Dave Hurst over at Pike Research has put out his projections for the medium and heavy duty hybrid truck market. Hurst expects hybrid electric trucks to crack 10,000 units this year and for plug-in hybrids to surpass about 5,000 units. These are truly tiny numbers but the one bright spot appears to be in Europe, the U.K. and France in particular, where demand for plug-in trucks is being encouraged by support from Daimler and Mitsubishi. In the consumer category, full sized trucks and SUV sector, we are seeing some embracing of EV technology with Via Motors’ recent deal with A123 Systems, to use A123’s batteries for its light trucks, and the news that Tesla will unveil an SUV in February. It’s been difficult to move EV technology up the chain towards larger and larger vehicles, but we are seeing some companies try.
With sales figures for EVs set to be very small this year (under 20,000 cars), Martin LaMonica over at Cnet muses on the difficulty of forecasting EV sales. LaMonica suggests that plug-in electric hybrids (PHEVs) could be the winners since their costs are lower, which results from smaller battery packs. As my weekly update points out, initial cost is the biggest barrier right now to EV adoption, more than any of the consumer behavior concerns like range anxiety. So LaMonica’s point about greater viability of PHEVs makes a lot of sense. I depart with LaMonica on one issue, though. I believe that we can reasonably say that while the price of oil will fluctuate, over a longer time frame, it’s definitely going to get more expensive. Which will make any car that is battery powered more attractive.
It was a tough week for electric cars, with Chevy Volt’s sales falling short and Aptera’s filing for bankruptcy. The barriers to EV adoption are widely known but center around a few major issues, including range anxiety, charging time and initial cost. Range anxiety and unease about charging time will decline as consumers get more comfortable with the product. That leaves the real long-term issue: initial cost.
With my daily commute, Nissan’s all-electric LEAF car isn’t a good fit for me, but GM’s extended range electric car the Volt isn’t exactly an inexpensive car. Here’s how the economics work out and why a plug-in hybrid car could be a real game changer.
The EPA has issued its sticker for the Nissan LEAF all-electric sedan — let’s break down the numbers. First, the LEAF scored big with its 99 miles per gallon “equivalent,” or MPGe, based on the assumption that 33.7 kilowatt hours of electricity equals one gallon of gasoline. The EPA hasn’t issued its sticker for the LEAF’s big rival, the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt — but GM has said that the Volt gets about 100 MPGe when it’s in all-electric mode, but about 30MPG when the battery-charging motor kicks in. What about the cost of fuel? EPA pegs the LEAF’s annual electricity cost at $561, though that number will vary depending on regional power pricing differences — but it’s still better than EPA’s annual fuel cost of $867 for the Toyota Prius hybrid. The LEAF’s $561-per-year power cost also brings up useful figures to measure against NRG Energy’s new car charging business in Houston. While it has more expensive public charging options, NRG’s program at the low end promises to install Level 2 car chargers at the homes of new LEAF buyers, and provide all the power they need for three years, at a fixed rate of $49 per month — or $588 per year.
Hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of Ford’s C-MAX will start rolling off production lines at a Valencia, Spain plant for the European market in 2013, the automaker announced Monday. Ford expects to invest up to $36 million in the effort.
Fisker, just days after closing on nearly $529 million in loans from the feds, has won approval from Delaware officials to receive a $21.5 million loan from the state. If the startup meets certain requirements the loan could convert to a grant.
During the next few years, EV and plug-in choices will multiply and the newness of being propelled by an electric motor will wear off. When that time comes, you can expect potential buyers to start paying closer attention to the technology packages and convenience features they want (and the automakers that offer them). The most exciting part of the Car 2.0 revolution is that if both automakers and software developers play their cards right, a car buyer’s dream car could be just an app download away.
TiVo (s TIVO) won a court order today that could cost Dish (s DISH) and Echostar (s STATS) $200 million in damages. From The Wall Street Journal:
Judge David Folsom, presiding in federal court in Texas, awarded TiVo $2.25 per DVR subscriber per month from April 18, 2008, through July 1, 2009, when the court most recently stayed the order holding EchoStar in contempt. The award will include $110 million in compensation based on the jury’s award and about $90 million in sanctions, as well as reimbursement of court costs.
TiVo had been asking for $1 billion in damages, a figure the judge said was unreasonable.
TiVo released the following statement:
We are pleased by the Court’s ruling to impose contempt sanctions of approximately $200 million against EchoStar for its continued violation of a Court-ordered permanent injunction, and to award TiVo its attorney fees and costs incurred during the contempt proceedings. This brings total damages and sanctions in this case to approximately $400 million through July 1, 2009, plus attorney fees, and is exclusive of potential further damages and sanctions.
Dish and Echostar released their own statement:
We are pleased that the district court rejected Tivo’s request to award a billion dollars in sanctions and that it found that any violation of the injunction was not willful. While we disagree that any amount of sanctions was warranted, the decision confirms our belief that we designed around Tivo’s patent in good faith. We believe that we ultimately will prevail on appeal.
This is far from the last time we’ll be writing about TiVo’s legal issues. In addition to this ongoing case, last month TiVo sued AT&T (s T) and Verizon (s VZ) for patent infringement as well.
Updated with comments from Fisker Automotive: Rumors circulated for months last year that plug-in hybrid car startup Fisker Automotive would tap Advanced Lithium Power to make the batteries for its first vehicle, the $87,900 Fisker Karma. The relationship proved even tighter than expected in March when Fisker not only picked ALP to supply its batteries, but also took a partial stake in the Canadian company “in order to secure an exclusive supply of battery technology,” Fisker spokesperson Russell Datz told us earlier this year, when Fisker raised money for the investment. But this morning Ener1 (s HEV) subsidiary EnerDel says it has signed a letter of intent with the automaker “for a potential long-term battery supply agreement” for the Karma (it has to hit certain performance benchmarks for the deal to be finalized). What gives?
According to EnerDel spokesperson Gordie Hanrahan, “Both Fisker and EnerDel remain open to working with other companies,” so EnerDel didn’t necessarily steal the deal away from ALP. At this point EnerDel is gearing up for in-vehicle testing. “The performance benchmarks we’re looking at are all pretty standard automotive safety and performance testing marks,” Hanrahan said. “They need to put EnerDel’s batteries in the cars and run some final in-vehicle tests to make sure everything checks out.” Today’s deal comes as the result of several months of discussion, Hanrahan tells us, and “the in-vehicle testing phase is just another step to getting electric vehicles on the road powered by EnerDel batteries.”
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