, Informative)

TemporalBeing (803363) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239293)

If Toyota don't build an plug in hybrid, someone else will. Like it or not, electric cars are the future. The combustion engines are not going to go away any time soon, but as soon as EV's become mainstream (in the next 5 years I think), two car households will have one ICE and one EV.

One has to wonder what Toyota is thinking. The RAV4 EV which they discontinued and even tried to have destroyed was a perfectly fine vehicle, and many are still running today. I wish they would just re-introduce that vehicle, perhaps with modern batteries.

Funny thing is - they already do. Just not for the U.S. market. The Prius is a plug-in in the Asian markets; however, the EPA regulations and testing (since they couldn't get the MPG number to be consistent!) forced them to remove the capability for the U.S. market. Hopefully, the EPA will re-evaluate their position, else they'll be a thorn for everyone.

Want proof: check out the guys behind the PriusPlus and all the aftermarket reverse engineering that has gone on - some of them even restored the functionality!

I've Patented The 25,000 Mile Extension Cord (1)

Skeetskeetskeet (906997) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238803)

I'm ready to sue.

Are vapor cars cannibalizing current car sales? (1)

Average (648) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238811)

I'm wondering if the vaporware of cars like the Volt and other plug-ins are starting to eat at the sales of current cars. I can think of a few well-off lefty people (yes, a tweed jacket wearing university dean among them) who used to be new-every-two people. But, now, they're staying tight in their 1st-gen Priuses, waiting for the next... something. CNG? Fuel-cell? Volt? Who knows.

Everybody is starting to sense "the gasoline car has to go". All the automakers are working to get to the next option, and trying to assure the public that it's right around the corner if they just keep getting tax breaks and government loans. But it isn't, unfortunately.

Re:Are vapor cars cannibalizing current car sales? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25239083)

Yes: I've been holding off buying a Prius waiting for the plug-in version next year. Now Toyota is changing their mind, and I might actually look at the GM product.

Unfortunately "GM==craptastic" is etched in my brain from years of experience. The Volt might have good engineering behind it, but I expect it to be produced with low quality and have trashy style. Chrome-painted radio dials, anyone?

Re:Are vapor cars cannibalizing current car sales? (1)

swb (14022) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239167)

The economy, maybe? Hell, a guy I know who sells Volvos says its almost impossible to write a lease on a car and bank financing for purchases has gotten trickier with the credit crunch. Even guys with more or less guaranteed six figure incomes (like tenured full professors) are also sucking up the inflationary increases like the rest of us.

And there may be some of the "what's new, anyway?" mindset. I don't think a 2 year old Prius is missing much from a new one, although I admit to not caring, gas costs nothing to me, and the environmental impact doesn't matter, either.

Re:Are vapor cars cannibalizing current car sales? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25239369)

I think the shaky state of the economy, inflation, and people being nervous over taking out loans has a lot more to do with slow car sales than the promise of future super-cars.

Hell, I'd buy one. (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238847)

99% of my driving is within the range covered by a regular charge, and hell, I live in the sort of climate where I could throw a single solar panel on my roof and break even on the electricity for the year.

It's all about the batteries though. The guy who invents a workable next-gen source of electricity (be it battery, capacitor, or fuel cell) is going to make Bill Gates look like a poor relative.

FUD (5, Insightful)

globaljustin (574257) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238849)

why are automakers so irrationally risk averse! I understand making sound decisions, but damnit...the market was ready for electric plug-ins in the late 70's...today it's a no brainer!

questioning how many people will really buy electric cars

yes

whether people will really charge them at night to keep the grid clear

yes

whether batteries will make them too expensive and more.

no

If you build it, they will come...in my podunk former GM factory town, everyone would own a prius if they could afford to get a new car (many working and middle class people can't afford ANY kind of new car, no matter what make/model)

The people that can afford to buy a new car are buying Prius's in record numbers...a friend at the Toyota dealership (who helped my parents get their Prius) says they always order the maximum from Toyota and sell out before they hit the lot...for almost two years that's been the case

Plugging in at night is just a logical progression, and from an automaker's perspective, a simple engineering isssue (professional engineers can easily handle redesigning a Prius to have plug-in capability)

As far as added cost of batteries, the Prius my parents own now has more than sufficient battery power, all it needs is a plug-in...

Re:FUD (0, Redundant)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239075)

whether people will really charge them at night to keep the grid clear

I agree with you completely, and this one here was the thing that really made me scratch my head. When the hell else are people going to be plugging them in? Unless they start putting power outlets in the parking lot at work, I won't be plugging them in during the day! Whereas most people have outlets in their garage.

Re:FUD (2, Interesting)

Bombula (670389) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239423)

Absolutely. I'm in Michigan now too and there's still a waiting list on the Prius at local dealers, despite the ramp up in production and delivery. Sooner or later the demand gap will close, but it may still be a while yet. As for plug-ins, I think the real proof will be in the pudding. There is no PBEV on the market right now from a major automaker. When there is, it'll change everything. GM's EV-1 was a huge hit in LA when I lived there in the late 90s, and consumers were furious when they stopped making them.

If you ask me, this is just a ploy by Toyota to get the other automakers to doubt themselves a bit. It's a reverse psychology tactic from the market leader - it make perfect sense. At any rate, Toyota needs to stop dicking around and get its PBEVs into the US market and forget about self-competing, because if they wait until the Chevy volt and other EVs come out, they're not going to be on top of the market for long.

The market works to reach equilibrium! (3, Informative)

compumike (454538) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238863)

When fuel prices got too high, interest in electric vehicles and alternative energy sources boomed, but simultaneously demand weakened. Now oil prices have come off ~30% from their highs, and suddenly EVs are not a totally obvious solution anymore? Duh... this is how the market it supposed to work. This means that electric vehicle companies are going to have to start competing on real merits and not just squishy fuzzy green feelings. And I hope that makes them stronger! But it's not the worst thing in the world if conventional gas-burning cars remain an acceptable/affordable thing for the time being.

--
Learn electronics! Powerful microcontroller kits for the digital generation. [nerdkits.com]

Re:The market works to reach equilibrium! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25238975)

I've got an idea: how about you stop your spamming, dipshit!

Re:The market works to reach equilibrium! (2, Informative)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239027)

EVs don't compete on squishy green feelings. They compete on the fact that their maintenance costs are substantially less (no or small transmission; no ICE parts; motor, batteries, inverter are primary drivetrain components) and the cost to drive is around 2 cents/mile compared to 15 cents/mile for gasoline. The problem is that the playing field isn't level. Oil is subsidized in the US through heavy tax breaks to oil companies, and energy density in batteries is still low because not much R&D has been done (due to cheap oil).

Re:The market works to reach equilibrium! (2, Insightful)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239045)

Regular unleaded is still around $3.60/gl where I live. That doesn't sound like much of a drop off. An EV would still be a very attractive option for me and everyone else in the state of California. Also the longer gas remains "cheap" (in a relative way) the longer we will put off developing alternatives--and meanwhile the environment continues to be affected--so it is harmful if gas burning engines remain acceptable and affordable.

Re:The market works to reach equilibrium! (5, Insightful)

Immostlyharmless (1311531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239325)

This has 0 to do with the market and everything to do with the ELECTION. If gas was still $4.50 a gallon Obama would have way more than a 6 or 7 point lead over McCain. All last year and the beginning of this one we heard that prices were going up because of such a massive increase in demand and less supply, mostly due to the influence of the Chinese and Indians, it's pretty obvious, they aren't using any less, right? Last summer every time a hurricane even threatened the gulf, prices shot up 10-15 cents. There's been a gas shortage now in the southeast for several weeks because refineries were creamed and gas prices are *still* falling. Please, don't fool yourself into thinking this has ANYTHING to do with market forces at all.

Are these issues really that big? (3, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238873)

As long as the charger comes with a simple timer I don't see why people wouldn't be willing to charge the car at night, especially if you're in an area that has different rates for different times of day. As for batteries being too expensive, that's probably true right now, but do they really think we'll still be using today's lithium ion batteries ten years from now?

The cars being showcased today aren't the ones that are going to solve our energy problems. They are little more than prototype, proof of concept vehicles. That's why GM is only producing 10,000 volts the first year they are in production. Lets start producing them now and work out the issues that are bound to come up so that in 5 years we can begin producing them seriously. Or we can think like we always have and look one year out at a time, never bothering to invest in the future.

Charging at night (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25238901)

"whether people will really charge them at night to keep the grid clear"

I'd charge it at night rather than the day if they make it easy for me. I want to be able to plug it in whenever I get home, and have a timer set up to make it kick in during offpeak hours.

Of course, at the moment, I don't have a power outlet near my parking spot, so I can't take advantage of these cars.

Re:Charging at night (4, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239419)

For any kind of sizable battery, you'd likely want a dedicated circuit anyway.

The current Prius battery is about 1.5KWhrs, so assuming a dedicated 100-120V 15A circuit, it would take about an hour to charge from dead to full, but that will only get you a few miles on pure battery.

The current plug in modification kit's battery is about 6KWhr, so 4x the time.

Sources I see on the factory plug in say a capacity between 6 and 12KWhr, and a 12 would require a full 8 hours to charge, which is getting to the limit of "charge overnight", so you might want to put in a dedicated 240V 20A circuit, like you would use for an electric range.

And you'd definitely need a dedicated circuit for a full EV, like the Tesla, as the battery pack is 53KWhr, which would take about 35 hours to charge on a dedicated normal circuit, and still 7.5 hours on a dedicated 220V plug.

Is this Dodge's new sports car? (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238921)

A while ago Dodge announced they would sell the Viper division [automoblog.net] . many people expected it was due only to weak sales (the Corvette crushes it in sales every year).

But could it be that Dodge wanted to cleanse it from their palette to start on a new sports car? That Dodge EV is certainly nothing like the old General Motors EV1 [wikipedia.org] that was so loved by its lessees when it was available as a plug-in electric vehicle.

Main disadvantage: What if you forget to charge? (1)

thenewguy001 (1290738) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238929)

One of the main reasons I am wary of 100% electric plug-in vehicles is the consequences of forgetting to charge it. I forget to charge my ipod and cell phone all the time. This construes a minor inconvenience, as I can charge them in the car or at work. But forgetting to charge your car means you will be late for work, or miss it altogether if you live in a rural area and do not have access to public transportation. This is a much more dire consequence.

However, with a hybrid, you have a lot more flexibility, and it's more forgiving to absent-minded people like me. I have plenty of friends and family members that also chronically forget to charge things and I see full electric plug-in vehicles as a potential nightmare for us. What if after work you and your coworkers decide to drive to a faraway bar for an impromptu party? Do you have enough charge in your batteries? No, you're pretty much screwed. With a hybrid, you just fill it up at the next gas station.

Re:Main disadvantage: What if you forget to charge (3, Informative)

irenaeous (898337) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239099)

The Volt is supposed to answer that issue by having a combustion engine as a backup -- it runs and generates electricity that is used to run the car. So, in theory, you should never be in the situation you describe. You would also just fill up at the next gas station.

Re:Main disadvantage: What if you forget to charge (2, Informative)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239155)

You can also use inductive or capacitive charging. Just park the car over a "grid" on the floor of your garage, and you don't have to remember to plug the damn thing in! (You could do the same thing for your phone and MP3 player if you put it in the exact same place every night.) That being said, I'm convinced plug-in hybrid and not full-time electric is the way to go. I already own 2 hybrids, and I'm ready and willing to buy a plug-in hybrid just as soon as they make one available that I can afford. (I'm anxiously awaiting Aptera [aptera.com] availability in my area.) Of course, few people will be buying new cars of any sort until we get off this economic roller-coaster we've been on lately.

Re:Main disadvantage: What if you forget to charge (2, Interesting)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239257)

In suburbia, at least, I predict a charge robot. I get home at night, I get out of my car, I walk into the house, hitting the garage door closer button on the way in. A few minutes later, the robot (which is nothing but a simple arm attached to the wall), reaches out and plugs into the car. The car has some method for helping the robot locate the plug integrated into it, which means the robot can find the plug without having to get silly with natural vision expert systems, making it quite cheap and simple. In the morning, I walk into the garage, hitting the door opener button, and the robot disengages its plug and retracts before I hit the driver's seat. I drive out with a 100% charge every morning. What could be easier?

Going to a gas station to have to climb out of your car, fiddle with your credit card at the pump, get the nozzle into the car, begin fueling, then get the nozzle back to the pump, and fiddle with the pump some more to get your receipt, and make sure to put your gas cap back on... all of it will just feel primitive, after a few months of literally never having to think about it. Sure you've got a charge indicator, but most of the time you don't even care what it says. You've got enough charge to go anywhere you're likely to go in a day, and you ALWAYS do. Every day.

I'd buy a Tesla Roadster in a heartbeat, if I could afford it. As many other posters have pointed out, whoever can meet or beat "standard" new car prices of $20k or so won't be able to keep one on the lot for a decade.

If we only had the technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25238939)

to make an electric outlet with a timer so that it'll only turn on its power at night. That way you could come home and plug in your car, and it would be automagically charged during off peak times. I smell a patent!!!

Re:If we only had the technology (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239087)

Such a feature could be added directly to the vehicle, eliminating the need for a specialized outlet.

Re:If we only had the technology (3, Informative)

SaDan (81097) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239091)

This functionality is already present in the Chevy Volt. It has a timer so you can plug it in to the wall socket when you park your car in the evening, and it can be programmed to charge the battery starting at midnight, etc.

Do you have a garage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25238973)

I think a lot of people won't be able to get a plugin hybrid for a simple reason: they have nowhere to plug them in. Think about all the people who live in apartments or who have on-street parking.

Unless we string parking-meter style outlets all over the place I just don't see how this will work for city dwellers.

Lividly? (0, Flamebait)

SlashDotDotDot (1356809) | more than 5 years ago | (#25238985)

the Insight hybrid that we discussed so lividly a month ago

Perhaps I'm missing it. Was there something livid about their discussion?

Maybe the discussion was lively? Maybe they discussed it longingly? Did they describe it vividly?

Who cares about Toyota? (3, Interesting)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239021)

Brand loyalty is fleeting in the automotive industry.

Toyota doesn't want to build a plug-in hybrid? Fine.

My dad got invited to see the Jaguar Plug-in hybrid, which will run off the battery for 50 miles before burning any gas.

Considering my dad has a 22 mile commute, he can't wait for this thing to hit the road.

He doesn't know when it will become available, but he's already on the wait list. (Estimated price ~$80,000, by the way)

Diesel could be an alternative but... (3, Informative)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239023)

...there are serious issues with the pollution output from a diesel engine, even if you're using biodiesel fuel. Reducing the higher NOx gas output and the diesel particulates is a very expensive proposition, and just to make a diesel engine meet the EPA Tier 2 Bin 5 standard is expensive enough that you might as well buy a Toyota Prius or the new Honda Insight instead at pretty much the same price.

What will the Mafia do about this? (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239061)

When they find out that their monies they get from gas Taxes is going down they are gonna be pissed. Are the state tax collectors going to be sent door to door breaking the legs of Hybrid owners that don't pay as much fuel tax because they use so little fuel.

Probably not, the mafia slime balls will probably just put a "road' tax on electricity so they get gas tax plus electricity tax on people who don't even own hybrids.

Thank you government!

Toyota may be right. (3, Informative)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239079)

The Chevy Volt uses an IC engine to recharge the battery when necessary - like all other hybrids (though Chevy calls it a "range extender"). Plugging it in overnight simply pre-charges it. I guess that's a bit cleaner, but that would really depend on your local power plant. I don't know if pre-charging the battery via the grid is cheaper than using petrol on the go -- if not, why bother.

Calling the car an electric w/range extender, rather than simply hybrid (or series-hybrid) is marketing speak.

I'm buying an EV or PIH (2, Interesting)

TheMiddleRoad (1153113) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239113)

My wife and I might not buy a Volt immediately because so many companies are entering the market, but we'll buy the best EV or PIH we can afford sometime around 2010-2011. Most of our trips are 10 miles round. Rarely do we go more than 40 round. In the future, we'll make those once or twice a week at most.

So give me an EV for most of my trips, a PIH for the rest, and a Lotus Elise (30mph highway) for weekend blasts through the canyon.

Plug-in hybrids. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25239131)

What's so green about running your car on coal - which is what you'd be doing here in Queensland with a plug-in electric vehicle. Our government has even outlawed small gasoline motors on bicycles, but permits plug-in electric bicycles and large gas-guzzling cars. Who really gives a damn about the planet?

I give Toyota some credibility here... (4, Informative)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239181)

Around the turn of the century, electric cars had a range of about forty miles... the same as the Chevy Volt. All the improvements in battery technology have been able to do no more than keep up with our expectations of automotive comfort and speed.

Electric cars have, for a century, been waiting for the big breakthrough in battery technology that has yet to occur. The brilliance of the basic TRW design--the one they could never get U. S. carmakers interested in, the design that is fundamentally the same that Toyota uses in the Prius--is that it only relies on the battery as a short-term buffering device, a "torquer" as TRW called it, to make up the difference between the torque that can be provided by a little economical gas engine and the torque that's needed in normal driving.

So, a Prius provides a very meaningful increase in fuel efficiency without demanding a battery made of unobtainium. The Prius battery in fact only stores about enough energy to drive the car for about a mile.

Despite the possibility that Toyota is putting a spin on things, what they are saying makes sense. As hobbyists have confirmed, a Prius is virtually ready to be a plug-in hybrid, needing only a bigger battery. It would seemingly be so easy for Toyota to compete in the plug-in hybrid market that I have to believe they have sound reasons for skepticism.

Another possibility is that Toyota has encountered some serious snags that they're not talking about in trying to produce a plug-in version of the Prius. Perhaps GM knows about these snags and has some trade-secret ways of overcoming them... or perhaps GM hasn't discovered them yet, or is ignoring them because the Volt isn't really intended to succeed and is just a very elaborate "image" ploy.

Oh noes! (2)

TheDarkener (198348) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239191)

Car dealer #1: Will people actually BUY a hybrid car, saving them hundreds/thousands in fuel costs?
Car dealer #2: No, they just want GPS and a phat system, yo. /me wants "+1 Sad But True" ...

Compressed air is better (Deakin T2) (2, Interesting)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239287)

I think for short hauls compressed air might be better than electricity. Deakin University just won an award for "the Model T for the 21st" or some such (JFGI).

Their car was a three wheeler with no steering gear. Front wheels are fixed, rear wheel a freewheeling caster, steering by pressure differential in hub-mounted turbines. There's no chemical reaction involved in power transfer -- the sucker doesn't even emit ozone.

Given that many folks prefer air over electric for power tools (myself included) the better & cheaper control over power delivery could leap past the electric hybrid altogether. For long drives you'd still need auxiliary power, the difference being you'd replace engine + generator + battery with engine + compressor + air tank. No battery at all -- no lithium, no nickel, no cadmium, no lead.

Re:Compressed air is better (Deakin T2) (1)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239375)

It's got a lot going for it, but the energy capacity of a tank of air, even at ridiculously high pressures, won't take a car very far, like a fraction of a mile maybe.

I will (4, Insightful)

MrNougat (927651) | more than 5 years ago | (#25239401)

I will buy an electric car. I will charge it at night. I will. I promise. Start fucking building them.

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