April 25, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Coming soon: Cars that get 100 miles per gallon

A car that doesn't need gas, or at least not much, is getting slightly more realistic all the time.

A few small companies will start to offer services and products for converting hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius that currently get around 50 miles per gallon into plug-in hybrids that rely more heavily on electrical power and can get about 100 miles per gallon.

"I get about 99 miles to the gallon," said Felix Kramer, founder of The California Cars Initiative (CalCars), who owns the eighth Prius converted into a plug-in hybrid. "When gasoline costs $3 a gallon, driving most gasoline cars costs 8 to 20 cents a mile. With a plug-in hybrid, your local travel and commuting can go down to 2 to 4 cents a mile."

In general, plug-in hybrids have much larger battery packs than standard hybrids--in prototypes, the extra batteries fill up the space where spare tires now reside--and much smaller gas motors. The batteries can be recharged by plugging the car into any wall socket.

Under 34 miles per hour, the electric motor effectively powers the car on its own, said Kramer. Over that--and during bursts of acceleration--the gas motor begins to help incrementally. The gas motor also takes over when the battery conks.

"Sixty-five percent of drivers will not use gas on a daily basis. The only time you ever use gasoline is when you go on vacation or go skiing," said Andrew Frank, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California at Davis who has made plug-in hybrids out of stock Mercury Sables and a Chevy Suburban. The Suburban has been tested on General Motors' off-road track.

"It would do the same thing as a conventional Suburban, including towing a trailer," he added.

It all comes down to cost
But conversion won't be cheap--at least initially. California's EDrive Systems will charge around $10,000 to $12,000 to install the extra lithium batteries needed to turn a standard Prius into a plug-in hybrid when its service begins later this summer.

Click for photos

At that price, and with gas at $3 a gallon, it would take around 160,000 to 200,000 miles of driving to break even. As a result, conversion services today are really being sold more as a luxury option or status symbol.

But some groups are looking to the do-it-yourself crowd for a cheaper solution. Canada's Hymotion, which already converts fleets of hybrids for corporate customers, will charge about $9,500 for a kit aimed at consumers that it will start shipping in October. And Hymotion can convert more than just the Prius.

CalCars is working with independent inventors to bring the price of a DIY kit based around an open blueprint to about $3,000.

"Our goal for the build kit is this summer, but making this happen will be a volunteer project--as are most open-source efforts--so I'm not in a position to promise," Kramer said.

Mass manufacturing, though, could lower the prices dramatically over time. Frank estimates that a plug-in hybrid with a 60-mile range (meaning the car can run on electricity alone for up to 60 miles) might cost only $6,000 to $7,000 more to mass manufacture than a conventional car in a few years. A standard hybrid currently goes for about $3,000 more than gasoline-driven cars.

To get to that point, however, battery technology, which tends to progress slowly, will need to improve. Auto manufacturers will have to improve the transmissions and other components that go into a hybrid.

The high cost is one of the primary reasons that major auto manufacturers have been lukewarm to the concept of plug-in cars, engineers at large auto manufacturers have said. Finding ways to stash the battery without compromising passenger or cargo room is another.

Nonetheless, some automakers have shown interest. DaimlerChrysler will produce 40 plug-in versions of its Sprinter minivan for testing the concept. No commitment has been made to turn it into a product.

Over several years, the cars also can pave the way toward nearly pollution-free cars, said Frank. Because gasoline consumption is modest, it will likely be possible to build plug-in hybrids that burn ethanol rather than gas.

For electricity, the cars could harvest solar power from solar panels installed in garages or houses. Although electric motors don't pollute, electricity gets generated in coal-burning plants, one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases.

Solar isn't as farfetched as it sounds, Frank said. Studies show that most cars are on the road for only three hours a day and could be charged the remaining hours. Installing solar panels on garage roofs and homes will take a bit of capital, but the costs of making and installing solar technology are expected to go down over time as well.

"We can't switch from where we are today overnight. It will take 20 years or more to take the PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) to get into our society," Frank said. Nonetheless, "we can greatly reduce the amount of liquid fuel we use for transportation," he said.

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Technology for more MPG
Technology has exsisted for years to have vehicles be more fuel efficient and have double or trip the MPG they have today. COST isn't the real factor. TAXES and the economy are. The less gas we use the less tax revenue the government gets from our gas purchases. The less gas we use, the less people we employ in the industries that revolve around gas. That equals less income tax, possibly higher unemployement, higher government assistance, etc. Same reasons smoking cigarettes won't be outlawed. Even though it kills innocent people, the tax revenue is too much for the government to do without. It is all about the $$$. The government doesn't give a darn about the poeople or the enviornment.
Posted by jdcvv (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Somewhat in agreement
Well, I somewhat agree with you, however, the government is very inventive when it comes to taxes. It would be very easy to tax something else to coever any lost revenue.

To cover unemployment & assistance the feds could require everyone work 40hrs cleaning the roads & planting trees on government land. There are plenty of things the feds could do to make this work but I dont think they will. Most gov officials are to stupid to think about stuff I have written about.
Posted by (61 comments )
Link Flag
Not True - Propigating Old Anti-Gov Lies
If ANYBODY could release a non-polluting vehicle that is comparable to modern cars, and is sold for less money, then they would be filthy rich.

There are no examples of the government stopping people from pursuing alternative energies.

I've been hearing this lie for years and years and years. The bottom line, is that NOTHING TODAY can compete with oil/gas in terms of price or performance. NOTHING.

The only reason alternative fuels are a hot topic today, is because oil prices are rising and people see the POTENTIAL for the cost to be prohibitive in the future. At that point, there is no reason to argue against alternate fuels becasue the cost will be the same and [hopefully] they won't require a reduction in amenities.

It has nothing to do with taxes or the government making money. If you invent and patent technology that can replace cars, nobody can stop you... you will sweep the market and be filthy rich.

The government isn't holding this scenario back, and there is no evidence to support such a theory. The problem, is that alternative energy sources simply cannot compete with gasoline in terms of price or performance in today's market.

We use gas today because we are FREE to use gasoline, and because there isn't a better alternative for anybody except the most smug who spend extra money to drive wussified tin-box hybrids with high maintenance bills.

This anti-government garble is just too much.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Perhaps you slept through your economics courses in college (or maybe you didn't go to college).
Tax revenue will be taken from us. They will invent new ways if needed. Your argument about taxes is invalid.

People lossing jobs because we use less gas may cause a temporary increase in unemployment, but new jobs will be found, even in the "new energy" areas that are growing (even as the "old energy" is fading). Simple economics. Any income tax revenue decrease will be minor, if it is even noticeable. This argument doesn't hold much water.

Smoking cigarettes will not be outlawed because high risk situations (not always fatal) that do not cause harm to others will never be outlawed (freedom to pursue happiness). Smoking indoors (can kill others) can be outlawed. Do you just make this stuff up as you go?

The government doesn't give a darn. There is something I can agree with!
Posted by mandarin77 (1 comment )
Link Flag
What Happens to the Batteries...
...when the cars get old and it's time for an upgrade? Will the car manufacturers be liable for landfill space or a way to recycle these potentially toxic chemicals?
Would we rather have the pollution in our air or ground?
We need a solution that thinks beyond the production line.
Posted by DTMoulton (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Batteries are batteries
The same NiMH (Nickel-Metal-Hydride) batteries that you use in your digital camera are currently being used in hybrids from the like of Toyota and Honda. They don't really contain anything toxic, so it's a lot better to be tossing them in landfills than to be burning fossil fuels. They can also be recycled.
Posted by MikeCerm (16 comments )
Link Flag
Silly question...
The batteries used today are fully recyclable. I
suppose someone could intentionally put them in
a landfill, but the fact that you can sell them
back to the manufacturer would appear to be
sufficient incentive to drop them off and take
the cash.

That said, today's batteries are also far less
toxic than those lead-acid beasts of
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
Replacement cost too high?
A coworker was talking to a Ford dealer to talked him out of buying the hybrid escape. He basically said the replacement cost of the battery was high and mostly stay high. If you keep the car for a long time, selling it could be a problem because the buyer would not want to pay the high price for a replacement battery.

Of course, this is all speculation...
Posted by violettj (7 comments )
Link Flag
Believe it or not, it's already been done without hybrids
Several years ago car manufacturers overseas were testing a car that got 100 mpg, on just a pure gasoline engine. Needless to say, it never saw the market, for obvious reasons.
Posted by splinterpaw (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I beleive it
Here's a current car.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.loremo.com/index_en.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.loremo.com/index_en.php</a>
Posted by Bob Brinkman (556 comments )
Link Flag
You can buy a 156 mpg sedan today.
There's a small German company that produces
ultra-efficient low-weight diesel 4-door sedans
that get about 156 mpg. You can't buy them in
the US today, but if you live in the EU, you
certainly can.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
100 mpg cars
I can't see how if an auto manufacturer had that tecnology they would not exploit it. The Oil Companies are one thing, but I don't see the benifit to auto manufactureers to keep an idea like that under wraps. One would think that with the financial difficulties US auto manufactures are having that this would the biggest value add or differentiation point they could have for their cars. If it were me and I had that technology I'd be shouting it from the mountain tops and grabbing rediculous amounts of business. Can you imagin if you had a Ford Expedition that got 100 mpg... you would have to have a gun to my head to make me buy any other SUV
Posted by fightnirish (2 comments )
Link Flag
Cynic: Hidden Cost?
So, how much electricity is consumed to ensure that the car is fully charged? Expect a jump in your electricity bill, I would imagine.
Posted by dlee312 (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yup, we've thought about that...
Driving electrically costs under $1 a gallon. Lots of fact sheets, background, etc. at CalCars.org. FAQ at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.calcars.org/faq.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.calcars.org/faq.html</a>

-- Felix Kramer, CalCars Founder
Posted by felixkramer (4 comments )
Link Flag
Somewhat correct.
The cost is ostensibly cheaper to go electric.
It certainly is today, and is likely to remain
so until the demand builds up.

However, centralizing the power generation is
ultimately the most efficient method, and
pollution controls and efficiency improvements
are far more easily implemented that way. But,
you are right, if everyone jumped on the
electric bandwagon all at once, we'd be
hard-pressed to keep up. It's not likely that
will happen, though.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
One form of pollution to another.
The problem with plug-in electric cars, from an environmental standpoint, is that you offset the pollution caused by the car to the power plants. It's just passing the buck. The power plants would just generate more waste and pollutants as a byproduct of needing to generate more power to meet the needs of everyone charging their cars.
Posted by rderveloy (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It is not quite that simple..
Admittedly, using electric power is moving the dependency from oil to eletric generators. Of course, that does instantly address dependence on foreign oil since our electric grid is not powered by foreign oil. And, it does not necessarily mean we are moving pollution types since, depending on where you live, your electricity might come from non-polluting or at least signficiantly smaller polluting sources (hydro-electric, solar, wind, nuclear).

Regardless, most scientists agree that ultimately all vehicles will need to run on electric power to achieve the zero emissions we need for our automotive dependency. And, yes, we will need to start changing our electric power sources to move toward zero emissions as well (coal power plants will need to be replaced by nuclear or other options).
Posted by monty0000 (20 comments )
Link Flag
Not quite.
It's true that the power plant will generate
pollution (even if, ultimately, that pollution
is only heat and light).

However, power-plants are joule-for-joule more
efficient at generating power and less polluting
on the basis of grams of pollutants per joule of
power. Further, you almost completely eliminate
the pollution inherent in the petroleum
distribution system and that which results from
spillage, evaporation, and the very inefficient
initial ignition and warming up of the engine.

It is demonstrably more efficient and less
polluting to go the electric route.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
Where on earth is the GOV.
I would imagine given US's heavy reliance on oil from unfriendly nations the Goverment would get more involved with these initatives!!! Bush is buried in oil money I guess.
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The men on the moon...
In 1957, the Soviet Union put sputnik in orbit
and precipitated a "space race" that led JFK to
challenge the US and NASA to land a man on the
moon. Seven years later, a cadre of engineers
armed with little more than slide-rules, chalk,
pencils and a few warehouses full of competent
machinists succeeded in doing just that.

You'd think now would be an ideal time for a
similar challenge -- but, honestly, what are the
chances that this country would ever elect
anyone that would issue the challenge, much less
follow through with the support? Did people
expect it of Bush? I don't think so.

Sure, it's in the long-term best interest of us
all, arguably more so than landing on the moon,
but we don't have, nor do we demand the type of
leadership to make it possible. Therefore, it
simply doesn't get done.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
News flash: The government does not invent, produce, or distribute alternative energies.

Think about it... you want to know where the government is, and I am asking where YOU are. If this is something that the PEOPLE want, then the PEOPLE are free to do it.

Government is not going to mandate this change all at once becuase the facts clearly spell out that it is a *desire* not a *necessity.*

So... how much time and money have YOU invested in alternate energy sources?

Asking the government to solve the problem is like saying, "It'll take the cooperation of millions... and I want somebody else to be in charge of it and make it as simple for me as possible."

Isn't that nice? If people really care, then they will research, invest, and launch new companies and partnerships to get this done.

All the people whining about government are acutally arguing about who should pay for it. Who should be forced to hand over the dollars. Who should make a living counting the money. Who should be granted handouts from the government to do what other companies are already capable of doing.

Where is the GOV? HA! I ask... Where are YOU?!?

(probably hiding your money somewhere while you attack the government and demand that they raise taxes for OTHER people.)
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
my 1995 Camry got 80 mpg on the highway
The idea that a car that gets 100 mpg is difficult to build is rooted in consumer appeal. My Camry, which could consistantly get 65 mpg hwy and 80 mpg hwy w/ conservative driving, was about 2500 lbs., 2 liters displacement and had a relatively low mechanical inertia. None of these thing are very popular these days. While statistically speaking Camry is a very safe car, it would not stand up to a headon with a car that weighs 4000lbs+. The safety factor comes from the handling dimensions and this cars tendency to travel in a straight line and understear. This prompts unenthusiastic remarks from reviewers like Edmunds and Car and Driver. Avoiding a potential accident is much more marketable than "not being the cause of one" and there really is no voice in this regard.

Gasoline prices are likely to fall in July when EPA desiel regulations go into effect. This is going to increase demand for low sulfur (read middle eastern) oil. Oil comes in barrels and so there will be a surplus of gasoline. Desiel and gasoline price trends are rarely the same but not mutually exclusive.
Posted by vampares (39 comments )
Reply Link Flag
65/80mpg?? I don't think so.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/compx2005f.jsp?year=1995&#38;make=Toyota&#38;model=Camry&#38;hiddenField=Findacar" target="_newWindow">http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/compx2005f.jsp?year=1995&#38;make=Toyota&#38;model=Camry&#38;hiddenField=Findacar</a>
Posted by yipcanjo (75 comments )
Link Flag
my 1995 Camry got 80 mpg - NOT
I think your calculation is wrong.

Our Toyota Camry 2L 4cyl man using 91RON unleaded petrol (Australia) on Holiday we got around 40mpg (7L/100km), from memory the published spec says best hwy is 6.2L/100km (~45mpg). Normal driving (mostly city) we get around 9L/100km (~32mpg) though it's probably got worse over the years.

&gt;65mpg would have to not use air con, and have &gt;350km of downhill with engine etc. all off aaaaaaargh (or serious modification to reduce weight and boost efficiency).
Posted by tygrus (9 comments )
Link Flag
What a really bad example of a news article.
Let's see - as I read the article... way down at the bottom. Its likely to be 20 years before these hybrids are economically feasible. So why not write the article in 20 years. The entire article can be written in three sentences. 1.) "Hybrid cars are still not economically feasible." 2.)"Check back in about 20 years if you want a hybrid car that is as economical as current other cars." 3.) Buy a hyrid car now if have more money than brains and can't figure out that they are actually worse overall on the environment than standard cars."
Posted by masonx (244 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yet the article doesn't say that.
The article makes similar statements, but not
about existing hybrid cars, but rather kits
modifying hybrid cars to make them predominantly

Current hybrid cars are only slightly more
expensive than their non-hybrid counterparts. At
$3/per gallon of gas, plus the tax incentive for
buying one, you have to drive it about 65-70K
miles to break even (based on a Honda Civic
versus a Honda Civic Hybrid), yet the emissions
on the Hybrid are still much lower. So, the
hybrid's a good deal if you: plan to drive it a
long time, are concerned about pollution, and
think gas will average $3 or more while you won
the car.

If you use the plug-in models, you get 100mpg.
Assuming you got 50mpg before and drive 15K
miles per year at $3/gallon, your $75 per month
in gas goes to $38/month. At that rate, it would
take you about 22 years to recoup the cost of
the upgrade. That's neither economical, nor doe
sit make that substantial an environmental
impact (notably more than 1/2 the emissions).

Now, if gas prices increased to $15 a gallon, or
even the $7 - $8 per gallon you see in parts of
Europe today, and the upgrades cost less (mind
you the batteries themselves contribute less
than $1000 to the cost), then you might have
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
Where to even begin...
Suggesting that hybrid owners (such as myself) have "more money than brains" is fairly impolite.

Many of us are choosing vehicles that we know full well will not cost us less money over their lifetime because we choose to promote the development of technologies that will make significant improvements in BOTH the environment and national security.

Your statement that these cars are worse for the environment is simply incorrect and I'm puzzled at how anyone could reach the conclusion you have on that point.

The value of the metals in the batteries alone makes it certain that people WILL be recyling them and they won't end up in landfills. The notion that the $1 worth of electricity produced by power plant to charge a PHEV overnight comes even close to creating the same amount of pollutants is (to be incredibly generous to that argument) profoundly unlikely and certainly unproven. More importantly, as this article properly points out, the simple addition of solar cells to a home or garage roof would resolve that "problem" (if it even is one) anyway.
Posted by Yet Another Mark Johnson (66 comments )
Link Flag
Yea, a big let down at the end
Where as the article was very interesting, it was a let down at the tail-end when the guy started talking "20 years".

Our country has has become so blasted slow at anything that it's frightening. I wonder how long it would take to develop that type of technology if the amount of available gas was halved over the next two years.

The United States is a great country. We should be able to do this faster. And I hope we'll see it in other countries (probably will, and faster than we get it!).

Charles R. Whealton (Chuck)
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't take it too hard
The comment that "it will take 20 years or more to take the PHEV to get into our society" shouldn't be a that much of a surprise or dissapointment. Even if every car manufacturer converted 100% of their lines to not only hybrids, but plug-in hybrids TODAY, people would still be driving whatever they already own for many years.

The issue is not "can we fix the problem today?" but "can we do something today that stops making the problem worse and starts making it better?"

The answer with PHEV (particularly when paired with solar power) is a RESOUNDING yes! This article does exactly what we need right now: tells people the technology to RADICALLY reduce oil consumption exists TODAY. Now we just need to insist that as consumers that's what we will buy the next time we go car shopping. I already have a hybrid personally, and you can bet my next upgrade will be a plug-in hybrid. That's how it starts...
Posted by Yet Another Mark Johnson (66 comments )
Link Flag
What If You Can't Get Petrol?
The problem with much of the current thinking about auto transportation is that it assumes a linear progression of petrol prices. What is more likely, given the irrationality of most of the Middle East, is that there will be a major and perhaps extended period of supply disruption. It won't just be a matter of $100 a barrel price, it will be that it is simply unavailable to us. At that point everyone and his brother will wish that they had either bought a hybrid vehicle, or were manufacturing them. Those already owning them will be able to turn around and sell them on the open market for several times what they paid for them new. We've got to move thsi country beyond simple linear thinking. If 911 has taught us anything, it is that we can't keep thinking linearly in the 21st century.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Outstanding Article! Hey Toyota, sell me a PHEV Prius!
It's great to finally be getting some attention to the plug-in hybrid concept! The media has been so confused by "hydrogen" or "bio diesel" or "ethanol" etc.

Hydrogen in particular is a GREAT idea who's time WILL come (in the not-too-far future,) but the PHEV absolutely works TODAY and really should be selling in showrooms already. (I'd love it if the reporter had called a Toyota spokesman and asked them when a PHEV Prius is coming.)

So many people are walking away from the "we need more efficient cars" debate when they hear about supposed problems. Like "the hydrogen infrastructure doesn't exist yet" (which is fairly bogus: hydrogen from water through electrolysis can be made with solar panels on your roof; it's not only free, the "infrastructure" do deliver water is obviously well developed.) There are still some challenges with hydrogen fuel cells though, so that will take a few more years. PHEV's, on the other hand, work now!

Hey Toyota! Sell me one!
Posted by Yet Another Mark Johnson (66 comments )
Reply Link Flag
In Five to Ten Years Perhaps
The battery technology is not ready now. There are battery technologies currently in the R&#38;D stage that may be applicable in a few years.
Posted by LenMinNJ (3 comments )
Link Flag
3 goals pick 2
You can have MPG, or Speed or Safety.
Pick only one, maybe two but you can't have
all three. Americans have picked the last two
for years. Watch the commercials.
Horsepower and crash safety, no mention of miles.
That 80mpg Camry would be crushed. The 156mpg car cannot be sold in america because it is a deathtrap. We sell cycles. Widows of bikers don't sue, but widows of cars do.
So, change the way court settlements are structured and you may get lighter vehicles.
Question: How much does it cost to charge the
plug in hybrid each night? Electricity is not
free. Do you feel like a bastard knowing that your drive is polluting some other place?
You are not inhaling the CO2 that your drive is producing.
Posted by swwg69 (48 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The answers to your concerns
The cost of an overnight charge of a PHEV for a 50-mile travel is only about 75 cents. (Far better than paying $3 for a gallon of gas that takes the average American car 21 miles.)
(See <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.hymotion.com/products.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.hymotion.com/products.htm</a>)
There is no rational economic argument against PHEVs based on electricity costs.

The "pollution efficiency" of a powerplant is far better than the average American car. Don't be fooled by oil industry hype. It's FAR easier to reduce pollution centrally in the first place. More importantly, electricity from solar panels on your roof completely solves the pollution problem anyway. (And solar panels DO more than pay for themselves over their lifetimes.)
There is no rational pollution argument against PHEVs based on the idea that there is anywhere close to the same amount of total emissions.
Posted by Yet Another Mark Johnson (66 comments )
Link Flag
Well thought out point
You are right, in many ways it is merely passing the torch to others in terms of pollution. However, with modern petrol cars there is only one way to power them, which is by burning gas. There are many forms of creating electricity which can be broken down into 3 major catagories. Fossil fuels, Nuclear power and Green power. There is chance that your electricity that you get from you plugs will be green, which means your car is completely Green. You lose that opportunity with a petrol car.
Posted by Imagknowledge (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Time line realistic
Hey Chuck,
I can understand that the idea of 20 years for these cars is a bit dissapointing. It seems so simple. But when you mix in lack of technology, politis and international economy you get a massive puzzle that will take years to solve. It has been over 100 years since the begining of the industrail revolution, the exact revolution that turned entire socities into enviroment destroying, economically concerned monsters. It will take a long time to fi it. It only takes a few seconds to spill a glass of milk everywhere, it could take a couple of minutes to clean it up.
Posted by Imagknowledge (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Time line realistic? no!
The car manufactures have had plenty of "notice". They have ignored the need for more fuel effencient cars. Anybody interested in the fact that EMD divison of GM has been making hybreds for over 80 years? They are called trains.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.gmemd.com/en/home/" target="_newWindow">http://www.gmemd.com/en/home/</a>
Posted by willdryden (271 comments )
Link Flag
Time line realistic? no!
The car manufactures have had plenty of "notice". They have ignored the need for more fuel effencient cars. Anybody interested in the fact that EMD divison of GM has been making hybreds for over 80 years? They are called trains. Just a diesel engine, generator, and electric motors because electric motors have a better torque curve than ICE's for gaining speed.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.gmemd.com/en/home/" target="_newWindow">http://www.gmemd.com/en/home/</a>
Posted by willdryden (271 comments )
Link Flag
Time line realistic
Hey Chuck,
I can understand that the idea of 20 years for these cars is a bit dissapointing. It seems so simple. But when you mix in lack of technology, politis and international economy you get a massive puzzle that will take years to solve. It has been over 100 years since the begining of the industrail revolution, the exact revolution that turned entire socities into enviroment destroying, economically concerned monsters. It will take a long time to fix it. It only takes a few seconds to spill a glass of milk everywhere, it could take a couple of minutes to clean it up.
Posted by Imagknowledge (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Basic Physics
The hybrid debate will linger for quite some time till the economics behind it is understood. The confusion lies in what is well known as "pay-off" function. It is somehow thrown in at an individual's discretion when a hybrid is sold.

With quite bit of simplification, it may be possible to get some understanding.

One has to remember basic physics involving energy, mass, distance, time. What we are adding in this confusions is "Physics of Profits". Let me tell you why...

Given a destination, mass and distance are fixed. The total energy is going to be the same no matter what, whether paid (Gas, electricity, etc) or free (solar with down payment for equipment).

Hence, the only parameter where one can really bargain with Physics is in "time". This is where the whole technology hinges and where the pay-off function lies. If the solution involves time-to-distance efficiency, then we have a solution that works and can beat the political structure &#38; question the incumbents!

The rest of the solutions are native to justification, have inherent advantages and typically near &#38; short term oriented. These can be intermediate steps to better realizations in technology, however.
Posted by akvish (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Physics at the root of issue?
I think the bigger point the public is now debating is the politics
behind expensive fuel. If England controlled most oil, we would
be paying $1.50 gal and we would not be discussing 100 mpg
cars. That being said, the reality is Americans have made two
lifestyle choices which have painted them into a proverbial
corner as of late: 1) Choosing larger, gas inefficient vehicles
2) Choosing to live in homes far away from work centers.
Each of these choices was acceptable as long as gas was $1.50.
But now poses serious problems when you cannot easily trade in
your 12 mpg Ford Expedition. While I do not begrudge anyone
driving and living where they want to - the US State and Local
Governements should take a large part of the blame for allowing
continuous residential sprawl, abandoning of inner cities
through a lack of safe clean neighborhoods, and a lack of
effective public transportation. If we continue to move further
away from the infrastructure we have already built and paid for
(and have to build more freeways, sewers) so that suburbanites
can avoid crime, poor schools, etc. - we are continuing an
uending cycle of build, abandon, rebuild - nobody, even
America can continue that because it will never end. We need
Government to step up and solve the crime and education issues
surrounding our cities and then we can uses the infrastructure
we already have and develop a public transporation system to
reduce the need to drive to every corner store.
Posted by jthughes (2 comments )
Link Flag
Basic Physics Indeed
I'm not certain where to begin here, but I have a feeling that your notion of physics is significantly flawed. I feel obligated to correct so that others may not be misguided.

"Given a destination, mass and distance are fixed. The total energy is going to be the same no matter what, whether paid (Gas, electricity, etc) or free (solar with down payment for equipment)."

This statement is wholly incorrect. When looking at a destination, in general, mass, distance and energy are all variable. Does your car have the same mass as a motorcycle? Will your route be the same as another route? Does the energy required to move your 3500 lb car equal the energy required to move a 10 000 lb truck? Of course not.

Basic physics tells us that the answer to fuel economy is little weight and an efficient method of propulsion. I'll take a lightweight car with a small diesel engine getting 70mpg any day over trying to manipulate time.
Posted by mossmanw (2 comments )
Link Flag
Simplest way to save gas, save environment
It is really quite simple: Live close to work, or carpool. Everyone replies, "That's totally unrealistic. You just don't understand my situation." But when gas in the U.S. starts costing $8/gallon, the 'impossible' will happen.

It would also help if Congress would restructure the tax code &#38; Medicare to encourage retired people to move to smaller quarters further from centers of business, thus freeing up those homes for (daily commuting) workers with families. Also, have great roads within and close to cities, so-so roads in inner suburbs, and cruddy roads in exurbia.

Also, how about special lanes (even special roads) reserved for minicars, motorcycles, and those new enclosed tricycle motorcycles? They could be narrower, don't need to handle heavy loads, and wouldn't wear out so quickly, all of which saves money right there. Then give them preferential parking. A lot of commuters would drive such vehicles if not for fear of idiots driving regular cars and trucks in the same lane.

What we DO NOT need is self-righteous morons driving battery-filled Hummers covered in arsenic-containing solar cells!! (I'm not talking to you Prius owners.)
Posted by dmm (336 comments )
Reply Link Flag
well maybe
Living close to work depends on many factors. Housing availability and infrastructure to support a huge migration of workers into a concentrated area is easier said than done. Then you have folks that drive for a living, truckers couriers etc Depending on your city you tax cost could be so high that it is still cheaper to pay $8 a gallon than to move. Then there is people like me that will ride a bike 30 miles one way before I would ever move to a city.
Your other ideas are good but I think it boils down to this the US and most other civilized nations need to change from gas be it solar, hydrogen or whatever (I certainly dont understand why we arent using corn liquor instead of gas and put the farmers back to work). But here is what will happen when other sources start to take profits from the gas companies watch how fast those prices fall and when they fall people stop being concerned about using gas again.
Posted by Buzz_Friendly (74 comments )
Link Flag
Yes, but...
I travel 45-50 minutes 1 way to work. I've been here for 13 years which is not normal these days. People change employers too often so living close to work may not work unless you live in an apartment and don't mind moving every few years. I know I'm tired of moving and so is my wife. We're staying put. But a good transporter would be nice to beam me to work and back...
Posted by violettj (7 comments )
Link Flag
Only an idiot calls this 100mpg
Too bad CNET has joined the idiots and scammers saying these cars get 100mpg. They only get that if you are dumb enough not to count the fuel you put in when you plug it in.

Efficient? Yes. Cheaper to run (partly by avoiding gas tax ) ? Yes. Maybe even less polluting? Yes.
100mpg? Bogus.

Saying these cars get 100mpg when you just ignore the electricity is nuts. I could haul a 10mpg car behind an RV for 90 miles, drive it 10 and then make the same claim.
Posted by NickCharles (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
And a lot of idiots will believe it
NickCharles is absolutely correct. You could claim any amount of mpg you wanted if the car is running on electricity rather than gas. When you add the costs for installing the system ($10,000-12,000) and the electricity from your home to charge the system, you have just spent more than you would if you left the system alone and drove it at 50 mpg. Not to mention, the batteries will probably not last long enough to pay for the initial investment.
If we truly want to cut the cord from oil, we need to look into technologies such as alternative fuels...ETHANOL!!!
Posted by dobey1 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Wrong on a number of points
First of all, from a "national security" viewpoint (the primary reason I have a hybrid now and want a PHEV next) the issue is NOT "how much does it COST to travel 100 miles" but "how can I travel those 100 miles and purchase the LEAST amount of gas possible." From that point of view, the fact that the PHEV Prius actually travels 100 mile and does it using only 1 gallon of gas is perfectly correct because:
1) The electricity that is also required is produced (in the absolute WORST case) from oil, but is produced so much more efficiently in a large-scale modern power plant that we use much less of it. In short, your power company does a much better job converting gas than the average car does.
2) It is obvious that the point of switching to electrically powered vehicles is that we CAN replace our means of producing electricity (from many different sources, both polluting and non-polluting.) Burning gas always creates some problems, using electricity may or may not.

It's not at all wrong to describe a PHEV Prius as getting 100 Miles Per Gallon, because we are talking about "gallon of GAS." I will refer you to National Geographic's March 2006 issue. Page 102 gives a wonderful breakdown of electric power generation in the United States. Only 3% is oil. (50% coal / 20% nuclear / 18% natural gas / 9% renewables.)

PHEV's which replace buring gas with using electricity ABSOLUTELY DO REPLACE gas usage. They DO NOT "shift" the usage of gas/oil to some other location.

In the worst case we'd burn more coal in power plants to replace the oil we now burn in our cars. At least we own the coal and don't need to import it from unstable parts of the world.

In the best case, increased use of renewables will (over time) allow us to replace the oil with non-polluting sources.
Posted by Yet Another Mark Johnson (66 comments )
Link Flag
I agree. That electricity has to come from somewhere.
Yeah, it can require 30% more fuel back at the power station to run an electric vehicle (ie. batteries not hybrid), manufacture btteries and energy required to transport batteries in car while driving.

Power stations: More wind, gas, oil, coal, uranium, water, constrction.

It just means the polution is in someone elses backyard instead on in the city.

Hybrids perform better in city than on highway. 5th gear tested hybrid on highway and then proclaimed it was useless @#$%.

It would be interesting if you could squeeze a 2in1 gas turbine (LPG,LNG) generator into your car or basement ? ie. gas turbine motor with exess heat used to create steam for additional turbine generator (or hot water + heating in house).

Need lighter car, less wind resistance, less rolling resistance, more efficient electricals, insulation of cabin, better energy storage (kwh/kg), better roads/transport system.
Posted by tygrus (9 comments )
Link Flag
H2 + Ethanol + Solar - Bush = US - ArabReliance
If rather then pouring billions of US taxpayers money into fruitless war games in Iraq if that money was spend on renewable energy sources US and the whole world would have been better off. But Bushs allegiance seem to be more with the big oil who wants to pump the last barrel of oil out of Iraq. Special thanks goes to the US people who put him back into office.
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A society free from the whims of OPEC and the other oil exporters. A price crunch now is a good thing if you believe it will spur someone (please anyone?) to action. Research into alternative fuels needs to come to the front of the line and the politicians cannot avoid dealing with a PO'd public for too long. Alternative energy replacement in a large scale here could be done and probably will happen over the next 20 - 50 years. Which is good news for our kids. Although it's a pain in the pocketbook now IF we get off the oil rollercoaster the sacrifice will be worth it in the long run.
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
You = Hate
Where were you while the last president sat on his hands?
Posted by Andrew Burnette (2 comments )
Link Flag
How about solar panels on the roofs of cars?
The article talked a lot about solar pannels in garages. What about solar panels on the roofs of cars. This would especially work well for commuters who can have their car charge while at work.

Posted by hci_steve (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Too little power
The surface area of the roof of a car is about 2 square meters. Add the hood of the car and maybe you get 3 square meters total. That means 3000 watts MAX in bright sunshine under absolutely ideal conditions. With 20% efficient solar panels you wouldn't even generate enough power to run a hair dryer. At 600 watts, it would take 92 hours, or 11 days of sunshine, to power a 55 KW electric car for an hour at maximum power. Assuming you only use 50%, it would still take 46 hours, or 5 days.

In fact, the extra weight of the solar power and other electrical gadgets to use that power may even reduce your fuel economy overall.

Automobiles consume an order of magnitude more power than a house.

If everyone started using electric vehicles we would need to massively expand the electric grid and build dozens of power plants.

But it's not hopeless, we could build lots of wind (intermittent) power and have millions of cars plugged into a smart electric grid. When the wind isn't blowing, the batteries in the cars would provide power to the grid. When there is an excess of power, the cars would charge their batteries.

With an overhaul of the design of our electric grid and advances in battery technology, it's not impossible.
Posted by Clouseau2 (329 comments )
Link Flag
How about solar panels on the roofs of cars?
Not enough surface area. There's a Canadian engineer doing this with his Prius and he's getting a small boost to the energy in his battery. Story <a href="http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/08/solar-powered_t.php">here</a>.

Nice idea but it's more effective to leave the solar hardware at home and just move the car. :)

Posted by eastpole (1 comment )
Link Flag
wait...don't buy yet
Thinking of buying a car this year? Wait. Just one year. Wait.

I owned a Civic in the 80's that got 46 miles per gallon highway and over 40 in city--literally. Yet just try to find a car today that gets even close to that.

As long as people keep buying guzzlers (in record numbers) they will keep producing them. Why do you think they are selling $40k SUV's? The only way there will ever be vehicles with superb mileage will be when Americans refuse to buy anything else.

Just imagine if a large percentage of people did decide to wait a year on that next purchase. Do you think that would give the car companies an incentive to listen?
Posted by BengalTigger (36 comments )
Reply Link Flag
it takes HUGE amounts of energy to produce a new car, MUCH more than simply keeping your old car fixed up. So, to save energy, DON'T buy a new car -- and drive your old car less. Move closer to work. Shop locally. Take fewer vacation trips, and join your neighborhood pool instead. Tell your baseball/soccer league organizers that you are NOT going to play some team 30 miles away.

And BTW, cut your lawn with a push mower. (If it's too big, then let most of it turn back into fields/woods. It's called "naturizing," and your local code enforcer can't ticket you for it.)
Posted by dmm (336 comments )
Link Flag
I agree, this is stupid
When they say it would take 160,000 to 200,000 miles to pay off the conversion they fail to even count the additional electricity costs. They also base the numbers on $3/gallon gas prices.

In reality that is probably closer to 400,000 miles and you better prey that nothing happens to the $25,000 drive train in your $10,000 car before then.

The Prius is small enough that you could build the same car with a gas only engine for $12,000 and it would still get 35-40 mpg highway.

Cars are one of the worst places to push alternate fuel because they need to be portable.

Why not instead find ways try to eliminate fossil fuels powering the grid?
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Real Costs, real questions
It's funny, but people forget about the real costs of gas when they talk about taxing the hell out of it to stop people from using it:
8-10% Profit - Oil companies
10% - Tax - Local
10% - Tax - State
20% - Tax - Federal
50% - Refining, drilling, shipping, and research costs.

People have brought the next point up repeatedly - When you build a more fuel efficient vehicle, you build a lighter vehicle. Lighter vehicles, on average, do not have nearly the same structural integrity as heavier vehicles. Now take physics into that equasion - Two vehicles at 60mph, one weighs 2000 lbs, another weighs 700lbs. They hit head on. Who stands a greater chance of surviving the impact? The driver of the 2000 lb vehicle. Who suddenly realizes that the money they saved on fuel costs won't cover their medical bills? Exactly.

Now, it occurs to me that we have a great number of environmentalists who have stood to prevent nuclear plants from being built regardless of the fact that our current electrical infrastructure cannot support much more of a load. Why not go nuke? It is cheaper, safer, and more environmentally sound than coal and many other methods of generating electricity. So that begs another major question: If we can cram a nuclear reactor that powers states into something the size of a submarine, why can't we cram one into a passenger vehicle so that we can still have the large vehicles we like?
Posted by RaptorBait (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Why not carry the electric generator with you?
Awhile back, either someone told me, or I heard someone say this on a TV program, but gas engines are actually quite efficient under optimal loads and RPMs. A regular car engine can get very good MPG if it could stay at 50mph without the need for acceleration. (This is why lawn mowers and egde trimmers use such little gas - they operate at a constant RPM and load.)

So, why not have a totally electric car, but put a highly optimized (small) gas or deisel engine in the car and use that engine as the electric generator? Cars tend to sit unused for many hours of the day (and night) and the gas engine would start only when the batteries start running low.

Maybe instead of a gas engine, use hydrogen fuel cells as the electic generator. Still an electric car, just use fuel cells to recharge the batteries when low. You could still plug in the car at night to recharge and save on hydrogen or gas usage.

Just wondering. If anyone with mechanical engineering knowledge can explain why that's impractical I'd be interested to know.
Posted by Richard G. (137 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's called a Prius.
And that's what the article is about. Namely a
Prius is an electric car with an engine that
runs when it is optimal, or when the batteries
need energy. The car also recovers electricity
by a generator powered during breaking and
coasting, and the car "pauses" rather than
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
While technically feasable.. it is not practical. You've just taken a car with 1 engine... and turned it into a car with 1 engine, 1 generator, 1 battery system, etc...

Maintenance costs are already higher for hybrids than regular gasoline cars... some studies indicate that purchase cost and maintenance along cannot be overcome by gasoline savings unless you drive 60,000+ miles per year.

Anything can be done... but the financial impact means that few will be sold and the cost of research and operations may never be realized through sales.... especially when the technology is still maturing.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Why not carry the electric generator with you?
Awhile back, either someone told me, or I heard someone say this on a TV program, but gas engines are actually quite efficient under optimal loads and RPMs. A regular car engine can get very good MPG if it could stay at 50mph without the need for acceleration. (This is why lawn mowers and egde trimmers use such little gas - they operate at a constant RPM and load.)

So, why not have a totally electric car, but put a highly optimized (small) gas or deisel engine in the car and use that engine as the electric generator? Cars tend to sit unused for many hours of the day (and night) and the gas engine would start only when the batteries start running low.

Maybe instead of a gas engine, use hydrogen fuel cells as the electic generator. Still an electric car, just use fuel cells to recharge the batteries when low. You could still plug in the car at night to recharge and save on hydrogen or gas usage.

Just wondering. If anyone with mechanical engineering knowledge can explain why that's impractical I'd be interested to know.
Posted by Richard G. (137 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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