APS Report Short-changes Plug-in Hybrid Technology
My letter-to-the editor, “Plug-ins are a Panacea”
, August-September 2008), pointed out that despite extensive propaganda to the contrary, batteries were not an obstacle to plug-in hybrid cars. Now, having read the APS Report, Energy Future: Think Efficiency
, I have come to the disturbing conclusion that the Report itself constitutes part of the propaganda campaign against the plug-in hybrid: “Given the technical difficulties, plug-in hybrids will not replace the standard American family car in the near term.”
The referenced technical difficulties relate to the battery, which the Report says is not ready for prime time, based primarily on a private communication that the battery would add nearly $20,000 to the price of the vehicle from the expected cost of a new lithium ion battery going into the Chevy Volt by General Motors (GM), plus a projected five-to-ten-year learning curve to work out the glitches.
This despite the fact that both GM, with its EV-1, and Toyota, with its RAV4-EV, produced all-electric vehicles, whose nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries could power them for 120 miles on a single charge. The GM EV-1's were later all shredded, but many of the Toyota EV’s are still on the road with their original batteries. Nothing in the Report indicates any reason why a battery suitable for an all-electric vehicle would not work in a plug-in hybrid, which only requires a 40-mile trip on a charge.
However, the NiMH batteries used in these vehicles, the Panasonic EV-95, are no longer in production. GM bought the patents for them in 1994, sued Panasonic, and recovered $30 million, after which the line of EV-95 batteries was shut down. In 2000, GM sold their control of EV batteries to Texaco, which became part of Chevron, and that’s where it stands now.
Thus it appears that the problem with batteries is legal and political, not technical.
The panel which prepared the Report knew or should have known about these matters and addressed them. Had they done so, they would have been compelled to arrive at substantially different conclusions and recommendations regarding plug-in hybrids, which are indeed a panacea, as the Report implicitly acknowledges.
These are serious issues. The Big Three automakers are seeking large amounts of money from the government. When they sit down with President-elect Obama, they will be armed with the Report, with the imprimatur of the American Physical Society, to show that plug-in hybrids are not ready for the market. Thus the APS will have been used by the Big Three and Big Oil to assist in another giant ripoff of the taxpayer, the consumer, the planet, and yes, national security. Robert Levy El Paso, TX