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Larry Burns: One of the reasons we're focused on fuel cell and plug-in electric technology is to be able to offer electric drive across our entire product line - from commuter vehicles to family-size vehicles. Our Equinox Fuel Cell development vehicle is a crossover SUV. And the concept behind it, the Chevrolet Sequel, is also an SUV. These vehicles demonstrate the promise of fuel cell-electric propulsion in this class size, but we will need to see improvements in battery energy density beyond what we have today to envision plug-in vehicles significantly larger than Volt.

Link to complete article:

http://www.designnews.com/article/47485-General_Motors_R_D_Chief_Larry_Burns_Sees_Electric_Drive_across_Product_Line.php?nid=2333&rid=332812028
 

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GM's VP of R&D: The immediate solution for oil independence are flexfuel vehicles.

Jeremy,

This article is a great find! From my perspective, the most important point of it were the statements about the timing for the tipping points, i.e. the point at which markets can sustain the growth of a new technology from both an energy cost and a vehicle cost perspective. Larry Burns states that the tipping point for biofuels based on non-food sources of biomass is 3-5 years away. While The Volt (E-REVs), if you factor in three commercial cycles of learning 3-5 years long each, you end up with the tipping point occurring in 10-15 years.

Let me restate this. GM's VP of R&D and Strategic Planning says that the immediate solution to oil independence are flexfuel vehicles. The Volt will not be a significant factor until 2018, at the earliest. I hope Volt enthusiasts can get their heads wrapped around this. The Volt will be a great play thing for those who can afford the $50,000 for a 40 mile City EPA AER. It take a decade or two before the energy and vehicle costs reach the tipping point to impact the mainstream buyer.
 

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The major drawback of EV is still the high prices of batteries. But there are many exciting developments in the manufacture of better, safer, faster charging and more energy dense batteries. When the batteries come down in price, when the manufacturing plants have ramped up production worldwide, and it would be within 5 years, so the tipping point for EV or ER-EV is within 5 years. The 15 years tipping point is really a bit of a stretch for me, considering that we are all witnessing the rapid progress of battery technologies during the past 5 years, and that is not even counting on EEStor.

And most importantly, GM is NOT the only car manufacturer that are or will be producing EV's.
 

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I do agree that there will be a place for flex fuel vehicles. During the time when the EV's have not yet reached critical mass, the new vehicles should be flex fuel as the approach to replacing petroleum based fuels is multi-pronged.

Even if gasoline engines would still be produced, there are gasoline compatible products that can be farmed instead of drilled from the ground. There are various developments in the ramping up production of green gasoline from Sapphire Energy http://www.sapphireenergy.com/product . This can help during the transition process to replacing the oil much faster time.

As the EV's and their accompanying batteries continue to evolve and improve, we may have proven their reliability and their cheaper operations, and the ICE will be at last relegated to niche application. As for the existing ICE vehicles that are operational, we should just continue to use them, feeding non-petroleum based fuels, until majority will wear out naturally. But although there will be ICE beyond our lifetime, of this I am sure, my next cars would be EV's.
 

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The evidence says beyond 2017 for Volt tipping point.

JoeReal
When the batteries come down in price, when the manufacturing plants have ramped up production worldwide, and it would be within 5 years, so the tipping point for EV or ER-EV is within 5 years.

Consider a worst case scenario. Studies have shown that the typical buyer will only pay for 3 years of energy cost saving for a vehicle. The other hybrids (e.g. Prius) offer at best only 50mpg mileage. The typical buyer is not going to appreciate the technology difference between series, parallel, or E-REV hybrids. Given average annual miles at 12,000, at $5.00/gal, the yearly cost of gas for these vehicles is $1,200 more than the Volt. That’s $3600 for gas over three years, i.e. the typical buyer will only pay a $3,600 price premium for a Volt. With a Prius at $25,000, top price for a Volt is about $29,000.

GM does not intend for the Volt to have any significant impact. By their own statement "for the purposes of the NHTSA rulemaking, GM’s game-changing EREV technology should be treated as a low-volume application during the time period under consideration. We strongly discourage NHTSA from applying either PHEV or EREV technology in any significant volume in its … model during the 2011-2015 timeframe.”

Their stated production goal is a total volume of 200K the first five years.

The historical improvement in battery tech has been about 6%/year. The Electric Power Research Institute (http://my.epri.com/portal/server.pt?) did a recent analysis on the projected cost of Li ion batteries. Using this data and the DeJong learning curve gives the learning curve below. We note that the curve flattens out at volumes of 1,00,000 and greater to about $4700. The Volt (16KWHr) battery cost for the fifth year (200,000) is projected as about $5300. This is still larger than the $3,600 premium.

GM and EPRI have a major collaborative effort going http://gm-volt.com/2008/07/21/gm-lau...-for-the-volt/, so these numbers have some credibility.

MY 2011 Volt Introduction + 5 years = 2017 for $5300 battery cost. This timing is consistent with the GM Chief of R&D's projection for the tipping point of 2018 or later.
 

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