If I were to guess where we'll be in 10 years, I'd say hybrids and plug-in hybrids will have grown considerably. I think pure electrics will still struggle. It's intersting to note that in a forward-looking 1996 story for Design News' 50th anniversary, I wrote an article predicting the future of automobiles, called "Hybrids Grab the Wheel." Hybrids looked like the future back then, and it hasn't changed much since.
As you've written, Chuck, alternative-energy vehicle sales haven't reached manufacturers' publicly expressed estimates, nor will they be bought in large quantities simply because California wants to mandate purchase of electrics. Charing infrastructure development remains a chicken-and-egg issue as far as goosing the market. (Actually, I'm wrong. It's not chicken and egg. It's the major impediment.) Plus, we are still in the early generations of alt-energy vehicle technology. Let's see where we are in 10 years.
I agree, Alex. The publicity accorded the Volt has given the whole industry a bump in the area of electric cars. The downside of the publicity, however, can be seen in a story today, in which General Motors blames negative publicity about the Volt's car fires for poor sales late in 2011.
It is fatuous to think that the average consumer wants to pay for a research product. If the government wants to pay for research (Hi, I'm from the governemnt and I'm here to help you.) it should pay for research, but don't subsidize a chosen market and reasearch experiment by "putting Gobernment money on the hood" of everything you ship. That's crony capitalism pure and simple.
If you were a loudspeaker company like Fender or Marshall and you thought you'd found a class D amplifier that saved energy and worked on green twigs, but you knew nobody would pay for it because of it's price and relative performance, but you found out you could have it government subsidized to the tune of 10 times the cost of a regular Fender/Marshal Stack, would that be wise?
- What happens when the unwanted subsidized product is no longer subsidized?
- If the unsubsidized product shows no popularity and therefore no sales after subsidization, isn't the initial subsidization like creating a bubble?
- Is coercing the taxpayers money out of the government and into your unpopular product even moral?
Architect, I concur completely. At least the Volt is the closest thing out to a totally serial hybrid (ICE used only to create electricity, not directly mechanically connected to the drivetrain). All locomotives currently use this approach. The auto industy has been stuck in the "electric motot as assist" mode until the Volt. I see design articles still about beefed up alternators and starters coming onto the market, able to actually act as electric assist devices in accelerating and restarting....shortsighted!
As engineers, we all know that as a propulsive means in autos the electric motor is absolutely the best answer, the only remaining variables should be: where is the electricity coming from....
1. the grid to batteries only.
2. from serial ICE's or turbines (alternative fuels still apply here)
I think the Volt clearly was a worthwhile effort for GM, even if it gives way to a Gen2 product or goes away entirely. I.e., it was a pathsetter and gave some ummph to the idea that "GM is back." So the fact that its purchase is subsidized by tax credits, and/or it might not be profitable, or GM might not be selling as many as it would like us to think, is irrelevant. It's a technological milestone which has created something of an inflection point in the alternative vehicle space. As is, before the Volt, some activity in alternative-energy vehicles (hybrids, plug-ins, unique combos; the Volt is actually the latter). After the Volt, a torrent of activity. Maybe it's more that there's coverage of the activity that was already there, but we're certainly in the midst of the alternative-energy vehicle now.
You sound like someone who uses his brain and not his heart, but there are a few issues with your post:
1) The price is not really $250,000 because GM is going to pay some of that Gov't handout back (wink-wink)
2) You appear to have the Volt confused with an electric vehicle.It is actually a plug-in hybrid.GM has done what they are most known for; throw money into marketing instead of good engineering. But don't tell anyone that it is a plug in hybrid.Just unplug that thinking cap and accept what you are told, citizen. I have seen some people have a visceral reaction and start creating the most convoluted definitions for "hybrid" that you can imagine. Note all of the air time the Volt gets on these sites instead of the plug-in Prius.
If you just 'felt' more, you would go out a find a renewable energy company and pay a premium for the same electrons I am getting cheaper.You may want to think that you are supporting the expansion of energy from wind, solar, etc... But the truth is that government set-asides and subsidies pay the lion share for construction of these green curiosities.Your extra money goes to their maintenance. If they were actually feasible (i.e. competitive with other technologies) the utility companies would have constructed them a long time ago.
I find it funny how many "engineers" buy into the whole green thing.You would think that as a group, engineers would be more critical thinkers.We have the technology in energy sources and vehicles we have today because they are the best solutions to the needs in terms of efficiency, producability, and feasibility.R&D has always been working the basics trying to come up with better, but nothing yet has proven to be a better solution.Today we are entering a time when the government and others are trying to skew the feasibility portion of the equation through regulation and taxation, but unfortunately the alternatives just doesn't make in their current state of the art.Some are close, but this isn't horseshoes.Without the market interference, green does not work today.
A slew of announcements about new materials and design concepts for transportation have come out of several trade shows focusing on plastics, aircraft interiors, heavy trucks, and automotive engineering. A few more announcements have come independent of any trade shows, maybe just because it's spring.
Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones used to fare quite well in the repairability department, but last year's flagship S5 model took a tumble, scoring a meh-inducing 5/10. Will the newly redesigned S6 lead us back into star-studded territory, or will we sink further into the depths of a repairability black hole?
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