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Biggest Threat to Tesla

Discussion in 'Electric Vehicles' started by asdar, Nov 8, 2006.

  1. asdar

    asdar Member

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    I consider big auto industry entering the electric vehicle arena to be the biggest threat to Tesla's success.

    This article in auto week isn't a good sign for that.

    http://www.autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061107/FREE/61106014/1024/STATIC

    I think the threat comes in many directions. There's the threat that big auto can underprice anything an upstart can build through economies of scale, there's the threat of the experience that big auto has in manufacturing will result in superior quality, and there's the biggest threat in competition for resources, namely battery technology.

    If GM wants, they could probably buy any single battery technology. If they can't outright buy it, they can probably buy up 100% of the production the battery company can supply.

    The roadster is great, and I think it'd do well in any case because of it's performance. My concern would be more for the White Star. If GM buys up a new technology that charges faster, lasts longer and has the same or better performance Tesla will be a second class auto.
     
  2. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

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    GM has advantages and disadvantages. Sure they have vast resources in comparison with Tesla, but it's not easy for a huge company to reinvent itself or reinvent its product line, and it's not easy for them to fit new technologies into an existing business model. GM has many thousands of employees, and dozens of divisions and rival factions, and getting them all pulling the same direction can be like herding cats. GM has a business model that revolves around stamping hundreds of thousands of car frames and bodies out of steel, not so much working with aluminum and carbon fiber. GM has a wide-ranging line of products with billions invested in them, and can't afford to suddenly make them all obsolete. It's not a nimble company; changing course for GM is like steering a supertanker.

    On the other hand, GM have some interesting electric car technology. Don't forget they made the Impact, the EV1, the Hy-Wire, the Sequel. . . Even though some of those were hydrogen fuel-cell cars, they were also electric cars. I don't know of any other company that has put more research, over a longer period of time, into developing electric car technology. They deserve some credit -- and some payoff -- for that committment. Certainly they've done far more than Ford or DaimlerChrysler.

    So I guess the real question is whether GM can somehow get a monopoly on electric cars. I can't object to them getting into the electric car business, but I could object to them using "dirty tricks" to sweep aside any competition.

    I don't believe GM can take over the patents of existing Li-ion batteries, they are already held by Japanese companies. As more advanced batteries come along, they might try something. . . But it will be a lot harder to lock up than it was before with NiMH batteries, because more people -- both among the public and GM's competitors -- will be keeping an eye on that.
     
  3. DDB

    DDB Member

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    That's the beauty of capitalism. Competition is going to force Tesla to be good, very good. And I'd be willing to bet, there's a very large group of people--for whatever reason, that would like to see any cheap and practical EV. GM wants to do it? I say more power to them. We all suspect it's going to be a plug-in hybrid, at least initially, right?
     
  4. Michael

    Michael Member

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    I believe there's no getting around that fact that we still need a better battery technology as well as a charging infrastructure to support long distance driving, before the country can embrace an EV as their only vehicle. For those that can afford a 2nd car, for commuting and pleasure, more power to them and I hope there are enough people that keep the pressure on so that technology continues to improve.

    Until then, we will hopefully have decent plug-ins (with motivation coming entirely from the electric motor!) utilizing a variety of fuels, and batteries/supercaps that will allow a much greater number of recharge cycles. Having a greatly increased number of recharge cycles allows the cost of the batteries/supercaps to be carried forward to the resale of a vehicle thus reducing the overal cost to use.
     
  5. klausefluoride

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  6. WarpedOne

    WarpedOne Mainecoon Butler

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    if all-electric mode covers 95% of your driving this only means that 95% of the time you are paying for something you don't need.
     
  7. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

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    A plug-in hybrid is a compromise. As an electric car, it's not as good as a pure BEV. You're paying for, hauling around, and maintaining an internal combustion engine that you don't use most of the time.

    As a gasoline-powered car, when taking long trips, it's not as good as a conventional non-plug-in hybrid. You're paying for and hauling around an expensive, oversized battery pack -- one which is likely to degrade and need replacing much sooner than the battery in a non-plug-in hybrid.

    Of course. . . Just because it's a compromise doesn't mean it's a bad compromise. Plug-in hybrids are promising, they might become popular at least for a while. But, I see them as a transitional technology. There are two important things to remember when looking at the future of plug-in hybrids.

    For one, a plug-in hybrid is an attempt to ameliorate short driving range and slow recharge times of pure battery-electric vehicles. If battery (or supercapacitor) technology continues to improve, as seems likely, the plug-in hybrid will lose its reason for existing. All it would take is a pure electric vehicle with a 500-mile driving range, or one with a 150+ mile range and rapid recharge, then plug-in hybrids would lose their luster very quickly. I think these numbers are more a matter of "when" rather than "if".

    The other thing is, all the plug-in hybrids we're likely to see in the near future are very non-optimized designs. By that I mean, they are using piston-engine technology. The typical 4, 6 or 8-cylinder engine is designed to be throttled through a wide range of RPM and power output and to provide peak power far higher than the average power needed to move the car. These will probably continue to be used for some while simply because they're what car companies already have and already know.

    Anybody starting with a clean sheet of paper and no preconceptions would never choose a piston engine to power a plug-in hybrid car. Most likely they would pick a small gas turbine or a multi-fuel rotapower (advanced Wankel) engine. These engines are much more efficient, they produce more power from a given weight, and they work best when running at a constant speed (i.e. full throttle). Gas turbines have been used in experimental cars before, but they were impractical because they weren't easy to throttle over a wide power range, and because it took them time to "spool up" before they could produce power. These are not concerns in a plug-in hybrid vehicle.

    In the long run, I'd be surprised if electric cars and plug-in hybrids (with advanced engines) don't coexist. I don't see either one wiping out the other. Exactly what the balance is going to be depends on storage technology. The more storage improves, the more the balance will tilt toward pure electrics.
     
  8. DDB

    DDB Member

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    Here's the text of the LA Times article so you don't have to register. Personally, I think it could give GM one HUGE boost if they do it soon, with a quality product: 8)

    GM to unveil electric car prototype
    The vehicle would use an onboard engine to produce power to extend battery range.
    By John O'Dell, Times Staff Writer
    November 9, 2006

    General Motors Corp., vilified by environmentalists for killing the electric car, is hoping to bring one back.

    But the new electric won't be an emissions-free vehicle, unlike the initial GM electric, the EV1.

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    The new car, to be unveiled as a prototype early next year, would use an onboard internal-combustion engine as a generator to produce electricity to extend the range of the vehicle's rechargeable batteries.

    The idea was greeted enthusiastically by Chris Paine, director of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" The recent documentary took GM to task for creating and then abandoning the first production electric vehicle since the early 1900s.

    "Bring it on," he said, noting that he has never doubted GM's ability to produce an environmentally friendly electric vehicle but has criticized its commitment to marketing one.

    "I hope this one can get from concept to showrooms," Paine said.

    Some environmental activists also seemed intrigued by the idea, noting that though it is not a "pure" electric vehicle like the battery-powered EV1, a generator-driven hybrid electric car would still consume far less fuel than a vehicle that relied on a larger, thirstier gasoline or diesel engine for propulsion.

    "We shouldn't make 'perfect' the enemy of 'good,' " said Roland Hwang, Berkeley-based vehicle policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    "If it helps reduce global warming emissions and dependency on oil, then it is a plus," he said.

    GM "apparently recognizes that it is falling behind in the race for a piece of the 'green' vehicle market … and needs something it can get out there and sell in substantial numbers," Hwang said.

    He remained skeptical, however, saying that GM "is fond of showing us things it never brings to market. The question is whether this will be just a prototype for public relations or a real effort."

    GM won't talk openly about its new electric vehicle — first hinted at in an interview Vice Chairman Robert Lutz granted industry trade publication Automotive News this week.

    But a knowledgeable person within the giant automaker's technology division confirmed that GM had developed a prototype that would run initially on power provided by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, switching to electricity provided by the onboard gasoline- or diesel-fueled generator when the battery charge was depleted.

    Filmmaker Paine said he was in regular contact with GM engineers who support work on electric vehicles and had been told that the automaker planned to unveil the new model in early January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

    Rick Wagoner, GM's chairman and chief executive, is expected to discuss the company's environmental vehicle programs in a Nov. 29 speech at the Los Angeles Auto Show, but sources said he was unlikely to talk about specific models such as the extended-range electric vehicle.

    The new car, if developed as a production model, would be recharged daily by owners and probably would deliver sufficient power from the batteries to cover the typical daily commute of 20 to 30 miles before depleting the battery charge and switching to electricity generated onboard.

    It could be plugged into a home charging unit or into a publicly available recharger such as those deployed around California at shopping centers and public facilities when the EV1 and other electric vehicles were on the road in the late 1990s.

    The cars were initially developed because of California air quality regulators' demand for limited numbers of zero-emission vehicles.

    That demand was subsequently modified when GM and other automakers complained that the electric cars were too expensive to make in limited numbers and delivered too little range on each battery charge to make them acceptable to most drivers.

    The EV1 was introduced at the 1997 Los Angeles Auto Show and leased to selected customers, including high-profile opinion leaders such as actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr.

    It was "a brilliant piece of engineering," Paine said.

    But GM pulled the plug on the project in 2002, saying there was insufficient public support for the sleek, silent two-seat coupe.

    The automaker subsequently collected and destroyed almost all of the 1,000 or so cars, prompting Paine's film, which was released this summer to wide acclaim from environmentalists and others concerned about the country's dependence on oil.

    GM also continues to work toward development of an electric vehicle that uses a clean, hydrogen-powered fuel-cell system to provide the electrical power.

    The idea of an electric vehicle that burns gasoline or diesel fuel to produce juice for the electric drive system is not new.

    A Southern California company, AC Propulsion Inc., developed a speedy electric sports car in the late 1990s, the tZero, that had an optional gasoline generator — pulled on a small trailer — to extend its range. It typically delivered 35 to 40 miles per gallon of gas when the batteries were depleted.
     
  9. Michael

    Michael Member

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    I would strongly agree that both a series hybrid and BEV vehicles will probably cooexist for quite a while.

    The BEV vehicle just doesn't currently have the range necessary or the ability for a fast recharge. When batteries are improved enough to allow a fast recharge, there will still most likely be a long wait for the infrastructure to be developed to support making any long trips. Let's hope that the auto manufacturers agree on a charging standard that allows a single fast charge solution to be implemented; e.g. one that allows acceptable recharge times at home and fast recharge on the road.
     
  10. DDB

    DDB Member

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    Here's more news on GM's plug-in (although not much we didn't already know, other than the source):

    GM Moves to Re-Introduce Plug-In Car, Will Unveil Prototype

    Friday, November 10, 2006

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    DETROIT — General Motors Corp. (GM) will likely unveil a prototype plug-in hybrid at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, a local paper reported Friday.

    The advanced technology vehicle would have an extended driving range on battery power and would also have a diesel or gasoline engine that could power the car when the battery was low, the Detroit News said, citing unnamed GM officials.

    Click here to visit FOXBusiness.com's Investing page.

    Plug-in hybrids are gas-electric vehicles that can recharge their batteries with an extension cord and a normal wall outlet.

    GM, which is trying to recover from a $10.6 billion loss in 2005 and stop a slide in U.S. market share, has been criticized for relying heavily on gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles. This year, it has also drawn sharp criticism for its decision to kill its EV1 electric car program.

    The EV1 was introduced at the 1997 Los Angeles Auto Show and leased to selected customers. But GM pulled the plug on the project in 2002, citing insufficient public support.

    (Story continues below)

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    The automaker eventually collected and destroyed almost all of the 1,000 EV1 cars, prompting the making of a documentary titled "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

    The film was released this summer to wide acclaim from environmentalists and others concerned about the country's dependence on oil.

    In an interview with Motor Trend published in July, GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said killing the $1 billion EV1 program was his worst decision. He said it did not affect the automaker's profitability, but did hurt its image.

    The Detroit News said Wagoner will talk about GM's emphasis on advanced technologies in a speech he plans to deliver at the Los Angeles Auto Show later this month.

    Other automakers are also researching plug-in technology, including Toyota Motor Corp. (TM), the world's leading producer of hybrid vehicles.

    Honda Motor Co. Ltd. has also called for exploring plug-ins and is conducting advanced research on hydrogen.

    Ford Motor Co. (F) has a fleet of hybrid hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as part of "real world testing of fuel cell technology."

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,228677,00.html
     
  11. stockey

    stockey Member

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    What GM needs to build if they build a plug-in,it will need to  to run at full speed electric only for over 100 milles minimum not low speed for 30 milles,and when the battery level is at a certain level like 25%, a diesel engine would recharge the batteries while the car is rolling or stopped (if the car is not plugged in),then you would have charged batteries all the time.
     
  12. klausefluoride

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    The 20-30 miles all electric range was speculation. I agree that 100 miles should be the optimal and realistic goal. Also, because the car is a series hybrid, it would have to be full speed electric, as the only motor moving the wheels is an electric one. I'm very much looking forward to this car.
     
  13. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

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    I mentioned the GM plug-in hybrid (EV2?) to grandma today. She's usually not too interested in cars and technical stuff, but she surprised me. After hearing a brief description of how it works, she was enthusiastic. She thought it sounded wonderful. I told her, "Nobody's seen it yet, and nobody knows any more details about the car."

    Then she said, "I don't care what it looks like, as long as it's safe and it can run on two different things."

    Our thermostat on our central heating system broke a couple of days ago, and we've been running our propane heaters until we can get it fixed. She saw a plug-in hybrid car in exactly the same light. "If your battery runs down, the gasoline engine can get you to the next station," she said.

    She's 91 years old, but she's still pretty sharp.
     
  14. DDB

    DDB Member

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    What is this talk of only 30 miles? ED drive and Hymotion are into the 100 mpg range. If GM aims that low, I'd put money on the bet that Toyota will blow GM away within a very short time... GM needs to learn quality. One advantage GM may have is their promotion of an FFV. I'd bet they'd attract some major green attention with an E-85 plugin that can go for 100 miles without the ICE kicking on.
     
  15. Michael

    Michael Member

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    I also have strong hopes that GM will not seriously limit the electric only mode to only 30 miles. If they are planning on considering this as a reasonable range, then at a very minimum, they need to have options for additional batteries so that those of us with a need for greater commuting range are able to shoot for having an eletric only mode for the entire commute!
     
  16. WarpedOne

    WarpedOne Mainecoon Butler

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    >>I also have strong hopes that GM will not seriously limit the electric only mode to only 30 miles.

    if they do that, they only put tesla's 250 miles into better perspective
     
  17. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

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    I think 30 miles is okay for a plug-in hybrid. As you increase the electric-only range, there's a point of diminishing returns -- because most trips are short, you end up adding battery capacity that most of the time is not going to be used. And since you have an internal combustion engine on board anyhow. . . There's not much to be gained from a large battery pack.
     
  18. Michael

    Michael Member

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    I'll bet someone could probably come up with some statistics that might help define what the point of diminishing returns are. I know that since I will commute 60 miles every day that my preference would be to have enough battery capacity to satisfy this distance so that I utilize the backup generator as little as possible. If there is a point in which I might be better off by not bothering with an electric vehicle, then it would be useful to know what that point might be.
     

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