Plug-In Hybrids Are Vastly Over-Rated As A Revenue Generator In The Near Term

by Jack Lifton on June 8, 2009

in Batteries, Hybrids & EVs, News Analysis

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Earlier this week, The New York Times published an article entitled “Toyota Says Plug-In Hybrids Will Have Limited Appeal“.

The numbers simply do not add up for the plug-in hybrid powertrain. It is too expensive for what it offers with today’s technology:

  • Short driving range,
  • High cost, and
  • Unknown long term reliability, durability, and battery life.

It is coming to market only to make politicians look as if they are doing something about dependence on imported fossil fuels, and the reduction of so-called global warming carbon dioxide.

The hard numerical evidence for the efficacy of lithium-ion batteries in real world usage is simply not there yet.

The aforementioned article quotes a dedicated plug-in hybrid champion as saying that Toyota has cherry picked data, to prove its point that the plug-in hybrid will never command a meaningful market segment, and, even then, the battery for such a car is perhaps a decade away in development. Its cost would have to come way down to ever make such a technology affordable by the ordinary consumer.

Let me cherry pick some data to support Toyota’s conclusion:

First read, and do so carefully, the latest article on this subject by John Petersen, entitled “Li-ion Battery Technologies: Understanding Their Development Path“. Then. when you have finished reading that. go to John’s previous article, “The Plug In Vehicle Scam.”

Even before you read those articles let me tell you that Toyota has decided that it will offer a full hybrid power train, equal to or descended from its current Prius power train, in every one of its car lines by 2020. Toyota has decided that the nickel metal hydride battery-using full hybrid, will now be a permanent and increasing percentage of its production cars indefinitely into the future.

Toyota will still work on the lithium-ion battery and it hopes that lithium-ion will be successful and can be brought down in cost to be competitive.

One of the great delusion of the committed lithium cultists, is that the gross weight of the battery is more important than its durability, reliability, and cycle life. It is not. A hybrid for which a long-term warranty can be issued economically is the only goal for a mass-produced consumer vehicle. This has been achieved with the current Prius.

Toyota does not see a market for a short range car with unknown reliability.

Would you buy an electric car with a range on a full charge of 30-40 miles, needing 8 hours for a recharge, for $40,000, when you can get a 700 mile range at 50 MPG Ford Fusion for $30,000, or a 500 mile range at 50 MPG Toyota or Honda vehicle, for between $18,000 and $25,000? If so you’re a Chevrolet Volt customer.

99% of us aren’t buying a $40,000 golf cart.

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