Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Dec 22

2014 Year in Review

 

This is not a comprehensive compiling of all the top stories of 2014 because that might take 3,500 words or so. Out of respect for International Attention Deficit Disorder Awareness Day (not sure when that is) I can’t ask ya’ll to read that many words.

So, here’s a few stories that are some of the biggies, and with that, remember, electrification of the automobile is not a sprint, it’s a marathon – but the day may be coming where we’ll see a tipping point.

ELR_34
 

As 2014 winds down and with 2015 about to unfold, alternative-energy transportation had ups and downs this year, but the trend is generally upward and more progress is in sight.

Looking at the most telling of markers – actual new car sales – hybrids fell back from 2013 levels while plug-ins climbed higher, and diesel passenger vehicles remained flat.

December 2014 sales are not yet finalized, but a solid indication for this year’s U.S. market can be seen by comparing the first 11 months of 2013 to those of 2014.

From January through November 2014, approximately 419,000 hybrids were sold compared to 460,000 for January through November 2013. Diesels by November 2014 were at 128,000 compared to 126,000 in November 2013; the single natural gas car – Honda’s Civic Natural Gas – dropped from 2,020 units in 2013 to 711 sales by November this year.

The big news for 2014 is for all-electric and plug-in hybrid sales. Through November 2013, the combined plug-in market had 86,812 units sold. This year it’s at 111,396 and that beats total sales for calendar year 2013 of 96,602. Individually, battery electric cars are at 55,396 through November 2014, and plug-in hybrids are at 51,490.

Regardless what gasoline might cost these days, or how much more plug-ins may cost over conventional cars, these vehicles are on the rise. Why? Global regulations are pushing automakers to innovate, consumers are catching on, and the underlying reasons for this remain, including the need to curb environmental consequences and petroleum consumption.

Following are 7 of 2014′s top developments and stories – mostly U.S. oriented, with global news included. We won’t declare which is more important, but all play into the broader picture with ramifications into the future.

BMW i-Series Launches in US

 
i3
 
The i-series of sustainable BMWs actually began deliveries in Europe in 2013, but the i3 all-electric and range-extended city car launched May 2014 in the U.S. and quickly rose in the sales chart. Already through November the German automaker records 5,079 sales. This places it third behind the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S and it appears to be doing better here than in Europe.

In August BMW also launched the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. Both carbon-fiber reinforced plastic-intensive cars have received a number of awards for design and innovation, but being a $135,000-plus sports car, the i8’s 100-200 or so monthly sales are in the league of the Cadillac ELR and the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid.

But beyond individual model results, a core issue is that a prestigious nameplate known for drivers’ cars has heavily committed to an environmentally oriented sub-brand with more models to come.

This symbolic gesture stands to promote competition and followers into the plug-in market, and that could be good for the industry.

Several Companies Promise Plug-ins

 
Chrysler-700C-minivan
 
In addition to BMW, others are realizing plug-in cars have a future, and have committed to bringing models to market.

Included among these are Chrysler which says its first plug-in will be a Town and Country minivan next year and this, if done right, could be a big deal, filling a gap in the selection of available vehicles today, particularly for families.

Others who are working toward more plug-ins are Ford, which wants to expand its portfolio from the C-Max and Fusion Energi models with more plug-in hybrids and possibly a new EV. Another couple are Volkswagen – which this year launched its e-Golf – and Audi. Green car analyst Alan Baum observes also that Daimler, Cadillac, Hyundai, and Volvo are adding new plug-ins in the near term.

Improved Second Generation Volt Confirmed

 
front_2016_volt1
 
Chevrolet’s Volt is the top-selling plug-in gas-electric car. Launched late December 2010 as a 2011 model, it’s an original that helped kickstart this major manufacturer plug-in market and has been surrounded by outsized drama and media coverage ever since.

Reports of unsustainable production costs for the sustainable energy car, and that General Motors might cancel it or water down the soup have gone forth. GM set fears to rest this year by teasing the second-generation car due for full revelation January 12 in Detroit.

Unfortunately, GM’s actions – or inactions – in other ways have themselves contributed to mixed messages. The automaker has let the Volt languish first by not marketing the present-generation Volt outside of California for the past couple years, and, analyst Baum notes, by reducing production this year which also has not helped sales.

Baum points out there is a theme here with GM which also launched the Cadillac ELR based on a 2009 show car using a due-to-be-replaced Volt powertrain for more than double the Volt’s price.

In any case, the new Volt offers hope. It may now seat five, will have at least 12-percent better efficiency, should be more spacious in the back seat, rides on a new platform, and no longer needs premium gas.

All-electric range and gas-only fuel economy are to be better, and the commitment has enthusiasts hopeful this will be a resurgence for the Volt and could lead to more “Voltec” variants eventually.

Affordable 200-Mile Range EVs on the Horizon

 
Tesla_fremont_assembly
 
Tesla already promised before this year what is now being called the Model 3, but adding to the list of electric cars to be priced in the low-to-mid-$30,000 level with “200 miles” range could be a new Nissan Leaf as soon as 2016 and a new model yet to be revealed by General Motors.

SEE ALSO: CEO Ghosn: Nissan Has Affordable 250-Mile Range EV Battery
 

This 30s/200 benchmark appears to be the next level for battery electric cars on the 1-3 year horizon and it’s a healthy doubling of today’s roughly 80-mile range first-generation EVs priced at the average new car level.

Shoppers on the sidelines wanting to dive in with the second generation may not be disappointed, and it is possible other automakers posturing for later this decade could match or exceed this apparent near-term benchmark.

Fuel Cell Vehicles Ready For Prime Time?

 
Toyo_Mirai_H21
 
Given there are only a dozen or so hydrogen stations in California, 40 total funded and to be in place by 2016, “ready for prime time” may be a bit generous. But, after years of hydrogen hype, it appears fuel cell vehicles are slowly coming into the public arena, and chest thumping has been heard that these are not destined to be compliance cars forever.

Since 2010 Honda’s FCX Clarity has been the lone lease-only, California-only FCV but this year it was joined by Hyundai’s global Tucson and next year Toyota’s Mirai – launched this week in Japan – will come next fall to Europe and California. Honda also announced a follow-up will come on the heels of the Mirai. Daimler too could have a car by 2017. It and its latest development partner Ford are looking to revealing more by then.

Analyst Baum observes however because hydrogen fuel cells are dramatically affected by California regulations giving the most “points” for fuel cells compared to other technologies, they do represent compliance cars, at least in the short- and mid-term.

Whatever the case, the plan, say automakers like Toyota is that’s only for now, and talk of national distribution following the slow roll-out of hydrogen stations is a goal into next decade.

Skeptics remain, but the news for 2014 is new fuel cell cars are here, and more are coming. This follows at seven major automakers joining forces and promising production viable cars or fuel cell systems by 2020, if not 2017.

Did they all come to this conclusion independently, or do they know something critics do not? This is not known, but the metaphorical hydrogen highway is under construction and may be here almost as fast as you can say “conspiracy theory.”

Tesla Gigafactory Announced

 
Giga_Factory
 
If Tesla’s gambit pays off, this $5 billion-plus battery factory agreed to in a high-stakes deal in September with Nevada may be the story of the decade.

It’s called the “giga” factory because Tesla wants to produce 50 gigawatts of energy storage annually at the 10-million square foot, 6,500 employee facility.

With this production capacity, Tesla wants to alter economies of scale and by 2017 through 2020 and beyond it hopes to be building many times the present 30,000 more or less cars it will this year.

The startup produces now the comparative boutique Model S, and only announced a more expensive P85D model this year which while cool, does little for the average Jane or Joe.

The Gigafactory could change all that, and will help project Tesla as a relatively larger manufacturer.

Pending models include the Model 3, Model X, possibly a pickup truck, possibly an ultimate sports car, and more. That’s the car side in brief, and Tesla CEO’s Solar City venture also stands to gain, and Tesla wants to build batteries for on-site energy storage.

Multiple Plug-in Sales Milestones

 
2013_Leaf_flags
 
Given plug-in cars are selling respectably, it’s not surprising that milestones have been crossed.

Included in these are Americans bought their 250,000th plug-in car in September, and globally, 600,000 plug-in sales were achieved by October.

Last month also, Nissan sold its 150,000 Leaf globally in time for its fourth anniversary and it’s the top-selling electric car by far.

True enough, plug-ins have nowhere to go but up, but the same could be said of diesels and CNG, and these are not moving upwards like plug-in cars.

Could it be those battery powered vehicles actually make sense? Looks like it.

US Fuel Prices Plummet

 
gas-pump1
 
America’s newfound boon of oil and gas from horizontal drilling and fracking has prompted giddy op-eds declaring U.S. energy independence, and they’re taking a poke at alternative energy transportation at the same time.

Stephen Moore, chief economist of the Heritage Foundation says the facts are not being widely reported, and U.S. drilling ingenuity is saving Americans $200 billion annually that doesn’t have to be sent to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc.

The opinion piece adds American shale oil and gas fields may have “hundreds of years” of production capacity.

And it is a fact gasoline prices are at an all-time low as oil prices have fallen by 25 percent. This has put a dent in hybrid sales more than it has plug-in sales, observes analyst Alan Baum.

Further, internal combustion tech is also getting cleaner, and more efficient but the transportation sector still consumes 70 percent of U.S. petroleum and accounts for 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Alternative energy transportation exists for multiple reasons besides combating fuel prices. It’s also a question of the environment, emissions, and global market needs that drive the whole industry.

And while the “energy security” flag may be waved alongside the Stars and Stripes by those sympathetic to domestic oil producers, the U.S. military continues to patrol and protect oil rights abroad. Dollars are still being spent hand-over-fist for these foreign activities to protect the American way of life.

Electrified vehicles also enjoy 80-90-plus percent efficiency, whereas the best internal combustion engines might boast thermal efficiency in the high 30-percent to low 40-percent range – while wasting the rest of the fossil fuel energy as heat and emissions.

EVs are also quiet, effective, and energy storage – batteries – are due to improve as are production costs, and let’s not forget domestic and global regulations are not going away.

For the reasons mentioned and more, alternative energy efforts are ongoing and still relevant even if gas goes to 90 cents per gallon.

A key word here is sustainable. Electric cars use power from a grid that increasingly relies on cleaner and renewable energy. Work is underway to create long-term sustainability even if that’s in question, and gas is not painful to buy.

This is a fact. Where it all goes, no one knows, but cheap oil and gas is a major story this year, and stands to continue to affect consumer behavior and potentially policy as well.

 

Dec 19

Editorial: GM can’t conceal its excitement over the 2016 Volt

 

The individual revelations like regen on demand which will come with the 2016 Volt GM just disclosed in advance of the full unveiling in three weeks are less important than the fact that GM is deliberately teasing the car step by step.

Regenondemand_zps8bc28b7e
Photo augmented by kdawg.

This is more than bypassing Madison Avenue style ads that underwhelm and trying to vaguely copy Tesla style grassroots marketing. Though that is essentially what GM is doing at this juncture, even more smart is that a read between the lines would strongly suggest they did the new Volt right.

In a brief video, Mark Reuss says to Andrew Farah the paddle’s function is “even more refined than the ELR” and more importantly “we’re going to get customers we never got before here, with a car that is really something special.”

Any marketer worth his salt knows not to over-promise and under-deliver. Statements like that surrounding tidbits like the revealed powertrain details, to the private preview in LA, to other facts like the Volt will get an ELR style paddle function for regenerative braking are a very positive sign.

Between the lines, GM is trying to create excitement for the new Volt. That’s marketing 101 but given the uncertainty around the car, its history, it is notable that GM is saying this will be significantly improved all around.

That is more important than the latest news about regen on demand. The real news is GM seems genuinely stoked about what it has developed.

That the high-level executive would say the new Volt will attract customers GM never got before and the new Volt is really something special knowing the Volt’s ambiguous sales track record indicates a high level of confidence.

And it would make sense that the Volt is well executed, too. After all, if GM is going to go to the trouble not to cancel the Volt – as some had suggested it would – its corporate pride is also on the line, as is its accountability to its shareholders.

Undoubtedly GM does not want egg on its face, nor to give more ammo to the critics. On the contrary, GM will certainly want to silence critics as in he who laughs last, laughs best.

I just got my press pass in the mail today for NAIAS 2015. Will be taking a road trip to get there. Am very much looking forward to this.

 

Dec 18

Volts have driven over one billion miles, just about 700 million miles on electricity

 

Chevrolet’s OnStar feed indicates the Volt fleet without fanfare has crossed 1 billion miles – it’s now at 1.1 billion – and the EV miles, officially over 698.8 million are soon to cross 700 million.

2015-chevrolet-volt-electric-car-mo-exterior-1480x551-01
 

Since this estimate may not reflect the total of all Volts on the road, it’s probably safe to say Volt has transcended the 700 million mark.

Given each Volt is rated at just 35-38 miles all electric range, that’s a lot of charging and EV miles, and a very high percentage of EV miles out of the total, in any case.

Volt_miles
 

Gas estimated to have been saved is 36.3 million gallons, and the Voltec car with nearly 72,000 units having been sold in the U.S. is doing its job admirably.

Hope now, as you all know, is to let the 2016 Volt succeed. If the present car is doing as it is after running a gauntlet of flak and ignorance, cannot GM project the new Volt to far exceed the sacrificial efforts of the first car?

Critics would not say it has not been sacrificial, but the case could be made that this has been a pioneering car pushing against resistance.

It could also be seed stock for more Voltecs, but GM has not announced anything.

Gasoline is now cheap, one major incentive therefore is reduced at the moment for shoppers to think fuel saver, but the pressure is still on.
2016-Chevrolet-Volt-Teaser
Do you think fuel prices will remain low? Would you agree with some pundits that America can now congratulate itself for achieving “energy independence” with shale drilling and new techniques?

Here’s hoping GM is not only reacting, and may be proactive.

Some people do express dismay over the massive corporation’s marketing efforts, and wonder if GM is listening.

I think it hears every word, but what it does with what it hears is not always what people would like.

Ultimately, it is GM’s business. But, as it well knows, it has paid dues with the Volt that could do more than carry forth as a new model.

CAFE and CARB regs seem to be the main thing holding automakers’ feet to the fire.

Here’s also to more enlightened policy – in the corporate boardroom of automakers, and not just by policy wonks who catch flak themselves for trying to invite companies like GM to do more than the least, or just enough.

 

Dec 17

2016 Volt To have design cues from C7 Corvette

 

Chevrolets have always shared family design elements but a new twist on that idea will see Corvette cues imbued into more ordinary models including the Volt.

2016_Volt_mirror_image
Photo rendering by kdawg

Of course the Volt is its own kind of halo just as the ‘Vette is, but General Motors global design boss Ed Welburn told Automotive News hexagonal, squared-off taillights and a taut hood will be part of the design language.

“As Malibu and Cruze and Volt come to market, you’ll be able to see a subtle link between some of the form vocabulary for all of them and Corvette,” Welburn told Automotive News last week.

“I always look at the hood of the Corvette and the sectioning, the way it’s taut, very lean, very sporty,” Welburn said. “That will be a part of really everything we do for Chevrolet.”

The automaker wants to capitalize on its visually most arresting model,

“In the past,” Welburn said, “we never really took advantage of iconic vehicles like Camaro and Corvette the way we are today.”

Adding to the notion, Chevrolet global chief Alan Batey was quoted last month saying GM wants to push “stunning design,” AN reports.

Beyond the Volt, GM is working to infuse the coolest DNA into future models.

And with regard to the Volt, in less than one month, we’ll get to see how it all turned out.

Automotive News

 

Dec 16

Could GM and Ford electrify their Silverado and F-150

 

Where this goes, nobody knows, but Automotive News thought it was worth repeating, so we did too. As we know, VIA Motors is doing series plug-ins.

Will we see American truck makers sub out their pickups to have third party retrofitters make BEVs with beds? Think of the fuel savings. Could it be cost savings, or would it be better in-house?

This is Jenny’s write-up of one brainstorming session …

Silverado

 

By Jenny Smiechowski
 

CEO of California’s Pacific Gas and Electric utility and Ford Motor Co. board member Tony Earley is interested in finding ways to convert gasoline vehicles to electric— particularly light duty pick-up trucks.

Earley, who has been collaborating with colleagues and employees at Ford and General Motors on the effort, said at a press conference after a Detroit Economic Club luncheon that the Chevrolet Silverado and the Ford F-150 are currently being considered for conversion.

In the press conference, Earley asserted that specialty converters could do the job and would prevent automakers from having to build electric cars. Manager of Electrification Communications at GM Kevin Kelly says, however, that Earley and his colleagues at Ford and GM have only engaged in informal discussions on the subject and have not yet developed a concrete strategy.

Despite his enthusiasm, Earley does recognize that the task of conversion is accompanied by some significant engineering, policy, and cost challenges. The most pressing challenge, he says, is cost, but financial assistance from the Department of Energy for initial engineering costs should be considered to help ease the way and makes electric vehicles more affordable.

SEE ALSO: Test Drive: VIA VTRUX Pickup

In light of the fact that electric vehicle sales are still modest compared to overall vehicle sales, Earley also emphasizes the need to guide the electric vehicle market in a more sustainable direction, which could include exploring conversion for trucks as well as expanding the charging infrastructure, an effort he has expressed support for in the past.

It seems other utility companies are on the same page as Earley and are ready to lead the push for more electric vehicles and infrastructure. A statement released by Pacific Gas and Electric said that seventy of the country’s largest utilities will increase the use of electric vehicles in their fleets. This commitment would mean an investment of up to $250 million over the next five years and, according to Earley, is an important step in helping lower automakers’ development costs.

Automotive News

 

Dec 15

At least 24 brands have dabbled, 8 automakers definitely heading for the ‘hydrogen highway’

 

I interviewed GM’s Dan Flores for nearly half an hour. If anyone suspects GM’s closing up its operation at Honeoye Falls Fuel Cell Facility in Haneoye Falls, NY means GM is less serious about hydrogen, do not believe it.

Beyond that, this is a survey of all automakers who’ve at least dipped their toes in the water, if not looking to dive right in.

Honda_FCV_Concept-668

Critics of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have said they have no business case; at best their proponents are defying odds, and at worst they’re on a misbegotten errand – but that hasn’t stopped numerous automakers from getting deeply involved.

While several automakers have first-generation plug-in cars and are looking toward new and evolved products, no fewer than 24 mainstream nameplates have built at least one fuel cell development vehicle, if nt an evolving series of developmental or production cars.

MilitaryFC

Basically, automakers are trying everything to see what pays off with no fewer than eight deep-pocketed players having said they are planning passenger FCVs between now and decade’s end. However, only three FCVs are presently being sold or pending sale in the U.S. whereas there are a dozen battery electric cars, and nine plug-in hybrids. This said, there is a sizable undercurrent of interest and money being spent to push fuel cell cars to viability. Also not hurting things is California is offering nine zero emission vehicle credits per car versus no more than four for the largest battery equipped Tesla Model S. And, governments and industry stakeholders are posturing in what may be a race between alternative technologies now with plug-ins leading by a nose.

Boxes Checked

Automakers, such as General Motors, like that certain “boxes” have been “checked” for criteria needed on the way to making FCVs mainstream suitable.

They are zero emission, have been tested for safety, offer quick refueling, durability competitive with internal combustion cars, and range also on par.

Actress Diane Kruger spray washes a Mercedes B-Class F-CELL.

Actress Diane Kruger spray washes a Mercedes B-Class F-CELL.

Fuel cell electric cars today generally employ a fuel cell stack that mixes hydrogen with air to give off electrons for electric propulsion. The hydrogen is typically gaseous, stored in high pressure tank(s), and system components are borrowed from hybrid/electric cars – including the batteries – thus FCVs are typically a form of hybrid with combustion engine deleted.

SEE ALSO: Toyota Preparing For ‘The Next 100 Years’ With Fuel Cell Vehicles

Fuel cell tech is also scalable and flexible; not solely aimed at automotive transportation. For example, Honda uses a stationary fuel cell system at its Torrance, Calif. headquarters for electric power, and BMW uses fuel cells in its forklifts. Other applications include the power source for watercraft, buses, limos, trucks, tractors, and for space exploration as well.

The allure is surely there, but costs remain prohibitive, infrastructure is almost nil, and other challenges exist besides. Following are automakers working to change that:

Production Cars

Honda

The Japanese innovator that was selling clean-running cars long before EPA regs got serious and while Detroit was pushing heavy iron has had its FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle in the U.S., Japan and in Europe.

It was first offered as a 2008 model, and since 2010 it’s been leased in Southern California for $600 per month including insurance, maintenance. Also included is fuel because regulators have not established a metered price – and still haven’t – for hydrogen.

Honda_FCX_Clarity-668

Unfulfilled early promises of infrastructure by California authorities have led to stalled or sideways growth, and some months may go by where only a couple units are delivered. It’s next to no market, but Honda is collecting data. In a large sense it is a public science project for the next generation, but it is a bona fide production car.

Next up, Honda is working toward a five-passenger Jetsonesque follow-up to be ready by fiscal 2015 for 2016 sales.

Assuming success, in years ahead Honda’s Acura division might also have FCVs.

Hyundai

Hyundai has launched its $499 leased Tucson SUV in Southern California as well – as this is where all the refueling stations are not to mention ZEV mandates. Hyundai has also released the car in Europe and South Korea.

Hyundai_Tucson_Fuel_Cell-668

The vehicle was just launched last year and this, but has been a gleam in its maker’s eye since 2005’s LA auto show. As is the case with all these brands of FCVs, Hyundai has road tested it in all conditions, and developed efficiencies while reducing production costs.

SEE ALSO: Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell Vehicle Nabs Wards 2015 ’10 Best Engine’ Recognition

U.S. sales are not precisely known, as Hyundai lumps the FCV with the gas-powered Tucson in monthly reporting.

Toyota

The Mirai probably needs little introduction, as we’ve had lots of news on this from the maker of the Prius.

The four-passenger sedan will start in the U.S. at $57,500 and hope is federal subsidies of as much as $8,000 will be renewed after they expire next year to add to $5,000 from California.

Toyo_Mirai_H2

Sales in the home market where Toyota itself receives significant governmental assistance, begin Monday. Europe is due to follow in September 2015, and U.S. not long after in 2015.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Toyota Mirai FCV First Drive – Video

The plan is to slowly push ahead, follow infrastructure to market, spend the money and time and be patient. Eventually it would be not unlikely to expect Lexus branded FCVs, and meanwhile Toyota is well underway on two other FCVs though we know little about these.

Collaborations

Platinum-requiring fuel cell stacks have been expensive, and to date that fact plus lack of infrastructure are what is keeping back automakers from coming to market who otherwise could.

To share costs and intellectual property, automakers who’ve at other times worked independently have teamed up and issued forward-looking statements promising products.

Daimler, Ford, Nissan

In January 2013 a pact was agreed upon by three major automotive players to pool talent, resources and intellectual property to make the “world’s first affordable, mass-market” FCV by 2017.

Actually, each wants its own uniquely branded model but they say they’ll save costs by utilizing common system design.

Here’s where cynics start to mutter something about vaporware, or hype, or overpromising and under delivering.

"FCEVs are the obvious next step to complement today's battery electric vehicles as our industry embraces more sustainable transportation," says the maker of the Leaf.

Nissan Terra FCEV. “FCEVs are the obvious next step to complement today’s battery electric vehicles as our industry embraces more sustainable transportation,” says the maker of the Leaf. “Our FCEVs make use of the lithium-ion batteries and high-power electric systems refined in our EV development, as well as the control systems from our hybrid vehicles and the high-pressure gas storage technologies from our compressed natural gas vehicles (CNG Vs).”

True enough these automakers have not delivered much news, and there aren’t that many shopping days till 2017 remaining, but while we have yet to hear a lot of progress, these are multi-billion dollar corporations.

Ford.Daimler.Nissan_FCEV_pact

Whether they are late to market – as Daimler itself has been – may be a possibility. Predicting when future tech will get here is about like BEV fans talking about when lithium-air batteries will be ready.

But jaundiced views aside, just like next-gen batteries for plug-in cars, hydrogen powered Mercedes, Fords, Lincolns, Nissans and Infinitis may be less a matter of if, and only a question of when?

BMW and Toyota

Toyota is floating its own enterprise, and just like each of these collaborators in this article, BMW has also worked independently on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

BMW_1-series

Together they have signed more than one agreement and very assertively state with all corporate pride that fuel cells are a part of the alternative energy future.

BMW is getting more press these days for its i-series and its i3 has quickly ascended to third place in monthly U.S. sales among battery electric cars, but BMW just like government regulators, subscribe to the “all of the above” approach.

“TMC and the BMW Group share the same strategic vision of future sustainable mobility,” said Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG.

BMW_Toyo_signing_Munich

For good measure, TMC and BMW also plan to develop beyond-lithium-ion battery tech. So, for all the people disgruntled at Toyota, it aims to have a lithium-air battery with energy density greatly exceeding that of current lithium-ion batteries.

SEE ALSO: BMW Stops Talking to GM about Fuel Cells, May Begin With Toyota

This Toyota is doing besides other work on batteries. But as for FCVs, the collaborators are sharing technologies to jointly develop a fuel cell vehicle system, including fuel cell stack and system, hydrogen tank, motor and battery. Target date is 2020, so stay tuned!

General Motors and Honda

Here we have the world’s number one FCV patent holder (GM) sharing knowledge and development work with the number two patent holder (Honda). Together they have over 1,200 patents and aim not to let them all sit on a shelf collecting dust.

According to Dan Flores of GM communications, GM sees great potential in hydrogen, and has been on the ground floor with a running hydrogen fuel cell van back in 1966, not to mention progressive development work through the end of last millennium into this, up until today.

This 2007 Chevy Equinox FCV has crossed 100,000 miles,.

This 2007 Chevy Equinox FCV has crossed 100,000 miles. GM has now gotten its platinum down to under 10 grams per fuel cell stack, and has otherwise seriously whittled costs as it works to further do so.

The company in 2007 also built 119 Equinox-based FCVs which have accrued 3 million miles. Some have been taken out of service, some have crashed off the road, some are still in development engineers hands.

Other GM test fleets and work on classified projects with the U.S. military are also underway. All its FCV work has been consolidated at its powertrain development facility in Pontiac, Mich., where it also works on battery powered and conventional drive trains. Formerly, FCV work was done at Honeoye Falls.

1966! This thing pre-dates the Apollo mission.

1966! This beauty pre-dates the Apollo mission.

In short, GM is not asleep at the hydrogen fuel cell wheel. Flores said the collaboration it’s now working on is the company’s largest focus, and it’s looking to a next-generation stack and production to be ready by 2020, though GM is not saying that’s when it will announce or launch a car.

GM says hydrogen is still “not ready for prime time,” because of the expense of building a vehicle, and lack of infrastructure. It was hinted efforts by the Japanese are sort of like research projects in the public domain, but Flores said he does not know the business model, or all they may have up their sleeve.

As for GM’s not-slient partner, since 2002 Honda has been at FCV development, and as mentioned above it is now forging ahead with its second-generation follow-up to the FCX Clarity.

Honda may be able to accelerate its work because it has free access to all of GM’s intellectual property and the will to use it ASAP.

Others

The collaborators mentioned above have built multiple fuel cell prototypes and a comprehensive listing of all they’ve done is beyond this survey article’s scope.

Briefly, companies which have also built at least one FCV prototype include Chrysler, Jeep Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Mazda, Kia, Volkswagen, Audi, Peugeot, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Tata, and Morgan.

At least Volkswagen with its HyMotion FCV and its Audi division with its innovative plug-in hybrid version of the A7 FCV say they are essentially ready for production and looking to the market.

Audi_H-Tron-A7

True enough, today there is negligible refueling, high costs, and questionable well-to-wheel analyses to ponder, but the two-dozen hydrogen-FCV-developing nameplates are of course for-profit companies.

Not all are prepared to go to market even if there were a hydrogen station on every corner because costs are still upside down. But that will change, say at least eight major manufacturers which in turn have several subdivisions.

Collectively they’ve spent untold sums, some began work on fuel cells before battery electrified efforts, and a lot is now tied up in the quest for the hydrogen highway.