FUTURE IS NOW
DEPARTMENT: generic, Tesla and the Chevy VOLT...and the Coda
(battery made in Connecticut)!
is a use for fuel cells for several
purposes, one of which is the Honda concept car above, left! The Honda FCX Clarity, powered by a
hydrogen fuel cell, will be leased to retail customers next year (2008).
F U E L C E L L S
An unfortunate down note. In
Connecticut, State Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Policy and Demonstration
And what about the lightbulb? Thomas
Edison's design is the best!
Cars in general v. mass transit
WAIT...not yet law (120 page bill), here is sort of an encouraging
story in June 2011 in CT!
Bridgeport sees new era with fuel
By STEPHEN SINGER, AP Business Writer
Updated 11:14 am, Sunday, December 30, 2012
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A largely unused industrial site in
Bridgeport is being prepared for construction of the largest fuel cell
power plant in North America, giving a possible boost to the
alternative fuel and economic development in Connecticut's largest city.
Connecticut has long boasted of its relationship with fuel cells, at
times subsidizing its use, including the Bridgeport project. The
alternative fuel makes electricity from chemical reactions involving
hydrogen and oxygen, producing only water vapor as a product.
Until recently, Connecticut was home to two large fuel cell
manufacturers. FuelCell Energy Inc. in Danbury will build, operate and
maintain the Bridgeport plant under contract to Dominion Resources Inc.
UTC Power was the state's other large manufacturer, but parent company
United Technologies Corp, looking to focus on aerospace businesses,
sold its fuel cell subsidiary to an Oregon company.
The Bridgeport plant will produce 14.9 megawatts of electricity, enough
to power about 15,000 homes, using a process that converts natural gas
into electricity. Power will be sold to Connecticut Light & Power,
the state's largest utility, in a 15-year contract.
The project, valued at $70 million to $80 million, will be completed by
late next year or early 2014.
"When compared with some other renewable or clean energy that's
intermittent — wind or solar — you have clean energy that is reliable
as a base load that also is cost-competitive," said James Eck, vice
president of business development for the Richmond, Va.,-based Dominion.
The plant is part of a state program to increase renewable and clean
energy projects. FuelCell Energy is receiving $5 million in loans to be
repaid to the state Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority and a
$1.5 million grant.
Fuel cells may eventually be more cost-effective and operate without
subsidies, said analyst Andy Pusateri of Edward Jones.
"Right now it's more symbolic," he said. "I don't think it's
cost-effective right now to run on a large scale." David Kooris
The project is the largest to be signed in the administration of Mayor
Bill Finch, who was elected in 2007, said David Kooris, director of
Bridgeport's office of planning and economic development.
The plant, which will be visible from busy Interstate 95, will give
Bridgeport the chance to show itself off to millions of commuters as a
fuel cell center even if the source of pride is no architectural gem.
It will resemble an electric utility substation in a landscaped area
ringed by trees, Kooris said.
"This will convey to people not only what we're trying to achieve, but
what we are achieving," he said.
CL&P agreed to buy power from the plant for 15 years at $89 a
megawatt hour, Eck said. The price was competitively bid, said Al Lara,
a spokesman for CL&P parent company Northeast Utilities.
The price for power is higher than for conventional fossil fuel
sources, said Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the state Department of
Energy and Environmental Policy. The cost difference will be paid by
utility ratepayers, he said.
The benefits are a new and reliable in-state supply of energy and job
creation in the fuel cell industry, he said.
The fuel cell plant is a good project for Dominion, but shareholders
will not likely see it as a big deal, Pusateri said.
"I don't think it can hurt the company," he said. "It looks good;
they're working toward sustainability. From shareholders' perspective,
it won't make a big difference," he said.
The plant represents a small share of what Dominion does. Its 15
megawatts is a fraction of the 30,000 megawatts Dominion plants
generate, Pusateri said. And the investment of up to $80 million
compares with $4.5 billion in capital spending a year, he said.
Shares of FuelCell Energy jumped 7.5 percent, to 94 cents, on the news
of FuelCell's sale to Dominion on Dec. 14.
FuelCell Energy did not return a call seeking comment.
Eck said the attraction for Dominion of the Bridgeport plant is that it
expands the company's fuel diversity. And it gives the company
experience with fuel cells, he said.
"Fuel cell technology is poised for growth in the U.S.," Eck said.
Eastwood Sparks Fire As Hired Gun
For Chrysler In Super Bowl Ad
9:03 AM EST, February 7, 2012
Before he emerged in a controversial Super Bowl ad as the gravelly
voice of Chrysler's resurgence, Clint Eastwood was a critic of the
government bailout that saved the U.S. automaker.
"We shouldn't be bailing out the banks and car companies," actor,
director and Academy Award winner Eastwood told the Los Angeles Times
in November 2011. "If a CEO can't figure out how to make his company
profitable, then he shouldn't be the CEO."
The two-minute Chrysler ad "Halftime in America" won attention for its
focus on American resilience, but raised eyebrows for the way critics
said it echoed one of the central themes of President Barack Obama's
Eastwood, a longtime Republican who now describes himself as a
libertarian, told Fox News on Monday he was "certainly not politically
affiliated with Mr. Obama."
The ad was meant as a message "about job growth and the spirit of
America. I think all politicians will agree with it," Eastwood said,
according to a transcript on Foxnews.com.
"If Obama or any other politician wants to run with the spirit of that
ad, go for it," the actor added.
The White House, which said it was not involved in making the ad, did
say that the message highlighted the "simple fact" that Obama had
rescued the U.S. auto industry.
"He was not willing to allow - did not believe it was necessary to
allow - the American automobile industry to collapse and disappear,"
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
Eastwood's manager Leonard Hirshan said the actor has not changed his
views on the auto bailout.
"He did a commercial that had nothing to do with politics," Hirshan
said. "What he did was talk about America. If anything, this was a pro
American commercial not a Chrysler commercial. Chrysler just sponsored
what he had to say."
Chrysler has not said how much the Super Bowl ad cost or how much
Eastwood was paid. A 30-second spot in this year's game televised by
NBC cost $3.5 million.
In the ad, which aired during Sunday's Super Bowl football game,
Eastwood, 81, gave what amounted to a pep talk to an America still
mired in hard times. The ad pointed to Detroit's resurgence since the
taxpayer-funded bankruptcy restructuring of both Chrysler Group LLC and
General Motors Co in 2009.
"Detroit's showing us it can be done," Eastwood said. "And, what's true
about them is true about all of us."
In an interview with Detroit radio station WJR, Chrysler Chief
Executive Sergio Marchionne emphasized the TV spot was not meant to be
seen as a political statement. Rather, the ad was intended to showcase
"the resilience of America."
"It has zero political content," Marchionne said Monday. "We are as
apolitical as you can make us."
But veteran Republican strategist Karl Rove said he was "offended" by
the ad, which comes about 10 months before the November presidential
"It is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics and
the president of the United States and his political minions are in
essence using tax dollars to buy corporate advertising," Rove said on
The bailout was initiated by President George W Bush in the waning days
of his administration and continued under President Obama. Since then,
both GM and Chrysler have begun to mend. Chrysler, now majority-owned
by Italian automaker Fiat SpA , forecast its annual operating profit
would rise 50 percent to $3 billion in 2012.
It was the second straight year Chrysler ran a two-minute spot during
the most-expensive advertising slot in American television. Last year's
spot featured Detroit-raised rapper Eminem and launched the slogan
"Imported from Detroit."
This year's advertisement was filmed over two weeks in January with
scenes shot in New Orleans and California. Footage from Detroit was
used from Chrysler's "Born of Fire" ad from 2011's Super Bowl. It was
directed by David Gordon Green, who also directed the 2008 stoner
comedy Pineapple Express.
Traffic on Twitter showed overwhelmingly positive comments for the
advertisement, which was the last one shown before the start of the
second half of Sunday's game between the New York Giants and the New
But the ad "fell flat" with consumers, Edmunds.com said, citing an
analysis of traffic on its website. Chrysler page views increased 13
percent in the hour after the ad was aired. But Hyundai Motor Co's page
views rose 134 percent and Honda Motor Co's Acura page views jumped 110
percent. Interest in Fiat shot up more than 2,000 percent after the
Fiat 500 Abarth ad aired.
"The ad tried to capture the same mood that made last year's commercial
so effective, but America's state of mind right now is different from
where it was last year," Edmunds.com Vice Chairman Jeremy Anwyl said.
"Using the same formula, Chrysler didn't elicit the same emotional
Microgrids offer potential for
greater energy reliability
Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
January 30, 2012
Easy to miss in the flurry around the Two Storms Panel report earlier
this month was an idea called microgrids.
A jargony techno-term, a microgrid is a small electric grid with its
own generation source. It normally operates linked to the main electric
grid, but when that suffers widespread interruptions, as Connecticut's
did during Tropical Storm Irene and the October snowstorm, a microgrid
can automatically isolate itself and keep running.
"All the pieces have been tried that we need to put together," said Dan
Esty, commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental
Protection. "Just not at the scale we're talking about." The department
has been ordered by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to explore how the state
would create microgrids to be better prepared in an emergency.
The scale the administration wants is to keep obvious critical
facilities -- hospitals, police and fire stations, water and waste
water systems and prisons -- running. But it also wants microgrids to
address other problems that were acutely apparent in both storms. Folks
without power often had nowhere to go to replace rotten food, buy
water, fill their cars with gas or get additional medication because
commercial areas also went dark. And businesses, especially
manufacturers, who were forced to shut lost thousands of dollars.
Pilot project plans are at their earliest stages, but Esty said the
state already has identified about 300 sites -- 120 critical facilities
and about 180 town centers and commercial hubs. He expects to have
several projects in place in 2013, if not earlier.
"I have already had a half a dozen mayors call and say that they'd like
to be microgrid guinea pigs," Esty said.
Bristol Mayor Arthur Ward, whose city of 61,000 got "slammed," in
Ward's words, in both storms was among them. "I'd love to," he said.
"Absolutely. I think it's something that everybody should take a clear
Aside from keeping the juice flowing during the next Irene, there are
multiple layers of benefits state officials think microgrids can
achieve, though there are also multiple challenges.
On the benefits side, the way Esty and many others envision it, a
microgrid could finally make that link officials have long sought
between cleaner, more sustainable energy and Connecticut's key
stationary fuel cell builders -- Fuel Cell Energy in Danbury and UTC
Power in South Windsor. Fuel cells are considered low emission,
typically using non-renewable natural gas to create the hydrogen needed
to produce power.
While there are many fuel cells scattered around the state powering
schools, manufacturing and commercial facilities and government
buildings, more than 90 percent of both companies' business is not just
out of state, but out of the country, often in huge grid generation
fuel cell plants in places like South Korea.
Esty and the experts he is drawing on from the University of
Connecticut School of Engineering and the Connecticut Center for
Advanced Technology think fuel cells and/or natural gas turbines would
be ideal for microgrids in the state. They are reliable -- unlike solar
that only operates during the day. And their relatively small physical
footprints are suited to a crowded state like Connecticut.
Both generation options offer the economic bonuses of design and
construction jobs. Fuel cells also mean massive production ramp-ups
that would result in more tax revenue as business grows.
Many questions to resolve
But there are many unknowns, starting with the question, who pays?
Bonding is one way, though not the top choice among Malloy
administration budget hawks. Municipalities might have to kick in some
money. There is an energy improvement district option in which those
who benefit from the facility in effect tax themselves to pay for it.
And there are private investment models. All of the above is possible
in various configurations, along with federal tax credits and grants
from other sources.
There are governance issues -- who runs the microgrids and how do they
dovetail financially with the main grid?
"The main issue is that there is no policy," said Peter Asmus, a
microgrid expert and senior analyst at Boulder, Colo.-based Pike
Research. "There are no microgrid laws; no regulations anywhere in the
U.S. governing microgrids."
Pike estimates there are 270 microgrids worldwide. In the U.S. Asmus
points to University of California at San Diego -- a microgrid that can
generate 42 megawatts with a mixture of natural gas turbines, solar, a
2.8 megawatt fuel cell manufactured by Fuel Cell Energy and other
sources. (Rule of thumb is that one megawatt powers 1,000 average
There are a few templates around Connecticut that may provide clues as
to how microgrids could work. Yale University in essence has two
microgrids, two duel-fuel (natural gas or oil) cogeneration facilities
(meaning they make electricity and steam for heat and hot water). One
handles the central campus; the other, the medical school.
"We might need to do load-shedding to meet the convenience needs of
campus, but we certainly can meet emergency needs," said John Bollier,
associate vice president for facilities. "In an emergency we are far,
far better off."
Late last year Central Connecticut State University in New Britain
added a 1.4 megawatt fuel cell from Fuel Cell Energy to its existing
2.5 megawatt cogeneration plant, a couple of months too late, however,
for the snowstorm. "If we had the fuel cell, it would have pretty much
operated the whole campus," said plant facilities engineer Rob Gagne.
Perhaps more instructive, however, is how CCSU funded the fuel cell. A
roughly $9 million project, it is owned by Greenwood Energy, which
financed what is officially known as New Britain Renewable Energy LLC
mainly with equity capital, some funding from the Connecticut Clean
Energy Finance and Investment Authority, plus about a 30 percent
federal tax credit. Greenwood has a 10-year contract to sell power to
Project stalled in Stamford
Those are the sorts of financial models the state is banking on,
literally, to gird the microgrid concept. On the municipal level,
however, they've had a rocky start.
As mayor of Stamford, Gov. Malloy instituted an energy improvement
district with the intention of developing a microgrid to service the
Government Center initially. Washington, D.C.-based microgrid developer
Pareto Energy was hired to own the generation facilities and sell the
power to Stamford, but the change in city administration has left that
project slowed, if not stalled.
Neither did another potential Pareto project in Ansonia come to
fruition, though Shalom Flank, Pareto's chief technology officer and
microgrid architect, said since the storms, a number of Connecticut
municipalities have contacted Pareto.
"What's really missing is the high-profile demonstration project which
we thought Stamford was going to be," Flank said.
Fuel Cell Energy President and CEO Arthur "Chip" Bottone said that
during a recent visit from Esty, he told the commissioner the timing
was right to attract private capital for microgrid projects.
"Technically and practically it's not challenging as long as you pick
the right projects to do," he said. "That's the secret sauce here."
But there are hurdles -- namely the availability of adequate natural
gas mains, not always a given in a state that is highly oil-dependent.
"Careful planning will be needed," said Mike Glynn, marketing and
communications director of UTC Power, which is working on a project to
power part of UConn. "This will be leapfrogging us into being one of
the most green states in country."
In concept, microgrids are easy to suggest, said Joel Rinebold,
director of energy initiatives at the Connecticut Center for Advanced
Technology. "In reality it's certainly challenging because you have to
both balance generation with a load that wasn't intended to be served
by that particular generation," he said. "But the challenges are not
large enough to use as an excuse not to investigate this."
He and others also noted the high cost for fuel cells in particular and
expressed hope that increased purchases for microgrid projects would
help push those prices lower.
Esty, for his part, admitted there would be a price difference, but
said to think of it as an insurance premium -- what you're paying to
not go down when there's a crisis.
"Then the economics look better," he said. "And it's not a very big
premium you have to factor in to begin to see the microgrid option as
Official: 'Micro-Grids' Could Power Crucial Services During Blackouts
The Hartford Courant
By DANIELA ALTIMARI, email@example.com
5:16 PM EST, December 7, 2011
HARTFORD — Although burying all utility lines and protecting the entire
electrical grid from severe weather is far too costly, building
"micro-grids" to provide power to critical services such as sewage
treatment plants and public safety hubs in emergencies makes sense,
said the commissioner of the state's energy department.
Daniel C. Esty, who oversees the Department of Energy and Environmental
Protection, outlined his vision of such micro-grids — small-scale power
sources independent of the main electricity distribution system —
during lengthy testimony Wednesday before the governor's Two Storm
Panel. The panel is examining the response to Tropical Storm Irene and
the devastating October nor'easter, both of which resulted in prolonged
and widespread power failures.
The micro-grids would be powered by fuel cells or natural-gas-fired
turbines, the commissioner said. They would provide an uninterrupted
source of locally generated electricity to hospitals, warming stations,
prisons, wastewater treatment facilities, and town centers...full story here.
Weston school board OKs fuel cell
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Thursday, 30 June 2011 00:00
A Weston fuel cell project that appeared to have fizzled has been
jolted back to life thanks to the state’s recently passed energy bill.
Now that the state will allow “virtual net metering” of electricity,
Westonite Don Gary, who has championed a plan for nearly two years to
install a 400-kW fuel cell on the school campus, told the school board
last week that the project once again makes economic sense.
Net metering allows the town to treat the electricity usage at the
middle school and the high school as if they are “behind one meter,”
even though they are not physically connected to the same meter, Mr.
Gary explained. That means any energy produced by a fuel cell will be
able to be applied to electricity usage at both schools, not just one.
After much discussion — mainly focused on aesthetics, who is
responsible for overseeing the building project, and what, exactly the
school would be responsible for after it is built — the school board,
with a few contingencies, voted unanimously to allow a fuel cell to be
installed on school property.
The project is part of a deal worked out with UTC, which has received a
$1-million grant from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund to build,
install, and maintain the fuel cell, an electrochemical device that
combines hydrogen fuel with oxygen from the air to produce electricity,
heat and hot water.
Mr. Gary explained the risks associated with a fuel cell are “non
existent.” The hydrogen is immediately converted into heat; there are
no flammable materials stored at the fuel cell site, he said.
It is estimated the fuel cell would provide 95% of the electricity
needed for both Weston High School and Weston Middle School, all of the
heat for the pool at the middle school, a significant amount of the
heat and hot water for the middle school, and all of the air
conditioning for the middle school.
All of the costs for building the fuel cell are being absorbed by UTC,
which is also entirely responsible for monitoring and maintenance costs
for 15 years. UTC will get the tax credits associated with building the
fuel cell, but the schools will get the renewable energy credits
(RECs), which they can trade and sell. “I think that’s going to be a
significant upside,” Mr. Gary said.
Mr. Gary said once the governor signs the energy bill that allows net
metering — something Gov. Dannel Malloy said he definitely plans to do
— the project is essentially ready to go. The grant from CCEF has been
earmarked for it and all the paperwork has been submitted.
The project requires approvals from the school board — which it gave
last week — the Board of Selectmen, a P&Z 8-24 referral, finance
board approval, and then it must go to a Town Meeting for final
UTC will build the 30-foot by eight-foot by eight-foot fuel cell behind
the middle school. The town will lease it from UTC for 15 years. After
that, the town will have the option to renew the lease, buy the fuel
cell, or have UTC remove it at UTC’s expense.
“It’s a deal I think is very worth going into. It’s going to provide a
fixed cost on electricity for the next 15 years,” Mr. Gary said.
The school board deliberated not so much on the fuel cell itself — they
all seemed in agreement on the value of the concept — but rather on
some of the contractual details.
Board member Denise Harvey said she was uneasy about approving the
installation without knowing the terms and conditions of the final
Lewis Brey, the schools director of human resources, explained the
board was being asked at this time only to give its permission to put
something on school grounds. Negotiating and executing the contract
would be up to the town.
Interim Superintendent John Reed added that Jo-Ann Keating, director of
finance for the schools, and Dan Clarke, facilities director, have both
been very involved with and fully vetted contract negotiations to date.
Ms. Harvey was still not comfortable with approving the siting of the
fuel cell without knowing the terms of the installation contract,
mainly because of a concern that the school board might end up with
responsibilities relating to the fuel cell.
Ultimately, a contingency was added to the board’s motion to approve
the installation of the cell that states “any terms and conditions for
the project that relate to any potential role by the Weston Board of
Education” must be satisfactory to the board. The school board’s
approval is also contingent upon the governor signing the law allowiong
net metering, and UTC receiving the $1 million grant for the project.
Board member Dana Levin expressed her concern about what, exactly, the
unit is going to look like. Mr. Gary did not have any drawings or
photos, but eventually found one on his laptop.
The unit will look similar to a rectangular storage container, and it
will be surrounded by chain link fencing.
Ellen Uzenoff, school board vice chairman, said the schools would be
involved with any decisions relating to the exterior appearance.
Phil Schaefer, school board chairman, asked about noise. Mr. Gary said
it is minimal, “less than a home air conditioning unit.”
The Board of Selectmen will likely discuss the fuel cell installation
at its next meeting on Thursday, July 7.
car backers focus
on conquering 'range anxiety'
Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
April 25, 2011
Frank Calder remembers the 38-mile drive from Karl Chevrolet in New
Canaan to his home in Oxford just before Christmas last year in his new
electric car - a Chevrolet Volt, the first one sold in Connecticut.
"Coming home on the Merritt Parkway, it was bumper-to-bumper," Calder
said. It was also cold and he knew both factors would diminish the
car's driving range. "By time I got to Shelton, the battery ran out."
The car automatically switched to the backup gasoline engine, and he
drove the final nine miles home that way. The incident, though
painless, is a reminder of why electric cars, as environmentally and
energy friendly as they might be, can be a difficult sell. The industry
even has a name for it: range anxiety. That in a nutshell is why
the General Assembly is considering a bill this session that would
develop a roadmap for an electric vehicle infrastructure in the state.
"The whole notion here is to take away the fear, take away the anxiety
of whether can get from here to there and back again," said Sen. John
Fonfara, D-Hartford, co-chair of the Energy and Technology committee
and a supporter of the legislation. "You need to know you can go
somewhere and get a quick charge."
The idea is that an infrastructure-a cohesive array of charging
locations--would help the sales of electric vehicles, or EVs, and add
jobs and revenue in related industries, all the while promoting better
air quality and a more efficient use of electricity.
But this is new territory. A half-dozen mainly western states and
District of Columbia participating in a $230 million federal Department
of Energy backed EV infrastructure program are only about a year into
the project. Last week the DOE unveiled a $5 million EV infrastructure
program through its Clean Cities Initiative that will provide states
with funding for public charging systems and partner with Google Maps
to keep track of them.
There's no real blueprint for how to do this, and a few thorny issues
regularly come up, mainly of the chicken-and-egg variety: How much
infrastructure do you build to cure range anxiety so people will buy
the cars, without going overboard on a system that still has few users.
"We can't wait too long or we'll shortchange the grassroots demand,"
said Leo Karl III, the third generation owner of the dealership that
bears the family name.
Volts began trickling into the state in November. Karl has delivered 10
and has about six months worth of orders. Nissan LEAFS, with
larger-range batteries, but no backup engine, are still nearly a year
away from delivery here.
"I can tell you without equivocation that we will not miss this window
here in Connecticut," said Fonfara, who has scheduled a forum on EVs
and infrastructure for Tuesday to solicit recommendations for the
legislation. The existing bill is broadly based on last year's final
report of the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Council created by
then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
The bill calls for the Office of Policy and Management to develop and
implement a plan that would include deployment of high-speed chargers,
often referred to as level 3 chargers. It also establishes a funding
mechanism and recommends waiving sales tax on EVs.
Rep. Sean Williams, R-Oakville, a member of the energy committee, was
the lone vote against the bill - but not because he objected to the
idea. "I don't want to put cart before the horse," he said.
An essential first step, he believes, is development of a time-of-use
metering system that charges people lower rates for electricity in
off-peak hours - mainly overnight when most people would be charging
EVs. He also prefers a tax credit incentive for EV purchase. EVs
presently get up to a $7,500 Federal tax credit, but nothing from the
The type of chargers is also is a point of disagreement. Fonfara
believes that level 3 chargers, also known as DC fast chargers, which
can charge a car in as little as 20 minutes, are crucial. Others argue
not only are they expensive -- around $50,000--but they also run on 440
volts DC, which requires special wiring and use a lot of electricity.
Level 1 chargers use a standard wall plug, but take eight hours or more.
Level 2 chargers, which take four to six hours and run on 220 volts,
are emerging as the industry standard. Prices run from under $500 to
nearly $4,000, depending on sophistication, though many are being
provided free as part of EV ramp-up programs. They're considered ideal
for locations where people can leave cars for a while: shopping areas,
train stations and commuter lots, office buildings, casinos, as well as
Control Module Industries, a fleet management company in Enfield, is
among dozens of companies that have jumped into the charger game in the
last two years. CMI is trying to reduce the need for expensive
re-wiring in homes and has developed one device that shares power with
an existing dryer, stove or water heater. When the appliance is on, the
charger turns off.
Charger manufacturing now takes up 44,000 square feet at CMI with plans
for up to 30,000 more in the next year. Employment is up to 80 from 50,
and stands to rise again.
GE's level 2 WattStation was developed in Plainville, though is
manufactured in North Carolina and will be available later this year.
EV infrastructure efforts are taking shape around the state even
without legislation in place. Utility companies are gathering data to
determine their roles. The interstate service plaza reconstruction
project underway includes conduit for chargers.
Level 2 charging stations have popped up in New Haven, Norwalk and
elsewhere. Westport is securing funding from the Connecticut Clean
Energy Fund for a $330,000 solar charging system at the train station
to charge 20 EVs during the day.
"The only reason that this makes sense during the day is it's an
alternative electric source," said Stephen Smith, who runs the town's
building department. He came up with the idea and believes EV charging
should stay true to it's energy efficiency roots. The town also plans
to install one downtown charging station, free for its first year.
For his part, Frank Calder said he'd like to see a charging station
somewhere, like a grocery store or Costco. "I can make it down OK, but
I won't have enough juice to get back," he said.
But sticking close to home to run errands for the last few months
hasn't exactly left him complaining. "I've only bought 2 gallons of
gasoline," he said. "So I'm averaging 250 miles per gallon."
My next car.
GE opens solar-powered car charging
port in Connecticut
New London DAY
Article published May 26, 2011
PLAINVILLE, Conn. (AP) — General Electric Co. has built a new
solar-powered carport for charging electric vehicles in the parking lot
of its facility in Plainville.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy planned to help open the charging stations on
The 216-by-40-foot, carport includes four hook-ups for plugging in
electric cars, and all the power will come from an array of solar
Workers at the G.E. Consumer and Industrial plant research and make
electric equipment and supplies.
The company hopes to eventually build similar carports across the
Norwalk first in Fairfield County
to have electric car charging stations
David Hennessey, Dhennessey@bcnnew.com
Published: 11:09 a.m., Tuesday, February 1, 2011
City of Norwalk officials hope that "if they build it, they will come."
In this case, the "they" would be an influx of electric cars.
The Norwalk Parking Authority (NPA) and Car Charging Group, Inc.,
provider of electric vehicle charging services, celebrated the
unveiling of the first municipal electric vehicle charging station in
Fairfield County at the South Norwalk Train Station Monday afternoon.
A Chevy Volt was on hand for a demonstration.
Car Charging Group has presided over the installation of six electric
vehicle charging stations in the city -- two at the SoNo station, two
at the Maritime Garage and two at the Yankee Doodle Garage.
"We are proud that we have got this done quickly in advance of the
rollout of the electric vehicles," said Kathryn Hebert, NPA executive
Hebert said seven months ago Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia approached
her about investigating the installation of EV chargers preceding the
2011 release of vehicles like the Volt and the Nissan Leaf.
"[People] needed a place to actually charge them," she said.
Car Charging Group is installing the Coulomb Technologies-manufactured
Level II ChargePoint Networked Charging Stations at no cost to the
city. The dual output stations can deliver a 7.2 kW charge via fixed
18-foot cable and a secondary, 2 kW charge. Both outputs can deliver
"We're all in this together, as far as conserving energy," Moccia said.
"We are at the forefront, installing six in total. This installation is
a part of keeping Norwalk on the move and moving toward a greener city.
We hope it's a classic case of `If you build it, they will come.'"
Other recent green initiatives by the NPA include the installation of
solar powered pay stations, environmentally friendly lighting at all
Norwalk Parking Authority garages and the use of a T3 scooter for
security at the South Norwalk railroad station, which costs only 10
cents per day with little or no maintenance compared to using a gas
Moccia thanked Car Charging Group for its efforts, and added that he
hopes one in five vehicles on the road in 10 years will be electric
According to Car Charging Group CEO Michael Farkas Connecticut was
chosen as one of the seven markets where Chevy is launching its
electric vehicle, the Volt. In addition, Nissan announced more than
20,000 nationwide reservations for the Leaf and Ford just announced an
all-electric Focus to be released later this year. Car Charging Group
provides EV charging stations at no charge to property owners/managers
while retaining ownership, thus allowing drivers access to convenient
locations and partners to realize a percentage of the charging revenue
Farkas said the company's mission is to build a nationwide
infrastructure of EV charging stations so travelers won't have to
suffer from anxiety about whether their electric vehicles will be
supplied for long trips.
"The way that Americans drive is about to undergo a radical evolution,"
he said. "All of these [electric] cars have one thing in common: They
need to be recharged."
Farkas cited estimates that peg 40 million electric vehicles on the
road by the year 2030.
And, he added, "The car charging stations will also serve as a draw for
EV drivers will have the ability to locate and navigate to the nearest
station using a smart phone or Google maps. The ChargePoint Network
also facilitates trip mapping, driver billing, 24/7 driver assistance,
and greenhouse gas and energy savings measurements.
"The core of our mission is to meet the parking needs of businesses,
residents and visitors," said NPA Chairman John Federici in a release.
"With the arrival of these EV charging stations, the NPA is preparing
to meet their evolving needs, while requiring no capital outlay from
the NPA or City of Norwalk."
Gas-Free Cars Cruising Toward
Manufacturers Say Plug-In Electric
Vehicles Will Arrive In 2011, 2012
By DON STACOM, firstname.lastname@example.org
4:57 PM EDT, October 3, 2010
Plug-in electric vehicles are coming to Connecticut soon, and
despite a lot of questions about what shape the electric future might
hold, the state is preparing for a warm welcome.
In recent announcements, Chevrolet promised that its highly
anticipated, electric-powered Volt will be here in early 2011.
Nissan and BMW said their versions won't be far behind. Ford,
Mitsubishi, Toyota and others are expected to introduce models in
2012. Environmentalists across the country envision plug-in
electric vehicles, or EVs, as a key phase in a technological revolution
that will eventually end the era of the gasoline engine.
President Barack Obama has declared that to begin reducing dependence
on petroleum and cutting carbon emissions, the nation needs to replace
a million regular cars with plug-in hybrids in the next five years.
But even in Connecticut, a state that has tried to place itself near
the front edge of the green energy wave, any revolution looks to be at
least a generation away. There are a few thousand gas-electric
hybrids on state roads, and fewer than 50 plug-in cars. They represent
about one-tenth of a percent of the 3 million gas- or diesel-fueled
"The nation is in love with the automobile — we're hopeful that passion
will start to extend to EVs," Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a major proponent,
said last week at an event promoting the introduction of Nissan's
Rell's office earlier this year considered setting a goal that by 2020,
Connecticut would be home to 50,000 EVs. Even if that goal were met, it
would represent less than 2 percent of all vehicles in the state. A
study panel this summer concluded that 25,000 EVs is a more realistic
"There are going to be early adopters, people who will buy these right
away," said Watson Collins, clean air transportation manager at
Northeast Utilities. "They could be people who care about carbon
emissions, or people who are interested in the most advanced
Just a couple of decades ago, the public widely dismissed the notion of
electric cars as impossibly futuristic. Late-night comedians joked that
mileage might be great, but the extension cords would have to be 100
miles long. And until now, that restriction hasn't been far off
the mark: Hybrids like the Toyota Prius can't get far on battery power
alone, and run mostly on gas. All-electric plug-in cars, meanwhile,
have been designer or collector models, usually with short ranges,
limited practicality, little pep and no chance of mass production.
But Nissan's soon-to-be-released LEAF is an all-electric sedan that the
company promotes as a head-to-head competitor against gas-fueled
rivals. Nissan says the LEAF can go up to 100 miles without recharging
and can hit 90 mph, making it a realistic option for many commuters,
even those frequently using highways.
Chevy says the Volt, a plug-in hybrid, can run 40 miles on electric
power alone, but includes a gas engine that can recharge the batteries
for a range of hundreds of miles.
The EV category covers two types of cars: All-electric vehicles that
have no internal combustion engine, and plug-in hybrids that carry a
gas engine as a backup. Familiar hybrids like the Toyota Prius are not
included, because they primarily use a gas engine with battery power as
a secondary source. Plug-ins produce substantially less pollution, and
Toyota recently began testing a plug-in version of its popular Prius.
Connecticut has had a panel of experts trying to remove the obstacles
to broad-market adoption of such cars.
The biggest challenge — the need for recharging — can be accomplished
with a network of strategically placed public charging stations to
supplement the main charging system in each owner's garage or home,
NU's Collins said.
Connecticut Light & Power is working with Connecticut public
utility officials on such questions as how to ensure that home-based
chargers comply with building and fire codes, how to train and license
electricians to do the installations, and where to install public
charging stations. The public stations will cost about $7,500 apiece,
and CL&P is deploying a small number of them to test.
Developing an electric-car infrastructure is part of a campaign to
entice carmakers to choose Connecticut as one of their early-rollout
states for the new EVs.
Chevrolet selected the state as one of a half-dozen states where buyers
can get the Volt this winter. Dealers in other states probably won't
see them until the second half of 2011. BMW next summer is using
Connecticut along with New York, California and Massachusetts as early
markets for leasing its ActiveE prototypes. Mass-production models are
to go on sale in 2013. Even for states committed to the EV
business, there will be years of refinements and trial-and-error in
setting up a system that accommodates gas-free vehicles easily and
Connecticut planners, for instance, still have to determine how to
recoup the costs of electricity dispensed at the public charging
Installing credit card-style billing systems would be expensive and
perhaps unprofitable, Collins said. At current rates, fully recharging
an EV battery would cost about $1.20, so communities might be better
off not even billing, Collins said. An alternative might be
old-fashioned parking meters at the charging site, since a full charge
would take several hours, he said. Another possibility is encouraging
malls to provide the stations free as a way to draw customers, he said.
The state, itself, plans to try out at least one EV in the next year or
so. The University of Connecticut campus at Storrs is the likely spot
for testing an electric car in fleet service, possibly assigning it to
the catering division or to a university department head, said Donna
Micklus, spokeswoman for the state Department of Administrative
Services. The state owns a fleet of about 2,100 passenger cars,
including 325 Priuses.
The federal government is offering tax credits of up to $7,500 to EV
buyers. The list price is $41,000 for the Volt and $33,000 for the
LEAF, and dealer discounts are unlikely in the initial years when
supplies are limited. To promote private purchase of EVs, the
state is considering waiving sales taxes, offering parking incentives
and allowing EVs to use high-occupancy vehicle lanes at any time.
Those expenses and lost revenue might affect Connecticut's budget, but
EV numbers will be so light in the next few years that it's not a
concern, according to the governor's budget office.
"This is still nascent technology," said John Mengacci, undersecretary
for policy development and planning. "This isn't something that will
bring wholesale change soon."
fuel cell industry braces for potential change
Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
July 2, 2012
Before the clean energy world knew about fuel cells, United
Technologies knew about them. UTC pioneered the modern fuel cell for
NASA beginning with the Apollo space program in the 1960s through the
end of the shuttle program last year.
But UTC's love affair with fuel cells could be about to end. In the
last several weeks UTC's CEO and CFO have made statements indicating
that the sale of its storied fuel cell unit, UTC Power, is under
consideration to raise capital for its purchase of Goodrich.
While UTC has declined to comment further on the subject, the situation
has given rise to more than a parlor game of "will-they-or-won't-they."
It magnifies issues related to the U.S. fuel cell industry as a whole.
It also poses potentially serious questions for Connecticut, where the
largest fuel cell supply chain in the world has grown up anchored by
UTC Power based in South Windsor and FuelCell Energy with headquarters
in Danbury and manufacturing in Torrington.
"What we've tried to do is not to help a particular company, but to
build an industry," said Joel Rinebold, director of energy initiatives
at the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology. He said there are
nearly 600 companies in Connecticut with ties to the fuel cell industry
accounting for more than 2,500 jobs and nearly $500 million in total
revenue. "When you build an industry companies will come to you and I
believe that's happened."
The question is, will they stay?
Mini power plants
Fuel cells use hydrogen and oxygen to make energy in a
noncombustion process that also produces byproducts of water and steam
that can be used for hot water and heat. This makes them extremely
efficient. While they are considered "clean" energy, they are not
"renewable" energy, because in most cases the hydrogen is produced
using natural gas.
UTC Power and other companies have developed fuel cells for automotive
applications, but Connecticut's fuel cell industry is largely
stationary fuel cells: essentially mini power plants that run and heat
large industrial facilities, college campuses and other structures.
UTC and Fuel Cell Energy make the largest units in the world, 400 and
300 kilowatts, respectively. Several can be stacked to supply power to
the electric grid, a practice that has garnered far more interest
outside the U.S., though Connecticut may be close to sanctioning its
first such facility.
It's by no means certain that UTC Power will be sold or that if it is,
new owners would leave the state or even the country. But the situation
is a reminder that without broad nurturing, the U.S. fuel cell industry
could suffer the same fate as the solar industry and be snatched up by
another nation that better recognizes its potential.
Countries like South Korea have policies that embrace for fuel cells,
and it's become a huge market for UTC Power and Fuel Cell Energy, which
has partnered with the Korean energy giant POSCO for several years.
Just last week, Fuel Cell Energy finalized a joint venture with
Fraunhofer IKTS in Germany, one of several European countries that
support fuel cell use and development.
While 80 percent of UTC Power's business has been in the United States,
the other 20 percent is in Korea. FuelCell Energy said its business has
been evenly split in and out of the U.S. But its entire backlog, its
largest since the company was founded in 1969, according to Vice
President Frank Wolak, is overseas.
"Ideally we'd like to develop federal policy to advance the fuel cell
industry as whole as Korea has," he said.
The worry is that as markets develop offshore, it will be more
efficient and cheaper to locate fuel cell manufacturing closer to them.
And that a player of UTC Power's size -- just over 400 employees,
though down from recent years and now smaller than FuelCell Energy,
which has more than 500 employees -- would fuel an exodus were it to
leave the state.
"I think we've created a pretty good ecosystem here in Connecticut for
development of fuel cells," said Trent Molter, a 28-year industry
veteran and founder five years ago of fuel cell-related Sustainable
Innovations. "But anytime you have a disruption in the ecosystem,
there's going to be ripples. What those ripples will be -- hard to say."
A global viewpoint
Kerry-Ann Adamson, a fuel cell expert and analyst for Colorado-based
Pike Research, said that for a potential sale of UTC Power to be
"sending shock waves around Connecticut is premature."
She said her home base -- Edinburgh, Scotland -- gave her a unique
global view of the fuel cell industry. "In the end of the day this is
an industry for the entire U.S. to lose," she said, calling concerns
about the fuel cell industry within Connecticut's borders
"Looking at the size of the fuel cell industry," she said, "there is a
solid base of fuel cell companies in the U.S. that could be global
leaders. And I don't say that lightly."
Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, a longtime fuel cell champion and
founder of the House Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Caucus in 2004, was equally
worried that despite a visit from U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to
UTC Power last year, inconsistent federal support for the fuel cell
industry could let it slip away.
"It IS America's to lose," he said. "I am very concerned about that."
He said he had not talked with UTC about a potential sale but
indicated, as did others, that while the fuel cell industry in the U.S.
is growing, it may not be at quite the pace companies had hoped.
"I have always admired UTC for carrying fuel cell technology at a loss
for a number of years," he said.
"(Former chairman and CEO) George David would often remind me, as would
(current CEO and chairman) Louis Chenevert, 'We believe in their
science and innovation,' " Larson said.
Connecticut a 'prime' state
At the moment in Connecticut, fuel cells are being eyed as centerpieces
for microgrid projects and small-scale applications after getting
something of a public relations boost after Tropical Storm Irene and
the October snowstorm when schools powered by fuel cells were able to
function as shelters. The microgrid effort has brought a flurry of
interest from non-Connecticut companies looking to do business here,
though not necessarily establishing a manufacturing presence.
California-based Bloom Energy, while declining an interview request,
has filed with the secretary of the state in Connecticut to do business
here, and other company leaders said Bloom's representatives have been
visible at meetings. But Bloom's East Coast facility will be in
ClearEdge Power, based in Oregon, began seeking business here at the
beginning of the year, looking to position its 100 kilowatt and 5
kilowatt fuel cells for microgrids and as backup generation. A 5
kilowatt fuel cell, which can run a large home or small business, costs
"We see Connecticut as really one of the prime states favorable towards
stationary fuel cell technology in our size and range," said Neal
Starling, senior vice president of sales and marketing.
Starling said ClearEdge is also discussing microgrid possibilities with
several communities, though he declined to name them.
In the meantime, many industry observers worry that a state vs. state
fuel cell competition with the top players -- Connecticut, Ohio, New
York, South Carolina and Virginia, as well as Vancouver in Canada --
vying for companies instead of working together will also hurt the
"I think what's good, Connecticut typically gets the phone call because
of the supply chain." said Robert Friedland, president of Proton
OnSite, a Wallingford-based fuel cell-related hydrogen company he
founded in 1996.
But he was also among many fuel cell company leaders who said they
constantly get calls from other states asking them to move there.
"It's a waste of our time fighting between Connecticut and New Jersey
or Connecticut and Massachusetts," he said. "You miss the bigger
High hopes, low
growing the fuel cell industry
Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
September 20, 2010
In the last decade, fuel cells--those extremely efficient
electro-chemical devices that make power from hydrogen and oxygen--have
been seen as Connecticut's ticket to the alternative energy ball.
The state remains a hub of the fuel cell industry, but it is a glass
half full and half empty.
Half full, it has created jobs and increased business despite an
economic downturn that all but killed financing for
multi-million-dollar fuel cell projects, even as improved technology
has made them cheaper.
Half empty, gains have been small, with projects mainly overseas or in
California. Connecticut's own fuel cell plans have languished,
undermining a strategy to become home to fuel cell demonstration
projects that would spur business.
State funding and incentives are nearly nonexistent and companies
headquartered here say if they weren't already in the state, they would
have no reason to come and expect other fuel cell manufacturers won't.
"I get calls regularly from a handful of states and a couple of
countries: 'What can I do to get you to come here?'" said Mike Brown
vice president for government affairs and general counsel at UTC Power
in South Windsor, a division of United Technologies. UTC Power has
supplied fuel cells to NASA for every manned space flight since 1966 -
a relationship that ended in April.
UTC Power has doubled employment in the last five years, has had a
steady stream of clients and can boast nearly 300 systems in 19
countries. But Brown and others say Connecticut's hold on the fuel cell
industry is tenuous.
"If you're going to have an energy industry in the state, the first
thing you better do is figure out what energy means to that state and I
don't think we've done that," said Brown, who advocates creation of a
cabinet-level energy position in state government. "Connecticut has its
head in the sand on lot of this energy stuff."
Nowhere near as imposing as wind turbines or sleek as solar panels,
fuel cells sit in industrial-looking boxes or motor vehicle engine
compartments. Their only waste products - water and heat - are often
put to use as well.
While UTC Power developed the one fuel cell bus in use in Hartford
since 2007 -- four more are finally scheduled for delivery to CT
Transit in the next six months - the core of Connecticut's fuel cell
industry is stationary fuel cells, essentially mini power plants. They
can serve specific sites, like the Cabela's in East Hartford and a new
state-of-the-art high-rise apartment building in New Haven, or they can
be connected to the power grid. Plans to use fuel cells to generate
grid power in Connecticut through the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund's
Project 150 have stalled, with eight projects still in need of
In Connecticut, according to a preliminary white paper by the
Connecticut Center for Advanced Technologies, there are about 80
companies, organizations, and governmental and academic entities
related to fuel cells - a number that has not changed since about 2006.
In that time the related jobs have increased from around 2,100 to more
than 2,900. Revenues remain flat at about $340 million.
The state still boasts the most widely renowned academic center for
fuel cells at the University of Connecticut, though recently many other
universities have created or enlarged similar programs.
A 10-year projection three years ago anticipated 120,000 fuel cell
related jobs in Connecticut and $18.6 billion in revenue. Many insist
it's still possible, though admit the state no longer has attractive
enough incentives to win the lion's share of the industry's growth.
"If the market does develop, will Connecticut catch this market?" asked
Joel Rinebold, the director of energy initiatives at CCAT. "That's a
Money is part of the problem. Federal investment tax credits typically
cover about one-third of fuel cell costs, but the upfront expense is
often too steep without assistance. The Clean Energy Fund's 2011-2012
comprehensive plan, still awaiting approval by the Department of Public
Utility Control, earmarks $8 million in federal stimulus funds for fuel
cells, but is effectively already allocated to projects in the
pipeline. The Fund's Best in Class program, which would include money
for fuel cells, is out of money and awaiting approval for more. A $5
million pilot project for fuel cells in state buildings was included in
an energy bill that passed the legislature last session but was vetoed
by Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
Most parties also suggest policies such as carbon taxes, a federal
standard for renewable energy and innovations like a smart grid instead
of the large centralized electrical grid throughout the U.S. now would
help push fuel cells into greater use.
"It is a jigsaw puzzle and you have to put all the pieces together,"
Rinebold said. "But you have to put them together in the right way."
For companies like Proton Energy Systems of Wallingford, which as a
hydrogen generation company does about 35 percent of its business for
fuel cells, even one piece of that puzzle would be welcome.
"Connecticut, despite being a hub, does a very poor job," said Mark
Schiller, vice president for business development, who said Proton
hasn't received a dime from Connecticut for demonstration projects
since 2004. Next month, it's opening the state's first public hydrogen
fueling station - funded on its own. (Toyota is supplying fuel cell
cars as part of a nationwide promotion.)
"Quite honestly," Schiller said, "I think Connecticut is at risk of
losing some of its technological know-how to other parts of the
Such sentiment frustrates Rep. John Larson, D-1st District and founder
of the Congressional Fuel Cell Caucus in 2004. He advocates a mandate
to convert new state buildings to green technology, including fuel
cells, and lays part of the blame on a Wall Street mentality that looks
for short-term profits. Connecticut's failure to step up to the plate
is at its own peril, he said.
"Someone else is going to make the investment because they get it and
they're going to bet on patient capital and bet on the long term
result," Larson said.
While not a focus of the current governor's race, Democratic candidate
Dan Malloy has criticized Rell for not using more stimulus funds for
"The state either demonstrates the desire to retain this industry, and
I mean the manufacturing not just the research," he said, "or we lose
Republican candidate Tom Foley is more cautious. "I don't think it's an
appropriate role for government to pick technological winners and
losers and invest an awful lot in a particular technology," he said.
Fuel Cell Energy in Danbury, the state's only other fuel cell
manufacturer has never turned a profit. The company's stock is hovering
slightly over a dollar a share 10 years after it was more than $50 and
stock analysts tend to rate it a hold. Its fuel cells are the ones
stalled in Project 150 and recent business relies on a partnership with
the South Korean power company POSCO (which owns 10 percent of its
stock) and projects in California.
Vice President Frank Wolak is also frustrated, but optimistic. The
state, he said, is squandering an opportunity to build on the export
economy Fuel Cell Energy and UTC Power created. "The industry has
continued in sort of a struggling way to keep moving forward while
external pieces remain disjointed," he said, but added that there is a
"real potential for erosion."
"Connecticut had the right framework and right leadership in place," he
said. "What's gotten lost is the willingness to move forward in a
really aggressive way. This is a good industry. Let's find a way to let
We'd almost bet he had his head down - never heard it coming.
Bicyclist in Critical Condition After
BY HILDA MUÑOZ, email@example.com
6:48 AM EDT, September 10, 2010
– A bicyclist struck by a car on West Road Thursday is in critical
condition today, state police said.
The accident happened about 6:42 p.m. in front of the entrance to
Johnny Appleseed Apartments.
The bicyclist, 49-year-old Brendan Mcgee of Ellington, rode into the
path of a 2010 Toyota Prius and was struck, police said. Mcgee was
thrown from the bicycle and landed in the roadway, state police said.
The driver and passenger of the Toyota were not injured. Mcgee was
flown by helicopter to Hartford Hospital.
Copyright © 2010, The Hartford
good to me!
Only around $10,000 more than most people
think it is worth, however.
Volt’s computer keeps track of energy usage
and energy efficiency. Using a small gasoline engine when the battery
is depleted, Norm Bodine’s care has averaged 245 mpg “lifetime,” in
this case a total of about 5,000 miles driven.
Volt lover revolted by publicity
Jim Larsen / The Record editor
May 4, 2012 ·
Updated 3:48 PM
With a Ph.D in physics and a long career with a Detroit auto supply
business behind him, Norm Bodine of Clinton knows his cars. And
revolted that a futuristic car he purchased new last fall came with a
questionable reputation after a faulty report on FOX News and various
other media outlets.
In response, Bodine wrote to the FOX reporter who made the misinformed
report as well as its popular commentator Bill O’Reilly, complaining
about the erroneous “facts” regarding a fire and the Volt’s mileage. He
didn’t get a response, so instead set out on a one-man crusade to sing
the praises of the Chevrolet Volt.
The Volt isn’t an all-electric car, as it depends on a small gas
generator when the lithium battery’s charge falls below a certain
point. Bodine sees that as a good thing.
“There’s no anxiety,” he said, comparing the Volt to the all-electric
Nissan Leaf. If an all-electric car like the Leaf loses its charge, he
said, “You call a tow truck and wait for an hour.”
He described the Volt’s battery as “a large array of the same batteries
you use in cell phones.” It’s light and recharges in about 5 1/2 hours
on 110 household current or 2 1/2 hours at one of the 240 volt charging
stations which are starting to pop up around the island. But it can be
driven any time on its gasoline engine, supported by a 5 1/2 gallon
The Volt, unlike the Prius, boasts an all-electric drive train, but
even using the gas engine it costs only 2.5 cents per mile to run. “I
pay one-quarter the cost for gas,” he said, comparing the Volt to his
But it’s the electricity that makes all the difference in the mileage.
After 5,000 miles of driving, Bodine’s Volt has averaged 246 miles per
gallon according to its onboard computer.
Bodine drove his Volt into a Coupeville parking lot recently and pulled
up next to a BMW 3 series vehicle. The Volt cost $42,000 but came with
a $7,500 government rebate, making the two vehicles similar in sticker
price. In terms of handling, braking, appearance and features, the two
cars are comparable, he said. He lauded how the Volt handles on the
road and he can relax in his heated leather seat while listening to the
Bose sound system. Having owned a gas-electric hybrid Prius, he said it
doesn’t approach the capabilities of the Volt.
“There’s a pretty dramatic difference,” he said. “It doesn’t handle
well at high speeds. This handles like a BMW 3 series.”
He drove 24.5 miles all-electric from his Maxwelton area home to reach
Coupeville, and the computer display reported he had 12 miles of
battery usage left. It wouldn’t get him back home, but the gas engine
would with, as Bodine frequently says, “No anxiety.” On a warmer day,
the car can run for 50 miles or more on battery power.
Bodine has a head for numbers but not everyone does, and he says that’s
frustrating. “I get a lot of questions but it’s hard for them to
understand,” he said of inquiring people. “Electric cars are the car of
the future except for the ‘anxiety’ problem. This is a practical car.”
He’s confident enough in its dependability to say it would be suitable
for a family with just one car. The battery, which comes with a five
year warranty, is built in behind the front seat, dividing the two back
seats, so seating is limited to four people.
The Volt got off to a shaky start when FOX and other news outlets
emphasized a battery fire it experienced during federal safety tests.
Bodine said the test was extreme. “They ran a spear through the
battery, rolled the car twice and let it sit. Two day later it burned,”
he said. “A normal car would have burned instantly. In a crash in a
Volt, there’s no immediate problem.”
He noted the Volt eventually achieved the highest 5 star federal safety
rating, but by then the damage had already been done. “It’s a press
problem,” he said. Chevrolet offered a recall for all Volt owners to
reinforce the box protecting the battery, but Bodine calls the safety
fix only “marginally necessary.” He might take his Volt to the
Anacortes dealer he purchased it from when he has time.
Bodine said the Volt is a new concept in electric vehicles because of
the lithium batteries, electric drive train and small gas motor which
soundlessly kicks in when the battery is low. “What’s new is the
combination of everything,” he said. “But marketing is hard. It’s hard
to tell the customer what he’s got.”
Despite the poor publicity, Chevrolet has sold about 30,000 Volts.
There is one other on Whidbey that Bodine knows of, owned by a man in
Greenbank. The federal $7,500 rebate is good on the first 200,000 cars
“It puts the American car industry back at number one after 30 years,”
Bodine said. “I’d recommend it to anyone, and I have no stock in GM.”
Regulator, Like Oil and Water
By JAMES B. STEWART, NYTIMES
January 13, 2012
Let’s say you’re the biggest owner of a global auto company. You take
the company’s flagship new vehicle, twist it, crash it, poke it and
leave it outside in the elements for weeks until its battery catches
fire. Then you generate a storm of publicity and watch the share price
and the value of your ownership stake decline.
This, essentially, is what the United States has done to General Motors
and its signature new vehicle, the Chevy Volt.
If it wasn’t already obvious, at least one reason the government
shouldn’t own controlling stakes in major companies is that ownership
and regulation are inherently incompatible. This week, the Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney defended his tenure as head of the
private equity firm Bain Capital by comparing Bain’s role in troubled
companies to the government’s rescue of G.M.
Rest assured that if Bain Capital owned G.M., it would not be
subjecting the Volt to severe safety tests and trumpeting the negative
More than a year after G.M.’s return to public ownership, the
government still owns just less than 30 percent of the company, or
about 500 million shares. Of course, the government must hold G.M. to
the same strict safety standards it applies to all auto manufacturers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or N.H.T.S.A., said
in late November that it would assess the risk of fire in Volts after
two incidents of fires following crash tests.
But some Republican congressmen questioned whether the Obama
administration had concealed the results. And conspiracy theorists and
others have taken to the Internet to argue that the agency has been too
soft on G.M. and has a motive to soft-pedal or even distort the results
because of the government’s ownership stake.
Safety Research and Strategies, a Massachusetts consulting firm,
claimed the government’s Volt crash report was little more than a
“sales pitch” for the plug-in hybrid vehicle.
Others have suggested that the agency was too tough, even if
subliminally, in an effort to forestall any perception of a conflict,
and that the danger of a Volt catching fire was remote.
Car and Driver magazine noted that the Volt’s batteries caught fire
three weeks and one week after the crash tests, and said that “if you
ask us, even just one day is plenty of time to safely exit a vehicle
that’s in peril of burning.” The magazine noted that no Volts had
caught fire in the real world and that only three safety complaints
showed up in the government’s database for all of 2010 and 2011, none
involving fire hazards. “No vehicle is completely and infallibly safe,”
the magazine said. The risk of fire following a crash in an electric
car also appears to be vastly less than in a conventional gas-powered
Tim Massad, assistant Treasury secretary for financial stability, told
me this week that Treasury, which oversees the government’s investment,
“is not G.M. or Chrysler’s regulator and has no involvement with
N.H.T.S.A.” I haven’t seen any evidence that the agency acted in
anything but a professional and independent manner with respect to the
Volt, but the controversy illustrates why even appearances of a
conflict need to be avoided.
How much has the Volt controversy cost G.M.? One measure of the new
G.M. is its aggressive, albeit expensive, response. The old G.M. might
have dug in and fought the government. It could have appealed and
stalled for years while losing the public relations war. This time,
G.M. immediately offered a loaner vehicle to any existing Volt owner
concerned about the vehicle’s safety. Since then, G.M. has announced
that it will make structural enhancements and install a sensor to warn
of any battery fluid leak.
Of course, what choice did G.M. have, given that its regulator is also
its biggest owner?
Consumers seem to be reacting positively. N.H.T.S.A. has now awarded
the Volt five stars, the top ranking, in its crash test results (a
ranking that is also suspect to conspiracy theorists). G.M. said
December was the best sales month ever for the Volt, but it’s still
selling in small numbers, and it’s impossible to know how many
potential customers were discouraged by the bad publicity. And the
damage to G.M.’s image is also hard to quantify, but surely
considerable. The Volt was expected to deliver a halo effect to all of
G.M.’s brands and bolster its overall reputation, much as the Prius did
for Toyota until the company ran into its own safety and quality
issues. That effort has suffered at least a temporary setback. (A G.M.
spokeswoman declined to comment.)
And it’s not just safety issues where the government’s interests
conflict. Along with other bailout recipients who remain under
government oversight, G.M. is subject to executive pay restrictions. No
private equity owner would agree to such limitations on its ability to
attract and keep management talent. The pay constraints apply to the
top five executive offices and extend deep into the ranks to include
the 20 most highly compensated employees.
At this week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Ford
was showing off Lincoln’s new design director, Max Wolff, who took to
the stage to unveil the boldly redesigned Lincoln MKZ. Ford poached Mr.
Wolff from G.M.’s Cadillac division in 2010, and design directors are
some of the most highly paid people in the industry. The G.M.
spokeswoman wouldn’t comment on whether G.M. could match or top Ford’s
offer, but said that the company continued to attract top talent
because of its “iconic” status and because people wanted to be part of
“an incredible comeback story.” Still, G.M.’s chief executive, Dan
Akerson, has said he’d like to see pay restrictions eased.
(G.M. got approval to pay Mr. Akerson $9 million for 2011, which was in
the lower quarter of chief executive pay at the nation’s largest
companies, the automaker said.)
“The pay issue is a legitimate concern,” Adam Jonas, a Morgan Stanley
auto analyst, told me this week just after returning from the auto show
in Detroit. “There’s a race for talent. Management has to attract and
retain people outside Detroit, design talent and engineering talent.
I’m concerned about that.”
Mr. Massad of Treasury noted that the pay restrictions are embedded in
the bailout legislation and could only be removed by Congress.
Otherwise, “We’re not in any way involved in the day-to-day management
of the company,” he said, which was confirmed by G.M. officials I spoke
The Obama administration also has a political agenda that often
conflicts with ownership interests. It wants to keep unions happy,
promote the environment and lift employment, among other goals, which
may conflict with maximizing returns to taxpayers. Anything having to
do with G.M. is likely to be a hot-button issue during an election year.
The Bush and Obama administrations can rightly hail their rescue of the
auto industry as a success — a rejuvenated G.M. has spent $5 billion in
capital investment and added 15,000 jobs, and the Treasury estimates
the rescue saved more than a million jobs in the United States,
including those in the supply chain. G.M. has hit many impressive
milestones on the road to recovery, including its November 2010 public
offering and seven consecutive profitable quarters.
But continued government ownership has not bolstered the stock price.
Auto company shares have been battered by many factors beyond the
control of the Obama administration, including the debt crisis in
Europe and the Japanese tsunami. But G.M. went public at $33 a share,
and after trading as high as $39, this week shares were barely above
$24. With benefit of hindsight, the government could have gotten out at
a much higher price.
A problem should the government decide to sell now is that many
analysts believe G.M. is undervalued. Its price-to-earnings ratio, a
popular valuation measure, was a mere 5.4 this week, compared with an
average for the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index of nearly 15. “In
terms of straight valuation, I’d advise the government not to sell,”
Mr. Jonas said. “I tell clients the same thing. The stock is worth $45
in our view. It’s one of our top picks. You have to be patient, and it
may be a jagged journey, but it’s very undervalued.”
But one of the reasons it may be undervalued is that the government
owns so much of it, and the longer that continues, the worse G.M.’s
competitive position is likely to become.
Mr. Massad said: “The government should not generally be in the
business of owning shares in private companies. At the same time, we
have to balance that with the goal of maximizing returns to taxpayers.
We’re prepared to be patient.”
The administration has not unveiled any exit strategy, but in my view,
it needs one. The Treasury Department is no Bain Capital, nor should it
try to be a private equity investor. So far, the Treasury’s sense of
market timing doesn’t seem any more successful than that of most money
managers. It’s been more than three years since the Bush administration
stepped in to save the auto industry. It’s time to declare victory and
liberate G.M. from the onus of continuing government ownership.
Scheduled To Investigate
Chevrolet Volt's Role in Fire At Barkhamsted Home
The Hartford Courant
By JANICE PODSADA, firstname.lastname@example.org
2:16 p.m. EDT, April 18, 2011
A fire apparently reignited inside the battery of a new Chevrolet Volt
car early Monday, less than five days after the Volt, an electric
hybrid, was involved in a blaze that destroyed a Barkhamsted garage
where it had been plugged in for recharging.
Local authorities have been investigating whether Thursday's blaze was
sparked by the Volt, but had not yet determined a cause when the fire
"The rekindle this morning really adds to the mystery," Barkhamsted
Fire Marshal Bill Baldwin said today.
Representatives from General Motors, the vehicle's manufacturer plan,
are scheduled to arrive in Barkhamsted this evening to examine the car,
The hybrid electric car was not plugged in this morning when the fire
rekindled, Baldwin said.
The first fire, which occurred last Thursday about 5 a.m., destroyed
the attached garage, the Chevrolet Volt and a Suzuki vehicle that had
been converted so that it too ran on electricity. The homeowners had
apparently plugged both vehicles in for recharging when Thursday's fire
G.M. Puts $41,000 Price Tag on
By NICK BUNKLEY
July 27, 2010
DETROIT — The Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in car capable of driving about 40
miles at a time on battery power without using any gasoline, will have
a sticker price of $41,000 before a $7,500 federal tax credit, General
Motors said Tuesday.
G.M. will also lease the Volt for $350 a month in the hopes of
attracting consumers who want lower monthly payments or would hesitate
to buy the vehicle until they are more comfortable with its technology.
The carmaker has begun taking orders for the Volt, using the Web site
getmyvolt.com to direct consumers to a participating dealer. Dealers in
selected states, including California, New York and Michigan, are
scheduled to begin receiving the vehicle in November.
G.M. had kept the Volt’s price a secret since unveiling the model as a
concept more than three years ago, though executives had hinted that it
would cost about $40,000. The price is considerably more than the
Nissan Leaf, a pure electric car that goes on sale for $32,780 in
December, but G.M. insists the Volt is a better value.
“You can drive it cross country, and our competition can’t do that,”
Joel Ewanick, G.M.’s vice president for United States marketing, said.
Nissan’s Leaf is expected to have a range of about 100 miles on a
battery charge. The Volt has a small gasoline engine — which will
require premium fuel, G.M. said Tuesday — that will give the car a
total range of about 340 miles and allow drivers to fill up at a gas
station if they cannot immediately charge the battery.
Both G.M. and Nissan are counting on the government’s $7,500 tax credit
for plug-in cars to go a long way toward making their vehicles more
affordable. The credit, which buyers must claim when filing their tax
return, begins to phase out after the manufacturer produces 200,000
In the case of leases, the leasing company is eligible to claim the
credit. Nissan plans to lease the base model of the Leaf for $349 a
month for three years with $1,999 because of delivery. The Volt’s
$350-a-month lease is also for three years, with $2,500 due at delivery.
At those rates, lessees would pay $14,563 over three years for the Leaf
and $15,100 for the Volt.
G.M. plans to build 10,000 Volts by the end of 2011 and 30,000 in 2012.
The company has said it does not expect to earn a profit from early
generations of the vehicle.
Instead, G.M. hopes the Volt will improve its reputation among
environmentally conscious consumers and demonstrate the capabilities of
battery-powered vehicles, eventually generating earnings after the
technology becomes less expensive.
Only 600 Chevrolet dealers in G.M.’s so-called launch markets will be
able to sell the Volt at first. People who live outside the areas where
it will initially go on sale can buy the vehicle if they travel to a
participating dealer, but they would not be allowed to lease it until
sales are expanded nationwide by 2012, G.M. said.
As of Tuesday, 52,464 people in all 50 states and 97 countries had
joined an unofficial waiting list at the Web site gm-volt.com, which is
not affiliated with G.M. The average price the waitlist members said
they were willing to pay for the vehicle is $31,437.88, more than
$2,000 below the amount it will cost after the tax credit.
G.M. limited the Volt’s introduction to six states and Washington,
D.C., so that it can train dealership personnel to properly educate
buyers and to service the Volt. “This vehicle comes with the highest
degree of training requirements of any vehicle launched in the history
of General Motors,” Mr. Ewanick said.
The Volt uses a standard 120-volt cord to charge its 400-pound battery.
G.M. said each charge would cost owners from $1 to $1.50, depending on
electricity costs. The battery is covered under warranty for eight
years or 100,000 miles, three years longer than G.M. guarantees its
G.M. said the Volt will come with a built-in navigation system,
hands-free telephone capabilities and other features not normally
offered as standard equipment. A fully loaded Volt will cost $3,600
above the base price.
NYC opens 1st public electric car
MARC BEJA, Associated Press Writer
Published: 10:26 a.m., Thursday, July 15, 2010
NEW YORK (AP) -- In an effort to encourage New York City residents to
choose environmentally friendly ways to travel, the city unveiled its
first electric car charging station on Wednesday and says more will be
placed throughout the city.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, joined by Housing and Urban Development
Secretary Shaun Donovan, demonstrated how to use the public car
charging station installed on a Manhattan parking lot.
"The electric vehicle is not just a pipe dream or a scene from the
Jetsons," Bloomberg said. "It is here and it is here right now."
He said 100 similar charging stations will be installed throughout the
city by September 2011. The city already uses 10 electric cars to check
for potholes and other street problems, and plans to buy about 40 more
to be used by the parks and transportation departments.
Charging an electric car is similar to pumping gas. After tapping a
special payment card on the front of the machine, simply insert a pump
into the car.
Coulumb Technologies, based in Campbell, Calif., received $15 million
of federal economic stimulus money to make the chargers.
Richard Lowenthal, the company's CEO, said 4,600 chargers will be
installed across the country by September 2011.
A car with a fully drained battery can be charged in less than four
hours, Lowenthal said. The cost to charge a car would be determined by
the company that maintains the station, he said. The first charging
station in Manhattan's far West side will be free for a month.
There are different kinds of electric cars. Some, like Nissan's Leaf,
are purely electric, using just a rechargeable battery for power. The
Chevrolet Volt by General Motors also has a battery but includes a
small gas-powered engine that creates electricity when the battery
charge runs out after 40 miles. Other models are plug-in hybrids with
engines that get power from both batteries and gas. But the common
feature is that the vehicles can be recharged using a power cord and a
Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with IHS automotive, said electric cars
may not be good for everyone because they cannot be driven long
"Some people are really uncomfortable with the idea that you're only
going to be able to go 100 miles round trip," Lindland said. "The
typical car has a 300-mile range. That's what people are used to."
Donovan said spending money to build electric cars will help create new
jobs and allow the country to keep up with competitors outside the U.S.
He said stimulus funds are not just for supporting jobs in existing
industries, "but also about catalyzing the new jobs in new industries
that our nation needs to compete in the 21st century."
The White House plans to promote its work to develop electric cars this
week, dispatching administration officials across the nation to discuss
advanced batteries and new vehicles powered by electricity.
President Barack Obama, who is pushing clean energy, has vowed to bring
1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles to U.S. highways by 2015, and his
administration has set aside billions of stimulus dollars to bolster
U.S. battery manufacturers.
releases new fuel efficiency rules
By KEN THOMAS, Associated Press Writer
1 April 2010
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration set tougher gas mileage standards
for new cars and trucks Thursday, spurring the next generation of
fuel-sipping gas-electric hybrids, efficient engines and electric cars.
The heads of the Transportation Department and the Environmental
Protection Agency signed final rules setting fuel efficiency standards
for model years 2012-2016, with a goal of achieving by 2016 the
equivalent of 35.5 miles per gallon combined for cars and trucks, an
increase of nearly 10 mpg over current standards set by the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The EPA set a tailpipe emissions standard of 250 grams (8.75 ounces) of
carbon dioxide per mile for vehicles sold in 2016, equal to what would
be emitted by vehicles meeting the mileage standard. The EPA issued its
first rules ever on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions following a 2007
Supreme Court decision.
"These historic new standards set ambitious, but achievable, fuel
economy requirements for the automotive industry that will also
encourage new and emerging technologies," Transportation Secretary Ray
LaHood said in a statement. "We will be helping American motorists save
money at the pump, while putting less pollution in the air."
Each auto company will have a different fuel-efficiency target, based
on its mix of vehicles. Automakers that build more small cars will have
a higher target than car companies that manufacture a broad range of
cars and trucks. The standard could be as low as 34.1 mpg by 2016
because automakers are expected to receive credits for reducing
greenhouse gas emissions in other ways, including preventing the
leaking of coolant from air conditioners.
"This is a significant step towards cleaner air and energy efficiency,
and an important example of how our economic and environmental
priorities go hand-in-hand," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in
Dave McCurdy, a former congressman from Oklahoma who leads the Alliance
of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing 11 automakers,
said the industry supports a single national standard for future
vehicles, saying the program "makes sense for consumers, for government
policymakers and for automakers."
LaHood and Jackson said the new requirements will save 1.8 billion
barrels of oil over the life of the program. The new standards move up
goals set in a 2007 energy law, which required the auto industry to
meet a 35 mpg average by 2020.
The rules should add costs to new cars and trucks. The government said
the requirements would add an estimated $434 per vehicle in the 2012
model year and $926 per vehicle by 2016 but would save more than $3,000
over the life of the vehicle through better gas mileage.
EPA and the Transportation Department said the requirements would
reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 960 million metric tons over
the lifetime of the vehicles regulated, or the equivalent of taking 50
million cars and light trucks off the road in 2030.
Environmental groups have sought curbs on greenhouse gas emissions,
blamed for global warming, and challenged the Bush administration for
blocking a waiver request from California to pursue more stringent air
pollution rules than required by the federal government. The request
was granted by the Obama administration last year.
"The standards forthcoming under the 'clean car peace treaty' are a
good deal for consumers, for companies, for the country and for the
planet," said David Doniger, climate policy director for the Natural
Resources Defense Council.
Automakers have been working on an assortment of fuel-efficient
technologies, including hybrids, electric cars and technologies that
shut off an engine's cylinders when full power isn't needed.
Nissan is releasing its electric car, the Leaf, later this year, while
General Motors is introducing the Chevrolet Volt, which can go 40 miles
on battery power before an engine kicks in to generate power. Ford is
bringing its "EcoBoost" line of direct-injection turbocharged engines,
which provide a 20 percent increase in fuel efficiency, to 90 percent
of its models by 2013.
3 Tesla workers
die when plane hits N. Calif. home
By BROOKE DONALD and SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press Writer
Feb. 17, 2010
EAST PALO ALTO, Calif. – A
twin-engine plane carrying three employees of electric car maker Tesla
Motors struck a set of power lines after takeoff Wednesday and crashed
into a fog-shrouded residential neighborhood, raining fiery debris over
homes, sending residents running for safety and killing everyone aboard.
But the crash somehow caused no
injuries or deaths on the ground despite a wing slamming into a home
where a day care center operated. The seven people inside the house,
including an infant, all escaped moments before the home went up in
Menlo Park Fire Chief Harold
Schapelhouman said the Cessna 310 either struck a 100-foot electrical
tower or clipped its power transmission lines and broke apart, dropping
debris throughout the working-class Silicon Valley neighborhood.
Federal aviation investigators said
they were looking whether foggy weather played a role in the crash.
National Transportation Safety Board
investigators will be at the crash site for several days and a
preliminary report will be available by next week, said Josh Kawthra,
an NTSB investigator.
The city of Palo Alto said most of
the city and surrounding area — about 28,000 customers — had no
electricity for most of the day because of the crash.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
officials said most homes and businesses would have their electricity
restored by Wednesday evening.
A spokeswoman for Palo Alto-based
Facebook Inc. said its offices were without power but the outage was
not affecting the Web site. Hewlett-Packard Co.'s corporate
headquarters also were dark, and employees were asked to find other
places to work Wednesday, a spokeswoman said.
The crash rattled Tesla Motors, one
of only a few companies producing and selling purely electric cars. The
identities of the employees were not released. The plane was owned by
Doug Bourn of Santa Clara, identified by a Tesla spokesman as a senior
electrical engineer at the company.
"Tesla is a small, tightly knit
company, and this is a tragic day for us," Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in
The Cessna crashed around 7:55 a.m.
shortly after takeoff from the Palo Alto Airport and was bound for
Hawthorne Municipal Airport in Southern California, according to the
Federal Aviation Administration. The crash site is a mile northwest of
the airport, near Tesla's headquarters in San Carlos.
A wing fell onto the house where a
children's day care operated, and the rest of the plane struck the
front retaining wall of another house down the street before landing on
two vehicles on the street, Schapelhouman said. Debris also struck two
neighboring houses, he said.
Pamela Houston, an employee of the
day care, said she was feeding an infant when she heard a loud boom
that she initially thought was an earthquake until she "saw a big ball
of fire hit the side of the house."
Houston said she screamed to the
others in the house — the owner, the owner's husband and their three
children — and the group safely escaped before the home went up in
"There are not even words to
describe what it felt like," she said. "I am very thankful to God that
he allowed us to get out."
The occupants of the homes have been
accounted for, although authorities can't be completely sure of the
fatality count until crews begin clearing the wreckage, Schapelhouman
"Either by luck or the skill of the
pilot, the plane hit the street and not the homes on either side," he
added. "That saved people in this community."
Kate McClellan, 57, said she was
walking her dog when she saw a plane descend from the foggy sky and
strike the tower, causing power lines to swing wildly in the air.
"It burst into flames, and then it
kept flying for bit before it hit some houses and exploded," McClellan
The crash comes at a difficult time
for Tesla, which employs 515 people worldwide and just three weeks ago
disclosed plans to hold an initial public offering of stock. In its
filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said
its future business is dependent on the successful rollout of new
The two-door Roadster sports car is
the only product that the money-losing company currently sells,
retailing for $109,000. It has sold about 1,000 since its inception,
and its next vehicle — the Model S sedan — is due in showrooms in 2012.
It has a base price of $57,400, although a federal tax credit could
reduce the cost to less than $50,000.
Tesla has not said when specifically
it plans to go public, nor has it said how much it intends to raise.
So what is a fuel cell?
charges are big factor in Weston's fuel cell project
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Wednesday, 08 December 2010 11:39
The town is still plugging along in its quest to install a fuel cell to
power Weston Middle School and Weston High School. But excessive
charges for transmission and distribution (T&D) from Connecticut
Light and Power (CL&P) are holding up the process.
Weston has asked United Technologies Company (UTC) to build and install
a 400-kW fuel cell at the middle school. The fuel cell, which will be
paid for entirely with a state grant, is an electrochemical device that
combines hydrogen fuel with oxygen from the air to produce electricity,
heat and hot water.
Since the fuel is converted directly to electricity, a fuel cell can
operate at much higher efficiencies than internal combustion engines,
extracting more electricity from the same amount of fuel. It also would
eliminate about 900 tons of carbon dioxide being released into the air
It is estimated the fuel cell would provide 95% of the electricity
needed for both Weston High School and Weston Middle School, all of the
heat for the pool at the middle school, a significant amount of the
heat and hot water for the middle school, and all of the air
conditioning for the middle school.
At a recent Board of Selectmen’s meeting, Don Gary, a member of the
town’s Building Committee who has been shepherding the fuel cell
project for several years, said no matter what, the town will save
money using the fuel cell.
The question at this point is how much money — and that depends on
several things. The biggest factor is whether the town can get CL&P
to re-examine the way in which it calculates its T&D charges.
Mr. Gary explained that for commercial accounts — and the school
project would be considered commercial rather than residential —
CL&P calculates T&D charges based on the 15-minute period in a
given year when usage (or “capacity”) is at its highest.
CL&P has agreed to allow the town to aggregate electric consumption
at the high school and middle school and to apply that net amount
against electricity generated by the fuel cell. But, CL&P wants to
calculate T&D charges for both schools.
“They want to charge us full capacity for the high school” even though
that school would be hooked to the fuel cell — in essence creating its
own electricity, Mr. Gary said. That T&D charge will cost the town
an additional $160,000, he said.
Mr. Gary has argued to the Department of Public Utlity Control (DPUC)
that CL&P is “double dipping” by charging Weston for T&D and
then selling that electricity Weston is putting back onto the grid to
other customers. The DPUC is considering the argument, but has not yet
ruled, he said.
Mr. Gary said the town has several options when it comes to calculating
how much money it will save over time using the fuel cell.
The most conservative calculation, Mr. Gary said, shows a savings of
about $1.8 million. “That’s a worst case scenario” without CL&P
changing its T&D calculations and using a tiered approach to
leasing the fuel cell from UTC, Mr. Gary said.
A revised scenario, calculated by UTC and based on actual capacity,
shows a savings over the same 15-year period of about $2.4 million.
In either instance, “There is virtually no cost at all to the town,”
Mr. Gary said, and really no chance the town would ever lose money.
Mr. Gary wanted the selectmen to authorize the first selectman to sign
a contract with UTC once it is worked out. First Selectman Gayle
Weinstein, however, said she is not comfortable asking the other
selectmen to do that until a contract is closer to being negotiated,
and so no vote was taken.
The project still needs to go before the Board of Education for
approval since it is on school property, said Ms. Weinstein.
This is big news...but not final
Fuel cell project at Weston schools gets
jump start from DPUC
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Wednesday, 10 February 2010 11:40 (we assume
it is a front page story on Thursday's AWARD-WINNING FRONT PAGE)
Weston has leapt another hurdle in its quest to build a fuel
cell to power some of the town’s schools.
The state Department of Public Utilty Control (DPUC) on
issued a draft of a declaratory ruling allowing the town to aggregate
electric consumption at the high school and middle school and to apply
that net amount against electricity generated by a fuel cell the town
wants to install at the middle school.
The project had been delayed because the electric company,
said it would offer credit based on power delivered to the town through
only one meter. To physically connect both the middle school and the
high school to one electric meter would cost an estimated $900,000.
The town argued it can “totalize” the two meters by simple
accounting — and it looks, at least preliminarily, as if the DPUC
The DPUC’s draft declaratory ruling states in part: “Conn.
Stat. §16-243h provides simply that a customer shall receive a
if the customer ‘supplies more electricity to the electric distribution
system than the electric distribution company or electric supplier
delivers to the customer-generator.’ The express language of the
statute does not place any limitations or restrictions on the location
or arrangement of the electricity that is delivered to the
First Selectman Gayle Weinstein was thrilled when word from
finally reached her desk Monday afternoon. “I am incredibly pleased
with the DPUC’s draft declaratory ruling. Not only will this decision
bring us one huge step closer to making this fuel cell project a
reality, it will save the town close to a million dollars in the
process,” Ms. Weinstein said.
Don Gary of the town’s Building Committee and the Alternative
Committee came to the town with the fuel cell proposal in April 2009.
In December, Mr. Gary reported the fuel cell project is eligible for
the maximum state grant of $1 million.
A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that combines
with oxygen from the air to produce electricity, heat and hot water.
Since the fuel is converted directly to electricity, a fuel
operate at much higher efficiencies than internal combustion engines,
extracting more electricity from the same amount of fuel.
Weston has asked United Technologies to build and install a
cell — a PureCell Model 400 Power Plant, a factory-assembled,
self-contained fuel cell power plant — at or near the middle school.
It is estimated the 400-kW fuel cell would provide 95% of the
electricity needed for both Weston High School and Weston Middle
School, all of the heat for the pool at the middle school, a
significant amount of the heat and hot water for the middle school, and
all of the air conditioning for the middle school.
It would also eliminate approximately 900 tons of carbon
dioxide from being released per year.
A fuel cell operates on natural gas, but is considered
renewable because it doesn’t burn anything.
When the natural gas gets to the fuel cell, it pulls out the
hydrogen and forces it through a stack. Electrons from the hydrogen
move from an anode to a cathode and create an electrical current.
The by-product from this process is hot water, which,
ideally, could be used in the schools and to heat the middle school
“This is truly a green alternative,” Mr. Gary said.
A step further
Ms. Weinstein pointed out the DPUC “actually went one step
than we asked” by stating the town could also include electricity
delivered to other town buildings in calculating how much electricity
“The town may use the total aggregated amount of electricity
received at the high school and middle school or any other properties
or facilities owned by the town, regardless of their physical proximity
to one another or their proximity” to the fuel cell “power plant,” the
draft declaratory ruling states.
While the draft decision is undoubtedly welcome news for town
leaders, there is still a way to go before the fuel cell project
becomes a reality.
Many parties now have the opportunity to file arguments with
DPUC about the decision. Only after hearing and considering those
arguments will the DPUC offer its final conclusion.
“The final decision may differ from the proposed decision,”
the DPUC’s draft ruling states.
DPUC delays project’s fuel cell
New Haven Register
By Mary E. O’Leary, Register
Thursday, December 25, 2008 6:39 AM EST
NEW BRITAIN — The final decision by the state Department of Utility
Control on regulatory issues around use of a fuel cell to power a large
residential project in New Haven has been put off for a month.
John Betkoski, vice chairman of the DPUC, Wednesday said the commission
felt it needed more time to review the complex legal questions around
metering at 360 State St. for the mixed-use retail and residential
complex that hopes to be the “greenest” building of its kind in the
“There is still some final review that has to take place by our legal
staff,” said Betkoski, who is the lead commissioner on the Becker
There has been concern that the regulatory apparatus in the state has
not kept up with the energy goals and emphasis on the use of new
technology set by the governor’s office and development agencies in
“I think it is safe to say, based upon the Becker application, the way
regulations and statutes are interpreted at this time, will be
revisited to make sure there is consistency between funding agencies,
such as the (Connecticut) Clean Energy Fund ran and regulatory
agencies, such as ours,” Betkowski said.
The issue will be heard at the commission’s first meeting of the new
year Jan. 7.
In a preliminary ruling, staff concluded that the commission’s present
regulations would not allow master metering for the building and
submetering of the individual 500 apartments, but the developer, Becker
and Becker of Fairfield, has submitted briefs countering that argument.
The 32-story $180 million residential/retail project is the first to
come before the DPUC, but Connecticut Clean Energy Fund officials said
it hopefully won’t be the last, as the state encourages the use of
alternative energy sources, particularly fuel cells, which are produced
by UTC Power of South Windsor.
Becker’s 32-story building, at the former Shartenberg site in New
Haven, may be the largest residence in the state and he is aiming to
acheive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold
Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
That won’t be the case if rates for the energy produced by the
400-kilowatt natural gas fuel cell don’t cover his investment, as well
as operation and maintenance of this new technology.
The clean energy fund has approved a grant for close to half of the $2
million fuel cell. Becker is asking that a master meter monitor overall
energy use, with excess energy sold back to United Illuminating, while
the utility would provide energy to the building when needed at peak
Becker’s proposal is to charge each tenant for individual use, at the
same rate used by U.I., while he would collect the $86,000 in service
charges that the utility would normally earn.
A project he developed in New York approved the use of a fuel cell
there with a similar arrangement.
U.I. has objected, arguing that the state cannot approve a private
utility company, which it does not have the ability to regulate, while
the DPUC was concerned with the resale of electricity for profit.
Use of the fuel cell is in line with the state’s energy policy, while
the individual submetering of apartments is expected to encourage
Becker has said he is willing to accept whatever regulatory
arrangements the DPUC wants and advocates hope an interim solution can
be worked out until new regulations are instituted.
His lawyers argue the regulation which allows submetering at marinas
and campgrounds and “any location as approved by the (department,)”
gives the DPUC the flexibility it needs to approve his project.
Tesla upbeat on Japan business, opens
By YURI KAGEYAMA, AP Business Writer Yuri Kageyama, Ap Business
Writer Mon Oct 25, 10:39 am ET
TOKYO – Tesla, the U.S. maker of electric sportscars, opened its first
Asian showroom Monday in a fashionable Tokyo neighborhood, hoping to
woo rich buyers before eventually widening its appeal with cheaper
The Palo Alto, California-based Tesla Motors Inc. has globally sold
only 1,400 of the electric cars — which start at $101,500 in the U.S.
(and 1.5 times that in Japan). Its electric vehicles are currently more
akin to gadgets than mass-produced cars.
And while the price for electronic vehicles is likely to come down, a
major drawback remains the lack of recharging stations, which make them
risky for long treks.
But Tesla has important connections in Japan. Toyota Motor Corp. is a
shareholder in the American company, recently investing $50 million in
Tesla stock, and signing a $60 million contract to have Tesla help
develop an electric version of Toyota's RAV4 crossover vehicle. Prices
have not been announced.
Japanese electronics maker Panasonic Corp. also supplies the cars'
"We think the Japanese market is a fantastic market," Tesla Chief
Executive Elon Musk said in a videotaped message relayed in the
showroom, displaying the snazzy cars.
Yasuaki Iwamoto, auto analyst at Okasan Securities Co. in Tokyo, says
Tesla could influence Toyota in a positive way because Tesla's approach
is so different from Toyota's. The Japanese automaker is known for its
affordable, reliable, if unflashy, cars that are mass-produced in
"In the era of electric vehicles, automakers have to change their way
of thinking," Iwamoto told The Associated Press. "Toyota is intrigued
by something as alien to its legacy as Tesla."
In Japan, electric vehicles are tax-free and eligible for government
incentive cash payments that can reduce the price tag by a quarter of
the retail price.
Tesla's ecological government-backed rebate in Japan is a hefty 3.2
million yen ($40,000).
More affordable electric vehicles are on the market already, such as
the iMiEV from Mitsubishi Motors Corp., although sales at about 4,000
vehicles, mostly in Japan, still make a tiny fraction of overall auto
Already showing wider appeal is Nissan Motor Co.'s Leaf electric car,
set for delivery in December. Its price in Japan is about 3 million yen
($37,000) with incentives, and about $25,000 in the U.S. with federal
tax credits. Nissan has received 20,000 orders for the Leaf in the
U.S., and 6,000 in Japan.
Takao Ozawa, 38, an entrepreneur, who drives Japan's first Tesla
electric car, loves the quick, gear-less and silent acceleration of his
Tesla, but acknowledges that he only uses it for his office commute and
relies on a regular gas engine Citroen to go on trips.
"It's a great car," said Ozawa, who used to drive a Ferrari. "I don't
have to feel guilty driving it either."
Chris Paine, who made the 2006 film, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" is
making a new film that documents the success of Tesla, Leaf and other
"Times have changed. The carmakers can see they can make some money on
this, and they don't want to be the last to jump on," he said from
Culver City, California. "The electric car promised to make the car
Electric carmaker Tesla plugs into Wall
by Germain Moyon
29 June 2010
NEW YORK (AFP) – US electric automaker Tesla Motors went public on
Tuesday, betting that interest in its battery-powered cars will offset
its string of losses.
The Palo Alto, California-based carmaker, which is being traded on the
Nasdaq under the symbol "TSLA," offered 13.3 million shares in the
fledgling company priced at 17 dollars per share. Tesla shares
rose sharply after being listed around mid-day and were trading 7.24
percent higher at 18.23 dollars. At 17 dollars per share, the
initial public offering would raise 226.1 million dollars with 202
million dollars going to Tesla itself.
"It gives them some cash that they desperately need," said John O'Dell,
senior editor at Edmunds GreenCarAdvisor.com.
Tesla's IPO is a "bit of referendum on the future of the electric car,"
But "it's more a vote of confidence in Tesla and in (founder Elon Musk)
personally than an overall vote of confidence in the ability of
startups in general to compete in the automaking arena," he said.
Founded in 2003 by Musk, a co-founder of online payments giant PayPal
and SpaceX, whose Falcon 9 rocket blasted off on its maiden voyage this
month, Tesla specializes in environmentally friendly electric
The Tesla Roadster, a high-performance sports car, costs more than
100,000 dollars and can go nearly 250 miles (400 kilometers) on a
Tesla is also making a "Model S" five-passenger sedan powered by
lithium-ion battery packs capable of between 160 and 300 miles (257 and
482 kilometers) per charge. In a filing with the Securities and
Exchange Commission (SEC) for its initial public offering, Tesla said
it had sold 1,063 Tesla Roadsters to customers in 22 countries as of
The Model S, expected in 2012, has an anticipated base price of around
50,000 dollars. According to the documents filed with the SEC,
Tesla has generated total revenue of 147.6 million dollars since it was
founded and has accumulated a deficit of 290.2 million dollars.
The company said it had a net loss of 55.7 million dollars last year.
Musk, in an interview with CNBC television on Tuesday, said "people
need to appreciate that if we were just making the Roadster, we would
be profitable as a company but we are in massive expansion mode.
"We are increasing our volume by 30 to 40 fold, so it is just
impossible for a company to be profitable given that level of growth,"
Analyst Douglas McIntyre of 247WallSt.com was downbeat on Tesla's
prospects saying it could go the way of the DeLorean.
"Most large global car companies are within a year or two of launching
their own electric models," he said. "Almost all major vehicle
manufacturers have 'green' hybrid cars that are aimed at the same
segment of environmentally conscious drivers.
"The Telsa is too 'niche' a vehicle to be successful," he said. "Even
with its IPO proceeds it can only build a few thousand cars."
Japan's Toyota has already agreed to take a 50-million-dollar stake in
Tesla, purchasing 3.33 million shares in the company. German
luxury carmaker Daimler took a 10-percent stake in Tesla in May of last
year and sold 40 percent of its stake in July to Aabar Investments
group of the United Arab Emirates.
Last year, Tesla received a 465-million-dollar loan from the US
Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing
Incentive Program to help it build the Model S.
Tesla is the first US auto company to go public since Ford in 1956.
FROM TIMES LIVE "Wheel Deal" blog,
Johannesburg, Feb. 2, 2010
"Here’s some shocking news for fans of the electric car:
Tesla is planning to kill off its revolutionary Roadster in
2011 due to foreseeable issues with one of their suppliers. This
revelation was discovered after Autopia – Wired Magazine’s online
motoring blog – came across the following tidbit of information while
flipping through papers filed by Tesla to the Securities and Exchange
commission for its IPO: “We do not plan to sell our current generation
Tesla Roadster after 2011 due to planned tooling changes at a supplier
for the Tesla Roadster.” Now being built by Lotus at their factory in
Hethel, England, what this basically means is that both the Lotus Exige
and Elise – the cars upon which the Roadster is currently based – are
going to be replaced around this time. That means that the tooling used
in the manufacture of these machines will no longer be available;
ultimately culminating in the death knell of one of the most
significant electric vehicles to ever roll off a production line. Tesla
has hinted that a new Roadster will be available sometime in 2013 after
their upcoming Model S sedan debuts in 2012."
A SHOCK TO ME
GM Volt, left. - link to car design that used batteries here.
Car-show example of EV1 electric (1997), right.
to make its own electric motors in 2013
By DEE-ANN DURBIN, AP Auto Writer
January 26, 2010
– General Motors Corp. is back in the electric motor business.
The automaker said Tuesday that starting in 2013, it plans to build its
own electric motors for hybrid and electric vehicles. GM has been
getting electric motors for those vehicles from suppliers, but wants to
make the motors in-house in order to lower costs and improve quality
"We need to not only buy the parts, we need to really understand them,"
said Pete Savagian, engineering director for hybrids and electric
motors, in a conference call with reporters ahead of Tuesday's
GM wouldn't say where it will build the electric motors, but it
scheduled a news conference Tuesday afternoon at its Baltimore
Transmission plant in White Marsh, Md. The plant currently makes hybrid
transmissions. GM said it will invest more than $246 million to build
the electric motors. It wouldn't say how many motors it will build.
This isn't the first time GM has built electric motors. It built them
for its EV1 electric car in the mid-1990s, and some of the engineers of
that car worked on the new motors, Savagian said. Savagian said GM has
been quietly developing a new electric motor since 2003, and will be
the first U.S.-based automaker to manufacture its own.
GM-designed and built electric motors will debut in 2013 on
rear-wheel-drive, two-mode hybrid vehicles, but eventually they could
be placed in all-electric and fuel-cell cars.
Two-mode hybrids use a motor alongside a conventional engine to boost
power and improve fuel-efficiency. Electric vehicles are powered solely
by batteries and electric motors, while in fuel-cell vehicles, an
electric motor is powered by a reaction between oxygen and hydrogen.
On traditional vehicles, gas fuels the engine and transmission, which
power the wheels. On electric vehicles, batteries replace fuel and
electric motors replace the engine and transmission.
Tom Stephens, GM's vice chairman of global product operations, said
using energy from the electric grid is the best way to cut emissions
and reliance on oil in the short term.
"We do need to have the electrification of the automobile," he said.
FuelCell finalizes deal with
By Michael C. Juliano, STAFF WRITER
Updated: 11/02/2009 08:44:04 PM EST
Danbury-based FuelCell Energy Inc. last week closed a licensing
agreement with Posco Power to allow the South Korean energy company to
make fuel-cell stack modules from components provided by FuelCell
"This is an opportunity for a good company here in Connecticut to
export clean technology on a global basis and grow jobs locally here in
Connecticut," said R. Daniel Brdar, FuelCell Energy's chief executive
The fuel-cell modules will be combined with parts manufactured in South
Korea to complete electricity-producing fuel-cell power plants for sale
in South Korea.
The agreement also includes an upfront license fee of $10 million for
FuelCell, which was paid at signing, and an ongoing royalty initially
set at 4.1 percent of the revenues from Posco Power's sale of the
modules. Posco Power also closed on a previously announced purchase of
$25 million in FuelCell Energy common stock at $3.59 per share, agreed
to in June 2009.
"This really solidifies the relationship, and I expect more sizeable
orders going forward in the future," said Michael Lew, a FuelCell
Energy analyst with ThinkPanmure LLC in New York City.
Posco Power has ordered more than 68 megawatts of FuelCell Energy's
units to date and built a facility to manufacture the complete systems
in South Korea. About 23 megawatts of FuelCell Energy power plants are
installed in South Korea, including six DFC3000 megawatt-class power
"Posco Power is excited to enter into a new stage of partnership with
FuelCell Energy," Posco Power President Soung-Sik Cho said in a
statement. "We view the partnership with FuelCell Energy as critical to
accomplishing our goal to make South Korea a world leader in
South Korea is pursuing the passage of an $85.8 billion renewable
energy plan mandating 11 percent clean energy by 2030.
FuelCell Energy, which was founded in 1969 as Energy Research Corp.,
owns and operates a 65,000-square-foot Torrington plant with about 250
The company posted a net loss of $15.7 million for this year's third
quarter, compared with a net loss of $26.8 million for the same period
last year. Revenues were $23 million, compared with $27.9 million.
The company's stock, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange as
FCEL, declined 26 cents to close at $3.33.
Energy Sec'y Chu deep in thought - and we are sure it is a
good one, too.
98 Percent ‘Discouraged’ in Energy Quest
By Andrew C. Revkin
August 3, 2009, 6:54 am
President Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu have both called for
an energy revolution, including a big push to deploy known
non-polluting energy technology and a sustained effort to build a
generation of edge-pushing scientists and engineers seeking big energy
breakthroughs to provide energy to a world heading toward nine billion
people without overheating the planet.
But the Department of Energy had to send out letters last week
discouraging all but a handful of the 3,500 research teams and
individuals seeking some of the $150 million available this year for
pursuit of “ transformational” energy technologies.
One such rejection letter is posted above ( a pdf of the letter is
here). The name of the rejected scientist is obscured. He sent it to
me, he said, not because he was angry about being denied a shot at
funding, but because the letter notes that “less than 2 percent” of
such proposals are seen as likely to get support. It’s still early
days, of course. But does this look like an energy quest* to you?
* = This speaks for itself...
What Would an Energy ‘Moon Shot’ Look
Like? - Dot Earth Blog
New York Times
The space race was accompanied by a huge burst of federal research —
the yellow band. What would an energy quest look like? ( American
Association for the Advancement of Science ) exploring what it would
take for a president to pursue meaningful climate and energy policy in
a multitasked world.
Energy Dept. To Lend $8B to Ford, Nissan,
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 1:04 p.m. ET
June 23, 2009
DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) -- The Energy Department said Tuesday it would
lend $5.9 billion to Ford Motor Co. and provide about $2.1 billion in
loans to Nissan Motor Co. and Tesla Motors Inc., making the three
automakers the first beneficiaries of a $25 billion fund to develop
Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the loan recipients at Ford's
Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn. The loans to Ford will help
the company upgrade factories in five Midwest states to produce 13
Nissan was receiving $1.6 billion to retool its plant in Smyrna, Tenn.,
to build advanced vehicles and build a battery manufacturing facility.
Tesla would get $465 million in loans to build electric vehicles and
electric drive powertrains in California.
The loans were designed to help auto manufacturers meet new
fuel-efficiency standards of at least 35 mpg by 2020, a 40 percent
increase over current standards.
''These loans will help the auto industry meet and even exceed the
president's tough fuel standards,'' Chu said. ''This is part of
President Obama's commitment to a new energy strategy for America. ...
This means the most fuel-efficient cars in the world must be made right
here in America.''
Dozens of auto companies, suppliers and battery makers have sought a
total of $38 billion from the loan program, which was created last year
to provide low-interest loans to car companies and suppliers retool
their facilities to develop green vehicles and components such as
Ford had been seeking about $5 billion in loans by 2011 and a total of
$11 billion from the program to invest $14 billion in advanced
technologies over the next seven years. The company said it will
transform plants in Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio.
Ford CEO Alan Mulally said in an interview with The Associated Press
that the department approved the company's entire proposal through 2011
and it would help Ford meet the new fuel efficiency standards.
''This is a tremendous development,'' Mulally said.
He said the loans would help Ford further its strategy to build a wide
range of fuel-efficient cars.
''We want to be in every market segment in the U.S.,'' Mulally said.
''Every year forever we want to continue to improve fuel efficiency.''
Ford expects to begin repaying the loans in 2012, with an interest rate
based on the current U.S. Treasury rate hovering between 3 and 4
percent, said Ford spokesman Mike Moran.
''If it were at market rates it would be in the double digits,'' he
said. ''That's a huge thing for us.''
Ford can draw from the loan for work done to retool its plants going
back to late last year, Moran said. The plants must build cars that
improve fuel efficiency by 25 percent.
General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group LLC have received billions of
dollars in federal loans to restructure their companies through
government-led filings for bankruptcy protection, but Ford avoided
seeking emergency aid by mortgaging all of its assets in 2006 to borrow
about $25 billion.
Mulally said the loans Ford would receive from the Energy Department
were part of a government-industry partnership and ''had nothing to do
with the emergency loans to keep General Motors and Chrysler in
Ford has said it intends to bring several battery-electric vehicles to
market. The automaker has discussed plans to produce a battery-electric
vehicle van in 2010 for commercial use, a small battery-electric sedan
developed with Magna International by 2011 and a plug-in hybrid vehicle
General Motors has requested $10.3 billion in loans from the energy
program, while Chrysler has asked for $6 billion in loans. Energy
officials have said the loans could only go to ''financially viable''
companies, preventing GM and Chrysler to qualify for the first round of
Elizabeth Lowery, GM's vice president of environment, energy and safety
policy, said GM still must pass the Energy Department's financial
viability test before it can receive loan funding and the company hoped
to get the money shortly after it emerges from Chapter 11 bankruptcy
Chu said the Energy Department has started discussing details of the
loans with Chrysler and has begun reviewing the ''technical side'' of
the loan requirements with GM.
Nissan said the $1.6 billion loan would be used to modify its Smyrna,
Tenn., plant to produce zero-emissions vehicles and lithium-ion battery
packs to power them. The Japanese company has previously outlined plans
to develop an all-electric car with 100 miles of pure battery range for
release in late 2010.
''This loan is an investment in America. It will help us put
high-quality, affordable zero-emissions vehicles on our roads,'' said
Dominique Thormann, Nissan North America's senior vice president for
administration and finance.
Tesla, based in San Carlos, Calif., will use $365 million for
production engineering and the assembly of the Model S sedan, an
all-electric vehicle that is expected to travel up to 300 miles per
charge and go on sale in 2011. It will use $100 million for a
powertrain manufacturing plant expected to employ 650 workers.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the automaker would use the loan ''precisely
the way that Congress intended -- as the capital needed to build
Hydrogen fuel story
So the administration chose electric car over fuel cell auto! But
endorsing the fuel cell for stationary uses, such as power supply for
again? For power supply but not automobiles?
Yardney, Calif. Firm, Pitch Plan For Electric Car
By Patricia Daddona
Published on 6/9/2009
Yardney Technical Products Inc. of Pawcatuck and a California firm are
applying for a federal stimulus grant that could help the firms make
and sell lithium-ion battery-powered systems for an electric car.
If approved by the U.S. Department of Energy, the proposal sought on
May 19 by Yardney and Coda Automotive of Santa Monica, Calif., could
result in a Coda battery manufacturing facility in Enfield that would
employ about 600 workers, the two companies said in a joint statement.
U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, and Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, offered
their support for the project in a June 3 letter to DOE.
A natural fit
Coda Automotive makes and distributes all-electric vehicles capable of
highway driving. Its all-electric, mid-size Coda sedan is scheduled for
delivery to the California market by the fall of 2010, said Kevin
Czinger, Coda Automotive's president and chief executive officer.
The company is currently testing its all-electric, zero-emissions
highway sedan for the mass market.
”The partnership was a natural fit,” Czinger said in a statement. “We
are eager to apply our respective strengths to facilitate the rapid
advancement of an electric vehicle industry built on the vast skills
and traditions of U.S. workers.”
According to Vince Yevoli, Yardney president, the Pawcatuck firm has
been working on new technology for hybrid and electric vehicle uses for
years. Yardney has been providing batteries for the U.S. military since
“We never normally chased this market, because it's not developing
without a lot of capital infusion, but that's what the government's
doing,” Yevoli added in a phone interview.
Dodd and Courtney said in the letter to Dr. Steven Chu, the U.S.
Secretary of Energy, that the grant proposal encompasses “the true
intent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” by creating new
jobs and supporting cutting-edge technology and manufacturing.
Coda Automotive expects Lishen, its battery partner in China, to
participate in the joint venture, the firm said.
The DOE could make a decision on the proposal by late July, Yevoli
said. He would not say how much in stimulus funding the two partners
U.S. Drops Research Into Fuel Cells for
By MATTHEW L. WALD
May 8, 2009
WASHINGTON — Cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells, once hailed by
President George W. Bush as a pollution-free solution for reducing the
nation’s dependence on foreign oil, will not be practical over the next
10 to 20 years, the energy secretary said Thursday, and the government
will cut off funds for the vehicles’ development.
Developing those cells and coming up with a way to transport the
hydrogen is a big challenge, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in
releasing energy-related details of the administration’s budget for the
year beginning Oct. 1. Dr. Chu said the government preferred to focus
on projects that would bear fruit more quickly.
The retreat from cars powered by fuel cells counters Mr. Bush’s
prediction in 2003 that “the first car driven by a child born today
could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free.” The Energy
Department will continue to pay for research into stationary fuel
cells, which Dr. Chu said could be used like batteries on the power
grid and do not require compact storage of hydrogen.
The Obama administration will also establish eight “energy innovation
hubs,” small centers for basic research that Dr. Chu referred to as
“Bell Lablettes.” These will be financed for five years at a time to
lure more scientists into the energy area.
“We’re very devoted to delivering solutions — not just science papers,
but solutions — but it will require some basic science,” Dr. Chu, who
won a Nobel Prize for his work in physics, said at a news conference.
He said he would probably reverse another Bush administration decision
and restore funds for FutureGen, a program to build a power plant
prototype. The plant would turn coal into gas, separate out the carbon
dioxide — a major contributor to the greenhouse gases that cause global
warming — and pump it underground. Then it would burn the hydrogen,
which is nearly pollution-free.
An international partnership had selected a site in Mattoon, Ill., for
construction of the plant, but the Bush administration decided that the
costs were too high and that the money should be spread among more
The Obama administration will also drop spending for research on the
exploration of oil and gas deposits because the industry itself has
ample resources for that, Dr. Chu said.
While the budget request for the Energy Department is $26.4 billion, an
increase of less than 1 percent, actual spending will actually be far
higher because some projects will be financed by the economic stimulus
package, said Steve Isakowitz, the department’s chief financial officer.
While Dr. Chu emphasized the allocations for research, a former Energy
Department official, Robert Alvarez, pointed out that the budget still
includes $6.4 billion for nuclear weapons and $4.4 billion for naval
reactors, nuclear nonproliferation activity and safe storage of surplus
plutonium. “Weapons still make up the largest single expenditure,” he
I-BBC/ Page last updated at 11:09 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 12:09 UK
Harrabin's Notes: Electric
Roger Harrabin reports on the Chinese car maker BYD, which is about to
release a vehicle capable of revolutionising the world of motoring, if
its claims prove correct.
CHINA'S LONG-RANGE ELECTRIC CAR
A look at a
battery-powered car that can travel 400km on one charge
BYD says that its new E6 electric car due out before the end of the
year will do 250 miles (400km) on a single charge.
This is a very big number. The Tesla electric sports car does almost as
much, but has little room for anything else in the car but the battery.
The E6 is roomy with space for five passengers and a good-sized boot.
The battery tucks under the back seat.
It needs 7-8 hours with a domestic plug to charge the car but BYD - it
stands for Build Your Dreams - says a specially developed fast charging
point with a lead the diameter of a fire hose will fill up the car in
just one hour.
You can get half a charge in only 10 minutes.
If these claims are accurate and if BYD can persuade either the Chinese
government or a Chinese city to install a network of the fast chargers,
then this large hatchback could be the vehicle that makes the
breakthrough for electric cars.
Let us look at the accuracy of the claim first. BYD is already the
world's number two in rechargeable batteries, and for the E6 it is
using a ferrous battery it has developed itself.
There is a reputational risk in exaggerating the claims of a product.
And that could be translated into a legal risk if people buy shares in
the publicly quoted company as a result of misleading information.
For the E6 to succeed, the company will need a network of fast chargers
The green group WWF has just appointed the Chinese energy expert Dr
Yang Fuqiang as its head of global solutions. He told BBC News that he
would reserve judgment on BYD's claims.
"If they are true, this is an extraordinary step which will prove
highly significant," he said.
So what about the other question about support for a network of
The Chinese government has spent more than any other on its green
fiscal stimulus and there is supposed to be support for electric cars.
But BYD's Rebecca Wang said that although BYD hoped for co-operation,
none was yet forthcoming.
The E6 will sell for £30,000 and is aimed initially at the
eco-conscious California market. When the price comes down with mass
production, it'll be rolled out properly in China.
Whether the claims are accurate to the letter or not, the E6 is a
marker that China expects to dominate energy storage technologies -
which could become much more important if the world makes a significant
shift towards renewable power.
Even if they are run on coal-fired power, electric cars still produce
fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a petrol car because they are
inherently more efficient, according to the UK's chief energy scientist
This efficiency is increased if you can run an automobile fleet on
either off-peak electricity at night or on intermittent power from,
say, wind farms.
I chanced to share lunch recently with the CEO of a major European car
manufacturer. He told me that China intended to become the world leader
in battery technology. "And if that's what [China] wants, it will
happen," he said. Simple as that.
But the question remains if China has the cars to match its batteries.
As a car maker, BYD is very much at the "functional" end of the Chinese
market - a farmer's car, my Beijing producer Jasmin called it.
There may be a risk that BYD's batteries could be undone by poor build
BYD's chief executive Wang Chuan-Fu is certainly ambitious, and money
is certainly not a limitation.
Following a huge investment by Warren Buffet, he has just made it to
the top of the Forbes Rich list for China. He is joined at the top
table by another green billionaire, Shi Zhengrong who made a fortune
from the Suntech solar PV firm in just four years.
There is such a buzz about the Clean tech gold rush in China at the
moment that some analysts warn of the possibility of a bubble.
The Climate Group is an international non-profit organisation that
works with governments and businesses with the aim of building a low
It is keen to dispel such pessimism. Yu Jie, its head of research in
Beijing, told BBC News that if the bubble popped, it would only deflate
"Everybody wants to get into clean energy at the moment," she said.
"It can only be for the good. And the ability to attract top
entrepreneurs into this field can only be good for China, which has
often depended on other people's technology in the past."
When we arrived at the BYD plant, the workers were on holiday so there
was no activity to film. And the E6 itself was nowhere to be seen.
But we eventually managed to persuade our hosts that, having travelled
all the way from the UK, we deserved a sneak preview, and the E6 itself
My cameraman Al implied this negotiation might have been part of the
company's publicity strategy. We will see.
NU seeks help in building charging
stations for electric cars
By Patricia Daddona
Published on 4/7/2009
Northeast Utilities is looking for federal funding to help launch New
England's first network of charging stations for plug-in electric cars
in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
The company announced today that it is developing the initiative to
comply with regional and national policies on greenhouse gas emissions
and to reduce reliance on oil-based resources.
NU, which is based in Berlin, has applied for $693,750 in funding from
the U.S. Department of Energy, about the half the amount needed to
build a network of 575 charging stations over the next two years. The
plan calls for a "geographically diverse combination of home-based,
workplace and publicly-accessible sites" in the existing service
territories of the Connecticut Light & Powr Co. and Western
Massachusetts Electric Co.
“We see extraordinary potential in electric transportation as one of
the tools to help meet the environmental and energy policy objectives
of our regional and national leaders,” James B. Robb, NU senior vice
president of enterprise planning and development, said in a statement.
“As the next generation of vehicles gets introduced, likely late in
2010, we want to be sure that New England is among the first markets.”
Fuel-Cell Powered Devices Getting
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 7:20 a.m. ET
December 1, 2008
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) -- Laptop, cell phone and iPod owners tired of
having their devices run out of charge after a few hours have been
patiently waiting for the next portable power source to arrive.
Tiny fuel cells, powered by combustible liquids or gasses, have long
been touted as the eventual solution. Potentially, they could power a
laptop for days between refills. But fuel cells have perennially
remained a year or two away from reaching the market as companies have
worked on making them small, cheap and long-lasting, while making sure
they don't overheat.
The U.S. government removed a key roadblock this year when the
Department of Transportation amended its hazardous materials
regulations to allow cells with methanol, butane or formic acid to be
carried on airplanes. Methanol and butane are flammable, and formic
acid is corrosive.
''That was one of the largest challenges to this market, to overcome
that regulation issue,'' said Sara Bradford, an energy and power
systems consultant for Frost & Sullivan.
Fuel cells, in which a tiny amount of fuel flows into a small chip to
generate electricity without combustion, would allow users to skip the
wall plug and simply swap out a fuel cartridge to continue listening to
music or check e-mail. Bradford thinks products are now truly a
year or two away, as electronics manufacturers show more interest and
fuel cell makers move beyond trade-show prototypes.
''We are closer, much closer, than even two years ago in terms of the
companies' internal designs, how they've met their milestones and just
the amount of testing and evaluation that's going on right now,''
Lilliputian Systems Inc., a Wilmington, Mass., firm founded by former
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, plans to introduce a
portable fuel cell late next year for any device that can be charged
via a USB port.
The cigarette-pack-size charger will use a canister of butane, the same
fuel used in cigarette lighters, to juice up an iPod, BlackBerry, GPS
device or digital camera, said Mouli Ramani, Lilliputian's vice
president of business development. Each teaspoon of the fuel can
provide 20 times the run time of a battery of the same size. The
charging system would likely sell for $100 to $150 with refill
cartridges retailing for $1 to $3, he said. MTI MicroFuel Cells
Inc. has been working on fuel cell technology since 2000. In 2002, was
showing a prototype it planned to bring to market by 2004.
Peng Lim, the Albany-based company's chairman and chief executive, said
MTI has been making significant progress recently. It's current
methanol fuel cell can produce about three times the energy of a
lithium ion battery, common in cell phones. With further improvements,
the cell could one day last ten times longer than lithium, he said.
MTI plans to introduce an external charger by late 2009 as it works
with electronics manufacturers on building fuel cells into
devices. Lim said MTI has signed partnerships with the mobile
phone division of Samsung Electronics Co. of Korea, a Japan-based
digital camera company and Neo Solar Co. Ltd., which makes computers
that are smaller than laptops.
Lilliputian also plans to transition to embedding fuel cells in
gadgets. Ramani said the company has signed commercialization
agreements with three large, multinational entities he cannot yet name.
Panasonic is promising a fuel cell that can power a laptop for 20 hours
on a cup of methanol, but the company says it won't hit stores until
Medis Technologies Ltd. has come out with a 1-watt liquid borohydride
fuel cell recharger that can provide 30 hours of cell phone talk time.
The 24-7 Power Pack is slightly larger than a deck of cards and can't
be refueled, so it has to be recycled once it's exhausted. Not
all manufacturers are sold on fuel cells, at least not in the near term.
Matt Kohut, competitive analyst for Lenovo Group Ltd., the world's No.
4 PC maker, said fuel cells will eventually power laptops but he
doesn't see commercialization for at least five years. The
industry needs to unite to standardize the technology, he believes, and
the DOT's limiting of fuel cartridges to smaller than 7 ounces might
not provide adequate power for early devices, Kohut said.
Consumers are used to getting a free battery charge from any electrical
outlet, so refill cartridges would have to be ''as ubiquitous as
cigarettes and bottles of Coke in every 7-Eleven'' in order for fuel
cells to take off, Kohut said.
Lenovo is moving toward silver-zinc batteries, which have 20 to 30
percent higher capacity than lithium ion batteries and don't wear out
as fast, Kohut said.
Toshiba, which has demonstrated fuel cell prototypes at the Consumer
Electronic Show during the past few years, continues to develop the
technology but doesn't have any firm dates for commercial use, said Duc
Dang, group manager for product development for Toshiba America
Information Systems Inc. Next year, the company hopes to begin shipping
lithium batteries that charge faster. Ramani said he understands
the skepticism about fuel cells, since they've been ''the technology of
tomorrow'' for a few years.
''We're not around the corner,'' Ramani said. ''We're still 12 months
to 15 months away from having this in consumers hands.''
Honda Runs on Hydrogen, Not Petroleum
By MARTIN FACKLER
Published: June 17, 2008
TAKANEZAWA, Japan — It looks like an ordinary family sedan, costs more
to build than a Ferrari and may have just moved the world one step
closer to a future free of petroleum.
“This is a must-have technology for the future of the earth,” Takeo
Fukui, left, Honda’s president, said of the FCX Clarity.
The FCX Clarity on a test drive after an introduction ceremony in Japan
On Monday, Honda Motor celebrated the start of production of its FCX
Clarity, the world’s first hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle intended
for mass production. In a ceremony at a factory an hour north of Tokyo,
the first assembly-line FCX Clarity rolled out to the applause of
hundreds of Honda employees wearing white jump suits.
Honda will make just 200 of the futuristic vehicles over the next three
years, but said it eventually planned to increase production volumes,
especially as hydrogen filling stations became more common. On Monday,
Honda announced its first five customers, who included the actress
Jamie Lee Curtis.
Honda said even the small initial production run represented progress
toward a clean-burning technology that many rejected as too exotic and
too expensive to gain wide acceptance.
“Basically, we can mass produce these now,” said Kazuaki Umezu, head of
Honda’s Automobile New Model Center, where the FCX Clarity is built.
“We are waiting for the infrastructure to catch up.”
Fuel-cell vehicles have been a sort of holy grail of the auto industry,
offering the promise of driving without emitting air-polluting exhaust.
Fuel cells work by combining hydrogen and oxygen from ordinary air to
make electricity, in a process whose only byproducts are water and
heat. They have drawn renewed attention in an era of climate change,
$140 a barrel oil, and rising competition for dwindling fossil fuels.
“This is a must-have technology for the future of the earth,” said
Takeo Fukui, Honda’s president. “Honda will work hard to mainstream
Fuel cells have an advantage over electric cars, whose batteries take
hours to recharge and use electricity, which, in the case of the United
States, China and many other countries, is often produced by
coal-burning power plants.
Honda says its FCX Clarity can be filled easily at a pump, can drive
280 miles on a tank, almost as far as a gasoline car. It also gets
higher fuel efficiency than a gasoline car or hybrid, the equivalent of
74 miles a gallon of gas, according to the company.
But the technology has faced many hurdles, not the least of which has
been the prohibitive cost of the fuel cells themselves. Honda says it
has found ways to mass produce them, which promises to drive down costs
through economies of scale. On Monday, it showed reporters its
fuel-cell production line, which resembled a semiconductor factory more
than an auto plant with its humming automated machinery and white
smocked workers in dust-free rooms.
Mr. Fukui said the cars cost several hundred thousand dollars each to
produce, though he said that should drop below $100,000 in less than a
decade as production volumes increase. In the meantime, the car company
will be effectively subsidizing its customers, who will lease the
vehicles for $600 a month. That is not much more than the leasing price
of one of Honda’s top Acura line of luxury cars.
At Monday’s ceremony, Mr. Fukui presented an oversize key to the first
FCX Clarity customer, a film producer from Los Angeles on hand for the
occasion. Honda said it would offer the car in Southern California
first because the state has been a leader in building hydrogen filling
Honda said the five had been chosen after the company got a wave of
queries from American consumers when it publicized the car last year.
On Monday, Honda also announced three dealerships near Los Angeles that
will be the first to start leasing FCX Claritys.
Fuel-cell vehicles have been a big gamble for Honda, which has spent
the last 16 years and millions of dollars — the company will not say
exactly how much — developing them. For a time, the company was
criticized for pouring money into unproven technologies while refusing
to follow the rest of the industry into large sport utility vehicles
and pickup trucks.
Now, with gas prices soaring, Honda is in an enviable position of not
being burdened with large inventories of gas-guzzling full-frame trucks
that require hefty incentives to sell, or the factories that build
them. Analysts have said Honda and the rival Japanese carmaker Toyota
have seized a commanding lead in more efficient, green technologies
like hybrids as well as fuel cells.
Honda says one big breakthrough was shrinking the size of its fuel
cells. In the FCX Clarity, they fit in a box-shaped unit the size of a
desktop PC that weighs about 150 pounds, less than half of their size a
The FCX Clarity’s fuel-cell unit can generate up to 100 kilowatts of
electricity, enough to accelerate the car from zero to 60 miles an hour
in less than nine seconds, and give it top speeds of 100 miles an hour,
Honda says. Even at high speed, the FCX Clarity, a four-door sedan that
looks like a sleeker version of the Accord, drives with the hushed
whine of a golf cart.
Honda said a big remaining hurdle to true mass production is the lack
of filling stations that sell hydrogen. Even in California, where the
state government has led a push to build hydrogen stations, there are
still very few public stations, Honda said. That will make it hard to
drive the car far from home, limiting its appeal, the company said.
For now, the first batch of customers seem drawn by the car’s novelty
as much as anything else. The first owner, the film producer Ron Yerxa,
said he did not plan to drive it far, just to work and to eat out — far
enough to draw the admiration of passers-by.
“When I drive it to breakfast, people will ask about it,” Mr. Yerxa
said. “They’ll want one, too.”
Topic: Alternative Fuel Vehicles
Living the Hydrogen Life
IN July 2005, Jon
Spallino; his wife,
Sandy; and their two daughters became minor celebrities — at least in
California, and mostly in their hometown of Redondo Beach. They were
the first family to enter into a two-year, $500-a-month lease of a
Honda FCX fuel-cell car.
Driving the FCX meant being behind the wheel of one of the
company’s priciest ventures in alternative fuels. The neighbors just
thought the car was weird.
Honda will release the next-generation FCX in about six
months and will make a limited number available to more customers.
While the company said that many improvements would be made in
performance, fuel economy and looks, the thought is likely to remain:
people are driving something weird. So who better to describe living la
vida fuel cell than the Spallino family?
No strangers to alternative fuel, the Spallinos brought home
the FCX, which the company said was worth $1 million, when they already
had a natural-gas Honda
Civic in the driveway. However, the hydrogen car came with a
“Fueling, period,” said Mr. Spallino, 42, the chief financial
officer of a construction and engineering company. He commutes to the
office in the FCX a couple of times a week, a round trip of 75 miles.
The Spallinos also drive it around their community.
They still have the Civic and also have a 2007 Lexus ES 350
for extended trips.
“The frustration has been in getting fueling stations
online,” he said. “But the silver lining is that a few have come online
very recently that have made a lot of that problem go away for me. For
the general public, it would still be a big issue.”
He expected another fueling site to open along his route
within the next 90 days, which he said would allow him to drive the FCX
more. As it stands, he fills up once or twice a week and averages 170
miles on a tank. Honda pays for his fuel.
The Spallinos live with that inconvenience because they want
to contribute to the bigger picture, which Mr. Spallino sees as “trying
to advance the technology that I think can help our country and planet,
and, frankly, help get us off the fossil-fuel drug.” If that means
acting as an impromptu spokesman for fuel cells while buying groceries,
so be it. “I am always asked one of two questions: ‘Where did you get
that?’ or ‘Can I get one?’ ”
Occasionally, people ask about the safety of all that
hydrogen in the car, “but that’s more, I assume, out of curiosity than
real fear,” Mr. Spallino said. He said he was not nervous. “No, I’m
really not, because somebody’s got to do it, and why not me?”
His auto insurance company would provide only liability and
bodily-injury coverage. Honda pays the collision insurance, “because
they’re going to take the risk of the million-dollar crunch,” he said.
But it’s the valet-parking guys who are most stumped by the
FCX; they can never tell whether the engine is running. “I say, ‘It’s
on; just look at the dashboard and you’ll see a little indicator
saying, ready to drive,’ ” Mr. Spallino said, laughing.
His children, Adrianna, 13, and Anna, 11, have a different
approach to the fuel-cell lifestyle. “They’re more interested in the
attention it gets,” Mr. Spallino said. “Their first interest is, ‘Wow,
Dad, let’s take the fuel-cell car because my friends think it’s cool
and people on the street wave at us.’ ”
Their time in the FCX has been so educational and satisfying
that the Spallinos said they would lease a new one. Honda said that
“they have been a great customer, and we intend to continue existing
relationships, but the delivery plan has not yet been finalized.”
The Spallinos said they didn’t mind the wait. They renewed
their current FCX lease for another year.
Auto Show: Driving Honda’s Fuel-Cell FCX
By Norman Mayersohn
24, 2007, 9:41 am
LOS ANGELES — Before hustling off to
LAX for my flight home from the auto show last Sunday, I spent a
morning driving what may be the most advanced road vehicle on the
planet: the Honda FCX Clarity. This fuel-cell powered car, unveiled in
production-ready form at the convention center earlier in the week,
will be built in small numbers and leased to retail customers next
summer for their everyday use.
The FCX is an astonishing
accomplishment on many levels, some of which we’ll soon be reporting on
in the newspaper. Not the least of its praiseworthy qualities is the
degree of refinement it exhibits. Forget for a moment about the
technology of its compact new Honda-developed fuel cell stack and the
cleverness of its experimental home refueling system. What really
impressed me was how polished it was: on the road it was totally
glitchless, and under the hood it looked no different from the
plastic-swathed engine bays of dozens of current cars.
This was no escapee from the R&D
lab, no geeky engineering student’s senior project. It’s the real
thing, fully qualified for showroom duty and its eventual trip to the
motor vehicles department for license plates. Anyone who has driven a
Toyota Prius will find the controls completely familiar.
Honda will only be leasing the FCXs
to hand-picked customers; to qualify they will need to have access to
hydrogen refueling. So, sure, the infrastructure is not ready, but the
car certainly is. Silent in operation except for a turbinelike whir
under acceleration (and the occasional hum of a pump) it asks no
special consideration in return for its zero-emissions, carbon-free
operation. Driving up into the blackened canyons above Mailbu, it
lacked nothing in roadworthiness; on top of that, it is handsome and
As a design study, the FCX had been
seen at previous auto shows, of course (and an earlier version was
reviewed here) so perhaps it wasn’t the brightest star at the L.A. Auto
Show. But even with the debuts of significant production and concept
vehicles from several automakers, over all the show made fewer
headlines than expected.
But no one could complain about the
setting. As I drove in from the airport on a warm Tuesday evening
before the media previews opened, the final glimmers of a golden sunset
reflected off the cluster of buildings that comprise downtown Los
Angeles. The thin crescent of a waxing moon hung low in the brilliantly
clear sky, the mountains that rim the city’s basin providing an ideal
backdrop for the revitalized downtown. The city where I once lived —
but where I rarely encountered any areas that felt remotely citylike —
was ready for its closeup.
Exiting the tangle of freeways that
were either built since I lived here or were known by different names,
the scene was back-East familiar: a bustling district of relatively
narrow streets lined by mostly older buildings, the sidewalks crowded
with people heading home from work. Downtown, while small by New York
standards, has a real vitality — and it has some ways to go. A few
hours later, after settling into my hotel room, I ventured out for
dinner, only to find empty streets and a closed-for-the-night
feeling. Without late-night bistros or 24-hour bodegas, this part
of the Southern California living experience is not yet big-city
Likewise, the show had a
not-quite-mature feel to it. Chrysler, introducing its first hybrids,
the Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango, put on a presentation that was so
rough compared with Detroit’s theatrical productions as to seem like
community theater. But more than anything, there was little feeling of
urgency. Perhaps here the press scrum was just too comfortable to
reveal the all-elbows competitiveness we’re used to suffering in
It may be, too, that the layout of
the Los Angeles Convention Center is not an ideal location for an auto
show. Sprawling like the city itself, it does not enforce an intimacy
like that of the older exhibit spaces on the show circuit. A friend who
is a devout New Yorker was many years ago transferred to Los Angeles
for his job; he told me that he frequently flew to San Francisco for
short stays “just for the compression” of the tall buildings, narrow
streets and crowded sidewalks.
But if the L.A. Auto Show suffers
low compression — like, say, a Daewoo with a broken timing belt — it
still has grown in prominence in recent years and it does offer some
measures of compensation. Auto journalists leaving here get a breather
until mid-January, when the North American International Auto Show
convenes in Detroit. Long-range forecasts are iffy, but it’s doubtful
that the Michigan weather will be as pleasant as it was here the past
FCX: It's easier being green
By Ron Amadon, MarketWatch
Last Update: 9:00 AM ET May 19, 2007
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- At days end, we had circled a neat little
road course set up in the parking lot of the stadium that is home to
Washington's major league baseball team. We did it without using one
drop of gasoline.
We were behind the wheel of Honda's latest green machine, the
hydrogen-electric powered FCX. All that hydrogen must be good for
baseball. The Nationals, predicted to be one of the worst teams ever,
racked up a winning streak right after the event. As of this writing,
they had won four in a row. George Steinbrenner might soon drive an FCX
around Yankee Stadium.
The hydrogen-electric powered FCX is a huge step forward ... it looks
and drives like a real world car.
To clarify, this is the second generation FCX. An earlier model was
more of a subcompact box. This latest iteration is all space age
styling inside and out -- to the degree that it would catch one's eye
from thousands of feet away. (See slide show.)
So, what is it like to drive? Sitting still, you hear
literally nothing, just as you would in an electric hybrid car. Punch
the accelerator and you hear the whine of an electric motor, and that's
it. We think that if the audio system were on you would not notice any
motor noise at all.
Acceleration was adequate and handling very good, given the
large size of this version of the FCX.
"You are not to squeal the tires," said the blue-shirted Honda official
who saw us off. Maximum speed of the FCX is 100 miles per hour. We hit
67 on the backstretch of the course, with virtually no wind or road
"It is now comparable to the performance of current Honda four-cylinder
engines, with superior low end torque," said Sachito Fujimoto, senior
Fellow auto writers at the event raved about the "real world" feel of
this $1 million plus concept car. There was more than enough room for
four full-sized adults front and rear. In fact, there was more rear
seat room than we have seen lately in other gasoline-powered cars.
(The cost of producing the cars in such small numbers is very
high, along with the high inherent costs of some of the materials
While there are significant obstacles to bringing the FCX to
the marketplace, Honda claims it will start leasing the cars to
customers sometime in 2008. They must be near a hydrogen refueling
station, and that probably means the first leases will take place in
California -- the current home of $4 a gallon gasoline.
The lease cost will be about $500 a month.
A zero emission vehicle
They will be clean. "A hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is a zero
emission vehicle," said Steve Ellis, manager of fuel cell marketing for
"The only thing that comes out of the tailpipe is water ... and it is
so clean you can drink it," he told us. We passed up the opportunity to
try that out. "The other advantage is that we are relying on a fuel
that is domestically produced and can be made in a variety of ways, so
that we are not dependent on oil."
One Honda official said an early consumer evaluator said he
did not like the water drops on his garage floor. Asked why, he said,
"You don't like water on your kitchen floor, do you?"
The hydrogen fuel tank in the FCX resides between the rear
wheels. Hydrogen is fed to a fuel cell stack, located between the
seats. The stack makes the electricity that powers the electric motor
-- that moves the car forward. "We are literally reinventing the wheel
here," said Ellis.
By working to improve water drainage, the FCX will start in colder
weather than earlier models -- down to -22 Fahrenheit.
"A more energy efficient power plant and increased hydrogen tank
capacity combine to provide the FCX with a range of some 270 miles,"
Fujimoto said. That is about a 30% improvement over earlier models.
Of course, one of the main obstacles to bringing the hydrogen car to
market is the availability of the gas itself. Honda officials say that
is something that they are working on with some of the major oil
companies, such as Shell. Just when hydrogen will be available
nationwide is not clear. Honda is also working on a system, now in its
second generation, that would allow consumers to refuel the car at home.
We came away impressed with the huge move forward that Honda has made
in hydrogen-electric technology. Again, this drove and looked like a
real world car that you should be able to take home today -- not a
Will you be able to bop into your Honda dealer and buy an eye-catching
FCX one day? Well, there was an event years ago where we rode around
downtown Washington in a terrible test of something called satellite
radio. It constantly lost signal, and backers of the early system
sweating and constantly fiddling with the device and probably cursing
under their breath. Yet today, millions of people tune in to a bird way
up in space.
vision of the future -- a car powered by hydrogen
Michael Taylor, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
(11-15) 04:00 PST Monterey -- The future of driving, if Honda has
anything to say about it, came to a Monterey County race track Tuesday
in the form of a dark red sedan that is slated to be the first fuel
cell car on the planet to come off a production line.
The Honda FCX looks like a slightly futuristic version of a blend of
cars, especially those made by Honda Motor Co. But by one particular
yardstick, the car is special -- it doesn't run on fossil fuel.
Instead, a fuel cell car uses hydrogen.
"This is the first purpose-built fuel cell vehicle to be put on the
road in the hands of retail customers," said Stephen Ellis, fuel cell
marketing manager for American Honda Motor Co. "It's not a car that is
remade from some other platform."
Fuel cell cars have been made by several of the world's biggest
carmakers, but by and large they were cobbled together from an existing
gas- or electric-powered vehicle. Honda itself earlier made a homely
looking fuel cell car, one of which has been in use by a Los Angeles
family for more than a year.
Honda says that within two years it plans to produce and lease to the
public an untold number of cars based on the concept car the company
put on display Tuesday. Tentative plans call for leasing the car for
perhaps $600 or $700 a month. Automakers typically lease experimental
cars to the public rather than sell them outright as a way of retaining
control of them.
On Tuesday, Honda rented Laguna Seca Raceway to show off the only two
FCX cars the company says exist in the world. Reporters were allowed to
take the cars -- each is worth as much as $2 million, according to
industry insiders -- around a portion of the race track, past signs
encouraging "acceleration," "braking" and other exhortations.
The car performed like any moderately sporty sedan. It is quiet, it has
a low center of gravity, and it's relatively fast.
What makes the car unlike any other sedan is its fuel cell stack, a
sandwich of plates that generate electricity through an
electro-chemical process using a combination of hydrogen and oxygen.
The front wheels are driven by an electric motor. The only emission is
The hydrogen can be refined from a number of sources, including coal,
natural gas and methane.
Being a concept car, the FCX at the race track was far from the
finished product. Every time a driver mentioned a possible problem, the
reply was that it's a concept car and the problem will be fixed when
it's in regular production.
A fuel cell car in regular production? Honda knows it faces enormous
barriers as it tries to introduce a completely new way to propel a car.
The biggest problem is where to fuel it. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's
long-touted "hydrogen highway" is behind schedule, said Honda's FCX
product planner, Christine Ra.
Still, a few stations accommodate fuel cell cars, and more are planned,
said Catherine Dun- woody, executive director of the California Fuel
Cell Partnership, a group of companies that promotes the technology.
"There are 23 in California, mostly in Southern California," Dunwoody
said Tuesday, "and 14 more are on the way. Most fuel cell cars fuel at
one or two stations, and we need to move to the point where any car can
find a station."
UC Davis environmental science Professor Joan Ogden, who specializes in
fuel cells, said a study she has seen says that in the next 10 years,
there will be a "roll-out of hydrogen cars and stations" in California.
Others think it will take longer.
"Fuel cell cars have real promise to do double duty -- help the climate
and end our oil addiction," said David Friedman, research director for
vehicle programs at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington,
D.C. "But that future is 20 to 30 years away. All the car companies are
working really hard to make fuel cell vehicles a reality, and they
deserve praise. Yet there are real hurdles to overcome."
Friedman cited problems of making a fuel cell system start in minus-40
degree weather and making the systems as durable as possible.
"We have to get a fuel cell vehicle that is durable and cheap enough,"
Friedman said, "and make sure the hydrogen is clean enough. No one will
cheer if, at the end of the day, we make all our hydrogen from coal and
melt the planet."
As for the economics, Honda Vice President Ben Knight said a fuel cell
car can get the equivalent of a gasoline-powered car's 65 miles per
gallon. An FCX filled with 8.8 pounds of hydrogen can go about 270
miles, he said.
One unknown is how much a hydrogen retailer -- probably one of the big
oil companies -- would charge for hydrogen. Honda also is developing a
home refueling station that draws natural gas from a home's utility
supply and processes it for hydrogen use.
Then there is the real-world question of what a fuel cell car is like
when you have one, day in and day out. Jon Spallino knows.
In June 2005, American Honda began leasing a 2005 Honda FCX to
Spallino, a 41-year-old Redondo Beach businessman with a wife and two
daughters. The Spallinos became what apparently is the only American
family to use a fuel cell car every day, for such things, Spallino
says, as "going to the shopping center, to the soccer field and to
Asked what stood out, Spallino said, "the lack of trouble. I expected
technical problems. All that happened was one flat tire."
He said he fills up the car about once a week at Honda's U.S.
headquarters in Torrance, and otherwise it behaves like a normal car.
Except that he does get a lot of attention, given that "Honda Fuel Cell
Powered FCX" is written in giant letters on the side of the car.
"I finally ended up carrying a stack of brochures explaining the car,"
Spallino said. "All of that was part of the fun."
cells: electric power from hydrogen fuel
Fuel cells create electricity through an electrochemical process
that combines hydrogen and oxygen. Vehicles running on fuel cells would
need to be supplied with gaseous hydrogen extracted from a hydrocarbon
fuel, such as coal, natural gas, or methane. Honda is developing a home
refueling station that draws gas from the home's utility supply and
processes it for hydrogen use.
How fuel cells work
Hydrogen fuel is fed into the anode of the fuel cell. Helped by a
catalyst, hydrogen atoms are split into electrons and protons.
Electrons are channeled through a circuit to produce electricity.
Protons pass through the proton exchange membrane.
Oxygen enters the cathode and combines with the electrons and protons
to form water.
Water vapor and heat are released as byproducts of the reaction.
Ballard Power Systems, Fuel Cells 2000, HowStuffWorks.com
Looking To Mini-Energy
By Susan Haigh, Associated Press Writer
Published on 4/20/2007
Stamford — Leaders of this southwestern Connecticut city — home of
corporate giants General Electric Capital Corp., Pitney Bowes Inc.,
Xerox Corp. and UBS Investment Bank, among others — still feel a chill
when they recall last summer's heat wave.
Underground wires overheated and caught fire, overworked by the
unrelenting power demand from cranked-up air conditioners. Connecticut
Light & Power was forced to cut electricity to thousands of
residents and businesses, closing many of Stamford's corporate
headquarters and financial services companies.
“It was yet another huge power failure in Stamford, which we have grown
accustomed to in the summer, quite frankly,” said a wry Mayor Dannel
Malloy, whose city sits 30 miles east of New York. “I guess we're just
kind of a Third World country here. We have to expect interruptions in
our power on a seasonally adjusted basis.”
The same heat wave left tens of thousands without power for a week in
Queens, N.Y. The blackout cost businesses tens of millions of dollars
as stores were forced to throw out perished goods.
Like Malloy, mayors across the country fear aging and unreliable
electric transmission systems, coupled with skyrocketing energy costs,
are hurting efforts to recruit new business and keep existing ones in
their cities. They are especially concerned about financial firms, such
as hedge funds, where a loss of power can shut down transactions and
equate to a loss of millions of dollars. Stamford is home to many
financial firms, thanks to its proximity to Wall Street.
That's why some are considering creating new micro grid districts, in
which neighboring companies band together to produce their own electric
power. The concept is already popular among communities in Europe and a
similar version of it is being used in Walt Disney World in Orlando,
“It's reached a point now where we have to be reactive to the private
market. Honestly, we have huge competitive pressures for businesses to
be located here,” said Stamford's economic development director,
Michael Freimuth. “These big banks can be in Charlotte, or Atlanta or
Austin. They're in international trading. They don't need to be in
Within these special zones, sometimes referred to as “energy
independence districts,” businesses, government buildings and office
buildings can design and create their own power source, such as a fuel
cell or natural gas generator, using the electric grid only as a
backup. They might also tap into underground aquifers and use that
water for heating and cooling purposes, or even install solar panels to
capture more energy.
The entities in the district would essentially plan an electrical
system that uses the energy efficiently, based on their needs. For
example, a hotel and office building might team up, with the hotel
needing electricity more at night and the office building needing it
more during the day.
“It's just trying to put in a district where businesses can voluntarily
come together ... to better plan out energy — more affordably, more
reliably and more environmentally sustainable,” said Guy Warner,
president of the Washington, D.C.-based Pareto Energy. The energy
consulting company organizes groups of energy users into
micro-districts and provides the financing to come up with clean,
reliable, small energy generation systems.
Such special districts also help relieve pressure on an overtaxed
electric grid, Warner said.
In Stamford, Malloy is already planning to take the city's government
building off the grid. Besides plans to install solar panels on the
roof, his staff is looking to build its own electric generator for the
nine-story site. Ultimately, he hopes the surrounding businesses,
including the UBS trading floor, might join the city and form an energy
The concept isn't new. Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb,
loved the idea of “distributed generation,” where small, modular units
could be installed nearby, making them more efficient and reliable.
Edison, who died in 1931, also predicted the noise and pollution
problems from traditional generators would eventually be solved, Warner
While no city has yet established an energy independence district per
se, several communities have created similar special districts to
provide innovative energy systems, Warner said. They include
Sacramento, Calif.; Austin, Texas; Chicago; and Disney World in
Orlando, Fla. Community-owned micro grids are already popular in Europe
and the United Kingdom.
Last year in Austin, a municipal utility teamed up with a Kansas City
engineering and construction consulting firm to install a microgrid
that provides electricity, heating and cooling for the new Dell
Children's Medical Center. The system uses exhaust heat from the
natural-gas-fired combustion turbine for a heat recovery steam
generator. That steam provides heat to the hospital and chilled water
In Connecticut, Warner and Stamford officials are lobbying state
lawmakers to pass legislation this session to allow micro grids. The
concept was proposed last year, but was rolled into a massive energy
reform bill that died in the final hours of the session. This year,
there are two bills that would create such districts and allow them to
finance an energy project by selling municipal tax-exempt bonds.
Proponents laud the micro districts as a way to improve electric
reliability and combat skyrocketing prices in the wake of Connecticut's
decision to deregulate its electric industry in 1998. They say it could
also be a way to reduce the state's demand for electricity. Connecticut
ratepayers currently face federally imposed surcharges because of the
transmission bottleneck on the Northeast grid in southwestern
Connecticut, including Stamford.
Those fees, estimated to total $800 million in Connecticut, are
supposed provide a financial incentive for power generators to invest
in new transmission lines and power plants to meet New England's
growing energy needs.
State Sen. Gary LeBeau, D-East Hartford, the Commerce Committee
co-chairman, said the micro grid legislation is a top priority for his
“The energy produced fits the size of the project,” he said. “Obviously
this would take a load off the grid. It would be cleaner. It would be
energy efficient. It does a lot of good.”
Hybrids Gain Traction Locally As Gas Prices Soar
By Patricia Daddona
Published on 6/9/2008
More consumers in southeastern Connecticut are trying to counteract the
$4.27 statewide average price of gasoline - currently third-highest in
the nation - by going green. Their reward for driving a hybrid
Increased fuel economy, reduced emissions, federal tax credits and
sales tax exemptions that went into effect April 1 - but not
necessarily huge savings over time, experts say.
”People only see a huge slap in the face they're getting at the pump,
but you won't make up money in gas savings alone” by buying a hybrid
instead of a small, fuel-efficient car, warned Mike Quincy, a content
specialist for Consumer Reports' Connecticut Auto Testing Center.
Still, the demand for hybrids is high. In showrooms at Cardinal Honda
in Groton and Girard Toyota in New London, and on the outdoor lots,
there's not a hybrid to be seen. That's because Japanese
can't keep up with demand. Waits are two to four weeks for a Civic
Hybrid and three months or more for the Toyota Prius, company spokesmen
Customers have been offering Girard salesman Tony Arruda up to $5,000
above the base sticker price of $23,435 for a Prius. He asks them to
put down a deposit and join the growing waiting list while
manufacturers try to match demand. Cardinal Honda is selling
hybrids a month and Girard Toyota is selling 10, compared with five and
six a month respectively last year, and spokesmen there say they would
sell more if more cars were available.
”The demand is there, and they can't produce them fast enough,” Arruda
said. “We have 10 to 12 people a day that want to buy them, and we
can't take orders for them because we don't know how many we're going
Hybrid-electric vehicles combine the benefits of gasoline engines and
electric motors, improve mileage, increase power and can add extra
power for electronics and tools, according to the U.S. Department of
Energy. By 2015, sales of hybrid cars could more than triple and
comprise as much as 7 percent of the car market, up from less than 3
percent today, according to a forecast by J.D. Power and Associates,
said spokesman John Tews.
In 2008, the firm estimates there will have been 422,000 sold in the
United States, he said. The company is a market research firm with a
strong focus on the automotive market. In May, the Ford F150
truck, long the best-selling vehicle in country, dropped from first
place to fifth, said Cody Lusk, president of the American International
Automobile Dealers Association.
His group represents some 11,000 international franchises, but not the
Big Three - Ford, GM and Chrysler. Now, more and more car buyers
seeking out high mileage vehicles and hybrids, he said.
”We're requesting as many as we can get,” said Rob Bonosconi, Cardinal
Honda's new car sales manager. “If they dropped a truck off with 10 of
them now, we'd probably deliver them all in a couple of days.”
The Ford Escape, a hybrid SUV made overseas, is also in short supply,
said Whaling City Ford Vice President Charles Primus.
”We could sell all the hybrids Ford gives us, but Ford is not producing
enough,” Primus said. “We're disappointed. We know Ford is working on
In America, gas prices have been artificially low compared to the rest
of the world, and only now are catching up, Lusk said.
”Some of the industry saw this coming, but it's hard to convince people
to buy fuel-efficient vehicles when gas is $2.50 a gallon,” he said.
Hybrid Owners of America, a trade group with more than 500 members,
found in a survey that 44 percent of drivers said in January they would
consider a hybrid if gasoline topped $4 a gallon, said spokeswoman
Ailis Aaron Wolf.
”It wasn't that long ago that people thought hybrids were this
pie-in-the-sky idea,” she said.
Despite the increased popularity, Quincy, of Consumer Reports, warns
that the higher prices for a hybrid still can't be recovered just with
savings on gas.
”The premium cost for a hybrid is going to take many, many years of
driving to overcome the difference” in cost compared to a four-cylinder
passenger car, Quincy said.
Small, fuel-efficient cars are making a huge comeback, and are cheaper
than hybrids, he added. The Toyota Corolla, for instance, costs about
$6,000 less than the Prius, and averages 32 mpg. The Prius averages 44
mpg but costs more to buy. Analysts at www.hybridcars.com warn
the lengthy waiting lists may discourage Prius and other hybrid buyers,
but dealers like Arruda say the interest in them remains high.
”I think the U.S. is overdue to get in line with most of the world,”
Quincy said. “I think above $3 and maybe $4 a gallon might be here to
stay. And industry experts are saying this run on small cars, this is
here to stay.”
Above, the way the market works
Shaky Battery Maker Claims a Breakthrough
By BILL VLASIC and MATTHEW L. WALD, NYTIMES
June 11, 2012
DETROIT — Lauded during a visit by President Obama, A123 Systems was
supposed to be a centerpiece of his administration’s effort to use $2
billion in government subsidies to jump-start production of
sophisticated electric batteries in the United States.
Instead, the company, which makes lithium-ion batteries for electric
cars, has stumbled along with the rest of the nascent industry and now
threatens to give more ammunition to critics of the president’s heavy
spending on new energy technologies.
A123 had to cut workers at its new factory in Livonia, Mich., financed
in part with the promise of a $249 million government grant, after its
battery for one new electric vehicle faltered and required an expensive
recall. Completion of the factory has been delayed. The company is
running short of money and has warned that unless it raises more cash
from private investors, it might not be able to stay in business.
Yet as much as A123 represents the risks of the government’s battery
technology program, it also represents its promise. On Tuesday, A123
Systems will unveil a new battery technology that the company says is a
breakthrough in the industry.
The advance uses a new chemistry that could permit the creation of a
simpler, lighter, longer-lasting battery pack that does not require a
system to cool or heat it.
The success or failure of the new technology may well determine the
fate of A123. It will also render an early verdict on Mr. Obama’s
broader push to promote electric cars and build a domestic industry to
develop and manufacture advanced batteries to run them.
The president’s prediction of a million electric cars on the road by
2015 seems unattainable, given the tepid demand for the first models on
the market. So far this year, combined sales of the Chevrolet Volt
plug-in hybrid and Nissan Leaf electric car total less than 10,000
vehicles. The slow sales have already become a campaign issue, and the
failure of the solar-panel company Solyndra has also drawn intense
criticism of the administration’s clean-energy subsidies.
In response to the Solyndra bankruptcy, which cost taxpayers about half
a billion dollars, the Department of Energy has tightened controls on
loans related to electric cars and other fuel-saving technology. In the
case of Fisker Automotive, which received the defective A123 batteries,
the government froze its loans when the company missed production
Executives of A123, which is based in Waltham, Mass., say the company
has gotten off to a slower start than anticipated because the market
for electric cars has failed to grow. The company reported a loss of
$125 million in the first quarter of this year, as revenues dropped 40
percent from the year earlier.
“It’s been softer than what we and everyone else expected,” said David
Vieau, chief executive of A123.
Yet the major automakers remain committed to electric vehicles so far,
and G.M. has given A123 the contract to supply batteries for the
Chevrolet Spark, an all-electric minicar due next year.
The government, for its part, recently gave A123 an extra two years to
meet production targets at its Michigan factory and earn the full $249
million grant, which is being disbursed in tranches. So far, only about
half the money has been given to the company.
In addition to the factory grant, A123 has received about $14 million
in Energy Department money for research and development.
The government may have financed the company because “these guys have
some new chemistry, some new ideas,” rather than the ability to
commercialize the product, said Professor Prashant N. Kumta, a
materials science expert at the University of Pittsburgh, who began
working on lithium-ion batteries in the 1990s.
He said that A123 had been “a bit of a disappointment” because it had
not put much product into the market.
The Energy Department said it would not comment on the viability of
But a spokeswoman, Jen Stutsman, said, “The market for electrified
vehicles is expected to triple by 2017 — which is why automakers in
every part of the world are racing to introduce new models of hybrid
and electric vehicles.”
“The investments being made today will help ensure that the jobs that
support this rapidly growing industry are created here in the United
States,” she said.
Supporters of the energy programs say it is unrealistic to expect every
government-backed company to thrive immediately.
“We should be willing to take on some of the risks for the new energy
economy, even if some of these start-ups fail,” said Representative
Diana DeGette of Colorado, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and
Commerce subcommittee that investigated Solyndra.
But Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican nominee for president and
former governor of Massachusetts, has attacked subsidies to energy
companies as a waste of taxpayer dollars. “When Mitt Romney is
president, government will stop meddling in the marketplace,” a Romney
spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, said on the campaign’s Web site.
A123 Systems is a prime example of how a promising venture can bog down
in the harsh realities of the automotive marketplace. Founded in 2001,
the company has been primarily focused on making lithium-ion battery
packs specifically for cars, like the Fisker Karma and a forthcoming
all-electric version of the Chevrolet Spark, a minicar made by General
But the company stumbled when it was forced to recall potentially
defective batteries planned for use in the Fisker vehicle. And with the
future market for electric cars in question, A123 might not survive
solely on batteries for those models.
Instead, A123 is now hoping that the new technology it is unveiling
Tuesday, called Nanophosphate EXT, will help it enter new markets. The
company says the new electrolyte chemistry eliminates the need for
heating and cooling in extreme temperatures. That would avoid the
addition of costly and heavy temperature-management equipment and
prolong the life of the battery.
The technology could be used to produce batteries for
telecommunications equipment, military vehicles and hybrid gas-electric
cars that employ start-and-stop engine systems. It also could yield
batteries that could be used to replace the millions of ordinary
lead-acid batteries in cars currently on the road.
“It’s a hedge against the market for electric vehicles,” Mr. Vieau said.
The company is hoping that the promise of the new technology will help
persuade investors to back a $50 million convertible debt offering by
One battery expert said the new technology’s extended life span could
have an immediate impact on the luxury-car market.
“The car company can advertise that this lithium-ion battery is going
to last the life of the vehicle, with no need for replacement,” said
Ahmad A. Pesaran, an engineer at the government’s National Renewable
Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.
Potential automotive customers can test samples later this year, with
production scheduled to begin in the first half of 2013.
Does America Need Manufacturing?
By JON GERTNER
August 24, 2011
You can drive almost anywhere in the state of Michigan — pick a point
at random and start moving — and you will soon come upon the wreckage
of American industry. If you happen to be driving on the outer edge of
Midland, you’ll also come upon a cavern of steel beams and ductwork,
400,000 square feet in all. When this plant, which is being constructed
by Dow Kokam, a new venture partly owned by Dow Chemical, is up and
running early next year, it will produce hundreds of thousands of
advanced lithium-ion battery cells for hybrid and electric cars. Just
as important, it will provide about 350 jobs in a state with one of the
nation’s highest unemployment rates.
Over the last two years, the federal government has doled out nearly
$2.5 billion in stimulus dollars to roughly 30 companies involved in
advanced battery technology. Many of these might seem less like viable
businesses than scenery for political photo ops — places President
Obama can repeatedly visit (as he did early this month) to demonstrate
his efforts at job creation. But in fact, the battery start-ups are
more legitimate, and also more controversial, than that. They represent
“the far edge,” as one White House official put it, of where the
president or Congress might go to create jobs.
For decades, the federal government has generally resisted throwing its
weight —and its money — behind particular industries. If the market was
killing manufacturing jobs, it was pointless to fight it. The
government wasn’t in the business of picking winners. Many economic
theorists have long held that countries inevitably pursue their natural
or unique advantages. Some advantages might arise from fertile farmland
or gifts of vast mineral resources; others might be rooted in the high
education rates of their citizenry. As the former White House economic
adviser Lawrence Summers put it, America’s role is to feed a global
economy that’s increasingly based on knowledge and services rather than
on making stuff. So even as governments in China and Japan offered aid
to industries they deemed important, factories in the United States
closed or moved abroad. The conviction in Washington was that
manufacturing deserved no special dispensation. Even now, as
unemployment ravages the country, so-called industrial policy remains
politically toxic. Legislators will not debate it; most will not even
speak its name.
By almost any account, the White House has fallen woefully short on job
creation during the past two and a half years. But galvanized by the
potential double payoff of skilled, blue-collar jobs and a dynamic
clean-energy industry — the administration has tried to buck the tide
with lithium-ion batteries. It had to start almost from scratch. In
2009, the U.S. made less than 2 percent of the world’s lithium-ion
batteries. By 2015, the Department of Energy projects that, thanks
mostly to the government’s recent largess, the United States will have
the capacity to produce 40 percent of them. Whichever country figures
out how to lead in the production of lithium-ion batteries will be well
positioned to capture “a large piece of the world’s future economic
prosperity,” says Arun Majumdar, the head of the Department of Energy’s
Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The batteries, he
stressed, are essential to the future of the global-transportation
business and to a variety of clean-energy industries.
We may marvel at the hardware and software of mobile phones and
laptops, but batteries don’t get the credit they deserve. Without a
lithium-ion battery, your iPad would be a kludge. The new Chevrolet
Volt and Nissan Leaf rely on big racks of lithium-ion battery cells to
hold their electric charges, and a number of new models — including
those from Ford and Toyota, which use similar battery technology — are
on their way to showrooms within the next 18 months.
This flurry of activity comes against a dismal backdrop. In the last
decade, the United States lost some five million manufacturing jobs, a
contraction of about one-third. Added to the equally brutal decades
that preceded it, this decline left large swaths of the country, the
Great Lakes region in particular, without a clear economic future. As I
drove through the hollowed-out cities and towns of Michigan earlier
this year, it was hard to tell how some of these places could survive.
Inside the handful of battery companies that I visited, though, the
mood was starkly different. Many companies are working on battery-pack
designs for dozens of car models. At the Johnson Controls factory in
Holland, Mich., Ray Shemanski, who is in charge of the company’s
lithium-ion operation, said, “We have orders that would fill this plant
right now.” Every company I visited not only had plans to get their
primary factories running full speed by 2012 or 2013 but also to build
or expand others. Jennifer Granholm, Michigan’s former governor, has
predicted that advanced batteries will create 62,000 jobs over the next
It is tempting to see in this the stirrings of an industrial
revolution. These days, confidence is itself a rare and precious fuel,
and in Michigan’s nascent battery belt, there is no shortage of it. As
the country’s jobless rate hovers above 9 percent, could this
manufacturing revival be part of the answer to the jobs crisis? Or is
it merely an expensive government bet on a lost cause?
About 30 minutes northwest of Detroit, just off the Interstate, in
Livonia, sits the modern, red brick automotive headquarters of A123
Systems, a beneficiary of about $375 million in federal stimulus funds
and matching state grants. A123 provides the cells for a new electric
car called the Fisker Karma, as well as various electric bus and truck
projects around the world. A123 is also the first large-scale
lithium-ion manufacturer whose domestic operations are up and running,
though its pedigree is international. Its battery technology was
developed at M.I.T., and for the last several years, the company had
been making its lithium-ion cells in factories in Korea and China. When
I asked Jason Forcier, the head of A123’s automotive division, why the
company went to Asia to make its products, Forcier said he had no
choice. “That’s where the supply base was,” he said. “That’s where the
know-how was — it was nonexistent in the U.S.”
Repatriating a high-tech manufacturing plant to the United States is
not simply a matter of hiring the local talent. It requires good-old
foreign know-how. “We call it ‘copy exact,’ ” Forcier said. “We bought
a company in Korea that had the technology around this type of battery
and had developed the manufacturing process there. We basically brought
that here, copied it exactly and scaled it up.” A123 also brought a
team of six Korean engineers to help transfer the technology to the
U.S. and sent a team of Americans to Korea to learn.
I heard a similar story at LG Chem Power — a battery start-up and an
American subsidiary of LG Chem, a Korean firm. LG Chem is building a
factory in Holland, Mich., to make batteries for the Chevy Volt.
Production depends on replicating the company’s lithium-ion plants
abroad, down to the smallest detail. “In fact, we’re making it like a
copy — cut and pasted from Korea to here,” Prabhakar Patil, the C.E.O.
of LG Chem Power, said.
Neither Forcier nor Patil made any apologies. Each told me that the
moves to Michigan provided them with a skilled work force and operating
expenses that are largely competitive with factories abroad. (Only 5 to
10 percent of the cost of a battery cell, Patil told me, comes from
labor; material accounts for the bulk of expenses.) Each also saw his
company’s strategy of importing manufacturing technology to the United
States as imperative. A state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery plant is
as different from an automobile plant as a science lab is from a
gymnasium. Cell-making — the automated administration of thin chemical
coatings on the batteries’ inner components; the mechanized cutting and
folding of metal parts; the workers in sanitary “bunny suits”
overseeing conveyor belts that move pristine cells through sealed
assembly chambers — is painstakingly precise. A stray hair or a drop of
sweat can ruin a lithium-ion cell. “Don’t touch anything,” Forcier
advised me as we began to walk through the factory at A123.
Lithium-ion cells like the ones made at A123 probably don’t look like
any battery you’ve ever used. They are stiff, rectangular,
metallic-colored envelopes, roughly the dimensions of a thin trade
paperback, with two small tabs. Individually, the cells aren’t much use
for a car; they must be stacked with others in modules or packs. The
Chevy Volt, for instance, has a pack of 288 cells, wired together and
running down the center of the car. The pack is the most expensive and
sophisticated element of the car, much in the way the processor is the
most important element of a computer. Everything about the cell pack —
its interior chemistry, its unifying electronics, its cooling systems —
is variable and made to order. “With G.M., we’ve been working for two
years on their exact requirements for the next-generation Volt,”
Michael Sinkula, a founder of a battery-component company called Envia
Systems, explained. “They say: ‘We want it to perform this way. Is that
possible?’ And then we tell them if it’s possible.”
The Volt is just one car, of course — one whose sales are unremarkable.
Still, the global automobile market is so large that even modest gains
in market share could spark tremendous growth for battery-makers. “If
you look at the year 2016, and you say, ‘Only 5 percent of the market
is electrified?’ Well, that’s a $14 billion market for lithium-ion
batteries,” Forcier says. “To hit 5 percent is a huge number of
vehicles. And the business around making lithium-ion batteries for 5
percent of the world’s cars is a huge, huge business.”
In the late ’80s, Patil, of LG Chem Power, was working at Ford, trying
to build a pure electric-battery vehicle called the ETX and getting
nowhere. He was using a more primitivelead-acid battery technology.
Automotive engineers tend to use two distinct measures — power and
energy — to evaluate battery chemistries. Power relates to
acceleration; energy relates to how far a car can travel before it
needs to be recharged. The ETX wasn’t good by either yardstick. “The
car went 0 to 60 in 12 seconds,” Patil recalls. “Its range was 60 miles
on a good day.” The lead-acid batteries were so heavy that the cars
were nicknamed lead sleds. With a performance and range so inferior to
a typical gasoline vehicle, how could you expect a consumer to pay a
premium — what was then about $10,000 — for it?
Eventually, lead-acid batteries yielded to nickel-metal hydride, which
was incorporated into the Toyota Prius and, later, a range of hybrid
vehicles. At the same time, a more promising battery chemistry based on
lithium — with far greater potential for both power and energy — was
being developed by various scientists, notably John Goodenough at the
University of Texas. Sony was the first company to broadly adapt the
lithium technology at its factories in the early 1990s; the company
consistently improved the product and began incorporating it into
consumer-electronic devices. But automakers couldn’t figure out how to
cost-effectively adapt the technology. Patil recalls a “chicken-and-egg
problem” as he tried to build a Ford Escape hybrid in the late 1990s.
“I used to get thrown out of C.E.O.’s’ battery offices regularly,” he
said. “They said: ‘Show me the market. Otherwise, leave.’ ” Patil knew
there could be no market in the United States without significant drops
in the batteries’ price and significant increases in their performance.
But it was a Catch-22. Improvements in price and performance were
impossible unless companies became serious about manufacturing.
Federal agencies like the Department of Energy have long financed
scientific research — through university grants, for instance — on
technologies like lithium-ion batteries. But a basic feature of
government policy is to allow corporations and entrepreneurs to pick
through the results of that research, commercialize the promising ideas
and let the market sort things out. In other countries, it often works
differently. Governments are more willing to help companies pool
information about a new industry or technology and (especially in Korea
and China) assist with the early-stagecommercialization of products,
including the construction of plants. While Patil was getting booted
from executive offices at Ford, companies in Asia, in some cases with a
boost from their governments, focused on streamlining the manufacturing
process. Battery performance steadily improved, and costs dropped. By
the mid-2000s, it was clear that if the lithium-ion battery continued
to get better at the same rate, the product might soon be suited for
In January 2009, two weeks before Barack Obama’s inauguration, Senator
Carl Levin of Michigan sent a letter to Obama and his advisers — Rahm
Emanuel, David Axelrod and Lawrence Summers — about the promise of
lithium-ion technology. “The country or region that controls and
dominates the production of batteries will also ultimately control
green-vehicle production,” Levin said in a speech he later gave to the
Senate. Levin’s efforts effectively laid the groundwork for battery
grants to be part of the $787 billion American Recovery and
“It was a calculated risk — a lot of money, to be sure, but given the
stakes, I think it was a pretty thoughtful bet,” says Ron Bloom, who
recently served as an assistant to President Obama for manufacturing
policy. “If vehicle electrification really does take off, as many, many
people think it will, and we’re not part of it, then we could lose our
leadership of the global automobile industry.” Which would be
catastrophic. By some estimates, as much as 20 percent of all
manufacturing jobs are directly or indirectly related to the automobile
industry. Bloom points out that the United States is not the only
country betting on batteries; a number of Asian countries have done so
On both sides of the world, the fundamental appeal of expanding
manufacturing is jobs. It is a curiosity of modern life that
information companies can create extraordinary social disruptions and
vast shareholder wealth but relatively few jobs. Facebook has about
2,000 employees worldwide. Google has about 29,000. Even in its new,
slimmed-down state, General Motors, a decidedly less valuable company,
has about 200,000 employees. What’s more, that number represents only a
fraction of the people behind the production of a G.M. car. “When
you’re manufacturing anything, even if the work is done by robots and
machines, there’s an incredible value chain involved,” Susan Hockfield,
the president of M.I.T., says. “Manufacturing is simply this huge
engine of job creation.” For batteries, that value chain would include
scientists researching improved materials to companies mining ores for
metals; contractors building machines for factory work; and designers,
engineers and machine operators doing the actual plant work. By some
estimates, manufacturing employs about 65 percent of America’s
scientists and engineers.
Hockfield recently assembled a commission at M.I.T. to investigate the
state of American manufacturing and to offer a plan for its future. “It
has been estimated that we need to create 17 to 20 million jobs in the
coming decade to recover from the current downturn and meet upcoming
job needs,” she said at a conference this past March. “It’s very hard
to imagine where those jobs are going to come from unless we seriously
get busy reinventing manufacturing.” This logic has been endorsed by
Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric’s C.E.O.; Andy Grove, the former
chairman of Intel; and Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemical’s C.E.O. A widely
circulated 2009 Harvard Business Review article — “Restoring American
Competitiveness,” by two Harvard professors, Gary Pisano and Willy Shih
— has become one of the touchstones of the manufacturing debate. In the
article, Pisano and Shih maintain that U.S. corporations, by offshoring
so much manufacturing work over the past few decades, have eroded our
ability to raise living standards and curtailed the development of new
When I spoke with Pisano, he noted that industries like semiconductor
chips — the heart of computers and consumer electronics — require the
establishment of “an industrial commons,” the skills shared by a large,
interlocking group of workers at universities and corporations and in
government. The commons loses its vitality if crucial parts of it, like
factories or materials suppliers, move abroad, as they mostly have in
the case of semiconductors. At first the factories leave; the
researchers and development engineers soon follow.
The most punishing effect, however, may be the one that can’t be
measured — the technologies and jobs that aren’t created because the
industrial ecosystem is degraded. The semiconductor industry, for
example, led to the LED-lighting and solar-panel industries, both of
which are mostly based in Asia now. “The battery is another fascinating
example,” Pisano told me. “The center of gravity is Asia. But why?” If
you go back to the 1960s, he says, the American consumer-electronics
companies decided they were better off in Japan, and then Korea, where
costs were lower. “And then you have to ask: Who had the incentives to
make batteries smaller or more powerful or last longer? Not the car
industry. The consumer-electronics industry did.” This explains why the
U.S. is now playing catch-up with lithium-ion batteries. It also
underscores the vulnerability of an economy with a shrinking
manufacturing sector. “When one industry moves,” Pisano says, “there
can be other industries in the future that follow it that you couldn’t
Even in the battery industry, there are skeptics. Menahem Anderman, a
California-based consultant, says that transforming 10 percent of the
world’s automobiles into either plug-in hybrids or electric vehicles by
2020 is a pipe dream. His projection is for less than 2 percent.
U.S.-based factories, he says, are at a disadvantage. The U.S.
industry, he told me, “was not ready to take in $2 billion from the
government and spend it wisely. And so now we will build a lot of
plants, and we will create overcapacity, and a lot of the companies
will fail.” He has no ideological objection to federal support, he
adds, “but the status of the technology and the market were
incompatible with the desire of the government to create manufacturing
jobs.” For pure electric vehicles in particular, which will likely need
an expensive battery replacement within 10 years, Anderman still sees
the dilemma Patil faced at Ford in the ’90s, when he questioned whether
consumers would pay $10,000 more for an inferior car. As Anderman puts
it: “Has there ever been, in the modern history of capitalist
countries, a new product for which the mainstream customer paid more
By his math, gas prices have to reach about $7 a gallon to make plug-in
electric-hybrid vehicles attractive to consumers. To create demand for
fully electric vehicles, gas prices would have to rise even higher.
Which means generous government subsidies for purchases of these
vehicles. Currently, Chevy Volt owners receive a tax break that brings
the cost of the car down to about $33,500, from $41,000. In Washington,
several people told me that unless there is consistent and increasing
demand, taxpayers will have helped build an industry to nowhere. This
fear is what turned so many politicians and policy makers against
industrial policy in the first place. When government-backed ventures
fail, taxpayers are left on the hook.
For now, battery makers think they can bring down costs quickly enough
to be competitive. Improvements in the manufacturing process —
spreading a better chemical coating on the sensitive elements inside
the batteries, for instance, or raising the plant’s conveyor belt speed
ever so slightly — will increase quality and efficiency. I also heard
talk of start-ups in California working on new cost-effective
chemistries. “We see prices over the next five years coming down 50
percent,” A123’s Forcier told me. “And it’s easy to say that, because
we’re quoting 2014 business, and we know what the prices are.”
Whether this adds up to American jobs is less clear. The hope is that
lithium-ion plants will seed a network of new chemical and equipment
providers. To some extent, this has already happened. Some Japanese and
Korean companies have set up shop in the United States, and local
colleges are offering training courses for aspiring lithium-ion-battery
factory workers. But it’s a fragile ecology. Job numbers are small
relative to the huge plants of Detroit’s past. As the former labor
secretary Robert Reich pointed out, high-tech manufacturing is
increasingly automated. At capacity, the lithium-ion factories in
Michigan will each employ between 300 and 400 people. Even the most
optimistic forecasts — enough hybrid- and electric-car demand to
necessitate several dozen factories — suggest the battery industry
can’t significantly offset declines in American manufacturing.
Which doesn’t mean that it’s a bad investment. If nothing else, the
Obama administration’s efforts in Michigan reawaken the conversation
about industrial policy. To a large extent, this is an old war among
Washington politicians. In the 1970s, it was fought over the federal
bailouts of Lockheed and Chrysler — and a few years later during
debates over whether the country needed to assist domestic companies in
their efforts to gain ground on the Japanese in the semiconductor
industry. By the time George H. W. Bush ascended to the presidency, the
move away from industrial policy was clear.
“All you had to do in the 1980s was say, ‘That’s industrial policy,’
and it killed anything it was hurled at,” says Senator Levin, who along
with Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio is now among the most vocal
advocates of such a policy. “It was the kiss of death. And it set us
back 10 to 20 years in terms of manufacturing in America.” What is
different now, Levin argues, is that “our companies are not competing
with those companies in Korea and Japan. They’re competing with those
governments that are supporting them. It’s naïve to believe that
we just have to let the markets work and we’ll have a strong
manufacturing base in America.” In his view, the lithium-ion
investments are tantamount to repairing a kind of market failure.
The battery executives I spoke to viewed the stimulus money as a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. None seemed to think a federal windfall
would come their way again. None saw their business endeavors as
inherently political or ideological. And none seemed to believe they
could survive if they didn’t drive battery costs down and demonstrate
that they could compete with the best lithium-ion factories abroad. “My
own feeling is this will happen just as the government incentives wear
off,” Patil told me. “By then it has to become a self-sustaining
business, and we actually see a line of sight to get there.”
If the battery stimulus ultimately succeeds, does it demonstrate that
expanding the United States’ economy only through knowledge and
services is no longer a viable strategy? “All of the great new American
companies of the past few decades,” says Suzanne Berger, a chairwoman
of M.I.T.’s panel on the future of American manufacturing, “have
focused on research and development and product definition — Apple,
Qualcomm, Cisco.” These were technology companies that could take full
advantage of what she calls the “modularity” of the global economy.
Their genius resided in the design of their gadgets and information
systems; offshoring the industrial work did not leave them at a
disadvantage. It did the opposite, greatly reducing costs and raising
profits. “Now I think we’re at a really different moment,” Berger says.
“We’re seeing a wave of new technologies, in energy, biotechnology,
batteries, where there has to be a closer integration between research,
development, design, product definition and production.”
One challenge to moving in this direction may be that our banks, hedge
funds and venture capitalists are geared toward investing in financial
instruments and software companies. In such endeavors, even modest
investments can yield extraordinarily quick and large returns.
Financing brick-and-mortar factories, by contrast, is expensive and
painstaking and offers far less potential for speedy returns. Berger
maintains that for the economy to get “full value” from our
laboratories’ ideas in energy or biotech — not just new company
headquarters but industrial jobs too — we must aspire to a different
business model than the one we have come to admire.
Which is to say, companies that have a passing resemblance to A123
Systems in Livonia, Mich. Or to use a more familiar example, a business
that looks less like Google and more like Ford.
won't reach ... More roadside
chargers needed for electric cars
By JOEL SCHECTMAN AP Business Writer
Article published Aug 1, 2010
The auto industry calls it range anxiety: Drivers want electric cars
but worry they won't have enough juice to make long trips. After all,
what good is going green if you get stranded with a dead battery?
It's a fear that automakers must overcome as they push to sell more
battery-powered cars. So government and business are taking steps to
reassure drivers by building up the nation's network of electric
The hope is Americans will become more comfortable buying cars such as
Nissan's all-electric Leaf, due out late this year, which can travel
just 100 miles on a single charge. That's fine for a commute but
potentially stressful for longer road trips.
"I think the Leaf is a beautifully designed vehicle, but 50 miles in
one direction is just not enough," says Bob Shafron, a former electric
car owner in California. "I think they are going to run into problems
in markets like LA, where things are spread out."
While automakers and electric car advocates expect most charging to be
done at home outlets, those plugs won't help drivers running low on
power far from their garages or caught in traffic.
Only a few hundred public chargers exist now, but several government
grants totaling more than $115 million will help add thousands more,
including in San Diego, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Bellevue, Wash.
Electric vehicle advocates hope more will be built by private retailers
and restaurants, using the charging stations to draw in customers the
same way coffee shops offer wi-fi.
Public and privately funded chargers are going up in places like rest
stops, hotels and McDonald's and Starbucks. Still, even the most
optimistic estimates put the number of public charging stations at
16,000 by 2012, tiny compared with the 117,000 gas stations on American
President Barack Obama wants 1 million electric cars on American roads
by 2015, but experts say a chicken-and-egg problem is standing in the
way. Before enough cars hit the road, private vendors may be reluctant
to build many charging stations. And without many charging stations on
the road, people may be reluctant to buy the cars.
Most public stations will take eight hours to juice up a car all the
way, about the same as chargers in individual homes. These plugs could
work for people who have chargers near their offices, but wouldn't work
for quick refueling. Even a partial charge will take awhile -
two-and-a-half hours to get 30 miles. A limited number of the chargers
will be fast-chargers. If you can find one, it will still take 30
minutes for a full powerup.
In 1999, Shafron ran out of power as he was driving his EV1, the
all-electric car that General Motors launched in the 1990s and later
stopped making, from his beach home to Northridge, Calif. His range
meter told him he had 20 miles left, but it quickly ran down to zero.
Difficulty in gauging remaining battery charge was a common issue with
the EV1. Varying road conditions like hills and bad weather, which can
take a toll on battery life, made the range of early electric cars
tough to predict.
Carmakers say that new range meters in today's electric cars are much
more accurate. Whether or not the infrastructure is ready, many
automakers will be putting out electric cars, with an estimated 146,000
on the road by the end of 2012.
Tesla, which just took itself public, has sold a little more than 1,000
high-end electric sports cars and plans to offer a lower-priced sedan
in the next few years. Nissan has its Leaf, and Ford aims to enter the
market with an all-electric Focus in 2012. General Motors Co. will soon
sell its part-electric Volt.
The Volt is scheduled for limited release this fall and allows the
driver to drive on battery alone for 40 miles before switching on a
small gas engine that can take the vehicle up to 300 miles.
As one of the creators of General Motors' failed EV1, Andrew Farah
knows the limits of the electric charging network.
"Show me an EV1 owner and I will show you someone who has broken down,"
said Farah, who cited a lack of a widespread charging network as one
reason for the car's failure. Farah is the lead engineer on GM's Volt.
GM's Volt is partly a reaction to the lack of public chargers and the
limited range that were factors in the EV1's demise. As for the
Leaf, Nissan said it fills a certain niche but isn't for everyone.
"I would not recommend this car for road trips," said Nissan
spokeswoman Katherine Zachary. "We see this as a city car, a commuter
Nissan points out that most people drive well within the 100-mile range
in a given day and that the Leaf will primarily serve those with
regular driving routines. Government data backs that up, with about 78
percent of Americans driving 40 miles or fewer to and from work,
according to the Department of Transportation.
But many Americans drive longer distances for family trips and
vacations. Over Memorial Day weekend, vacationers had planned to travel
an average of 626 miles both ways, with the vast majority of trips by
car, AAA said.
Tom Moloughney, a 43-year-old New Jersey restaurant owner, is part of a
test lease program for BMW's all-electric Mini-E. He said that
electrics work well for two-car households, with the electric as the
primary commuting vehicle and a gas car for longer trips and vacations.
Moloughney said that range anxiety is manageable - you just have to
plan your trips carefully and know how far you're going.
"You are not gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles. You plan
your trips and plan for how far you are going."
launches Smart Power initiative
Suite of rechargeable batteries debuts
By Michael C. Juliano, STAFF WRITER
Posted: 09/04/2009 10:51:20 PM EDT
Bethel-based Duracell Inc. recently debuted several rechargeable
batteries through a new Smart Power initiative to meet the
ever-increasing proliferation of phones, computers and other devices
requiring a charge.
The latest offerings by the company known for copper-top alkaline
batteries include myGrid, a charger that simultaneously energizes
multiple devices, and the GoMobile and the GoEasy for recharging AA or
AAA NiMH batteries in an hour. The products also include the Daylite
LED Flashlight, which provides five times the battery life of
conventional flashlights, and the Powerhouse Charger, Pocket Charger
and the Instant Charger for cell phones.
"It just gives the consumer a sense of security and allows them to stay
in touch," said Kurt Iverson, Duracell's external relations manager.
Rechargeable batteries is Duracell's fastest-growing product category,
but alkaline batteries will remain its primary focus, Iverson said.
"Alkaline is still the biggest category, and we believe it still will
be, because the rechargeable is still dependent on the grid," he said.
Nonetheless, Duracell has come out with rechargeable batteries that can
energize a variety of devices, from cell phones to car batteries to an
entire house and its appliances, Iverson said.
"In reality, we have a number of products that is not the (battery)
cell," he said.
Suggested retail prices for the Smart Power initiative's suite of
chargers are $79.99 for the myGrid, which includes a Power Clip
adapter, $19.99 for the Pocket Charger, $29.99 for the Instant Charger
and $49.99 for the Powerhouse Charger. The GoEasy and GoMobile
chargers, which are available at major retailers, have recommended
prices of $12.99 and $29.99, respectively, while the Daylite
flashlights range from $14.99 to $34.99.
Duracell expects to continue to develop newer and better alkaline and
rechargeable batteries under its Smart Power initiative in response to
the needs of consumers, said Patrick Fellon, brand manager for Duracell
"We are always trying to learn from the consumer," he said.
Duracell is owned by Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, the
world's largest producer of household goods, whose name-brand portfolio
includes Pampers, Head & Shoulders and Tide.
Procter & Gamble reported earnings of nearly $2.5 billion in
the fourth quarter, ended June 30, down from $3 billion a year ago.
Revenue fell 11 percent, to $18.7 billion, as sales fell across the
company's broad portfolio. For its fiscal year, P&G reported
profits rose 11 percent, to $13.4 billion, with a boost from the sale
of its Folgers coffee business, while sales fell 3 percent to $79
The growing number of rechargeable batteries on the market will not
pose an environmental risk as long as they are disposed of properly,
said Paul Nonnemacher, director of public affairs for the Connecticut
Resources Recovery Authority in Hartford.
"I believe most people want to do the right thing," he said. "They just
need the right information, and it needs to be relatively easy to do."
Says Volt Will Get Triple-Digit City
By BILL VLASIC
August 12, 2009
WARREN, Mich. — General Motors said
Tuesday that its Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle,
scheduled for release in 2011, will achieve a fuel rating of 230 miles a gallon in city driving.
The rating is based on methodology
drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency, and most other
automakers have not revealed the mileage for the electric cars. Nissan,
however, announced last week that its all-electric vehicle, the Leaf,
which comes out in late 2010, would get
367 m.p.g., using the same E.P.A. standards.
Figures for highway driving and
combined city and highway use have not been completed for the Volt, but
G.M.’s chief executive, Fritz Henderson, told reporters and analysts at
a briefing that the car is expected to get more than 100 miles a gallon
in combined city and highway driving.
“Our Chevrolet Volt extended range
electric vehicle will achieve unprecedented fuel economy,” Mr.
Henderson said. “I’m confident that we will be in triple digits.”
Volt can travel up to 40 miles
on a single battery charge, at which point a small gasoline engine
kicks in and powers the car and simultaneously recharges the battery.
The battery can be charged in eight hours, at an off-peak cost of about
40 cents, Mr. Henderson said.
Nearly 8 of 10 Americans commute
fewer than 40 miles a day, the company said in a statement, citing
Department of Transportation data. The mileage calculation for the Volt
essentially assumes that most drivers would stay within that range and
not need the gasoline engine.
Mr. Henderson said the Volt would be
a critical part of G.M.’s product strategy. “Having a car that gets
triple-digit fuel economy will be a game changer for us,” he said. The
car will go into production late next year.
But whether the Volt can live up to
its billing has been a matter of debate. Some industry analysts note
that General Motors has a poor track record of introducing green
technology to the market.
G.M. is trying to persuade consumers
to return to its showrooms after filing for bankruptcy on June 1 and
emerging as a reorganized company with fewer brands, models and dealers.
Mr. Henderson and other G.M.
executives met with groups of consumers on Monday to hear their
thoughts on the company’s product lineup.
“We need to communicate what we
have,” Mr. Henderson said. “The only way we’re going to make G.M. great
again is to win in the market.”
The Volt is expected to be both a
so-called halo car to draw consumers to the Chevrolet brand, and a
technological foundation for future electric models.
The company has built about 30 Volts
so far and is testing them in various conditions.
Interest has been building in the
Volt since it was introduced at auto shows in recent years. But with
G.M. now 60 percent government-owned, the car has become a symbol of
the company’s rebirth after its 40-day trip through bankruptcy.
Mr. Henderson said most of G.M.’s
new products would be either passenger cars or fuel-efficient crossover
vehicles. While the company will still build trucks and large sport
utilities, the bulk of its investments will go toward smaller vehicles.
“I think the fundamental premise of
planning for higher fuel prices is the right premise,” he said.
From the wild Internet,
this blog entry...how much for VOLT?
A Revolting Development [Henry Payne]
Detroit, Mich. — GM’s announcement today that the plug-in Chevy Volt
will achieve 230 mpg in city driving is the latest item in its ongoing
PR campaign (last fall’s headline was a 100 mpg combined city/highway
rating) to convince Americans that GM is not only worth their tax money
but that GM is greener than Toyota.
The Volt is also a reminder that tax credits for auto sales are likely
permanent in the age of Big Green Government.
As Brother Pollowitz notes here, the debate is on as to whether
cash-for-clunkers rebates on vehicles getting at least 18 mpg should be
set in stone. But such subsidies are already a fixture (since 2005) on
hybrid and diesel vehicles. The credits are granted on a sliding mpg
scale and run as high as $3,150 for the current mpg champ, theToyota
Prius. And, like Cash for Clunkers, the money is finite — the Prius
subsidy runs out on October 1.
But in order for vastly more expensive electric vehicles like the Volt
to be competitive in the marketplace, the feds have approved a whopping
$7,500 credit. When the Volt goes on sale late next year, GM expects a
base price of $40,000. Thus, the credit will bring the boxy little
Chevy’s sticker within rage of a fully loaded, 50 mpg, $31,000 Prius.
(Whoops — except that’s before the Toyota hybrid’s $3,150 credit. And,
not lying down to GM’s green challenge, Toyota expects to debut its own
100-mpg, $7,500 tax credit-eligible plug-in in 2010).
Already in the hole to GM for $70 billion then, taxpayers will cough up
an extra $7,500 per Volt sold. That’s assuming they sell, of course.
In the current $2.50-a-gallon market, the hottest selling GM car is a
long way from 100 mpg. It’s the ground-pawing 2010 Camaro with
unsubsidized backorders numbering in the thousands.
08/11 05:15 PM
A Quest for Batteries to Alter the
By MATTHEW L. WALD
July 28, 2009
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — In a gleaming white factory here, Bob Peters was
gently feeding sheets of chemical-coated foil one afternoon recently
into a whirring machine that cut them into precise rectangles. It was
an early step in building a new kind of battery, one smaller than a
cereal box but with almost as much energy as the kind in a conventional
The goal of Mr. Peters, 51, and his co-workers at International
Battery, a high-tech start-up, is industrial revolution. Racing against
other companies around the globe, they are on the front lines of an
effort to build smaller, lighter, more powerful batteries that could
help transform the American energy economy by replacing gasoline in
cars and making windmills and solar cells easier to integrate into the
This summer the Obama administration plans to announce how it will
distribute some $2 billion in stimulus grants to companies that make
such advanced batteries for hybrid or all-electric vehicles and related
components. International Battery is vying for a modest chunk of it.
The hope is that the grants will spur far higher levels of
experimentation and production, pushing down the costs that have
prevented these batteries from entering the mass market.
The batteries would not only replace the fuel tanks in millions of cars
and trucks, but would also make windmills and solar cells more
practical, by absorbing excess energy when their production jumps and
giving it back when the wind suddenly dies or the sun goes behind a
But first, companies like International Battery will have to tweak the
chemistry of their devices and improve the manufacturing process,
bolstering the batteries’ capabilities. And prices will have to come
down — a problem that is far more daunting when it comes to batteries
for vehicles and the grid, because the packs are hundreds or thousands
of times the size of those for handheld electronics.
Nearly all battery research now focuses on lithium ion batteries, which
made their consumer debut in 1991 and have since replaced
nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal-hydride technologies in many portable
Lithium is the third-lightest element on the periodic table, which
allows for far greater energy density. A lithium ion battery that will
move a car one mile weighs less than half as much as a nickel metal
hydride and one-sixth as much as lead acid.
Advanced battery manufacturing is mostly based in Japan, China, Taiwan
and South Korea, where laptop computers and similar devices are built.
International Battery bought machines from China that manufacture the
components and has been tweaking them to make them run faster, use
fewer materials and produce a better product. Each button on the
control panels is labeled in Chinese characters, with English penciled
in by hand underneath. Near Mr. Peters’s machine, a cardboard box
awaiting unpacking bears hand lettering that says, “Glass Please
Other companies are also trying out new chemistries and materials, at
the positive and negative terminals of the battery. As technicians try
to improve battery assembly, the first requirement is a strikingly
clean work environment. Mr. Peters, in goggles and spotless rubber
gloves, declined to shake hands recently, just as a surgeon might on
the way into the operator room.
The gloves protect him from the chemicals in the battery, which include
nickel, cobalt and manganese, and shield the battery’s delicate tissues
from the natural oils on his fingers.
“We don’t want any debris,” said Mr. Peters, who formerly worked at a
nearby factory that made bulletproof glass. (International Battery’s
pristine new showplace was previously an appliance repair shop.)
The engineers face a difficult challenge. The batteries have to store a
lot of energy in a small, light package, scoring high in a quality
known as energy density. They also have to absorb energy and give it
back quickly, a factor called power density.
Think of a battery as a bottle for energy, and the power density as the
size of the bottle’s neck. Good energy density means a shape like a
peanut butter jar, easy to fill or empty; low power density is more
like a wine jug with a narrow neck.
The batteries have to charge quickly and withstand thousands of cycles
of charge and discharge. They have to dissipate heat without catching
fire, a product problem that a giant like Apple Computer could survive
but a start-up electric car company probably could not. The batteries
must function in Maine winters and Texas summers.
Engineers have met almost all of these goals, but not simultaneously in
one product. And they are still way off on price: the components remain
far too costly. But they are trying, devoting more and more resources
to meeting that goal.
A few yards away from Mr. Peters, workers were getting ready to tear
out the cafeteria so new cubicles could be built for more engineers as
International Battery’s production expands.
“The battery is an enabler” of electric vehicles and other
technologies, said Ted J. Miller, a technical specialist at the Ford
Motor Company, referring to the models being produced in Allentown and
others relying on different chemistry.
Mr. Miller represents Ford at the Advanced Battery Consortium, an
organization formed with federal encouragement in 1991 to coordinate
research on technology. Ford, Chrysler and General Motors have
contributed, often with research scientists and facilities, and the
Energy Department has written checks.
Automakers need improvements in batteries “everywhere we can get it,”
Mr. Miller said.
In 1991 the Advanced Battery Consortium was founded and set a near-term
target for developing a battery that would cost $150 per kilowatt-hour
of storage. (A kilowatt-hour sells for about a dime and will move a car
three or four miles.)
Eighteen years later, prices are in the range of $750 to $1,000. By
comparison, a lead-acid battery in a conventional car costs less than
$100 for that much capacity, although it is much too heavy to build an
electric car around and not durable enough.
Now the Energy Department has a new goal: $500 by 2012.
“We think we can make that,” said Patrick Davis, the program manager at
the Energy Department’s vehicle technologies program.
One reason for the optimism is the infusion of money that Washington is
preparing to get the job done. The $2 billion in new grants planned
this summer includes $1.2 billion for companies manufacturing battery
cells and complete battery packs, $350 million for electric drive
component manufacturing and $25 million for battery recycling. The cell
and battery- pack companies could get up to $150 million each.
Companies have already applied for more than $6 billion in grants.
The Obama administration is also hoping to drum up market demand. In
March, President Obama, visiting a testing center for electric vehicles
run by Southern California Edison in Pomona, announced tax credits of
up to $7,500 for consumers who buy plug-in hybrid vehicles. Such models
get some of their energy from the power grid and some from gasoline.
“This investment will not only reduce our dependence on foreign oil, it
will put Americans back to work,” Mr. Obama said. “It positions
American manufacturers on the cutting edge of innovation and solving
our energy challenges.”
Some industry experts say that simply getting electric cars to market
will touch off a cycle of new research, investment and product
“If there is a demand for all-electric vehicles, as opposed to small
hybrids, you’re going to have a monumental scale-up of the battery
industry,” said Kevin Czinger, chief executive of Coda Automotive,
which plans to offer a $45,000 four-door all-electric sedan in
California next year.
But when it comes to a genuine mass market for an affordable plug-in
hybrid or all-battery car, “we don’t quite know how to get there,” said
Mr. Miller, of Ford.
Consumer Reports magazine detailed the price problem in its February
issue, reviewing an after-market conversion of a Prius to a plug-in.
For $10,875 the magazine had a five-kilowatt-hour battery installed by
a Toyota dealership in Massachusetts. It got a 67 miles a gallon, a 35
percent improvement over the stock version.
“Our Prius’s conversion to plug-in power cost more than you could ever
expect to recoup in gas savings,” the magazine said. Still, “as a sign
of things to come, we found it encouraging.”
Carl A. Picconatto, a battery expert at Mitre, a technology consulting
firm, and other scientists suggest that materials reduced to the nano
scale are a promising avenue. Nano-materials have huge surface areas in
small, light packages; batteries work through chemical reactions that
unfold on surface structures.
In batteries, charged particles travel through electrolytes. Crawling
through an electrolyte consumes energy that does not get delivered to
the consumer. But pushing through a nano-material could be like
“pushing your hand through sand, versus pushing your hand through a big
pile of rocks,” Dr. Picconatto said.
Still, in some applications, nano-materials gum up the works, or break
down after a few dozen charges and discharges, experts say. Solving
that problem could allow a cheaper, lighter battery pack.
The plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt, due out in November 2010, will carry 16
kilowatt-hours and go up to 40 miles on a full charge; if estimates
from Mr. Miller hold when it goes into mass production, the battery
pack alone would run from $9,600 to $16,000. And that does not count
related parts like the system that maintains the temperature of the
cells within an acceptable range and manages the charging and
G.M. would not disclose the price of the battery pack but expressed
optimism that it would fall.
“We believe electrification is the future if the industry,” said Bob
Kruse, the company’s executive director for global vehicle engineering,
hybrids, electric vehicles and batteries.
“The mastery of battery technology is key,” he said. “We still have a
lot of work to do.”
Announces New York Battery Factory
By Kate Galbraith
May 12, 2009, 12:49 pm
Bloomberg News Jeffrey Immelt, the chairman and chief executive officer
of General Electric, announced plans on Tuesday to open a battery
factory in New York.
General Electric announced today a $100 million investment to build a
new factory in upstate New York that will make batteries — a sector
with huge potential, according to G.E.’s chairman and chief executive,
“We think the business gets to about $500 million in annual revenue by
2015,” Mr. Immelt told Green Inc., referring to the battery business.
It could become a “$1 billion business a few years after that,” he
The batteries to be built at the new factory are not lithium-ion, the
type widely considered to be the future of hybrid and electric cars.
Instead, they are sodium-based batteries — which will help to power
G.E.’s hybrid locomotives after those are commercialized in 2010. The
rationale, explained Mark Little, the director of global research at
G.E., is that the sodium batteries store “a heck of a lot more energy”
than lithium-ion ones. (Think of the size difference between a
locomotive and a Prius, Mr. Little said.)
The sodium batteries could also have applications for data centers and
storage for intermittent types of renewable energy like wind power.
The investment marks the latest venture into batteries for G.E., which
recently increased its investment in A123, a lithium-ion battery maker.
The battery industry, despite its high costs, has become a favorite of
the venture capital industry.
G.E. also hopes that the federal government, with its green-energy
push, will help with the financing.
The factory — expected to begin production in 2011 — will employ 350
people in manufacturing positions. A G.E. spokeswoman said in an e-mail
message, “we are looking at a number of sites in the Capital region and
a decision will be made this summer.”
New York Gov. David Paterson, who attended today’s announcement,
welcomed the arrival of the green jobs, and noted that New York had
lost about 200,000 manufacturing jobs over the past decade. When it
comes to renewables and research, “we have a tremendous capacity to
beat anybody else to this,” he told Green Inc.
“We are betting big on batteries,” the governor stated.
Buck Downward Investment Trend
By Jennifer Kho
April 15, 2009, 10:20 am
A123 Systems, a battery maker in Watertown, Mass., is among
energy-storage companies seeing an uptick in venture capital.
There’s no question that clean-tech investments have plummeted, with
research firms reporting a first-quarter drop of more than 40 percent
from both the previous quarter and the year-ago quarter.
But a deeper look into the numbers also reveals at least one sign of
Energy storage, it seems, is leading a venture-capital rebound. That
may come as a surprise, given that batteries and fuel cells have a
history of being capital-intensive investments. It often takes years of
research and development to bring new energy-storage products to the
market, with far more examples of delays and failures than successes.
Still, advanced-battery and fuel-cell startups raked in $126 million in
the first three months of this year, nearly quadruple the $34 million
raised in the fourth quarter and 12.5 percent more than the $112
million invested in the first quarter of last year, according to the
News since then underlines the growth.
Earlier this month, Lilliputian Systems, a company in Wilmington, Mass.
that develops fuel cells for consumer electronics, raised $28 million.
And this week, A123 Systems, a lithium-ion battery maker in Watertown,
Mass, announced it had raised $69 million, with $15 million from
General Electric and the rest from other unnamed investors.
A123 Systems didn’t specify how much money it has raised since its
inception in 2001, but the new round must be at least its seventh, as
it represents the seventh investment from G.E. The company has
previously announced four rounds totaling $132 million, bringing its
current capital to more than $200 million.
The stimulus package has likely helped to keep the cash flowing. While
the bill, enacted in February, includes provisions for a broad swath of
clean technologies, government agencies are still working out how to
allocate most of the money. The batteries — and electric vehicles —
sector has been one of the few that already has received government
solicitations, and venture capitalists seem to be anteing-up in
The $2 billion set aside for batteries in the stimulus comes on top of
up to $25 billion in direct loans that became available last year for
advanced vehicles, including related energy-storage technologies.
Other sectors also could soon be seeing slightly increased venture
activity as a result of the stimulus. A recent grant solicitation, for
example, suggests that companies involved in transporting biomass for
cellulosic biofuels may be next to see an uptick.
Detroit Auto Show: G.M. to Make
Batteries for Volt in Michigan
By LINDSAY BROOKE
January 11, 2009
GENERAL MOTORS will announce Monday that it will make lithium-ion
battery packs to power the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and other extended-range
electric vehicles at a new facility in Michigan. With the announcement,
to be made during press preview days for the North American
International Auto Show by Rick Wagoner, the company’s chairman and
chief executive, G.M. becomes the first major automaker with a
commitment to producing the advanced battery packs in the United
G.M. is also is expected to announce the opening of a new
advanced-battery test facility at its global electric-vehicle
engineering center in Warren, Mich.
Lithium-battery technology, already common in consumer devices like
cellphones and laptop computers, is still being developed for the more
demanding operating conditions of automobiles. Numerous types of
battery chemistries are under consideration, but lithium ion is widely
considered the leading candidate to meet the range and performance
requirements of the next generation of electric and hybrid vehicles,
including many of the future concept and production cars on display
here in Detroit.
G.M.’s decision to build the battery-pack plant is part of the
automaker’s revitalization plan, shifting the company’s focus to
higher-efficiency cars and trucks. The Volt, which G.M. says will be
capable of driving up to 40 miles on battery power alone, uses an
onboard generator driven by a 1.4-liter gasoline to extend its range
when the battery pack’s charge has been depleted.
With the combined mileage of battery-only operation, which uses no gas,
and the miles covered with the car powered by its generator, the
four-seat Volt sedan is expected to earn a fuel economy rating of more
than 100 miles a gallon from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Full details, including the battery-pack plant’s specific location, are
not expected to be released in the Monday news conference. G.M.’s
announcement comes three weeks after Michigan’s legislature approved
tax incentives worth up to $335 million aimed at attracting
advanced-battery manufacturers to the state. The credits will be
apportioned depending on production volume and other factors. Gov.
Jennifer M. Granholm is expected to sign the legislation.
“This is very important, and it’s beyond symbolic,” said Brett Smith,
speaking of the plant’s significance. Mr. Smith, assistant director for
manufacturing, engineering and technology at the Center for Automotive
Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., explained that it is critical for the
Detroit Three automakers to create an infrastructure in the United
States for volume production of batteries for electric, plug-in
electric and hybrid vehicles.
He noted that while this country lacks a cohesive battery-development
policy, Asian battery companies, supported by their national
governments, dominate global production driven by demand from the
Makers like Panasonic of Japan, LG Chem of South Korea and BYD of
China, with years of experience in this sector, have a significant lead
in battery development and production. (Panasonic, whose hybrid-battery
joint venture is owned primarily by Toyota, recently purchased Sanyo, a
former rival.) Critics charge that American automakers and
defense contractors are
effectively trading dependence on imported oil for dependence on
While numerous start-up companies have emerged to develop advanced auto
batteries in the United States in recent years, few are engaged in
actual production for the automotive market. Wisconsin-based Johnson
Controls has a joint venture with Saft, a French battery specialist,
but lithium-battery production — for Mercedes-Benz and BMW hybrids —
currently is in France.
Last month several United States battery and advanced materials
companies, with support from the Energy Department’s Argonne National
Laboratory, formed the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation
Battery Cell Manufacture. The organization aims to make lithium-based
cells for transportation applications in the United States.
Argonne actively encouraged the alliance and will serve in an advisory
Creating viable base for lithium automotive battery production in the
United States has been a chicken-and-egg situation, Mr. Smith of the
auto research center said.
“Automakers cannot afford the batteries until they can be produced in a
certain volume,” he said. “But they can’t be produced in volume until
the companies make a big manufacturing investment. The timing of that
investment becomes critical — if you jump in too early you could end up
on the bleeding edge rather than the leading edge.”
The battery packs that G.M. will assemble in its new facility are
complex electronic systems. They consist of 220 individual lithium
“cells,” each rated at two to three volts and interconnected in groups
called modules. A complete T-shaped pack is approximately 64 inches
long and weighs nearly 400 pounds. The packs feature their own
computer controls to manage electric-power
flow, and their own heating and cooling equipment. And because the
packs are positioned within the Volt’s underbody structure, they are
housed in extremely durable cases.
Assembling the Volt packs could be a stepping stone toward G.M.’s
production of lithium battery cells in the United States, a move that
would have even greater strategic impact for the domestic auto
industry’s future, Mr. Smith said. G.M. now has two companies under
contract to develop and test prototype lithium cells for the Volt:
Massachusetts-based A123 Systems, which manufactures its cells in
China, and Compact Power, Inc., which is owned by LG Chem.
“With pack assembly in Michigan as the first step for G.M., hopefully
we’ll start to see a lot more activity on the cell manufacturing side
as well,” Mr. Smith said.
Battery Makers Seek
By Claire Cain Miller
December 26, 2008, 7:15 am
In the race to make the lithium-ion batteries that will
run the electric cars of the future, the United States is losing to
Asian countries, and start-ups and big companies need to band together
to build a lithium-ion battery industry in the United States, says Jim
Mr. Greenberger, a lawyer specializing in clean technology who
organized a new alliance of lithium-ion battery makers made up of 14
big companies, like 3M, and start-ups, like ActaCell.
“The great age of automobiles lies ahead of us, not behind us,” said
Mr. Greenberger, who heads the clean-tech practice at the law firm Reed
Smith and advises clean-technology venture capital firms and start-ups.
The group, called the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation
Battery Cell Manufacture, took a page from the chip industry’s
playbook. It is modeled after Sematech, which in the 1980s raised $990
million in federal grants and private investment to keep semiconductor
manufacturing in the United States. The alliance plans to
introduce a proposal in Congress in January to raise $1 billion to $2
billion for lithium-ion battery manufacturing in the United States.
The ultimate goal, according to Mr. Greenberger: “We’re going to start
to be able to manufacture cars in the United States again, on a basis
that’s competitive with the Asians.”
Lithium-ion batteries, besides eliminating the need for petroleum, are
three times as efficient as internal combustion engines in typical
cars, Mr. Greenberger said. Furthermore, they can be charged by
alternative sources of energy like wind or solar. Several large
companies, including General Electric and Sanyo, which was just bought
by Panasonic, have been working on lithium-ion batteries. Many start-up
companies have recently emerged, too, including Imara, which we wrote
about last week.
The future of these batteries will depend on start-ups “because it’s a
start-up industry,” Mr. Greenberger said. “We are five years behind
Asians in our ability to manufacture the cells.”
The United States has the technology to develop lithium-ion batteries,
he said. The two biggest challenges the industry faces, though, are
building prototypes to simulate new batteries and then building the
factories required to manufacture the batteries.
“We’re really good on theory and basic science,” he said. “It’s putting
that theory into production where we’re falling down.”
One reason is that United States auto manufacturers are not yet buying
lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, so there is not enough money
to build prototypes and factories. Yet car manufacturing will
eventually move where the batteries are made, he said. “If we’re
dependent on Asia, transportation and even defense will gravitate
The initiative will require United States companies to shift their
individualistic way of thinking and could fail if certain companies try
to strike out on their own and raise money from their state
representatives instead of going after a pool of government money for
all lithium-ion battery makers, Mr. Greenberger warned.
“We’re trying through the alliance to come up with a way and mechanism
to work on an industry-wide basis rather than everyone off for
themselves,” he said. Otherwise, each company “will be crushed in turn
by the Panasonics of the world.”
C L E A
N C A R C H A L L E N G E
to Propose Prize For New Auto Battery
Wall Street Journal
June 23, 2008 12:51 p.m.
PHOENIX -- John McCain hopes to solve the country's energy crisis with
cold hard cash.
The presumed Republican nominee is proposing a $300 million government
prize to whoever can develop an automobile battery that far surpasses
existing technology. The bounty would equate to $1 for every man, woman
and child in the country, "a small price to pay for helping to break
the back of our oil dependency," Mr. McCain said in remarks prepared
for delivery Monday at Fresno State University in California.
Mr. McCain said such a device should deliver power at 30% of current
costs and have "the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the
commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars."
The Arizona senator is also proposing stiffer fines for automakers who
skirt existing fuel-efficiency standards, as well as incentives to
increase use of domestic and foreign alcohol-based fuels such as
In addition, a so-called Clean Car Challenge would provide U.S.
automakers with a $5,000 tax credit for every zero-carbon emissions car
they develop and sell.
The proposal comes as gasoline has reached a record cost of more than
$4 a gallon. That has boosted the price of virtually all goods and
services, sent commuters flocking to public transportation and
increased tensions between the U.S. and its Middle Eastern oil
Last week Mr. McCain suggested one way to ease supply concerns would be
to lift a federal ban on offshore oil drilling if individual states
want to allow it. His Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois,
opposes that idea, saying it would do nothing to address immediate
On Sunday, Mr. Obama told a Washington audience he would strengthen
government oversight of energy traders whose futures speculation he
blames in large part for the skyrocketing price of oil.
In his latest speech, Mr. McCain expressed exasperation both with the
federal government and the private sector. He said rising costs during
a time of stagnant wages evokes the 1970s era of "stagflation."
Without blaming his fellow Republicans in the Bush administration
directly, Mr. McCain said: "It feels the same today, because the unwise
policies of our government have left America's energy future in the
control of others."
The pork-barrel opponent also blasted "a hodgepodge of incentives" for
the purchase of fuel-efficient cars.
"Different hybrids and natural-gas cars carry different incentives,
ranging from a few hundreds dollars to four grand. They're the
handiwork of lobbyists, with all the inconsistency and irrationality
that involves," Mr. McCain said.
Following the speech, Mr. McCain was scheduled to attend fundraisers in
Fresno and Santa Barbara, part of a money push that helped the senator
raise a personal record of $21 million last month.
Copyright © 2008 Associated Press
Let There Be Light!
Editorial, National Review
December 17, 2011 7:00 A.M.
The 1,219-page, trillion-dollar omnibus spending bill that will fund
the government through fiscal year 2012 appears to be the usual mix of
compromise and compromised. But out of the mire of horse-trading and
half-measures there is at least one bright light: bright light itself.
As we understand it, the omnibus contains a rider defunding Department
of Energy efficiency standards that would have effectively killed the
incandescent light bulb on January 1. The reprieve is temporary —
instead of repealing the relevant regulations, it merely stalls their
implementation through next September. But riders are sticky things,
often renewed automatically, and this rider marks an important win for
House Republicans, consumer choice, and Edison’s fine old filaments.
Breaking liberals’ usual rule about government not intruding in the
bedroom, Stephen Chu’s DOE would have insinuated itself into your
bedroom and into every other room of your domicile, casting the pale
pall and dreary buzzing of compact fluorescence over every home in
And why? For our own good, Chu says, to “tak[e] away a choice that
continues to let people waste their own money.” What a splendid mission
statement for the DOE, and a pithy summation of the case for abolishing
it. Call us old-fashioned, but we think that if government
interventions into a market are ever justified, they are justified on
the grounds of giving consumers more choice. Regulation undertaken in
the name of Green piety inevitably offers less. One need look no
further than the contemporaneous, and so far successful, move by the
FDA to ban arguably the most effective asthma inhalers because they
contain CFCs. In Bureaucraworld, Freon in the atmosphere trumps oxygen
in the lungs.
In a way, the damage done by the promise of the incandescent ban is
irreversible: GE closed its last U.S. factory making incandescent
lights in 2010, as GE chair and Obama crony Jeffrey Immelt counted on a
rush of new business for his more expensive fluorescent bulbs. And
Democrats will no doubt claim a “compromise” in the rider, as they have
apparently managed to insert language forcing the recipients of DOE
grants in excess of $1 million to meet the mothballed standards in any
event. But DOE grants are not exactly held in the highest esteem these
days, and should themselves be continued targets for conservative cuts.
The branches have been pruned; next up, the roots.
The obvious joke here is, “How many bureaucrats does it take to screw
up the light bulb?” Thanks to this small victory, we’ll have to wait at
least until September to hear the punch line.
Old-style light bulbs will keep
burning, for now
By DOUG ALDEN, New Hampshire Union Leader
Published Dec 17, 2011 at 3:00 am (Updated Dec 16, 2011)
The light bulb is back — or at least not going away as previously
A federal mandate expected to phase out 100-watt incandescent light
bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient devices was switched off in
Washington as members of Congress tussled over a spending deal.
While the so-called “bulb-ban” will remain on the books as of Jan. 1,
the spending plan does not provide the Department of Energy with funds
to enforce it. U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., said the move is a
small, albeit temporary, victory for consumers.
“We Americans are perfectly capable of deciding for ourselves what type
of bulb is best for lighting our homes and offices,” Guinta said Friday
in a statement to the New Hampshire Union Leader. “We don’t need a
nanny government in Washington mandating which type we can use and
which we can’t.”
Shopping at Home Depot on Friday, Arthur Hebert couldn’t agree more.
“I don’t like the new bulb; they don’t seem as bright,” said Hebert, a
public works employee with the town of Bedford. He prefers incandescent
bulbs, but said his choices are already limited. This past summer, he
was forced to purchase a compact fluorescent when he bought a bug lamp.
Hebert said he plans to stock up on the incandescent bulbs before Jan.
1. He was at the right place. Inside the main entrance, Home Depot has
a display filled with incandescents. According to the Department
of Energy, the new law doesn’t actually ban — as many believe — any
particular bulbs. It just requires them to use about 25 percent less
energy. Although compact fluorescent lights are more efficient,
opponents note they have their own drawbacks, namely in disposal
because the bulbs contain mercury. Fluorescent bulbs also cost more to
“I know the price is going crazy,” said Shaun Mulholland, a New Boston
resident who is a price analyst for the electronics industry. He
questioned what effect the phase-out will have on his household. Most
of the bulbs inside his house are 75 watt or less. And he said
the phase-out of the incandescent bulbs will probably help consumers.
“Once people start shifting (to compact fluorescent) it drives prices
down,” he said.
But to Guinta, the idea of being told what to buy — regardless of the
product — does not go over well.
“Get the government out of the way and let the free market determine
the right light bulb for our needs,” Guinta said.
The delay in Congress affects consumers much more than state
government. New Hampshire state facilities have been replacing
incandescent lights for years, according to Mike Connor, director of
plant and property management for the state Department of
Administrative Services. Even the chandelier bulbs that light the
Capitol building in Concord are fluorescent, Connor said Friday