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Toyota Hybrid X Concept
Don't expect any impressive MPG gains in the next generation Toyota Prius

Toyota's next generation Prius likely won't have the spectacular boost in fuel economy that was once expected. In late May, the Japanese newspaper Nikkan Koyogo reported that Toyota was considering nixing the idea of putting lithium-ion batteries in the next generation Prius. The newspaper stated that there were concerns within the company about the safety of lithium-ion batteries -- something that Sony is already well aware of.

The Wall Street Journal confirmed today that the next-generation Prius will not use lithium-ion battery technology -- at least for the first few years. The lithium-ion batteries that were to be used in the Prius would have been provided by Panasonic EV Energy Company.

The Prius will instead continue to use nickel-metal hydride batteries -- albeit in a higher capacity form to boost mileage over the current generation vehicle.

Toyota's decision to not use lithium-ion battery technology could be a big break for General Motors. GM has long been in Toyota's shadow when it comes to hybrid technology, but the company is looking to reverse its fortunes in the coming years.

The company has launched its new "mild hybrid" Saturn Aura Green Line sedan and is nearing the release of dual-mode hybrid Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full-size SUVs. GM's coup de grĂ¢ce, however, could be the upcoming Saturn Vue Green Line mid-sized crossover.

In 2009, the Saturn Vue Green Line will be equipped with a 2-mode hybrid powertrain and plug-in capabilities. Owners will be able to charge their vehicle overnight via a standard 110-volt outlet and drive 10 miles on fully charged lithium-ion batteries before the internal combustion engine takes over. In addition, GM says that its plug-in hybrid Vue Green Line is good for 70MPG.

All hope is not lost for the Prius in the quest for increased fuel economy. Current and future Prius owners can always look to third-parties to retrofit their vehicles with lithium-ion batteries. Lithium Technology Corporation has produced a lithium-ion battery pack (comprised of 63 LTC LiFePO4 cells) for the current Prius. When coupled with a plug-in system, fuel economy jumps from 46MPG combined to 125MPG.



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Plug in capability
By Tiamat on 6/14/2007 11:17:10 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder if people are smart enough to consider their electricity bills when plugging in their cars to charge them overnight. House electricity is pretty expensive, I don't know how it compares to getting the same power from gasoline though...




RE: Plug in capability
By jak3676 on 6/14/2007 11:26:42 AM , Rating: 2
Household elctricity is a few orders of magnatude cheaper. Even for the all-electic cars (the Prius is only a hybrid, even if it is a plug-in hybrid) you get the equivalant of a full tank for only a few dollars (US rates about $0.10 per kilo watt hour)


RE: Plug in capability
By EndPCNoise on 6/14/2007 1:46:23 PM , Rating: 2
Let's just suppose for a minute that people, in masses, bought electric and/or plug in hybrid cars.

The demand placed on the electricity grid would skyrocket.

What do you think would happen to the price of electricity or your electric bill?

What happens in the summer time when everyone is running their air conditioners?


RE: Plug in capability
By Spivonious on 6/14/2007 2:05:44 PM , Rating: 1
Umm...my electric bill goes up in the summer because I'm using more of it, not because they're charging more for it.


RE: Plug in capability
By EndPCNoise on 6/14/2007 2:20:17 PM , Rating: 2
Those of us who live in California and experienced the rolling blackouts and much higher electricity RATES know from experience what is is likely to happen.

We felt the pain in our wallets.


RE: Plug in capability
By Spivonious on 6/15/2007 3:41:24 PM , Rating: 2
Well I'm sorry you live in CA then. Just because CA does it doesn't mean the country does it.


RE: Plug in capability
By goz314 on 6/14/2007 2:08:40 PM , Rating: 2
...and the corresponding decrease in gasoline consumption decreases it's demand and therefore decreases its price for the consumer. The free-hand of the market works and everybody wins! Hooray for supply, demand, and consumer choice!


RE: Plug in capability
By TheGreek on 6/15/07, Rating: 0
RE: Plug in capability
By Oregonian2 on 6/14/2007 5:08:17 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, that's one of the infrastructure problems that needs to be answered for the 'general solution'. Where does the energy come from. The infrastructure for ALl cars to be 100% electric isn't in place, that probably requires a few nuke plants to be built. Same problem for hydrogen (where does the energy come from to "make" hydrogen). Sun, win, etc, perhaps, but those things probably won't keep up with needs just for non-auto purposes.


RE: Plug in capability
By ZmaxDP on 6/15/2007 5:50:56 PM , Rating: 2
I know this is a shocking idea, but you could couple your all electric vehicle purchase with a second mortgage on your home and use the loan to install a solar panel system. You could simultaneously cut your electricity and gasoline bill at a rather low interest rate. If I hadn't just started out at a new job and used an 80% 20% loan structure to get our house, I'd do the same thing. (oh yeah, if I could find a decent all electric vehicle...)


RE: Plug in capability
By Bioniccrackmonk on 6/14/2007 11:29:38 AM , Rating: 2
I am sure that it wouldn't be more enduring then having 3 PC's in your house w/ 450 watt PSU's running 24/7. Not saying you have that many in your house, just an example. So many of my friends have what i call bleeding electricity that runs 24/7 in their house and cannot figure out why their bills are higher then mine every month. I am sure to someone who is very cautious about making sure lights are off, tv's aren't running when no one is in the room and stuff like that would notice a jump in their bill, but the average family probably wouldn't see too big an impact.


RE: Plug in capability
By Hoser McMoose on 6/14/2007 12:34:02 PM , Rating: 1
How it compares would depend largely on how much you drive, but for your example, a fairly high-end PC would consume maybe 150W on average? If left on 24/7 that would work out to 110kWh worth of electricity per month.

A full electrical car will take 40-80kWh for a full "tank", the Tesla Roadster has 56kWh worth of batteries and would therefore require maybe 60kWh to charge (about $4 to $10 at typical prices in the US, up to about $13 in Hawaii).


RE: Plug in capability
By Spivonious on 6/14/2007 2:09:42 PM , Rating: 3
Yes, but you get 250 miles on a charge.

I drive to work and back twenty times a month. About 10 miles roundtrip, so 200 miles. Oh look, now I can go five weeks between fill-ups. That's $10.40 a month versus the $60-$70 a month I spend to fill up my car now. I'll take the cheaper option every time.


RE: Plug in capability
By Hoser McMoose on 6/14/2007 3:25:42 PM , Rating: 2
The Tesla roadster is basically an electric version of the Lotus Elise, which is rated for 23mpg (new EPA numbers). So 200 miles will use about 8.7 gallons of gasoline. At $2.50/gallon that's $21.75, at $3.50/gallon that's $30.45.

So, two points here. First, obviously the Tesla roadster is significantly cheaper even with electricity prices in Hawaii (which has expensive gas too). Second, if you're spending $60-$70 a month now you're either driving mroe than 200 miles or you have a VERY different vehicle (not just powertrain) than what Tesla is offering.


RE: Plug in capability
By Spivonious on 6/15/2007 3:40:27 PM , Rating: 2
Oh I definitely don't have a Lotus Elise, or a sports car for that matter. I have a car that gets me where I want to go and is fun to drive, a.k.a. a Focus ZX3. It gets about 35-37mpg going 60mph and about 32mpg going 70mph. It's about 26-30mpg in city driving (start and stop, speed between 30mph and 45mph).

*These are all measured by me over the past four years I've owned the car by taking the number of miles on the trip meter divided by the amount of gallons put in at a fill-up. The car is rated 26/34 IIRC.


RE: Plug in capability
By Hoser McMoose on 6/14/2007 12:27:01 PM , Rating: 2
Household electricity is, to a very rough approximation, one order of magnitude cheaper than gasoline on a per-mile basis (partly due to lower cost for equivalent energy but also largely due to the much higher efficiencies of electrical motors vs. internal combustion engines).


RE: Plug in capability
By ThisSpaceForRent on 6/14/2007 12:40:30 PM , Rating: 2
Electricity is very dependent on geography. I live in the Chicago area, and I pay less for electricity than my parents, who live in rural Illinois. I also believe the Northwestern states have heavily subsidized power.


RE: Plug in capability
By Hoser McMoose on 6/14/2007 3:10:32 PM , Rating: 2
Definitely subject to geography. Interestingly electricity is much closer in price the world-over when compared to gasoline (which varies HUGELY from heavily subsidized ~$0.10/liter in Venezuela up to close to about $2.00/liter in some parts of Europe).

However within the United States there is quite a bit more variability when compared to gasoline. At any given time gas prices might vary from about $2.50/gallon to about $3.50/gallon in different parts of the country. Electicity prices, on the other hand, vary from a low of about $0.06/kWh in the northwest up to about $0.22/kWh in Hawaii (and maybe $0.17 in New York for the highest in continental US).


RE: Plug in capability
By EndPCNoise on 6/14/2007 5:35:23 PM , Rating: 3
You are really kidding yourself if you think subsidized power is going to save money.

Where do you think the government gets the money to pay these subsidies?

That would be your hard earned tax dollars . You are paying for it one way or another.


RE: Plug in capability
By amdsupport on 6/14/2007 7:06:28 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
That would be your hard earned tax dollars . You are paying for it one way or another.


right...but you were already paying taxes to begin with so there really isn't a price increase unless they raise taxes.

If I have to pay taxes anyways I'd rather it go to subsidize something we can all benefit from rather than some congress person's "business trip" to Jamaica.


RE: Plug in capability
By EndPCNoise on 6/14/2007 7:46:58 PM , Rating: 2
You are missing the point completely...

You will pay for increases in the cost of electricity either through rate hikes or increased taxes (subsidies).

Pick your poison.


RE: Plug in capability
By amdsupport on 6/14/2007 11:19:54 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You are missing the point completely...

right...and you are missing the point completely also...

if you are already paying taxes which in turn fund subsidies and you eliminate or significantly reduce a higher cost (not associated with taxes which fund the subsidies) you will save in return.

Like I said before "there really isn't a price increase unless they raise taxes." (which you seem to have completely ignored)

Even if there were rate hikes, there is no guarantee that the hikes would be significant enough to equal or surpass fuel cost for some or all people.


RE: Plug in capability
By EndPCNoise on 6/15/2007 4:05:15 AM , Rating: 2
I think we're on the same page now.

If electric and/or plug in hybrid vehicles take over a significant share of the market, and there isn't a significant increase in newly built power plants, you can expect the increased demand to drive up the cost of electricity.

Increased costs -> increased rate hikes -> no increase in subsidies -> no tax increase.
OR
Increased costs -> no rate hikes -> increased subsidies -> increased taxes.

Vehicles use less fossil fuels -> price of oil decreases.

If more coal or natural gas power plants are built to meet new demand -> price of coal and/or natural gas increases.

Many homes use natural gas utilities -> these people will pay more too.

Can't predict what the trade offs will be.


RE: Plug in capability
By Hoser McMoose on 6/15/2007 11:53:13 AM , Rating: 2
Err, I'm not sure I suggested subsidized power would save money at all. In fact I'm rather opposed to subsidized power in general, though I recognize that certain 'incentives' are sometimes needed to jump-start markets.

Personally I'm all for end-to-end costs being counted in and avoiding subsidies. Right now ALL energy is subsidized in various forms. Solar, wind, etc. are heavily subsidized directly. Coal plants receive some direct tax incentives and are VERY heavily subsidized through health care and environmental costs (coal plants cause an estimated $160 BILLION per year in the US for health costs, about half of which is covered by the taxpayer). New nuke plants get huge government-protected loans, tax incentives and subsidies. Oil gets similar health-related subsidies to coal and, of course, the HUGE military-cost subsidies to secure supplies (gas would be easily twice as expensive if we paid for this at the pump).

Yes, we do pay for subsidizing energy. We pay a LOT for it. Changing this isn't going to happen overnight.


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