MemeBox’s Garry Golden, Editor of The Energy Roadmap, just meme-blasted the minds of morning commuters across the country with his analysis of the near-term future of transportation and suggestions for our new President-elect. [Podcast of Interview]
Appearing on PRI’sThe Takeaway with John Hockenberry, Golden was asked how he would advise Congress and the upcoming Obama administration on the proposed U.S. multi-billion dollar auto industry bailout. He responded by unequivocally advocating the avoidance of “any further investments into the old combustion engine model” arguing that the country needs to quickly move past hybrids by leap-frogging “to an all-electric platform.”
Garry pointed out that “the electric vehicle is … going global quickly”, thus opening a market window to countries like China who are developing competencies in areas such as battery production. So it’s now incumbent upon U.S. companies like GM to successfully adapt to the new conditions, possibly by building out the new electrically powered chassis that will serve as platform for new transport structures.
General Motors is not afraid of the future. And it is not afraid to let go of the past.
On Tuesday the company released details of its production version of ‘Volt’ – the industry’s first Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV) that will go into production in 2010.
And this is only the beginning.
GM’s plan to reinvent the auto industry starts with killing the combustion engine.
We believe the company has three strategies for the future:
#1 The Real Revolution is about Manufacturing
GM knows that in the next automobile revolution – it is not how you fuel a car that matters, it’s how you build it.
GM cares less about the price of oil, than it cares about the cost and complexities of building cars around the mechanical combustion engine. The Volt is important because the combustion engine is relegated to a new temporary task – recharge the batteries. The 21st century auto industry begins when we shift to modularity of electric motors (e.g. lower manufacturing costs, fewer factories).
#2 Design Matters
GM knows that design matters, and the bulky, mechanical combustion engine holds them back. If you eliminate the engine and regain 1/3rd of the vehicle chassis you can rethink how cars are built. Transition to ‘drive by wire’ systems for steering and braking – and you open up new potential for vehicle designs and upgrades.
#3 The breakthrough is Electric motors, not the batteries
GM knows auto-engineering. High performance electric motors have arrived. Now we need to develop systems to deliver the streams of electrons. The future of the automobile is not ‘all’ battery or ‘all’ fuel cell – it’s both.
The electric car is not an iPod. The battery is not our end game. It is merely one piece of the puzzle for electric propulsion. Batteries might have a short-term commercialization advantage, but the platform might struggle to evolve into the 21st century. The chemistry is bad. The costs are too high, and the performance is adequate at best. Future electric propulsion systems will integrate all three systems – batteries, fuel cells and capacitors.
Looking beyond the Chevy Volt
The GM Volt is big – because it is the beginning of the end of the internal combustion engine. R.I.P.
In the future, your car will detect danger possibilities and
protect you as you encounter other cars on the road. It will
automatically display a happy, sad, or angry look to convey
appropriate feelings to other drivers in response to their action.
This is the vision of four Toyota Motor employees in Japan who
recently patented this creative technology.
Car modifications include a hood with slits and designs that
resemble eyebrows, eyelids and tears, which glow with different
light shades and colors to reflect desired moods; an antenna that
wags like a puppy dog’s tail to show happiness; and a body that can
crouch low on its wheelbase when timid, or stand tall to express
By 2015 or before, “cars with feelings” could be arriving at
dealer showrooms everywhere. These cars can display a wide range of
expressions to help us interact with other drivers on the road.
Today, we can only honk horns, tap brakes, flash headlights, or use
turn signals. It’s difficult to thank another driver for letting us
enter the lane, or to show disapproval at someone who cuts us
The intelligence system on these new cars with personalities
calculate road and vehicle conditions such as steering angle,
braking, and speed. It also correlates driver reactions, road and
car conditions, and automatically creates correct color and
position for the eyebrows, antenna, lights and vehicle height.
If a pre-set number of points indicate an approaching careless
or hostile driver, the system creates an anger reaction. The
headlights glow red, the eyebrows light up, but the antenna and
height remains in a standard “cool” position. A happy, satisfied
look is displayed to reward a courteous driver. A friendly “wink”
shows that you agree with a driver’s action, or it could also be an
attempt at flirting. (cont.)
It is a great time to be a professional futurist working in the automobile sector!! We see clearly how quickly change can happen- and how the public’s most deeply held assumptions about the future can be revised in only a few years.
The recent string of announcements coming from Detroit, Japan, China and the rest of the automotive sector suggest big changes ahead. Yes, it will take years to unfold, but the shift toward the electrification of the world’s transportation sector has begun.
Between 2010-12 consumers can expect to see first generation all-electric vehicles from nearly every major automobile manufacturer. The monopoly era of liquid fuels and the combustion engine has started its descent. By 2025 the industry might be in a position abandon this 19th century propulsion platform and begin a new era of electric propulsion with the help of batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and capacitors.
Accelerating change happened. We are now adjusting our outlook to reflect a convergence of new market conditions, shifts in the regulatory environment and new consumer expectations for positive change. And of course, materials science technology changed.
Detroit (and others) seem to be saying – “Nobody Killed the Electric Car, but would someone Please Kill the Combustion Engine!!
Last week General Motors released production model details for its all-electric extended range Volt. GM now seems to believe that the internal combustion engine might best be used to power the battery not the vehicle itself..
Who else has made statements about planned electric models for 2010-12? How about Toyota, Renault, BYD (China), Tata (India) and Mitsubishi?! And what about start ups like Tesla, Fisker, Zap, and Morgan.
And that doesn’t include all the aspiring vehicle makers in China and India who might see profits ahead around leap frogging into electric power train systems. Or visionaries in Ohio and Michigan who realize that electric vehicles could be a very good thing for revitalizing the ‘Rust Belt’ around high value added manufacturing. Now we have a green light for politicians to speak confidently about electric cars. The stigma is gone.
Yes, things will take time to change. But the public tends to focus on the new growth rather than the old technologies that fade away slowly. Adoption rates for electric vehicles might surprise us!
reports that beleaguered auto manufacturer Chrysler LLC will begin offering wifi aboard their
vehicles later this year. As the first major auto producer to
provide internet access, this will give the company a big brand and
gadgetry edge, though its vehicles will no doubt continue to lag
in mileage and quality construction.
The feature will be added to existing vehicles by dealers
beginning this year and later be installed on the assembly line,
Frank Klegon, Executive Vice President—Product Development, said.
The Wi-Fi port, initially to be sold as a separate device, will
eventually be built into the vehicle’s radio system and coordinated
with other audio and video technologies to allow such things as
transferring music files from the user’s home computer.
Users will need a subscription to a wireless carrier in order to
connect to the internet, which will likely limit access to areas
within range of cell towers. Nevertheless, it marks a fresh start
for a desperate company sorely in need of compelling consumer
offerings, allowing a variety of applications, such as basic
navigation systems and music downloads, and eventually a much
broader suite of networked add-ons.
Somewhat surprisingly, it appears that the future of auto-web
connectivity will first be championed by an American
General Motors (GM) and OnStar have successfully demonstrated a prototype technology called Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, which does exactly that – it allows OnStar advisors working with law enforcement to send a signal to a subscriber’s stolen vehicle to reduce engine power, slowing the vehicle down gradually.
The exact process for Stolen Vehicle Slowdown (at right) goes as follows:
- Once the vehicle has been reported stolen to law enforcement, the subscriber can call OnStar and request Stolen Vehicle Assistance. OnStar will confirm the subscriber has not opted out of the Stolen Vehicle Slowdown service.
- OnStar uses real-time GPS technology to attempt to pinpoint the exact location of the stolen vehicle and provide this information to law enforcement to help them recover the vehicle.
- When law enforcement has established a clear line of sight of the stolen vehicle, law enforcement may request OnStar to slow it down remotely.
- OnStar then sends a remote signal to the vehicle that interacts with the Powertrain system to reduce engine power which will slow the vehicle down gradually.
Worried that the wrong car might be targeted? OnStar insists that “Safeguards will be in place to ensure that the correct vehicle is slowed down.”
Stolen Vehicle Slowdown comes along just as more people are installing automobile kill switches to protect their property, bring down insurance rates and protect innocent bystanders in the event of a high speed chase.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, about 30,000 police chases occur yearly and approximately 300 deaths occur as a result of those chases. Kill switches could have a major impact on these casualties.
Want to think about a tough pill to swallow? Electric cars are not likely to make countries more energy independent. The US and Europe are likely to trade ‘foreign’ oil, for ‘foreign’ energy storage systems! And this might not be a bad thing. If we expect to transform the largest industries in the world (energy and transportation) it will have to be a global effort.
Key to Electric Vehicles – Asia & Energy Storage
If we look closely at recent announcements around electric vehicles, the future is looking very globally integrated and interdependent. Even as the US tries to grow its manufacturing base around ‘cleantech’ industries, Korea, China, and India are making strategic investments in the future of energy storage systems (batteries, fuel cells and capacitors) to power electric vehicles.
In the last few weeks Warren Buffet placed a $233 million bet on China’s BYD, a US firm purchased a Koren battery maker, India’s Tata announced plans to sell electric cars in Europe, and GM picked the unit of Korea’s LG Chem to supply batteries of its Volt electric car.
Today, Green Car Congress picked up a Reuters report that Korea’s number one refiner SK Energy is in talks with major automakers such as Daimler and Ford on the joint development of next-generation batteries used in electric cars. SK Energy is looking to leverage ‘separator’ components for lithium ion batteries that prevent overheating. SK joins the crowd of Exxon, Chevron and Toshiba who are getting involved in battery materials.
Selling a new message: The Eco benefits of being Global
In the months and year ahead leaders in the US and Europe might have to change their simplistic and nationalistic message of independence to reflect the complexities of the energy industry and the future. It will likely be globally integrated.
If the US and Europe expect to kill the combustion engine, and end the monopoly era of liquid fuels, they will need Asia and the rest of the world to join in the effort. This new message might better reflect the brutal facts of the global economy and fate of the planet – we’re all in it together whether we are talking energy finance, energy resources, energy emissions, energy software or energy storage.
The solar industry is growing globally. The wind industry is growing globally. Why not electric vehicles? Could that be an easier pill to swallow and a better image of the future?
The German automaker BMW, in
introducing its new “Light Visionary Model” prototype – which it
dubs GINA (Geometry and Functions “N”
Adaptions”) – writes this: “The key to affecting the development
of tomorrow’s mobility lies in our readiness to challenge what is
established and in the ability to present new options.”
I encourage you to watch the short video below. Notice how the
doors and hoods no longer open – they fold and zip open – and how
the lights do open but they “blink” open (much like the human eye),
and I think you’ll agree that BMW’s
innovative thinking could be providing us a glimpse into the future
of what automobiles might look and feel like.
Check out this awesome car/pod prototype that carries up to
three passengers and can pivot on a dime to change directions. I
recall seeing concept drawings of this and thought it was still a
year or two in the future, so I was surprised to come across this
video of a functional, albeit slow, version of the product.
For the life of me, I can’t recall which company is behind this
elegant weird new car. Does anyone know who’s producing this
totally new approach to transport and when I’ll be able to rent one
BMW will unveil its electric version of the Mini Cooper at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 19 and 20, 2008. The company is claiming to be the world’s first manufacturer of premium automobiles to deploy a fleet of some 500 all-electric vehicles for private use in daily traffic. The MINI E will be powered by a 150 kW (204 hp) electric motor fed by a high-performance rechargeable lithium-ion battery, transferring its power to the front wheels without a sound. The MINI E is expected to accelerate to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 8.5 seconds. With its top speed electronically limited to 152 km/h (95 mph).
The battery technology will have a range of more than 240 kilometers, or 150 miles. Sales are expected to focus on private and corporate customers in pilot projects in California, New York and New Jersey.
Electric Motors vs Combustion Engine BMW’s announcement follows along with recent industry plans to electrify the world’s auto fleet. We might interpret these announcements as a response to the ‘oil problem’ or ‘climate change’ regulations. But what if the real reason is based on a desire to abandon the design and manufacturing complexities of the combustion engine? Forward looking industry insiders hope that a new low cost manufacturing platform could emerge around the combination of wheel based electric motors, drive by wire systems, and the tight integration of batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and capacitors.
We believe there is something happening in the auto industry that goes beyond oil and climate change The end game might be to change how we build and sell cars, not how we fuel them. If the real problem really is the combustion engine, and not oil, BMW’s plans might really be an effort to accelerate its shift to a new vehicle platform.
Add Warren Buffet’s latest investment to the list of major news indicators that fuel forecasts saying that the dominant days of the combustion engine are coming to an end. (Read GM to Combustion Engine-R.I.P.)
Through his Berkshire controlled MidAmerican Energy, The Oracle of Omaha has invested $230 million for a 10% stake in China’s car and battery maker BYD. BYD could soon become a global leader in electric propulsion auto systems and a mainstream vehicle brand.
Following the growth in electric propulsion systems
While there are reports
that BYD plans to ‘roll out fully electric cars before the end of next year’ and sell within the US, BYD does not have to displace GM or Toyota to return on Buffet’s investment.
Think of Shenzhen-based BYD as an advanced electric propulsion and electron storage device maker for Li-ion, Nickel batteries, capacitors and fuel cells. Rather than fight for market share against Toyota and GM in vehicle sales, BYD’s growth could be as an energy systems manufacturer.
Why MidAmerican might love BYD’s batteries more than its cars
Buffet’s other (or main) intention could be to expand the role of the electrical grid in fueling automobiles. He might also see promise in BYD’s battery systems for utility scale storage to improve the electrical grid.
Electric cars are coming in 2010-12 but we need to innovate energy storage solutions.
Recharging electric vehicles is not as simple as ‘plugging in at night.’ Our aging electrical grid and home wall sockets are not a suitable foundation for mainstream growth in battery vehicles- and automakers understand this.
Watch in the weeks and months ahead as electrical grid startups and electron storage companies like Shai Agassi’s Better Place gain more media attention and venture backing.
But what other innovative business models might emerge around electron-based transportation fleets? How about ‘swapping’ boxes?
According to a June 15 analysis published in the French bi-monthly magazine L’Auto-Journal, a long-standing car magazine, the European Union will soon no longer be on the short list of the top 3 contributors of greenhouse gases. The French-originated NAC (Nouvelle Affaire de Carburant) program, widely known as the New Fuel Deal by the English-speaking world, was initially criticized by citizens of nearly every European nation for being an economic fiasco.
The brainchild of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who served a six month stint as EU president, has certainly paid off for the environment, despite the widespread criticism and dire predictions. The Affaire was created by the members of the EU’s French-led APRE Summit (Automobile-fabricants pour la Protection et la Régénération de l’Environment, or ACRE – Auto-makers for the Conservation and Regenration of the Environment) in 2011, which formed an impressive international think-tank consisting of automobile manufacturers, leaders in the alternative fuel industry, financial wizards and various government officials. Despite initial opposition from such countries as the Czech Republic and Ireland, the plan was consensually ratified in February, 2010.