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Fuji Heavy (Subaru) Announces Plans for Hybrids and Electric Vehicles

FHI President Kyoji Takenaka shows a prototype of the Subaru R1e.

Nikkei. Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI), the maker of Subarus, announced today that it plans to start selling a hybrid car built using its own powertrain in fiscal 2007. The carmaker also announced it will release the R1e electric minicar by 2010.

The hybrid will use a turbo engine and thin electric motor, as well as a lithium-ion battery developed jointly with NEC. Fuji Heavy expects the hybrid to deliver 30% better fuel economy and better acceleration than comparable gasoline-powered cars.

Press reports earlier in the year suggested a possible partnership between Fuji Heavy and Toyota for the hybrid drive. (Earlier post.) That, apparently, did not come to pass.

The company also announced that it will release the R1e electric minicar by 2010, and that the vehicle will begin roadtests in Japan this year.

Based on the R1 minicar (earlier post), the R1e uses a lithium-ion battery can be recharged to 90% of capacity in five minutes. The current prototype can be driven 120 kilometers (75 miles) without recharging, but the distance is expected to be expanded to 200 kilometers (124 miles). Fuji Heavy plans to start testing the R1e on public roads this year.

The company also unveiled a new capacitor with quadruple the energy density of earlier models.

More details to come.


Shirley E

Somebody correct me if I’m wrong. I’m not an electrical engineer but I’m not unfamiliar with the topic.

I don't think that quick charge batteries, like the one mentioned here or Toshiba's, are the limiting factor for fast-charging electric vehicles. Rather, it’s the infrastructure.

Using the analogy of a water bucket, it's possible to fill a bucket with a firehose in less than one second, say. Using a straw slows down this process considerably, however; that is, the fill time doesn't depend on how fast the bucket can potentially be filled, it's on how large of a pipe you're using to fill it.

Okay, Toshiba’s battery claim is 80% charge in one minute, if I remember correctly. Let me use that one, and let’s say it charges 100% instead of 80% for simplicity. (That simplification doesn’t make a whit of difference if my calcs are correct.)

Using a 7.5 kWh battery capacity for the example (and keeping the bucket analogy in mind):

Filling a 7.5 kWh "bucket" in one minute requires a "fill rate" of 7.5 x 60 = 450 kW for one minute. Put another way, if you apply 450 kW for 1/60 of an hour to the battery, you would store 7.5 kWh at 100% storage efficiency. 1 kW is 1000 watts so this means 450,000 W for one minute.

Power (in Watts) is voltage (volts) x current (in amps).

Let's say we had a 500 volt circuit in the car; this means that 900 amps would have to flow (!) to provide the necessary 450,000 watts of power during this one minute. And again this assumes 100% transfer to the battery, for example no current loss through heating (and no melting either!). I don’t think Ted Nugent in his loudest concert ever pulled 900 amps. Am I correct on these numbers or do I just need a stronger cup of coffee this morning?

Most modern homes currently have 200 amp service, so they couldn't provide charging at this rate, at least as currently set up. But even if we had specially dedicated charging stations with huge gauge superconducting wire, a bigger problem would still exist: how many vehicles are simultaneously filling (or recharging) in a typical big city today? Hundreds, certainly, maybe thousands at peak times. You start summing these up and it isn't long before you also need a dedicated nuclear plant (or two, or three) to provide the additional electrical generation capacity required. This kind of spiky electrical demand would be a utility nightmare.

Even changing these assumptions some, e.g., spreading the charging time out over ten minutes (cutting the required current by a factor of ten) is probably still impractical to implement on a widespread basis. Every hour the charging rate is spread over, on the other hand, reduces the required amperage by a factor of 60.

Bottom line: It looks like to me we're going to be physically restricted by our infrastructure to an hour or two charging period for battery electric vehicles, and be strongly encouraged to charge at night when there is lots of spare capacity available. The rate at which the battery itself can accept charge does not affect this situation.

Anybody disagree with any of this?


Not really.

As we transition to more electrical use for motive power, a larger infrastructure will have to be built.

Computers alone stretched our capacity. Certainly some sort of method of progressively programming recharging will have to be found.

This is why I have progressed beyond greater use of electricity and more towards a Biodiesel Hybrid. I would still want to recharge from the grid overnight. It's possible that the diesel would never have to start.

Bob Tasa

Bottom line: It looks like to me we're going to be physically restricted by our infrastructure to an hour or two charging period for battery electric vehicles, and be strongly encouraged to charge at night when there is lots of spare capacity available. The rate at which the battery itself can accept charge does not affect this situation.

Anybody disagree with any of this?

Well if there is a need there will be a device.
Imagine a external battery that charges slower
at night. When you need a charge it will dump in
all the juice you need. Or even a capacitor that can
hold the charge. Even Electric filling stations can
do things like this.
Basically if there is a will there is a way. If EV cars
because of Li Ion batteries become popular again
then you will see the solution.


Mikhail Capone

Different charging rates could be implemented to keep things within the grid's capacity.

ie. If you want to charge in a minute, it'll cost you $x/kw. If you charge in 30 minutes, it'll cost you less, and if you charge overnight, even less.

That way, most people would charge overnight and only use the fast-charge option when they really need it.


Or the "filling stations" will install ultracapacitors, superflywheels or flow batteries to store power at the hourly rate and sell it at a discount from the utility's sixty-second rate.

It's not uncommon for an industrial site to be supplied with electricity at 4800 volts; some machinery runs on 480 volts.  Welders routinely deal with currents of 1000 amperes or so.  An electric car carrying 30 kWh of batteries would consume 360 kW to charge them in 5 minutes; this would only require 480 volts at 750 amps, a figure that we know how to handle.

No breakthroughs are required to do this; it's just engineering (sez the electrical engineer).



Your 360kW figure got me thinking, so I dug up some power plant data from 1999 to try to wrap my head around just what that number means.

Hoover Dam, for example, has a maximum capacity of a smidge over 2 GW. That is with all generators humming and requires, I presume, full reservoir capacity.

Ignoring transmission losses, that's sufficient to simultaneously power about 5500 5-minute electric car chargers.

Guessing by my own average home electricity usage of ~ 1 kW, it's also sufficient to power about 1.3 million households (VERY rough estimate, there).

Those two statistics are pretty useless for any practical purpose, but you can point to them and say, "Ooh, lookit the big numbers..."

More practically, let's say each 36kWh car must be recharged every other day (a wild-ass-guess). That makes its average power draw 7.5kW, regardless of how much time it takes to charge. Every million electric cars will add a 7.5 GW load to the electrical grid, requiring the addition of nearly FOUR times the capacity of the Hoover Dam.

The only load a internal combustion car puts on the grid is the power required to move the gasoline, power drawn from capacity that already exists. This load, I am guessing, is entirely insignificant compared to 7.5 kW.

The grid is already maxed out. If the magic battery were invented that would allow an average sedan to drive 300 miles on a single charge, there's no way to provide enough electricity to power any significant number of them without extraordinarily aggressive power plant construction.

I am going to be very embarrassed when somebody points out my arithmetic mistakes.


Watch those decimal points.  36 kWh every other day is 18 kWh/day.  18 kilowatt-hours divided by 24 hours is 0.75 kilowatts, or 750 watts.

Consumed in a car which uses 250 Wh/mile, 18 kWh would be good for 72 miles.  That's a lot more driving than most people do; the average daily round-trip commute is 22 miles, according to figures bandied about.  Average power consumption for that would be 230 watts.  Thats a couple of light bulbs or maybe ¾ of a halogen torchiere.

Joseph Willemssen

"That makes its average power draw 7.5kW"

If it took 48 hours to charge (another way of envisioning your scenario), then a 30 kWh battery would have a 625W draw. That's a little over 5 amps at 120 volts - about half of a toaster oven.

So, you would need 1 GW of net generation capacity for 1.6 million cars. Of course. there's no way there's going to be a steady demand curve over a day, a week, or a year, so obviously more capacity would be necessary to meet peak demand.

But sticking with your scenario and assuming a flat demand curve, you'd need 112.5 GW of net generating capacity to power 180 million vehicles (the rough size of the private vehicle fleet of the US).

Now hopefully my numbers aren't wrong. :)

Mikhail Capone

I bet you'd see solar roofs and micro-wind turbines appear all over the neighborhood if people had electric cars.

Joseph Willemssen

Here's another way to look at it.

In 2002, light vehicles (cars, SUV/light trucks, and motorcycles) traveled 2,855,756,000,000 miles.

At the 250 W/mile efficiency level, that would mean it would take 713,939,000,000 kWh to move a fleet over that distance at that efficiency level.

Once again assuming a flat demand curve, that would mean an additional 81 GW of net generating capacity would need to be added to the grid.

Keep in mind, though, that the average light vehicle on the road today consumes energy at a rate of about 2 3/4 times that of the Prius.

Joseph Willemssen

And of course I meant 250 Wh/mile, not 250 W/mile. :)


I think you need to distinguish two cases for recharging. One is local use. Right now we all have to get gas every few days, just to cover shopping, commutes to work, and so on. This type of usage would be eliminated for electric cars. They would be routinely charged when at rest, at home or at work. That's how the EV-1 and other electrical vehicles were designed to work, and it's fine for local driving.

The other case is long trips, where you have to stop every few hours of driving and recharge. This would be the only usage for the equivalent of gas stations, in the EV scenario. You probably want to take a break, go to the bathroom or whatever, so it doesn't need to be a one-minute charge, but it can't be much over ten minutes or so without becoming an inconvenience.

This is the case that seems problematic for electric vehicles. That's an awful lot of power to find a way to safely feed into a car.


That's what the hybrid in "plug-in hybrid" is for; you don't have to worry about fast charging because the energy for long-distance travel comes from fuel.

If you wanted to snag a supplemental charge at the gas pump, it wouldn't be a big deal.  30 miles of range at 250 Wh/mi is 7.5 kWh; transferring 7.5 kWh in 5 minutes takes 90 kW.  The same connection could charge a 60 kWh battery in 40 minutes.


I think in most east coast cities the additional power demand would be easy to accomidate, LA and other places that already have power problems are a different story...

Also I think that in places like NYC, were people park at parking garages/lots, the cars could be recharged while they are parked, so only a little charge at a time, and it would be pretty transparent... this doesn't work very well for rural areas, but most cars are in urban areas anyway :)


Pure electrics just don't get it. Hybrids are the way to go. Grid interactive PHEV with PV and PV on the car too would be the best. Fuel could be bio-diesel or gasoline made from landfill waste and sewage sludge.
Learn more about waste to oil at


In response to Shirley E's comments up at the top, let's play with a few numbers.

Industrial power is normally 480 VAC, 60 Hz (in the US, at least), three phase. Each 1 amp, if you combine all three phases, is approx 1.5 kW (480 V * 1 amp * 3 channels). And yes, we're talking a lot more than two wires for the whole thing. It's a more complex connector, but three separate electrical channels will, after all, supply more power than just one electrical channel. From these three channels, you can easily derive 240 VAC or 120 VAC (single phase) needed for a household, so we're talking about the power going to the transformer, outside of your house. Yes, this class of power is already widely distributed under the existing infrastructure.

I'll keep playing with the 250 Wh/mile mentioned above. That's 4 miles / kWh. We're looking at approx 100 miles worth of driving (124 miles expanded range * 80% charge on the "fast charge" = 99.2 miles). We'll need approx 25 kWh of energy stored. We could feed:

* 17 amps for one hour
* 167 amps for six minutes
* 200 amps for five minutes

Plenty of industrial consumers draw more than 200 amps. Indeed, I believe you mentioned that most houses have a 200 amp service. If we could draw that 200 amps from the distribution lines BEFORE the household transformer, we could get the power needed to fast-charge 25 kWh in five minutes. That is, of course assuming 100% efficiency in the charging. Adjust the amps as needed for less than that.

In short, it would be do-able. Not terribly easy, as you'd be playing with some substantial power levels, but do-able.

Take a look at:

for an example of such a fast-charge service which is ALREADY IN USE. The quick charge is anywhere from 10-30 minutes (depending on battery technologies used). That's not as quick as five minutes to fill your gasoline vehicle, but it's not the "overnight" charge most people associated with electric vehicles, either.

A typical "gas station" type charging station, with multiple chargers, simultaneously charging multiple vehicles, would draw about as power much as a small 30-50 employee company doing heat treating, metal forming, etc. In short, the distribution infrastructure is already there.

You'd probably want to have some flywheels providing "smoothing" in the inbound current for the station; the infrastructure has a difficult time dealing with surges in demand. There are problems with using such things in vehicles, but they are already in use in stationary applications, such as the New York subway (storing regenerated energy from braking trains, and supplying it back when the train leaves the station; the only article I could find on it was on the NY Times, and they want money for past articles).

Paul Smith

How much could range be extended with the addition of nanosolar material on horizontal surfaces charging from solar? The potential is there to get 300W from the new nanosolar materials during daylight hours.


Paul mirrors my thoughts. Pundents have said that the benefits would never recover the costs involved. Hmmmm. How would this work? I know there are flexible solar cells. I know some of the best cells are approaching 22% efficency . Surface area X output = ? watts.

seems like a lot of unknowns. My take on it is this. The addition of solar cells to a vehicle would be at least as benefitial as streamlining. Every little bit helps.


AC Propulsion has tested charging over a 400-amp connection (but only 240 VAC).


Someone already put solar panels on a first gen Prius and actually managed to reduce fuel consumption. Considering it was done in Canada, and on the Prius I where you cannot force it to run on electric motor only, that's a pretty impressive feat. Imagine what could be done with more efficient panels and a charging system that operated when the car is off, on top of a Prius II? I think there's plenty of potential for solar EV systems, especially if the cost can be reduced and the efficiency increased.

See the post about the Solar Prius here

Shirley E

Lots of interesting discussion here.

Flywheel storage, ultracapacitors etc., at specially dedicated recharging stations may be technically possible but I imagine will require a huge investment to implement on a national basis. After all we’re back to installing an essentially new infrastructure if we’re going to offer such quick-charging methods on a widespread scale. There will also be a host of new safety issues and standards, etc., that would be required before local safety officials are going to let the average consumer (think of your grandmother) get anywhere near a several hundred amp current. These numbers still seem incredible to me; only a fraction of an amp, for example, is enough to electrocute someone.

Implementing plug-in hybrids, on the other hand, with slower charging times could be achieved with largely the existing infrastructure, at least relative to changes apparently needed for the competing options we’re currently considering. Cars could be charged up at home with the existing circuitry, and liquid fuels could be used in those limited instances where quick refueling is needed, such as over a long drive.

If we look at what’s practical for widespread use in the near term, say within 5 years, in my opinion plug in hybrids with slow charge are going to be the only option. And when I say “near term” I really mean “near and long term” because of the way we tend to forget about issues as soon as the immediate need is satisfied. Once people have a workable option for the present their attention goes elsewhere (just look at the current mess we've let ourselves get into); for this reason I’m betting that a successful introduction of plug-in hybrids will basically sweep all the other long term options, e.g., hydrogen, aside.

Just my opinion, but I think there's going to be a mad scramble for short term solutions when the next crisis hits, which could be very soon if you believe there's anything to the issues Matt Simmons and others are bringing up. Check out "The Breaking Point" article in today's New York Times, for example.


Gosh - Subaru always seems to behind in developments and prefers to run SportsCar Races.

Again as we can see in the industry - Anything other than the original way of making cars is going thru tought ways to implement solutions.

Until we hit domino effects of draining all our resources and must resort back to Bicycles and Horse Buggies and RikShaws.

We the consumers are going to be the ones that are hit hard while the rich ones just be content on making money selling vapor convience.

Harvey D

I fully agree with Shirly E. that PHEVs, with extended range (60 Km to 100 Km)and long life efficient batteries, are certainly the most practicle solution for the next 20 years. PHEVs can reduce petroleum consumption and pollution by 80% to 85% and that would be a huge improvement over the present situation. With regards to the electric fuel required, lets not overstate the requirements and the effects on the existing electrical infrastructures. To satisfy the average driver (15 000 miles a year or about 41 miles a day) a PHEV on 85% electric mode (based on 250 Wh/mile) could meet those driving requirements with about 8 Kwh per day. Considering that an average house uses about 50 Kwh/day in our province,(Quebec/Canada)another 8 Kwh/day or a 16% increase in electric power consumption would NOT overload the existing infrastructures at all because the PHEVs and EVs would mostly be recharged between 22h and 06h when the consumption is very low. A few thousand additional 4 or 5 mega-watt wind mills could easily supply the extra 16% clean electric energy required. (The wind energy potential is over 100 Kwh/day per household in our part of the country) Lets have a look at the posible positive effects. Some of the major impacts would be: a) Oil Imports would progressively be reduced and drop to zero in the USA. b)85% of the existing refineries and gazoline filling stations will probably have to close. c) air pollution levels will drop by up to 40% after 20 years. d) Sickness and visits to doctors and hospitals would drop by 20% after 20 years. e) Global warming and weather extremes would slow down. f) Cancer cases would decrease and our children would be healthier and live longer (in good health) etc etc.

Kevin Hill

This is a great discussion. The only problem with the electric car concept is when I'm going on a long drive. If my (future) electric vehicle has 300 mile range, and can be fully recharged over night, then I only have a problem if I'm driving over 300 miles. If I want to do, say 700 miles in a very long day, I would expect some inconvenience to recharge on two occasions. I suppose that I might be willing to wait an hour for a full re-charge. If I pull into a freeway specialty "filling" station equipped with a high voltage and high capacity charging system it might look like: Wait up to 40 minutes for an available station and charge for 20 minutes. Perhaps the internal voltage of my battery bank has to be 2000 volts. Perhaps theres a way to switch so that the voltage is 2000 (or more) when charging, but less when using (change the way the multiple cells are connected). Perhaps the speciallized station has a very high voltage feed and charges more for this premium service. The electric vehicle has the advantage of simplicity (read cost and reliability). Perhaps we will be willing to modify our impatient impulses a little to adapt to the realities of limited resources. And mabey we should stop for a meal and a walk a couple of times if we are going to drive 700 miles in a day.

Sanjiv Madane

Hi everyone,

This sure is an interesting discussion.



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