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The Plug-In Hybrid Comes to Europe

3 June 2007

by Jack Rosebro

Phev_euro
A recent report from EURELECTRIC envisions a potential PHEV market share in Europe of 8% to 20% by 2030.

Interest in plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) technology is on the rise in Europe, as evidenced by presentations and discussions at the second European Ele-Drive Transportation Conference, held last week in Brussels by AVERE, Europe’s largest electric vehicle association.

Although a limited number of commercial PHEVs have been offered for sale in Europe since at least 2002, the plug-in hybrid is gaining new status on the continent as a technologically feasible bridge between conventional hybrids and pure electric vehicles, especially in light of looming CO2 restrictions on future passenger vehicles sold within the European Union (earlier post).

The conference included several presentations on plug-in hybrids by researchers from around the world, as well as a plug-in hybrid roundtable hosted by Ron Gremban of CalCars, who was the technical lead for the first PHEV conversion of a Toyota Prius in 2004.

During the PHEV roundtable, Paul Bulteel of EURELECTRIC, an industry association that represents Europe’s electric utility providers, remarked: “We in the European electric industry have realized that the electric car, through the plug-in hybrid solution, can be more than a niche market.” A recent EURELECTRIC report—The Role of Electricity: A New Path to Secure and Competitive Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World—terms the plug-in hybrid “a logical development of the hybrid vehicle,” and envisions a potential PHEV market share in Europe of 8% to 20% by 2030.

Uwe Koehler of Johnson Controls/SAFT echoed Bulteel’s views, noting “We believe that if the electric vehicle has a chance, it will be through the plug-in hybrid.” Koehler left no doubt as to the chemistry of choice: “The only option for plug-in hybrids is lithium-ion. The reason is weight.” Johnson Controls/SAFT was awarded a traction battery contract by a major auto manufacturer in 2006 (earlier post), and will open a lithium-ion production line at its production plant in Nersac, France next year.

However, technical obstacles to the mass production of plug-in hybrids remain. Weight, cost, performance, battery life predictability, emissions and safety testing, and charging availability are all concerns that were raised during the conference.  When one speaker asked participants to predict how long it would take for plug-in hybrids to capture a significant amount of the world’s vehicle market, a US researcher opined, “Decades.”

Amberjac_ii
The battery pack in the Amberjac II. Click to enlarge.

The UK’s Amberjac Projects, which produces plug-in hybrid conversions of Toyota’s popular Prius, brought two vehicles for comparison—their earliest as well as most recent conversion—to the obligatory ride-and-drive that wrapped up the conference. The latest conversion has a reported all-electric range of 56 km (35 miles), yet has the same storage space, including the tray and spare tire underneath the vehicle’s cargo floor, as a conventional Prius.

Managing director Simon Sheldon reported that Amberjac has sold two converted plug-in hybrid Prius vehicles to Toyota dealers—one in London and one in the Netherlands—which then resold them to customers. The company has delivered seven PHEV Prius conversions so far, and expects that number to triple by the end of the year.

Rx400h_and_microvett
Micro-Vett’s Bimodale plug-in hybrid passenger van, available with lead-acid or lithium-ion battery packs, next to a Lexus RX400h hybrid. Click to enlarge.

Italy’s Micro-Vett showed off its Bimodale, a PHEV conversion of an IVECO 9-passenger diesel van, which Micro-Vett has been selling since 2002. The all-electric range of the Bimodale PHEV is 30 km (19 miles) with a lead-acid battery pack and 100 km (62 miles) with an optional lithium-ion battery pack. Alternative-fuel vehicles sold in Italy are eligible for 30% to 65% government support on the purchase price, if the vehicle is purchased by a company. As a result, most privately driven alternative-fuel vehicles in Italy, including hybrids and electric vehicles, are leased.

Other PHEVs on display included Groupe Dassault’s Cleanova II Plus, a converted Fiat Doblo light-duty passenger vehicle/cargo van, which employs a 20 kWh lithium-ion battery pack in series with a range-extending 54 hp flex-fuel engine from Weber Automotive. Future PHEVs from Dassault will be conversions of Renault’s popular Kangoo passenger vehicle/cargo van.

Renault produced about 500 similarly configured plug-in hybrid versions of the Kangoo in 2003, using nickel-cadmium battery packs. Dassault also produces pure-electric versions of the Cleanova, which have been under test by the French post office La Poste since 2005. (Earlier post.) In April, La Poste announced that it would solicit bids for 10,000 electric delivery vehicles for deployment in 2008. (Earlier post.)

A wide variety of electric bicycles were also on hand at the conference ride-and-drive. In terms of raw production, electric bikes have become the dominant type of electric vehicle in recent years, thanks largely to their exploding popularity in China. According to the International Energy Agency, China produced 15 million two-wheel electric vehicles in 2005, and is expected to produce twice that in 2010.

The symbolism of the conference location—close to many EU ministries—was not lost on conference participants; the European Commission is on the brink of developing its next seven-year spending and development plan for the European Union (the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development) for 2007 through 2013. The Commission is expected to adopt a Green Paper on urban transport this fall which will make recommendations on solutions to the growing congestion, pollution, and urban sprawl that have beset many European cities.

AVERE co-hosts the International Electric Vehicle Symposium (EVS) with Asia’s Electric Vehicle Association of the Asia Pacific (EVAAP) and North America’s Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA).  AVERE created the European Ele-Drive Transportation Conference to provide the industry with a European-based electric vehicle conference during calendar years in which EVS is held outside of Europe. EVS-23 will be held in Anaheim, California this December.

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Decades? What in the world is he talking about? When you say decades, that means 20 years at a minimum. I expect that PHEVs will be mostly obsolete 20 years from now. All the "technical obstacles" mentioned are already being dealt with by hybrid-electric vehicles. PHEVs are simply an extension of that technology.

I really don't understand the pessimism, the foot-dragging, and the lack of imagination that seems to pervade the auto industry.

Surely the whole point is to produce vehicles that use very little fuel. PHEVs are one approach to this, diesel another and so on. The all electric range is not really the point - the MPG (or gms Co2/km) is the point.

The proposed European 130 gms/km limit seems to be doing the business, as seen by the work of BMW on micro hybrids.

I am sure we will see all manner of hybrids in europe with in 5 years - even if many are micro hybrids.

The key outcome is fuel economy, not any particular technology.

Fuel economy is the driver. As different technologies
try to grab the steering wheel from the back seat, it is
up to the regional and national power brokers/regulators,
in the passengers seat, to give directions on where to make
the next pit stop. While there is still some credit left on their gas card,
you know what station is their most obvious next stop.
That is unless the tide comes in further than normal, and blocks
the coastal route.Peak oil is also peak revenue with the current tax revenue base.
When that changes to the downside, you will see alot of
outdated and obsolete vehicles needing to be convieniently replaced, at the
glee of the Big Three(2.5 now). That should be an obvious
"blind curve" comming to the unsuspecting customer who wants
to still have it all. As long as it is still cheaper to buy
a barrel of crude, than it is to forcibly pry it out of some
foreigners cold dead hands, after a preemptive scorched earth "liberation",
it will be "Party on Wayne, party on Garth." Love that AMC Pacer,
especially with flames! Wide glide and the gas you could guzzle.
Now those were the days when our foreign policy worked!
I loved the smell of fresh(catalytic converter free) leaded exhaust wafting in the morning breeze.

Is something wrong with a fuel-powered generator, for when extra electricity is needed. This generator would be for both extended range and when short-term burst of power in excess of that which, could be supplied by batteries does exist. There are variable output generators, used on camping trips.
The fear of electric vehicles in America, is the result of the lack of reliability. Performance when needed and the range of travel are both issues in America, this integrating of an electric engine with the generator will be a difficulty.This plug-in option needs to be part of any electric vehicle.

So...what should the US do? Should it be gramsCO2/km? Should it be MPG like CAFE? Should we require bio-flex-fuel capability for all 2009 models, and require high CAFE when running on 100% petroleum fuels?

Should biofuels be exempt from from gramsCO2/km, or should there simply be parallel incentives for biofuel usage? What approach would have the biggest positive effect soonest?

@Tony Belding, C. Harget -

The "decades" response referred to how long it might be before PHEVs capture "significant" market share. It reflects not the conservativism of the auto industry but that of consumers. Batteries are simply still far too expensive, given the way they need to be mollycoddled to achieve safety and longevity.

Therefore, the most sensible path forward appears to be a mix of the tried and true (evolution of the ICE), re-introduciton of diesel to the US, microhybridization applied in high volume, CNG, synthetic diesel and, sustainable biofuels (alcohol and biodiesel). In addition, greater efforts are needed to make owning a car less attractive in those metropolitan areas that are already very congested - that translates to sticks such as entry tolls and carrots such as bicycle paths and attractive shared/public transportation options.

C Harget raises an interesting issue - do gms CO2 from biofuels count ?
Tricky - tricky.
How do we know people are using biofuels - most machines will be fossil / bio capable.
IMHO
The best thing would be to blend as much biofuels into the national blend(s) so everyone is the same - so you just have a uniform tax system.
You might then give some tax relief for E85 at time of purchase to encourage its use, but try to blend as much bio into the normal stuff.
[ You might still need a pure fossil blend for vintage vehicles, but this could be more expensive ]

Then tax it based on Co2/km.

It is very difficult to calculate the amount of CO2 used
to generate a litre of biofuel, so don't bother, blend it and tax the effects of burning it.

Its all about the batteries. If current hybrid tech gives 1-2 miles of battery only, how many additional batteries will it take to get the battery only range to 30 miles?

Lithium batteries are still a work in progress. There are no mass produced evs with lithium being manufactured today .

"Decades" isn't a choice. Even the most optimistic cornucopian will put us only only 20 years from peak. With the curve of gas prices going up and the curve of battery prices coming down, I'd ballpark that the curve will meet within 10 years. I'm not even sure the curves have to cross before PHEVs become a serious reality. People can see where things are going and some will move early to avoid the rush.

Let's say 10% of the cars out there are replaced every year. After 10 years you have a new set of cars.

But let's say that each year only 10% of those cars sold are AFV. Then at the end of 10 years, only 10% are AFV...you can see why it takes a while.

Payments from utility companies for V2G use could also tip the scales in favour of PHEVs.

Rafael,

All who advocate changing lifestyles are pushing on a rope. Human Nature never changes.

Besides, what is the gm-CO2/km for walking or riding a bycycle? I'll bet you would be very, very unhappy to know just how bad it is.

Electrified ground transport will come when and because it is cheaper to do so than other courses of action; the source of the cheaper method is efficiency since presemnt methods can be improved significantly, but it is not easy to so, or on a schdeule that the ignorant impatient ones constantly question. Hence they argue it muat be a conspiracy why Utopia didn't arrive yesterday or last week.

Fortunately that day is rapidly approaching, as you and I and a lot of others who work hard to bring it forward are doing.

Human Nature never changes.

What some consider "Human Nature" is no more than socially-conditioned thinking and behavioral patterns that are totally dependent on the time and place one exists in.

Besides, what is the gm-CO2/km for walking or riding a bycycle? I'll bet you would be very, very unhappy to know just how bad it is.

Yeah, right. Show me how much extra marginal food energy is needed for a given amount of movement above what is already being consumed. In a country like the United States, people already consume more than their energy needs, so with our low levels of biking and walking, we have ample existing unused metabolic energy. The marginal g/mile are nil.

AVERE is promoting electricity from nuclear power plants.
As everyone knows, nuclear energy has some shortcomings.
But the mahor concern is about the storage of nuclear waste for 10.000 years to come.
Until now, there is nobody who tried to estimate the costs for the storage of nuclear waste.
Imagine the Egyptians would have used there pyramides to store nuclear wast and we are the fouls who have to take care now. Lets say, we had to pay for the maintenance of the such a nuclear waste deposite now.
But I know, there is no better thing in politics than the party that does not yet exist.
So, to activly control climate change, I recommend new models of urban living that are less dependend on transport of goods and people.

Anybody else note the credit, bottom right corner of first piccie?

"Mongo no want learn electronics, Mongo want you buy diesel."

All electric vehicles will just be a niche market and product (Engineer Business Model, lol). Most people drive less than 50-60 miles a day. A plug-in will allow smaller less expensive batteries to be used in a vehicle paired with a small ICE engine to recharge for longer trips.

GM made the right decision scrapping the EV1 since it was the wrong model for a mass-produced vehicle and trying to develope a Chevy Volt/E-Flex. They wasted billions of dollars on the program and gave them a bad PR image when they ended it.

I don't think the Tesla, Phoenix, Zap companies will achieve asignificant market share. The ideas are good, however, a person can get their EV experience and convenience of an ICE refueling with a Chevy Volt type vehicle; utilizing a reasonable price.

The article mentions Micro-Vett's Hybrid Iveco Daily. This commercial vehicles shows excellent performances and seduces a large number of fleet managers from public and private sectors.

Micro-Vett's range of products (mostly EVs) is distributed by NEWTEON ecofriendly vehicles in France, Monaco, Scandinavia and soon all through Europe.
It consists of standard vehicles converted with an electric traction developped by Micro-Vett as well as the BMS (Battery Management System).
There are currently 5000 vehicles running everyday for famous customers such as the Italian Post, DHL, Disneyland Paris, the cities of Oslo, Stockholm, Cannes and Monte Carlo, etc.

For more information, please check www.newteon.com

@ mahonj -

combusting biofuels produces CO2 and the polluter (e.g. automobile driver) needs to pay for the emissions via some form of carbon tax, which would replace the current system of taxes on fuels and electricity.

On the other hand, the farmer captures CO2 and should receive payments from the public purse for that. After all, CO2 reductions benefit society as a whole rather than individual biofuel customers. These payments would be instead of current production subsidies and, help bring down production costs such that the end product is competitive with petroleum-derived fuels. Note that any fuel used in the agriculture/refining of biofuels will be subject to the carbon tax described above, encouraging farmers to adopt technologies which maximize the differential (e.g. cellulosic alcohols).

A key factor will be the treatment of biofuel feedstocks and finished fuels/additives that are imported from tropical countries. The whole system only works if it is part of an energy security strategy rather than just a way for pols to buy rural votes and secure (legal) kickbacks in the form of campaign contributions from big agrobusinesses.

@ Stan Peterson -

gCO2/km is a useful metric because it allows you to compare emissions from (i.e. consumption of) a variety of hydrocarbon energy sources, e.g. gasoline, diesel, CNG, and electricity from NG/coal-fired power stations.

Perhaps North Americans will indeed never moderate their energy-profligate lifestyle, though I very much hope they will. Europe, Japan and others can ill afford that luxury because they depend very heavily on oil & gas from politically dicey places like the Middle East and Russia.

The degree of dependency will only increase as North Sea oil & gas production is expected to decline rapidly in the next decade. The global warming discussion gives politicians a way to advocate energy conservation and alternatives without implying that energy security is declining, which could cause economic and diplomatic strains.

Besides, if it should turn out that anthropogenic GHG emissions are less serious than scientist are currently claiming, reducing them is unlikely to cause any environmental harm. In economic terms, technologies that reduce competition for finite natural resources can help defuse politico-military tensions. The US is currently re-learning just how incredibly expensive warfare really is, so slightly slower GDP growth is a price well worth paying to avert it.

Rafael,

One of the reasons that Marxism failed in the East Bloc was that it was unable to create the "New Man".
One of the reasons that Fascism failed was that it was unable to create the "New Ubermenschen" and get the designated "Uundermenchen" to agree and become docile slaves.

I find it comical that the same ones telling all others to cut their lifestyles, are increasing the sizes of their mansions; private jet mileage, limousines, and energy consumption in general. Do as I say, not as I do, seems to be the only thing common to these self-appointed cult-religious figures.

The reason that our system works, is it harnesses the natural Human Nature to seek self-interest, and by letting everyone improve his very own condition, bounded by constraints, all prosper, one at a time. But enough of Utopian politics.

The reason I support the coming of the Electrification of Ground Transport, is that the amount of Energy available is the the ultimate measure of the capacity of a civilization to spread wealth amongst its population. Burning fossil fuels or creating your own to burn, is ham-handed. Its inefficient, and cannot be expanded enough to supply all who wish it. I firmly believe that the western lifestyle while not necessarily good for the Race, is good for the individual, and society as a whole. I want enough of it, so that all in the world may have it.

That sufficiency is unable to come from burning chemicals. The total Energy needed is simply unavailable. Other more stable sources and expandable sources are needed. Fortunately they are coming in headlong rush and availability of clean energy in essentially unlimited quantity, will be no question in a few decades. In the meantime we must muddle along.

I concur in the usage of Gm-CO2/km as an appropriate measure, if what you are trying to minimize is CO2 or its unburned carbon progenitors. But gm-CO2/km is not a direct measure of efficiency per se, it is merely an analogue, biased against carbon compounds as energy sources.

That's why I satirized the notion of it as a pure good. Shank's mare was what our Paleolithic forebears had available and it wasn't much.

If you want the maximum available for everyone, and the least meretricious side effects for all, efficiency must be the goal.

Efficiency calculation itself, is the measure of efficiency. Efficiency should be the target. Recall the proverb common to many Engineers is "Efficiency is its own reward."


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