Today in Green IT: Waiting for the electric car market

Despite the exuberant expectations for the adoption of electric cars, forecasts have been conservative, with global annual sales expected to be around a million in 2015, compared to the global auto market of around 70 million vehicles today, writes Adam Lesser, GigaOM Pro’s Green IT analyst.

Cars to surpass laptops as largest li-ion battery market

Will electric vehicles provide a big market for lithium-ion batteries? A report by IHS on Monday says yes and predicts that carmakers will take over laptop manufacturers as the biggest customers of lithium-ion batteries by 2015.

Detroit Auto Show: 7 Green Moves to Watch

It’s that time again, when automakers haul their wares out to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show. The event, which kicks off on Monday, will include an array of concepts for more efficient and less polluting cars, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles.

Toyota Troubles: Lessons in How (Not) to Handle a Green Halo

Toyota’s ongoing recall and the safety concerns embroiling an automaker that climbed to the top of the global car market through a reputation for reliability, may offer an opportunity for competitors to seize market share, at least in the near term. But Toyota’s troubles, which most recently have spread to the automaker’s 2010 Prius hybrid model, could also offer something more lasting to companies ranging from General Motors (s GM) to startups Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors as they race to crank out plug-in vehicles: lessons in what works — and what doesn’t — when it comes to cultivation of rapid growth and a green halo.

In an automaker’s lineup, a “halo” car  is meant to cast a positive glow over a company or brand — showcasing technology, styling and smarts while also helping to define what the brand stands for and luring customers into showrooms to buy other models. The Prius did this to such remarkable effect for Toyota that the industry took notice. As GM-Volt tells it, the status Toyota acquired as “a media and environmental sweetheart” through the halo effect of the Prius helped inspire GM’s push for the plug-in Volt. But hanging so much of your reputation on one model also carries risk — and that can get lost in the green glow.
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Feds Award $187M for Fuel-Sipping Cars & Trucks

Eight auto and car parts makers will get more than $187 million in federal funds to help them improve the fuel efficiency of heavy-duty trucks and passenger vehicles, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced today. The awards, funded largely through the Recovery Act, come as the auto industry is striving to put its greenest foot forward at the North American International Auto Show, which kicked off this morning in Detroit.

Fuel efficiency represents a key selling point for many of the vehicles at this year’s auto show — Toyota is boasting that its new FT-CH hybrid concept would beat even the popular Prius on fuel efficiency, and Ford CEO Alan Mulally spoke this morning at the event about “one percenters,” or small design tweaks that add up to significant fuel-efficiency gains. The Department of Energy hopes today’s funding awards will help make fuel-saving technologies more of a given in car and truck designs, rather than a bonus.
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Milestone: Toyota to Launch “Affordable” Plug-in Prius in 2011

When Toyota (s TM) detailed plans this summer to lease hundreds of plug-in hybrids based on its popular Prius model by year’s end, the automaker called the program “a key first step in confirming how and when we might bring large numbers of plug-in hybrids to global markets.” Today Toyota both nailed down a time frame and hinted at a price for the next step: launching the plug-in hybrid versions of the Prius in 2011, initially at a scale of several tens of thousands of vehicles per year. Toyota Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada also reiterated to Bloomberg reporters in Tokyo on Monday that the automaker plans to start selling an all-electric vehicle designed for short distances by 2012 — the year Toyota has previously said it plans to roll out an electric model based on the FT-EV for short urban commutes.

The hybrid leader’s plans to go ahead with the plug-in Prius in 2011 with a price tag that Uchiyamada suggested today could be as low as $35,000 marks a milestone for lithium-ion battery technology. Earlier this year, Toyota commented that the benefits of lithium batteries — small fuel economy gains in hybrids over nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries due to lighter weight — did not justify the higher cost. But for the upcoming plug-in hybrid model, Uchiyamada said today the pricing will be “affordable,” at less than $10,000 above the cost of the regular Prius in order to make the model cheaper than after-market conversion kits. Read More about Milestone: Toyota to Launch “Affordable” Plug-in Prius in 2011