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It looks so cool though...
November 9, 2008 6:22 PM   Subscribe

GM has been touting the Volt as it's triumphant entry into green transportation, but 2011 is a long way off and the big three aren't doing so hot and neither is the Volt, it would seem. Meanwhile, Dean Kamen shows off a working Hybrid Electric/Stirling Engine car based off the TH!NK, a car Ford canceled over a half decade ago (and shipped to Norway where they still live on). The full Frontline Documentary, Heat, which is about the current state of energy policy, implementation, and the climate (which is not good!) is online and well worth watching.

So is Who Killed the Electric Car, which you can view in full online apparently.

And a full Stirling Engine writeup (ignore the section on Stirling's curse, it is wikipedia after all) Previously: Stirling Engines in Space!
posted by Large Marge (57 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I just watched Who Killed the Electric Car? yesterday, so I'm inclined to say that GM can go suck an egg for all I care.
posted by neuron at 6:34 PM on November 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


NOVA's episode, Car of the Future is also available on-line for viewing. Hosted by Click & Clack.
posted by one_bean at 6:47 PM on November 9, 2008


it's its
say no to the greengrocer's apostrophe!

posted by killdevil at 6:49 PM on November 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


damn!
posted by Large Marge at 6:51 PM on November 9, 2008


Here's what I don't understand: you're going to the trouble of making a car. The difficulty is not, presumably, the bodywork.

Why not make the car really hot? Am I missing something?
posted by Ryvar at 6:54 PM on November 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Volt is Vapor right now. As things stand, GM is very unlikely to be around in 2011 to release it.

Karmen's car looks interesting, other than the fact that it uses lithium batteries, which means it will rapidly fail in real world conditions -- lithium batteries hate heat, cold and impact. Guess what you get in a car?

The thing that "amuses" me is that Ford is perfectly able to make small and efficient cars that get rave reviews (the Ford Mondeo changed the face of British motoring) and they *refuse* to sell them in the US.

So, well, they deserve to lose. And they're losing. $7.7 *billion* cash disappeared last quarter from F. The rule going into a recession is that you have to hoard cash and spend it frugally to get through the downturn. GM and F are burning it like mad.

There's no easy way to rebuild the auto industry in the United State. But step one is "Allow GM, Ford, and Chrysler to die."
posted by eriko at 6:57 PM on November 9, 2008 [11 favorites]


Because a hot car can't go as far as a car that preserves it's energy to use for motion instead of waste heat.
posted by butterstick at 7:00 PM on November 9, 2008


It seems inevitable that Ford and GM will go bankrupt in the next year. Do we just bail them out like the banks? Fun times.
posted by bhnyc at 7:05 PM on November 9, 2008


Wasn't idealab! working on a solar-powered stirling engine? Jeebus, that was a decade ago, probably. If i came to nothing it would certainly be typical for idealab!...
posted by maxwelton at 7:07 PM on November 9, 2008


Ah. I see they gave up on the "personal power pack" to work on utlitiy-sized stuff, which is way less exciting.
posted by maxwelton at 7:09 PM on November 9, 2008


And it really burns me up that GM and other Detroit automakers use "waah, the unions made it impossible for us to be efficient" excuses--if you're talking about healthcare, then you should have fucking worked for universal single-payer instead of against it, assholes. Don't blame union employees for trying to preserve healthcare for themselves whenever possible. We might all have universal already if it weren't for automakers fighting against it in the first place.

That, and the insane crappiness of their non-truck products, fighting against CAFE, and their underhanded role in destroying LA's original public transportation system is all the reason I need to watch them go down without a tear, as I drive away in my nice dependable Toyota. I'm sorry fo their employees, but they are nothing but leeches on the American economy. Fuck em.
posted by emjaybee at 7:10 PM on November 9, 2008 [15 favorites]


The Electric Car is looking down from heaven and laughing its ass off right now. As neuron says, it's hard to have sympathy for these guys.
posted by VulcanMike at 7:12 PM on November 9, 2008


Meanwhile, Neil Young is busily building a zero-emission 1959 Lincoln Continental: lincvolt.com
posted by MarchHare at 7:30 PM on November 9, 2008


GM is already in line for a bailout. I'm writing my congressman to tell him not to give them one thin dime until they apologize for the blight that is the Aztek.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:51 PM on November 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


But step one is "Allow GM, Ford, and Chrysler to die."

A reasonable question to ask is what to do about the massive unemployment that would result from letting these companies fail. We don't exactly have much of a safety net under working-class Americans.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:52 PM on November 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's been about 35 years since the energy crisis of the '70s, when the Japanese first turned up and started taking market share like it belonged to them -- which in every meaningful sense, it did. GM and Ford have spent all 35 of those years screaming for the waaahmbulance on the one hand and manipulating government on the other, but the one thing they absolutely would not do is build something that wasn't a huge wallowing shitmobile with a third of the useful life of a Honda. In the real world of business, nobody gets a 35-year reprieve when they blow it. But they did, and they squandered it. Fuck them.

A reasonable question to ask is what to do about the massive unemployment that would result from letting these companies fail.

A government bailout would be a hugely inefficient form of welfare, since you'd be propping up a corporation that's spent a third of a century proving it doesn't want to do anything but fail as an indirect and massively expensive way of writing all those paychecks. It'd be cheaper just to hire the laid-off workers to rebuild bridges. Bring on the New, New Deal, and if the CEOs want some, let them learn to pour concrete.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:58 PM on November 9, 2008 [21 favorites]


The thing that "amuses" me is that Ford is perfectly able to make small and efficient cars that get rave reviews (the Ford Mondeo changed the face of British motoring) and they *refuse* to sell them in the US.

They did make them available. Nobody really wanted them in the US. And they do offer a fairly equivalent (and cheaper) car even now.

US consumers haven't exactly been the most farsighted car buyers.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:03 PM on November 9, 2008


A reasonable question to ask is what to do about the massive unemployment that would result from letting these companies fail. We don't exactly have much of a safety net under working-class Americans.

A further reasonable question would be to ask what the point would be in having massive employers who cannot themselves remain solvent, requiring government assistance to stay afloat. Cut out the middle man and nationalize the system, or let it fail.
posted by odinsdream at 8:04 PM on November 9, 2008


Surely some will doubt the source but it's hard to run a business like this (rtf).
posted by Kwantsar at 8:10 PM on November 9, 2008


Man Kamen really likes those Stirling engines.
So, well, they deserve to lose. And they're losing. $7.7 *billion* cash disappeared last quarter from F. The rule going into a recession is that you have to hoard cash and spend it frugally to get through the downturn. GM and F are burning it like mad.
Their business seems to be:
Step 1) Get government bailout.

But I'm not exactly sure why we should bail them out. The auto industry isn't really all that important for the economy, and the current market caps of GM and ford are tiny. What we ought to do is bail out the employees. You could let the companies go bankrupt and put the employees to work doing something else.

I saw a hilarious T.V. add the other day. A dealership was offering 50 shares of GM with any new car purchase. At today's prices, that's about $250 worth.
A reasonable question to ask is what to do about the massive unemployment that would result from letting these companies fail. We don't exactly have much of a safety net under working-class Americans
We could give each GM employee $83,000 cash and it would still cost the government less then bailing out those companies. A more sensible approach would be to hire them to work on infrastructure projects or investing in new companies that could buy off the old assets from F and GM at bargain basement prices.
but the one thing they absolutely would not do is build something that wasn't a huge wallowing shitmobile with a third of the useful life of a Honda. In the real world of business, nobody gets a 35-year reprieve when they blow it. But they did, and they squandered it. Fuck them.
Actually Quality (Job #1) has gotten pretty good at ford recently (have you driven a ford... lately?). But seriously, despite the fact that it lines up with their 1980s slogans, fords quality has gotten pretty good lately.

One thing you have to keep in mind is that Ford and GM have huge healthcare costs that overseas competitors don't. Something like 1/3rd of the cost of a GM car goes to healthcare costs. Our lack of universal healthcare is a huge drag on the economy.
posted by delmoi at 8:32 PM on November 9, 2008


Oddly enough, that's exactly how Henry Ford ran his business.

If Ford, et al, were to slash wages by half then the majority of Ford's current line up would be 2/3rds the annual wage of their workers and Ford would be selling even fewer cars.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:34 PM on November 9, 2008


A reasonable question to ask is what to do about the massive unemployment that would result from letting these companies fail.

That's assuming failure == death, which seems doubtful on some level. Their manufacturing capabilities probably have some kind of value floor. Under normal circumstances, I'd bet that pieces of GM would get sold off to businesses or investors that's be interested in rebooting the auto business. Obviously these days aren't normal circumstances, though.
posted by namespan at 8:50 PM on November 9, 2008


A reasonable question to ask is what to do about the massive unemployment that would result from letting these companies fail. We don't exactly have much of a safety net under working-class Americans.

Seriously, Works Progress Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, etc., etc.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:20 PM on November 9, 2008


The Volt part makes me sad. I drank the Volt kool-aid as soon as it was shown as a concept vehicle. But I just got done watching the Frontline video. Focusing on cap and trade just for a moment (the video was about climate change, after all), proponents claim that new "green jobs" will boost the economy, while opponents claim that higher energy costs will hurt the economy. The problem, it seems, is the lag time. It'll take upwards of 10 years of building new infrastructure to do something like the Pickens Plan, and if caps on carbon emissions are in effect, dirty energy will get pretty expensive until clean energy can pick up the slack.

Other solutions to this problem are welcome, but here's one proposal from the Frontline site that stuck out. The government's all about stimulus checks these days. After the regulatory and oversight costs of the cap and trade system have been taken out, give the rest back (spread evenly) to the taxpayers! Those people who are hurt the most by higher energy costs will end up benefiting the most from these CO2 rebate checks.

One commentator in the program mentioned that investment in wind and solar has stalled because government tax incentives for development in these technologies looks like an EKG chart. Meanwhile, venture capitalists continue to poor money into alternative energy. As soon as cap and trade becomes a reality, business can forecast how much more expensive dirty energy is going to be in the future, and how much more profitable alternative energy is going to be. New businesses, fueled by venture capital, will figure out which energy solutions look the best for themselves. You don't necessarily need congress deciding where the revenue from the CO2 cap and trade should go, deciding which alternative energy research gets funding and which ones don't.

Err, maybe not. I just think getting a CO2 rebate check would be cool.
posted by Nquire at 9:24 PM on November 9, 2008


As things stand, GM is very unlikely to be around in 2011 to release it.

That's what I was thinking four months ago... but really, GM and Ford will most likely be bailed out and/or partially nationalized. How can the U.S. admit that the entire Domestic Auto Industry has failed?

It'll be interesting to see what happens to Chrysler. I was really incredulous when Cerberus took it private-- seemed like a horrible investment at the time and it seems even worse now.

And Chrysler already received a massive bailout back in 1979, which in addition to the invention of the mini-van, propped up the company for 29 years. How many years will the next round of bailouts buy? At what point does the American Taxpayer get tired of propping up a failed business model?

Ford and GM have huge healthcare costs that overseas competitors don't. Something like 1/3rd of the cost of a GM car goes to healthcare costs.

If GM and Ford and Chrysler are not bailed out, they will declare bankrupcy, rendering all current union contracts null and void. Goodbye health care costs!
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:39 PM on November 9, 2008


Innovate or die.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:20 PM on November 9, 2008


the big three aren't doing so hot and neither is the Volt, it would seem.

That video of the Volt is possibly the most unfair attempt I've seen to make the Volt look bad. First of all, that model was the Volt concept model. GM just mocked up a few of them with tiny little engines for driving around stages at car shows and out of driveways. It didn't have a Volt drivetrain, or really any proper drivetrain to speak of. It was never meant to be fully driveable, so congratulations to PBS for showing that an inherently limited show car has inherent limitations. The fact that PBS didn't understand that - or maybe they just like making people look bad for no reason - says mor about them than about GM. It says precisely nothing about how the Volt production model will perform. (In fact, the Volt mules are running nicely - at 5:30.)

If you want a proper journalistic look at the Volt program at GM, read Jonathan Rauch's piece in the Atlantic on the Volt, and listen to an extended interview with him about the Volt on EconTalk. Alternatively, take a look at the Volt portion of CNBC's documentary on General Motors (same link as "running nicely" above).

GM has spent hundred of millions of dollars on the Volt - and will certainly spend over a billion by the time it hits showrooms. It's one of the few programs that is not being cut in their current crisis, because it's their highest-priority program. To call if Vaporware is simply uninformed. They've already designated a factory that will produce the Volt (Hamtramck) and negotiated tax incentives (see the two posts here); they've selected a plant (Flint) to build the range-extending engine; they have internally chosen (though not publicly announced) a battery supplier (using a safe lithium-ion chemistry that avoids cobalt oxide, so you don't have to worry about your car lighting up like a laptop); and they've begun signing contracts for components.

People finish watching Who Killed the Electric Car and come away thinking that GM is the spawn of Satan. But the EV-1 was doomed from the beginning by regulators who were fixated on the idea of a zero-emissions vehicle. It doesn't matter that most people drive only 40 miles per day; when I buy a car, I want it to be able to make occasional long trips, and to be able to drive it day-to-day without worrying about getting stuck. Very few people will buy a pure electric car, which is what California forced the EV-1 to be.

GM lost a billion dollars on the EV-1 program, but they came away looking like the bad guys because, on the advice of lawyers concerned with liability and the ability to service EV-1s in the future, they crushed the cars when their leases were up. Bad PR, absolutely; short-sighted strategy, absolutely. But there will never be a viable market for electric-only cars.

But put a range-extending engine in an electric car to recharge the battery when it runs down, and all of a sudden you have a car that eliminates the needs of the vast majority of people for gas on their daily commute, but still gives them the flexibility they demand from their cars. You eliminate "range anxiety." It is a brilliant stroke. Eighty or ninety percent of the time, you're running on electrons from the grid (foreign-oil free); the rest you're running on the gas in your tank. And because it's only keeping the batteries at a minimal state of charge, rather than driving the wheels directly or recharging the battery (that's for when you get home), you're getting 50 mpg. Extended-range electric vehicles are going to break America's dependence on foreign oil, and go a long way to reducing CO2 emissions (large-scale electricity generation and electric drive together are so much more efficient that there's probably even a CO2 benefit when the electrons come from coal plants, and certainly when you're talking natural gas/nuclear).

In 20 years, the roads will be full of cars like the Volt; I hope that in 30 years the only thing available in showrooms will be Extended-Range Electric Vehicles (and that we'll fill up at the pumps with fuel produced from algae, but that's another story).

Say what you will about the way GM has been managed in recent years: the Volt is real. It's real, and it's going to change the world.
posted by Dasein at 10:35 PM on November 9, 2008 [11 favorites]


Fuckers. How is it that American auto makers have been doing a Rip-Van Winkle for decades now?

Suddenly GM wakes up in 2008 and sees the need for a hybrid electric car... in the year 2011...

Where were these fuckers 10, 15, or 20 years ago? Thanks for shoving all those SUVs down our throats for years.

We'll let Japan and Korea handle our electric car needs, fuck you very much.

But who is really fucked here? The American auto worker. I say we seize the assets of every exec who worked for the Big Three anytime in the past 30 years, roll that into fund for retraining the soon to be out of work tens of thousands of Big Three workers... It's a great plan - it redirects the fucking to the fuckers who started it.
posted by wfrgms at 11:42 PM on November 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for shoving all those SUVs down our throats for years.

Shoving down your throats? You dumb fucks got down on your knees and swallowed eagerly.

...it redirects the fucking to the fuckers who started it.
You are the fuckers that started it.
posted by atrazine at 3:11 AM on November 10, 2008


And it really burns me up that GM and other Detroit automakers use "waah, the unions made it impossible for us to be efficient" excuses--if you're talking about healthcare, then you should have fucking worked for universal single-payer instead of against it, assholes.

They have been working for it - by moving their production facilities to Canada.

Note that Obama intends to cancel the prohibition on states requiring increased fuel efficiency. California tried to mandate a gradual increase to 35mpg minimum, but President (iBlame) Bush thwarted it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:31 AM on November 10, 2008


The thing that "amuses" me is that Ford is perfectly able to make small and efficient cars that get rave reviews (the Ford Mondeo changed the face of British motoring) and they *refuse* to sell them in the US.

Ford is retooling some of their North American plants to produce the "euro" Focus and Fiesta in 2010. There are also plans to bring the Kuga and C-Max here. Hopefully it's not too late.

They did make them available. Nobody really wanted them in the US. And they do offer a fairly equivalent (and cheaper) car even now.

Um, not really. The American Ford Contour and Focus you linked to are only visually similar to the European versions. Totally different designs, in fact. I came very close to purchasing a Focus hatch (no longer sold) a few years ago, but found the design to be totally lacking. Bottom line is either American market research sucks, or American tastes suck. I'm hoping for the former.

And Chrysler already received a massive bailout back in 1979, which in addition to the invention of the mini-van, propped up the company for 29 years. How many years will the next round of bailouts buy? At what point does the American Taxpayer get tired of propping up a failed business model?

The bailout you speak of was a loan. It was repaid to the government early and with interest.

Look, American car companies built gas guzzlers for two reasons: While there was cheap gas they could sell a shitload of them, and there was much more profit built in than they could realize with economy cars. They did so because American corporations in general have traditionally been rewarded when they bring short-term returns to shareholders. That's what really has to change to foster long-term, innovative thinking.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:57 AM on November 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


GM has spent hundred of millions of dollars on the Volt - and will certainly spend over a billion by the time it hits showrooms. It's one of the few programs that is not being cut in their current crisis, because it's their highest-priority program. To call if Vaporware is simply uninformed.

No, I call it Vaporware because I seriously doubt the car will see the light of day, and if it does, it'll almost certainly be an entire generation behind cars from Toyota and Honda, who don't have to attempt to reboot the entire company just to get one small car out that doesn't suck.

Futhermore, it'll feel like a cheap, plasticly car, because that's all GM does anymore. This is the company that actually decided to build a real sports sedan in the European model -- the Cadillac CTS-V. The damn thing worked. Went like hell -- like many US cars do, and turned, which many US cars don't. Actually was competitive with things like the Audi S4 and the BMW M5. Cost, oh, upwards of $60K.

Ever been in one? Cheap plastic interior. The seats are nice, that's about it. But the fit and finish in a $60K car -- bearing the luxury mark of the company -- was crap.

That's why US car companies are failing. I understand cheap finishes in cheap compact cars, because the whole point of the damn car is "cheap." But I am continually bemused by the way US cars in the $35K range look and feel cheaper inside than a $16K Honda Civic.

And so on. While I'm clubbing them, let's hear for the Quad 4 engine. Lord of smoke, eater of timing chains, but the vibration would provide a nice massage.

Oh, and the Northstar! Actually, a pretty damn fine powerplant, but it really, really, really didn't like to run slow. You really needed to get it and wind it up on a regular basis, or it would start burning oil. So, where do they put the damn thing? In the big Cadillacs. Nice.

The *only* way GM survives is if we bail it out. I'm not willing to bet several tens of billions of dollars that GM can make the Volt, esp since I don't have bet a dime on Honda trying to build a better version.

The first three cars I owned were GM. I thought they were good cars. I wondered just why everyone kept on about foreign cars. I then got a high-mileage Civic as a rental, and, lo, I was enlightened.
posted by eriko at 4:00 AM on November 10, 2008


How is the volt different than the prius?
posted by afu at 5:06 AM on November 10, 2008


> How is the volt different from the prius?

Prius is a brilliant name, being close to both Prime and Priapus and thus suggesting HARD COCK NUMBER ONE. Everyone wants HARD COCK NUMBER ONE. Especially DOCTOR TRAN at the RECORD STORE.

Volt? .... not so much.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:22 AM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Actually in Europe and Australia, the prospect of the electric car looks a lot healthier than in the US. Recharging stations are cropping up in major cities - particularly in London - while Paris has just announced a scheme to rent electric cars to commuters along the same lines has its popular Velib bicyle rental scheme and Berlin is to follow suit.
posted by MrMerlot at 5:24 AM on November 10, 2008


How is the volt different than the prius?

You can't plug in a Prius, probably for some shady corporate reason since there's no technological difficulty in putting a power socket on the side.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:33 AM on November 10, 2008


How is the volt different than the prius?

The Prius is a gasoline powered car with an auxiliary electric motor.

The Volt is an electric car with an auxiliary gas motor that does nothing but charge the batteries.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:34 AM on November 10, 2008


And Chrysler already received a massive bailout back in 1979, which in addition to the invention of the mini-van, propped up the company for 29 years. How many years will the next round of bailouts buy? At what point does the American Taxpayer get tired of propping up a failed business model?

Well, going by the airlines, quite a while.

No, I call it Vaporware because I seriously doubt the car will see the light of day, and if it does, it'll almost certainly be an entire generation behind cars from Toyota and Honda, who don't have to attempt to reboot the entire company just to get one small car out that doesn't suck.

Most of the work for the car is already done. I suspect it will be released even if they go bankrupt in the process, either if the current management stays on or the government takes over.

How is the volt different than the prius?

The volt has a 40 mile range on battery power, while the Prius has like 4. So, even if you could plug in a Prius to recharge it every day, you wouldn't get very far without gas, so you'd still have to use some. For most Americans, a volt will be able to get them off gas entirely.

The volt also has a much smaller engine that only recharges the batteries.
posted by delmoi at 6:08 AM on November 10, 2008


The idea of the Volt is right on track, I agree. But I don't really trust an American automaker to get it right. That may be unfair, and I want to love American-made cars. I was raised in Dayton, OH, a huge GM town. But the American car companies have done a pretty good job of pissing away their reputations. And now that so many foreign-company cars are actually built in the US, it seems to make less difference. If they can prove themselves over time, as the Prius has done (that's what I drive), I might be interested in a second- or third-generation Volt. But color me skeptical.
posted by rikschell at 6:29 AM on November 10, 2008


eriko: "Karmen's car looks interesting, other than the fact that it uses lithium batteries, which means it will rapidly fail in real world conditions -- lithium batteries hate heat, cold and impact. Guess what you get in a car?"

I wonder why I've heard so little about hydraulic hybrids (besides UPS using them). No batteries, no mechanical-to-electrical-to-mechanical conversion overhead.
posted by Plutor at 7:06 AM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just watched Who Killed the Electric Car? yesterday, so I'm inclined to say that GM can go suck an egg for all I care.

One thing that film glosses over is that the initial, pilot EV-1 that the film centers on was a major money-loser for GM; they had already eaten the massive capitalization and production costs as a loss leader, with the expectation of making it up in the future, when the regulatory and tax climate changed and suddenly their plans for it didn't work anymore. As far as not letting the leaseholders (who weren't paying anything remotely resembling its cost) keep it, GM was going to have to eat more costs in servicing them under the lease, in particular replacing the battery.

Honda is trying something similar with their new HFC car -- they're leasing it to selected people for $600/mo, but in fact each one cost about a million to make.

This is not to let GM off the hook -- if they hadn't been taking a government welfare approach and stayed on it, making the Volt would be a piece of cake for them now. But the film isn't entirely forthright about this detail.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:16 AM on November 10, 2008


Holy shit. Common shares hit $3 today.
posted by gman at 7:43 AM on November 10, 2008


Here's a review and info on the aforementioned 2009 Honda FCX fuel cell vehicle. Sounds neat from a tech standpoint, but being so expensive to build it strikes me as nothing more than a PR stunt. Guess we gotta start somewhere...
posted by LordSludge at 8:16 AM on November 10, 2008


But who is really fucked here? The American auto worker.

Not really. The foreign companies all have American factories.

Toyota has a warehouse of product designs just waiting to be used. If they wanted to release a Volt-like vehicle, they could do it within a few months. The core design is ready; they just need to build a factory.

The Japanese car companies plan a decade in advance. The US car companies do not. Gosh darn, I just wonder why they're dead in the water.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:20 AM on November 10, 2008


And then Honda pulls off this sort of invention and puts it to use in its factories.

It is impossible for the old American car companies to compete against innovation and foresight like that.

Dean Kamen could. Maybe one of the American car companies should be just given to him as a gift.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:33 AM on November 10, 2008


The latest GM share price target: $0.00, called by Deutsche Bank.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:35 AM on November 10, 2008


Ryvar writes "Why not make the car really hot? Am I missing something?"

85% of the car buying public doesn't want a hot car. The unbuttered bread look of the Camry and minivans are features to these people.

eriko writes "There's no easy way to rebuild the auto industry in the United State. But step one is 'Allow GM, Ford, and Chrysler to die.'"

If by rebuild you mean bitwise copy the rebuild of the consumer electronics industry where practically nothing is actually built in North America you're probably right.

emjaybee writes "That, and the insane crappiness of their non-truck products, fighting against CAFE, and their underhanded role in destroying LA's original public transportation system is all the reason I need to watch them go down without a tear, as I drive away in my nice dependable Toyota."

Toyota's sales are also off 20+%, the auto down turn is not limited to the big three.

wfrgms writes "Suddenly GM wakes up in 2008 and sees the need for a hybrid electric car... in the year 2011..."

First of all three years for the roll out of a totally new platform using new techonlogy is _extremely_ aggressive. Most platform restylings take three years. Second GM has been working on the Volt for much longer. Thank god otherwise it would be a disaster.

wfrgms writes "Where were these fuckers 10, 15, or 20 years ago? Thanks for shoving all those SUVs down our throats for years."

Every major automaker sells a small car. For example every three PT cruisers sold allowed Chrysler to sell a 1 ton truck. Wide swaths of Americans won't buy those cars and many who will won't buy American because of bad experiences 30 years ago. The massive profit on SUVs kept profits flowing. Why do you think Toyota, Honda and Nissan all brought out full size trucks? And Porsche for crying out loud. Who the smeg buys a Porsche truck?!? At one time Porsche was the fastest growing truck company in the world.
posted by Mitheral at 8:52 AM on November 10, 2008


(large-scale electricity generation and electric drive together are so much more efficient that there's probably even a CO2 benefit when the electrons come from coal plants, and certainly when you're talking natural gas/nuclear).

You can't be serious!

What efficiency numbers are you using? Gas turbine efficiency is what, less than 60%? Transmission is about 92% efficient, maybe. The coulometric efficiency of Li-ion batteries is said to be an unbelievable 99.9%, but even then the power supply and charger circuitry will drop the charging efficiency to something closer to 90%. And, Li-ion batteries have a very limited lifetime. Efficiency of a really good electric motor and drive train is maybe 70%. So that's 35% efficiency.. just about the same as a car engine, isn't it?
posted by Chuckles at 9:42 AM on November 10, 2008


From Plutor's hydraulic hybrids link:

Lately, the EPA has been focusing on hydraulic hybrid delivery trucks, but Kargul says the lab has also built and tested smaller vehicles, too, including one based on a Ford Taurus. Speaking at the recent IFPE Show, Kargul says this 3,800 lb diesel-powered hybrid vehicle chalked up a gas mileage of 85 mpg.

Seriously, why aren't we looking more into these? If this isn't all hype, and they were indeed able to make a Ford Taurus get 85 mpg with no batteries to worry about disposing of later, that seems like a huge win. What is keeping them from racing this into production?

Because this:

That’s not the case in cities, though, where start-stop driving and lower power requirements force engines to run at less efficient conditions. Here, hydraulic hybrids offer a bigger fuel economy edge. Achten makes a similar point. “For the first time, hydraulic hybrids allow better fuel consumption in the city than on the highway.

and this:

the potential to leverage their high-power-density energy storage capabilities for short-term bursts of power that far outstrip the engine’s nominal power. How much power? O’Brien says Hybra Drive’s Hummer H1 conversion uses a 190 hp diesel engine yet can offer short bursts of power up to 600 hp.

make me think I want this in a car right now.
posted by quin at 10:02 AM on November 10, 2008


Fact is, if people wanted to take energy efficiency seriously, the first measure would be to drop highway speed limits like they did in the 70s, and enforce them. It takes 40% more gas to to complete a given trip at 65mph than it takes at 55mph. Speed limits would have as large an impact as any other measure under discussion.
posted by Chuckles at 10:24 AM on November 10, 2008


Hydraulic motorcycle. Power to both wheels. Mmmm.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:27 AM on November 10, 2008


Plug-in Priuses
posted by five fresh fish at 10:31 AM on November 10, 2008


Re hydraulic hybrids..

City garbage trucks spend fully half their time breaking. Delivery trucks probably a little less, but still a huge percentage. Buses spend a lot of time breaking too, but I'd guess it comes down in the 10-20% range. In passenger cars it is far less than for a bus, so I just don't think regenerative breaking comes out as that useful on a car.

Of course if regenerative breaking comes as an almost free bonus, you're still going to do it, as you see on hybrid cars now.

If hydraulic hybrids offer an attractive performance enhancing feature then there might be a business case, which could change things. On the other hand, if you think about the 70% efficiency of that hydraulic battery, unless you intentionally pump the battery, it will normally be empty. Inflated marketing claims don't always make a business case, and giving Hummer drivers bonus horse power at an efficiency price (by pumping the battery artificially) isn't going to make for more efficient transportation.
posted by Chuckles at 10:36 AM on November 10, 2008


(large-scale electricity generation and electric drive together are so much more efficient that there's probably even a CO2 benefit when the electrons come from coal plants, and certainly when you're talking natural gas/nuclear).

You can't be serious!

What efficiency numbers are you using?


Well, you might be right that if it's all coal, then you'd be a bit behind in terms of CO2 (but ahead in terms of energy independence). Where I'm from, 50% of the power is from nuclear energy at peak, and at night when the gas and coal plants aren't fully functioning, and when people would be charging their Volts, it's a lot less than that.

The EIA says here that a coal plant puts out 2.1 pounds per kWh.

The Volt's battery is a 16kW battery, only half of which will be discharged, so it really uses 8kW to go 40 miles. So that's 5 miles per kW. While means (I think), that you're generating 2.1 pounds of CO2 to go 5 miles, or 0.42 pounds/mile. (Or does one kWh or power not charge a one kW battery?)

Compare that to a Volt running on gas at 50mpg. One gallon of gas produces 19.2 pounds of CO2, which would mean that you're producing 0.384 pounds/mile. So I guess you'd be a bit ahead in terms of CO2, unless coal plants have gotten more efficient in the last few years. But my sense is that most places don't rely exclusively on coal, and if you factor natural gas, let alone nuclear or hydro, into the mix, you're well ahead on CO2.
posted by Dasein at 11:21 AM on November 10, 2008


And so what is GM doing? Why ramping up SUV production, of course.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:39 AM on November 10, 2008


five fresh fish writes "And so what is GM doing? Why ramping up SUV production, of course."

The capital investment has already been made. Why wouldn't you take advantage of people wanting to give you money?
posted by Mitheral at 12:50 PM on November 10, 2008


Like religion, automobiles are a topic MeFi doesn't do well.
posted by pmurray63 at 9:21 PM on November 10, 2008


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