This is a mostly chronological file of media reports on topics of interest to Felix Kramer, CalCars' founder. You'll see an evolution since 2001 from a focus on fuel cell vehicles to electric vehicles, hybrids and finally, plug-in hybrids.
The most recent items are at the end. Send comments to email@example.com
CALCARS COULD USE A VOLUNTEER TO REORGANIZE THIS FILE INTO CATEGORIES (WHILE KEEPING THEM IN ONE FILE); then we could use several volunteers to manage one or more of the topical areas and maintain a weblog on current news in that area.
BELOW ARE A PROPOSED CLASSIFICATION SCHEME (SUGGESTIONS WELCOME):
1. TECH: Advanced technologies (including hybrids, batteries, fuel cells)
2. MARKET: local, government, private fleets, consumers, environmental -- trends, actions
3. BUSINESS: Auto + supplier industry developments, announcements, possible partners, investors
4. IMPACT: social, environmental reports, trends, benefits
5. KEY: most important validating models, trends, competing solutions
"Yes, my friends," [said Cyrus Smith], "I believe that one day water will be used as a fuel -- that the hydrogen and the oxygen which constitute it, separately or simultaneously, will provide an inexhaustible source of heat and light of an intensity unknown to petroleum. One day, instead of being fired with coal, steamships and locomotives will be propelled by these two compressed gases, which will burn in their engines with enormous energy. Thus there is nothing to fear. As long as the earth is inhabited it shall provide for the needs of its inhabitants, and they will never want for light or heat... Water is the coal of the future."
"That I'd like to see," said the sailor.
Jules Verne, The Mysterious Island, 1874
"I believe that water will one day be employed as fuel, that hydrogen and oxygen which constitute it, used singly or together, will furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light, of an intensity of which coal is not capable. Water will be the coal of the future."
Jules Vernes (1870) "L´île mystérieuse
California Fuel Cell Partnership The Partnership -- a path-breaking collaboration of auto companies, fuel providers, fuel cell technology companies and government agencies -- plans to demonstrate up to 60 fuel cell-powered cars and buses in California by 2003,
Jim Motovalli links to clean car and fuel cell sites
http://www.cleancarcampaign: anemic effort
http://www.ch2bc.org/ California H2BizCouncil
http://www.trimolgroup.com/index.html is a company developing aluminum fuel cells (slowly, mid-2002)
Fuel Cells 2000 is the leading nonaligned source of information about fuel cells. To encourage fuel cell collaborations and industry advancements, Fuel Cells 2000 offers many services on www.fuelcells.org - the Fuel Cell Directory, the Fuel Cell Match Maker, the monthly Fuel Cell Technology Updates, the Fuel Cell Quarterly, and the Fuel Cell Career Center.
I believe fuel cell vehicles will finally end the hundred-year reign of the internal combustion engine as the dominant source of power for personal transportation. It's going to be a winning situation all the way around - consumers will get an efficient power source, communities will get zero emissions, and automakers will get another major business opportunity - a growth opportunity." William C. Ford, Jr., Ford Chairman, International Auto Show, January 2000
"Of all the technologies, the fuel cell car seems to be the most promising, it has a good chance of becoming the next mass market car." Byron McCormick, co-director of General Motor's Global Alternative Propulsion Center
"The fuel cell is the most promising option for the future. We are determined to be the first to bring it to market." - Juergen Hubbert, DaimlerChrysler.
"Fuel cell vehicles will probably overtake gasoline-powered cars in the next 20 to 30 years." Takeo Fukui, managing director, Research and Development, Honda Motor Co., Bloomberg News, June 5, 1999.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/02/20020225-5.html Bush statement:
We happen to believe that fuel cells are the wave of the future; that fuel cells offer incredible opportunity.
January 14, 2002
Spencer Abraham's Dream Car
Coming from an administration fixated on producing more of the same old fossil fuels, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham's promise on Wednesday of a major government investment in fuel-cell cars powered by pollution-free hydrogen seemed almost revolutionary. Yet environmentalists who have parsed the announcement are not turning cartwheels. And for good reason. Despite hydrogen's immense promise, the administration's plan is in fact a setback for greater near-term fuel efficiency, for reducing our reliance on Middle Eastern oil and for slowing global warming.
It is also nothing new. The Clinton administration invested in fuel cell technology, both for mobile sources of pollution like cars and stationary sources like buildings. Fuel cells use stored hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity, emitting only water vapor. Yet there is no infrastructure in place for delivering hydrogen to cars, and a commercially viable vehicle with an on-board system for converting natural gas into hydrogen is, by many estimates, decades away.
Meanwhile, the administration is getting rid of the only program that seemed to be making any headway — a joint industry-government undertaking begun by Vice President Al Gore called the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. Mr. Abraham belittled the program because it had no chance of reaching Mr. Gore's lofty target of a commercially viable car that could get 80 miles a gallon by 2004. Nevertheless, the investment so far — $1.5 billion from Washington, at least that much from Detroit — has not only created useful technologies, but also contributed crucially to the development of a viable hybrid gas-and-battery-powered car capable of well over 40 miles per gallon. Detroit plans to bring hybrid models to market in the next two years; the Japanese are already there.
Any federal pressure on Detroit to proceed with this program and develop high-mileage family sedans in the near term appears now to have vanished. Yet the next 10 to 20 years are vitally important to anyone who cares about urban smog, about acid rain (vehicles contribute to that, too) and about global warming. Americans will buy 150 million vehicles during the next decade, and Mr. Abraham's program won't do a thing to reduce the amount of oil they will consume. Nor will it do anything to reduce America's near-term dependence on foreign oil, which was supposed to be one of the main objectives of the Bush energy program.
One small source of hope is that the administration has yet to slam the door on a possible increase in fuel economy standards. Although the White House offered no support last summer when a group of moderate Republicans led by Sherwood Boehlert of New York tried to mandate higher mileage for gas-guzzling S.U.V.'s, Mr. Abraham may yet recommend some slight improvement in mileage standards, which have remained largely untouched for over a decade.
Tiny improvements, however, are not going to arrest global warming. Mr. Abraham calls his new vehicle the Freedom Car, presumably because it will free us from fossil fuels and the countries that produce them. We hope he is right. In the meantime, though, the only people set free are the manufacturers, now relieved of the obligation (absent strong new fuel economy standards) to produce serious breakthroughs in the next few years.
January 20, 2002
Dream Car Made Real
To the Editor:
You criticize the Energy Department's move toward hydrogen fuel cells for future cars, and you say I "belittled" the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, the current fuel-efficiency program ("Spencer Abraham's Dream Car," editorial, Jan. 14).
The Transportation Department is charged with considering changes in corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards. That review is taking place.
What I can do as energy secretary is promote research into energy efficiency. With respect to fuel-efficient vehicles I had three choices: first, continue with P.N.G.V., a $1.5 billion program universally recognized as nowhere near producing a car that anyone would want to buy. Second, pull back all research money in this area; or third, propose a program to create a new car engine that uses no petroleum and emits no pollution.
We chose the third course: hydrogen fuel cells suitable for all vehicles that can move us beyond fossil fuels and free us from dependence on imported oil. Such a vehicle can be a reality and would indeed be my dream car.
Secretary of Energy
Washington, Jan. 15, 2002
Remarks by Spencer Abrahamon FreedomCAR Detroit, MIJanuary 9, 2002
Welcome. Thank you all for coming. And I want to say how honored I am to be joined this morning by a very distinguished group of leaders: Sharing the podium with me today are Jack Smith, Chairman of General Motors' Dieter Zetsche, President and CEO of the Chrysler Group and Will Boddie, Vice President of Global Core Engineering for Ford and Senator Carl Levin. I also want to recognize Representatives John Conyers, John Dingell, Joe Knollenberg, Sander Levin, and Lynn Rivers who are with us today. Thank you all for coming.
I also want to thank Governor John Engler for his energetic leadership and support of this important initiative for the auto industry. The Governor has a prior commitment in Lansing and is unable to attend today, but I want to acknowledge his assistance.
I am pleased to be here today to announce a new public-private partnership between my Department and the Nation's automobile manufactures to promote the development of hydrogen as a primary fuel for cars and trucks, as part of our effort to reduce American dependence on foreign oil.
Under this new program, which we call FreedomCAR, the government and the private sector will fund research into advanced, efficient fuel cell technology which uses hydrogen to power automobiles without creating any pollution.
The long-term results of this cooperative effort will be cars and trucks that are more efficient, cheaper to operate, pollution-free and competitive in the showroom.
This plan is rooted in President Bush's call, issued last May in our National Energy Plan, to reduce American reliance on foreign oil through a balance of new domestic energy production and new technology to promote greater energy efficiency.
The idea of bringing together the public and private sectors to develop more efficient and affordable automobiles is also something I worked on very hard with Sen. Levin and others when I was in the U.S. Senate. As Secretary of Energy I am excited about continuing that work and promoting the promise offered by fuel cell technology to help us achieve an entirely new generation of vehicles.
My enthusiasm was given a boost last summer when I toured the Department's Argonne National Lab near Chicago, to see its work on fuel cells. A first generation fuel cell, like the one pictured here, took up an entire wall. But now you can see we have developed fuel cells that are much smaller but just as powerful. As I often say, we are at the point where a fuel cell is no longer the size of a minivan, but more like the size of a seat in that minivan. And they're getting smaller and more economical all the time.
FreedomCAR isn't an automobile … it's a new approach to powering the cars of the future. The C-A-R in FreedomCAR stands for Cooperative Automotive Research and it will be a big win for everyone.
For consumers it means more fuel-efficient cars and trucks that are cheaper to operate. Families will no longer have to factor in the cost of gasoline in their budgets, in their vacation plans, or in what type of vehicle they buy. The gas-guzzler will be a thing of the past.
Growing up in Michigan with a father and father-in-law who both worked on the assembly line, I know first hand what the automobile business means for families and our nation's economy.
For the auto industry and its workers FreedomCAR means a bright future.
For the environment it means less pollution from cars and trucks and it means cleaner air. Automobiles powered by pure hydrogen fuel cells emit no pollution and no carbon dioxide. The only exhaust is water. That's a monumental change.
For energy security it means we will no longer have to depend so heavily on imported oil from unstable regions of the world. Transportation consumes 67 percent of all the petroleum we use, forcing us to import some 10 million barrels of oil each day. But even though we are a buyer on the world market, we are a buyer with choices. And one of those choices is to use the technological genius found in private industry and at our national laboratories to invent our way to energy independence.
The FreedomCAR is a long-term research program aimed at developing a fuel-cell operating system for tomorrow's cars and trucks. It looks to fundamental research and development.
This program has a long, but realistic time horizon. Our vision spans several decades as together the Department of Energy and the automobile industry look to develop cost effective hydrogen fuel cells.
And although FreedomCAR is a long-term effort, we will not allow the program to drift. We will have strict and enforceable measures of success and near-term goals that will guide us and keep the program on track.
FreedomCAR replaces and greatly improves upon the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicle program.
Like the old PNGV program, FreedomCAR will be a public-private partnership, combining the talents of the DOE's National Labs with the impressive scientific know-how of industry and the technological innovations being pioneered at the nation's top research universities.
But that's about it as far as similarities go. The PNGV wasn't cost effective and it wasn't moving a competitive automobile to the showroom. It certainly had a desirable goal - an 80 mile per gallon vehicle - but it wasn't at all clear this vehicle would appeal to consumer tastes.
What's more, the PNGV program was still wedded to gasoline as an essential source of power. We can do better than that. We can look beyond current technology and current fuels to a truly new generation of vehicles.
That is the direction we are headed. My friends here today share my great enthusiasm for this project. And they share my great enthusiasm for what we can accomplish.
A vision like this can transform everything - the way industry and government work together, the kinds of fuels we use, and the kinds of cars we buy. And a vision like FreedomCAR will bring consumers more choice, more efficient vehicles, and huge savings. That's why we have such a strong partnership represented here today, and why I am certain that partnership will succeed.
Thank you everyone for coming. My Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, David Garman, and I will remain here to answer your questions.
The current partnership with the auto industry was initiated in September 1993 as the "Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV)." The program emphasized research and development (R&D) programs designed to triple automobile fuel efficiency. The PNGV program was to culminate in the production of prototype family autos in the year 2004, with the expectation that the technologies would be incorporated into even more efficient production vehicles about four years later.
The situation has changed. The National Research Council Peer Review recommended restructuring the PNGV program because of developments and advancements in related fields:
Automobile fuel economy is declining as SUV market share increases
Significant R&D progress has been achieved
Industry partners have announced they will introduce hybrid technology in production vehicles within the next few years
Other PNGV technologies (e.g., light-weight materials) are being introduced in conventional vehicles
Substantial programs similar to PNGV are underway around the world
Full fuel efficiencies associated with PNGV technologies will not be realized in large numbers until breakthroughs render them more cost-competitive
Reevaluation is appropriate as PNGV approaches the end of a ten-year project
In evaluating the former PNGV program, DOE and auto industry partners agree that:
Public/private partnerships are the preferred approach to R&D, as highlighted in the President's National Energy Plan, but the cooperative effort must be refocused in order to:
Aim at longer range goals with greater emphasis highway vehicle contributions to energy and environmental concerns
Move to more fundamental R&D at the component and subsystem level
Assure coverage of all light vehicle platforms
Maintain some effort on nearer term technologies that offer early opportunities to save petroleum
Strengthen efforts on technologies applicable to both fuel cell and hybrid approaches; e.g., batteries, electronics, and motors
For more information on the FreedomCAR, See Secretary Abraham's Remarks to the Detroit Auto Show
Model E notes: see Venturewire May 3, 2001 on merger with Flint; August 9, 2000
Model E and Flint Merge to Form Build-To-Order SAN FRANCISCO (VENTUREWIRE) -- Model E and Flint, two independent automotive companies that have been in development over the last 18 months, said they have merged to form what the companies claim is the world's first automotive company capable of delivering build-to-order vehicles directly to consumers. Terms of the deal are undisclosed. The newly merged company, temporarily called Build-To-Order (BTO), will develop a new brand of vehicles using outsourced engineering and manufacturing services, made to order for customers and purchased through a computer platform. Scott Painter, CEO of Flint, will become chairman of the new company, while Bill Li, CEO and co-founder of Model E, will now serve as CEO. According to Mr. Painter, who is also the former CEO and founder of Carsdirect.com, Model E, which previously employed 65, and Flint, which employed 20, have both cut staff. The combined company now totals 20 senior executives. Mr. Painter said BTO is also in the process of closing a $20 million round of! funding. Flint is backed by Ecompanies and Mr. Painter. Model E has received funding from Softbank Venture Capital
SF Chronicle Monday, February 25, 2002, page B3
Hydrogen driven Revolution -- not your father's SUV
Hypercar's sleek design is making waves
Michael McCabe, Chronicle Staff Writer
It looks like something out of a sci-fi flick via Pixar, so cool looking that the urge to hop inside and take a spin down Highway 101 is nearly irresistible.
Except this car, called the Revolution, is just a pretty shell. Peek under the thermo-plastic body and, nothing. Peer through the dark windows, and there is a beautifully designed cover over where the dashboard, steering wheel and seats should be.
It's a concept car that, if actually produced, would be powered by fuel cells. But the revolution will have to wait. Its creators at Hypercar Inc., a high-technology Colorado development company, say the car, which has been on display in Palo Alto for several weeks, won't be ready for about four or five years.
Still, it's the fuel cell technology that is beginning to turn heads. The great promise is that by mixing hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity, you get a pollution-free source of power. It's like having your own little magical chemistry lab in your car, right under your seat.
The technology already has some surprising momentum. Several working prototype fuel cell vehicles have been tested by such companies as DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Honda and Hyundai.
Last month, the Bush administration decided to abandon the Clinton-era $1.5 billion effort to produce an 80-miles-a-gallon gasoline-powered engine in favor of hydrogen-based fuel cells.
On Jan. 30, the California Assembly approved a bill that would require the Air Resources Board to draft regulations by 2004 to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks. If the bill holds up, California could become the first state to limit carbon dioxide auto emissions.
Of course, fuel cell-powered autos like Hypercar's Revolution still have a long way to go before they win the hearts and minds of commuters. Hypercar is not in the business, not yet at least, of manufacturing cars. It wants to sell its technology. Timing is critical. The list of competitors, mostly foreign, is growing.
Nonetheless, the tiny technology development company has garnered considerable attention quickly, not just because of its fuel cell technology.
The design of its Revolution goes after a radical reduction in weight, with ultra-light advanced carbon fiber reinforced composites for the body, resulting in a car weighing 1,890 pounds, half the weight of comparable steel bodies. Add to that an extreme aerodynamic design, fly-by-wire steering mechanisms and specially designed Michelin tires to cut rolling drag, and you have the makings for a certain buzz in the auto industry.
"It's a sexy looking product, but we still don't have enough information to say whether this will ever make it to market," says Joe Irvin, spokesman for the California Fuel Cell Partnership. "It's nice to see Hypercar pushing the ideas of fuel cells, but the level of sales you need to make it all come together for small companies like this is huge. It rarely happens."
Here is an abbreviated list of some of the benefits if the Revolution becomes reality, says David Taggart, Hypercar's senior vice president for product development:
-- It won't pollute. Fuel cell technology combines hydrogen and oxygen in the air to make electricity. The sole byproduct -- water, in the form of warm vapor.
-- It will help shift American reliance from oil -- and mercurial OPEC -- to ubiquitous hydrogen.
-- It will travel zero to 62 mph in 8.3 seconds. Its range will be 340 miles, or 99 miles to a gallon of fuel.
-- There will be no steering wheel, just a couple of joysticks that enable the driver to fly "by wire" with as much precision as if it were a A-300 Airbus airplane. A boon to a generation of video game addicts?
-- It will have really neat cup holders -- and possibly even an espresso machine in the dashboard, with water produced by the car's own fuel cell.
Some think that the future is in Hypercar's favor and that a confluence of events is likely to bolster its technology and credibility.
"The competitive environment, particularly from Japan, is about to crank up, " says Maryann Keller, an automotive consultant in Greenwich, Conn. "In terms of fuel economy in general, maybe this will be a consumer issue. I'm not sure I'll find a fuel cell car in my garage within 10 years, but I might well be taking a fuel cell taxi or see fuel cell trucks."
Hypercar is the brainchild of Amory Lovins, the visionary advocate of clean power and co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, an entrepreneurial, nonprofit organization in Snowmass, Colo., which is pursuing efficient use of resources. Few are ready to dismiss outright anything Lovins says is inevitable.
"There are a lot of companies putting money into fuel cells right now in the R&D and prototype stage, and if the carrots and the sticks existed, you could have fuel cell cars in mass production of some sort in four years, there is no doubt about that," says Dan Sperling, director of the Institute for Transportation Studies at the University of California at Davis.
But whether Hypercar and its Revolution is pointing to the shortest way to reach that goal is the question that won't be answered at least until believers with deep pockets show up. The company currently is seeking an initial round of funding from private investors to the tune of $16 million (it has already raised more than $7 million) to take it to the next level -- a comprehensive engine development for at least one fully operational prototype. Again, Hypercar would not manufacture the car for consumer use itself; it seeks to license its technology to other companies.
The Revolution has been on public display at the KnOwhere store in Palo Alto, but this week is being loaned out to the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference in Monterey. It will return to the Palo Alto store after that. The car is surprisingly big, about the size of a Lexus RX 300 SUV. But the complete car will weigh only half what the Lexus weighs, a key reason, along with its aerodynamic styling, why Hypercar promises 99 miles to a gallon of fuel, says Taggart, the Hypercar executive.
Taggart says the car could make the traditional gas station obsolete. The hydrogen is readily available from natural gas found at home or the work place.
Exactly how that will be done is still in the development stages, although there are prototype converters moving toward the market. Fuel cell experts say that linkup will be technically no more difficult ultimately than using today's gas pumps.
Initially, the car will cost about the same as a not-too-fancy BMW X5, or about $45,000. Two more years of further development, perhaps in 2006 or so, would get the price down to something in the $28,000 range, Taggart predicts.
Taggart is optimistic. He says more than 100 potential and existing investors have kicked the tires of the Revolution -- and peeked under the hood,
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cobalt battery recharged by fuel cell.
Electric Auto to Produce Electric SUVs
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Electric Auto Corp. plans to start production in California of a full performance, zero-emission, electric "Silver Volt" Sport Utility Vehicle equipped with its new Apollo fuel cell and lead-cobalt battery which will sell at the same average price as today's SUV with a gasoline engine, officials reported recently.
The company has signed an agreement with a "major car manufacturer" for the body and chassis of the SUV and is seeking an arrangement with a second carmaker as a back-up source, officials say. Electric Auto is not in the vehicle manufacturing business, but expects to sub-contract the assembly of electric vehicles to professional auto assemblers.
Performance of the Silver Volt SUV is expected to match that of a gasoline powered SUV, with a top speed of 90 miles per hour, acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 10 seconds, a driving range of 350 to 400 miles and a fill-up time of 5 minutes with a liquid ammonia-based propulsion fuel or Methanol. The fuel cell charges the battery continuously much as the alternator charges the battery in a gasoline car.
Production is planned to start in Santa Ana, Calif., at 35 vehicles per month, building up to 2,000 per month. The company's marketing plan calls for sales and service to be provided by existing auto dealers throughout the state, who will receive special training from Electric Auto's California Tech Center, to be set up in Orange County.
Under the company's projected time-table, batteries will be produced in 2001 at the Florida Tech Center and Plant in Ft. Lauderdale, which the company is in the process of setting up now. Fuel cells will be produced in 2002 at a former textile mill in Alabama. Electric Auto also maintains a development laboratory in Ft. Lauderdale and at the Technical University of Graz in Austria where prototype Apollo fuel cells can be seen and demonstrated.
Electric Auto Corp. was formed in 1994 as a Delaware corporation with headquarters in Fort Lauderdale. It is a privately owned company with paid-in capital of over $1 million in cash. The amount of money invested by the company and its predecessors to bring this project to its present state of development is $17.7 million, according to available audited financial statements.