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Hybrids Vs. Hydrogen Dreams
Mild-Hybrid SUVs Now = More GM Profit
4/19/2004
GMinsidenews.com

About half a year or so ago, Toyota called GM's Hybrid plans "Engineering by press release". Link
A constant barrage of PR saying "we will release this," or "we will release that," with the target date always seeming to be about a year away. GM's idea of making mild hybrid tech available on its worst offenders in fuel consumption - instead of dedicated Hybrid vehicles like the Prius - is one I agree with - but Honda and Toyota again are beating GM to the punch there as well with a Hybrid Lexus SUV and Honda's Accord.

Now GM has some "Mild Hybrid" Silverados on sale in Canada (to fleet only?), and "coming soon" to dealers in the US and for the consumer.

But what does GM have ready in its mainstream, large vehicles that saves more than a few drops of gas, right now or in the next couple of months for the average consumer? Nothing.

I applaud GM's efforts to make Hydrogen powered cars a reality, but I'm also very disappointed at the slow, plodding introduction of hybrid gas-electric engines to GM's overall product line. One would think that if the electric assist "mild hybrid" tech is good enough for "Professional Grade" Silverado or Sierra fleet duty, that they will be equally ready for use with the often villified "gas guzzling, evil SUV" - the Chevy Suburban or even the V8 powered Trailblazer family. Perhaps they could fit under the recently elongated hoods of the redesigned Express vans as well. The slow roll out might be "prudent", but it seems to imply that GM is not confident with the reliability of its own engineering, while the Japanese make redesign after redesign and keep introducing new hybrid models and implementations.

GM's snail-like progress on the hybrid front is the kind of thing one would expect from a small-time automaker, not the biggest automaker in the world with all of its engineering resources - nor from the automaker that brought us the EV1. That, or perhaps the bean counters and lawyers force GM to work with one hand tied behind its back, ever conservative and careful about new technology, recalling the days of Cadillac's failed displacement on demand experiment in the 1980's or the EV1's recent death due to lack of interest.

GM has impressive, working concepts like the Hy-Wire, and a hydrogen powered S-10 (of all the vehicles...). These are noble efforts, and impressive, but GM alone cannot hope to deal with the single biggest problem -- the one that killed its equally forward-looking EV1 Electric Car - REFUELING. Would you want to make a car trip to Las Vegas in a hydrogen-powered vehicle without the hydrogen infrastructure having spread to every small gas station along the way? I wouldn't. It's a dream, and every bit as impractical right now as plugging in your car all night at home. GM's Hydrogen Dream is destined to flop like the EV1, unless serious changes are made to the fueling infrastructure in the U.S.

GM would also have us believe that it is focusing on Hydrogen and that it will be the only one ready when the technology becomes feasible. Who here actually thinks that Honda and Toyota again won't be on top of that game when that time actually comes around? Last I checked, Honda was also developing its own Hydrogen-based technology. Yet somehow they manage to keep one foot firmly placed in the reality of the present and offer Hybrids as well.

Then there is DOD, "Displacement on Demand". Shutting down some cylinders to save gas. This is hardly new technology in concept, but if executed well seems to make a lot of sense. But GM has promised a mere 10% or so in improved gas mileage from this technology. 10% for shutting down half of the cylinders? That's what - 1 maybe 2 miles per gallon in one of GM's gas guzzlers. Hardly 40mpg.

I'm not asking for or expecting a full-hybrid for every division in 2 years, but I think GM needs to seriously consider speeding up implementation of at least the electric assist technology it is putting in "fleet only" Silverados - and spread that technology to all vehicles that share a similar powertrain, including the icon of fuel inefficiency, the HUMMER H2. Why the delays? Where did all of the engineering effort put into the EV1 go? Is it all irrelevant now?

If GM wants to prove how serious it is - forego the years long testing on Silverado fleet-only vehicles, and Silverado-only (and Sierra) implementation, and put the Silverado's hybrid assist in all GM 2005 big trucks as an option. The PR such a move would generate would be incredible, and might even serve to fight back against the constrant stream of negative press GM is getting, while Toyota, Honda, and even Ford bask in more and more glowing praise.

Hollywood stars at the Oscars drove to the event in Toyota Prius', eagerly giving away free endorsements to the Japanese brand and promoting its product. Jack Black called those who didn't drive in Prius' "Jerks". So does that mean that all GM customers are..."Jerks" as well, because there is no hybrid product in the GM lineup for them to buy? No, but they are denied the option, and the blame can be put on GM for that.

Despite all of my moaning about GM's lack of Hybrid vehicles, I have a positive argument that even hybrid-phobic GM exectutives might pay heed to. Hybrid tech, even mild-assist technology without DOD, will bring in more money.

That's right - I think I just saw a few ears perk up - Hybrids could actually make GM green in more ways than one.

With $2.00 a gallon gasoline, some of my friends are reconsidering SUVs.

For years, out of a lack of choice, many "frugal" or "environmentally conscious" consumers who could afford larger vehicles like SUVs have opted to go with smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles, even within GM's own product lineup. Smaller often means cheaper - and that means less of a profit margin. But DOD, eventually combined with a mild hybrid assist across all GM product lines is the kind of thing that could put GM on top of the technology race in the minds of consumers again, and give them the option they've been denied - Big, attractively equipped SUVs with good fuel economy. That means more profit. Even the bean counters at GM should recognize and appreciate that.


Silverado Hybrid Fuel Economy: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/noframes/19956.shtml
Silverado (non-hybrid) Fuel Economy: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/noframes/19957.shtml


 

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Ming,

Didn't GM cancel the Hybrid Vue & Malibu to concentrate on hybrids for trucks?


One thing that would have kept hybrids on track for GM would have been
Tax breaks for consumers. In the now dead Congressional energy bill from last fall included (@ least that is what I read somewhere) tax breaks for consumers on Hybrid Vehicles. It may have been sheer coincidence, But it seemed that when the bill died, GM changed their focus on Hybrids. Maybe I'm dreaming this......

NAIAS 2003 had the Vue (Heavy duty, not Mild) Hybrid powerplant on display. 40 MPG. WOW.

It's time to talk to our Senators & Representatives to get Federal tax breaks for Hybrid vehicles. I would take it a step further. Make it graduated. Less for Mild Hybrids, More for Real Hybrids........

Ken
 

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While a full-hybrid large pickup or SUV sounds tempting, since that's obviously where the most gains could be made, it's probably not practical cost-wise for a number of reasons:

The battery nessicary to power such a vehicle would be incredibly expensive and very bulky and heavy itself. IIRC the batteries for the Prius and Escape clock in somewhere in the neighbourhood of 3k US.

There's also the issue of gasoline engines. The Prius and Escape gain a lot of their milage by running on a super-thrifty atkinson cycle. They're both using their newest, highest spec' DOHC vvt engines, and while GM could likely match them with its Ecotec 4-cyl they don't have the DOHC VVT v6s it would take to power a larger vehicle (as we'll soon see from Toyota with the 3.0L v6 hybrid Lexus Rx and I would guess the next-gen Aviator from Lincoln). 2-valve-per-cyl pushrods won't cut it, and the Northstar would be far too expensive. :blink:

Finally Toyota and Ford are both using very advanced electronically-controlled CVTs to gain even more mileage, and while GM could probably do something similar with a smaller car I don't think any CVT in current use can hendel full-size pickup/SUV power/torque levels. The biggest CVTs I can think of, in fact, are from Nissan (Murano) and Ford (Freestyle). Again GM is out in the cold.

On the upside a hybrid pickup/SUV could provide for a portable power source, which could be very useful to power tools or a cooler or whatever. The Escape has an optional power outlet; not sure about the Prius...

Really, I don't see any reason Ford and Toyota couldn't translate their real-world smaller-car hybrid experience into a pickup much faster than GM could starting from scratch, especially Toyota since 1. it's redesigning the Tundra soon and 2. their normally underpowered but very advanced DOHC vvt large v6 or small v8 would be a great starting point.
 

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Originally posted by stewacide@Apr 19 2004, 05:00 PM
The battery nessicary to power such a vehicle would be incredibly expensive and very bulky and heavy itself. IIRC the batteries for the Prius and Escape clock in somewhere in the neighbourhood of 3k US.

There's also the issue of gasoline engines. The Prius and Escape gain a lot of their milage by running on a super-thrifty atkinson cycle. They're both using their newest, highest spec' DOHC vvt engines, and while GM could likely match them with its Ecotec 4-cyl they don't have the DOHC VVT v6s it would take to power a larger vehicle (as we'll soon see from Toyota with the 3.0L v6 hybrid Lexus Rx and I would guess the next-gen Aviator from Lincoln). 2-valve-per-cyl pushrods won't cut it, and the Northstar would be far too expensive. :blink:

Finally Toyota and Ford are both using very advanced electronically-controlled CVTs to gain even more mileage, and while GM could probably do something similar with a smaller car I don't think any CVT in current use can hendel full-size pickup/SUV power/torque levels. The biggest CVTs I can think of, in fact, are from Nissan (Murano) and Ford (Freestyle). Again GM is out in the cold.

The battery replacement issue is still a big question mark to a lot of people now. Sure, we've got early adopters buying hybrids now, but when they get 80K miles on them and find the resale is in the basement because noone wants to buy a car knowing that they'll be spending $3000 to replace batteries soon, we'll see if they buy a second one. I'm not saying they won't, but it's a big issue that very few have had to face. Did they save $3000 worth of gas in that many miles compared to an equally small, low-powered, skinny-tired conventional car? I would seriously wonder.

Batteries were the issue that killed electric cars, and while it's less of a serious issue with hybrids, they are still a negative that isn't going to be suddenly whisked away.

Perhaps you haven't heard of the High-Feature line of V6's that GM is producing, starting with the 3.6 V6 with the Holy Grail DOHC/VVT. There are other displacements of these engines coming out soon too. Although if the Malibu's pushrod 3.5 V6 can better the 3.0 DOHC VVT Camry V6 in mileage (and it definitely does, with better performance), I don't see why GM would even have to go with the High-Feature V6's to get the performance/mileage they need.

As for CVT's I don't get your statement about GM being out in the cold, when no manufacturer has CVT's in vehicles as big as full-size pickups. Audi and Nissan have them with V6's, but that's about it, right? It's hardly an indictment of GM that they don't.
 

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I don't think any hybrids in the US at current gas prices will ever pay for the difference over a regular model, let alone pay for a second battery. This might not be the case is if all you did was stop-and-go city driving however.

But the people buying hybrids now are doing it because they want to be earth-friendly and push a new technology, not because it'll save them money. If they were really cheap they'd just get a 4-cyl manual. Even if it doesn't save money it's still releaseing less Co2 and other polutants, which is enough for some people.

Anyways Ford at least offers a pretty extensive warrenty:

"Unique Hybrid components such as the High Voltage Battery, Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission, and DC/DC converter will have an additional warranty coverage of 8 years/ 100,000 miles (10 years, 150,000 miles in PZEV states were required by law). This is in addition to the standard Ford Warranty coverages like the Bumper-to-Bumper 3 year/36,000 mile warranty, Roadside Assistance, Tires, Corrosion Protection, Safety Restraints and Emissions."

...I'd guess Toyota offers something similar. Also that battery will probably be a lot less than 3k in 10 years.

However if gas prices shoot up int he next couple years, as some economists are prediction, it's anyone's bet whether hybrids could start to sell themselves...
 

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Originally posted by Ming@Apr 19 2004, 07:52 PM
Check the air pollution score of the Silverado hybrid as compared to the regular Silverado.

http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/bymodel/200...Silverado.shtml

I'm guessing this has something to do with the way the electic motor takes over when the vehicle is idling, because otherwise the emissions seem very similar.
I'm pretty sure it just has a big starter that allows the engine to shut down at stoplights and start up again quickly.
 

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Originally posted by Ming@Apr 19 2004, 07:52 PM
Check the air pollution score of the Silverado hybrid as compared to the regular Silverado.

http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/bymodel/200...Silverado.shtml


I'm guessing this has something to do with the way the electic motor takes over when the vehicle is idling, because otherwise the emissions seem very similar.
Actually, it's kind of confusing, since it gets better mileage, but it's 7 score is the same as for the standard 5.3 Silverado.
 

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The only reason for a manufacturer to adopt hybrids right now is good PR. For the most part, they don't save people any real money in the long run.

Hydrogen engines are definately the future at this point (unless someone develops a superior technology in the next few years). The only real question is whether it will be electric motors or internal combustion engines using hydrogen. I think most traditionalists prefer an ICE for the fact that you still get the nice exhaust rumble and feel of a gas motor, but with zero harmful emissions and good fuel economy.

GM would do better to release a hybrid small car or SUV than a full-size truck, because the people buying hybrids are mostly going to want small vehicles, and I think most truck buyers are still a bit uncertain about hybrids. Technology like DoD is a help for bigger engines, but the gains are minimal, as was pointed out. Better gearing does more for fuel economy than displacement on demand.
 

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Hydrogen us much less energy effecient than burning fuel directly, which means it has o chance untill we have an essentially free, carbon-less energy source. In others words about never...
 

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I read something awhile ago about having a diesel engine run in an SUV and that would do something with hydraulics that would propel the car. I believe that it was done in an Expedition and it got around high 20s or low 30s MPG. I'll try to find it and post the link when I do.

Edit : Here's the link
 

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Originally posted by stewacide@Apr 19 2004, 06:18 PM
Hydrogen us much less energy effecient than burning fuel directly, which means it has o chance untill we have an essentially free, carbon-less energy source. In others words about never...
Well it better be sooner than that, because oil supplies aren't going to last forever...
 

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Originally posted by SchmSte8@Apr 19 2004, 11:39 PM
I read something awhile ago about having a diesel engine run in an SUV and that would do something with hydraulics that would propel the car. I believe that it was done in an Expedition and it got around high 20s or low 30s MPG. I'll try to find it and post the link when I do.

Edit : Here's the link
That's neat. For some reason it reminds me of those toy water bottle rockets you would pump up and shoot off.
 

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Originally posted by GeMiNi THRaSHeR+Apr 20 2004, 04:45 AM--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (GeMiNi THRaSHeR @ Apr 20 2004, 04:45 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> <!--QuoteBegin-stewacide@Apr 19 2004, 06:18 PM
Hydrogen us much less energy effecient than burning fuel directly, which means it has o chance untill we have an essentially free, carbon-less energy source. In others words about never...
Well it better be sooner than that, because oil supplies aren't going to last forever... [/b][/quote]
Well the problem is where would you get the electricity from to make the hydrogen? Well burning oil of course! That's why the "hydrogen economy" only makes sense once we start produceing most of our electricity with nuclear or fusion or solar or wind or whatever clean, renewable sources.

Hydrogen isn't an energy source in itself, but just a "battery" that happens to be mor environmentally friendly than the current chemical batteries in use.

The problem with switching to hydrogen prematurely is that it isn't any or much more effecient than just buring oil in a car, as all the conversion stages involved eat up a huge amount of effeciency:

Modern petrol engines average ~30% effeciency - or a 70% loss. Note that that can be improved considerably with technology that's here now (direct injection, cylinder deactivation, hybrid electric systems, the miller effect, etc.)

A modern gas fired power plant is ~50% (50% loss). Transmission lines are ~90% effecient (10% loss). Battery effeciecy is ~75% (25% loss). And finally drive effeciency (the one people overly focus on) is a very good ~90% (10% loss).

...if you do the math the hydrogen car is also about 30% effecient as well, but you had to go to a lot of trouble to get there

Interestingly not only are the newest hybrid cars (Prius, Escape) cleaner than pure electric cars in many states/provinces that get their electricity from oil/coal, but so are some non-hybrid cars like the super low emission Focus's you can buy as of this year for the price of a normal Focus (...of course it won't be as fast as a Prius or Escape).
 

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Even with all of the available (and predicted) technologies, the internal combustion engine is VERY inefficient. Bringing the efficiency of the ICE much beyond 30% is a dream that's not going to come true. Even diesel engines (far more efficient than gasoline) will never be "efficient" because of its design. When you're placing a downward force (on the piston) to get a sideways movement (turning a crank), you're already working against the laws of physics.
 

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Hydrogen is not made by normal burning of oil. The oil -->hydrogen--> energy method, believe it or not, pollutes far less. That's why companies such as FullCell Energy produce "direct" fuel cells, where hydrogen is not required to be refined before use. Whether it is competitive today is another issue. Where FullCell Energy makes fuel cells that are competitive per kWh, once the initial investment and system maintanence are included, that's where costs go up dramatically.

Stew, I feel that you may have oversimplified hydrogen power if only just a little bit. However, I will concede to hydrogen as a battery-like power. The difference is that there are multiple sources to produce hydrogen, NOT only oil. If in the future hydrogen fuel can be made in an economic manner in large quantities, it will be more versatileto where the source can come from. Also, internal combustion engines have 100 years of refinement, making it a challenge for upstart fuel sources to be practical today.

Also, there is no guarantee that it will end up as a main power source. I too am skeptical until we see results. Many other promised power sources have proved not effective. So Stew, you are absolutely right to be reluctant to give it a passing grade. We'll see in 5-10 years whether this method is going to work.

People laughed about landing on the moon, but we did. People predicted that by this century we'd all have flying cars, but we do not. Some ideas work despite seeming farfetched, and others fail miserable. I've enjoyed having this discussion. :)
 

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I agree hydrogen will make sense in the future, in fact it already makes sense (mathmatically, if not economically) in areas with cheap, renewable energy (e.g. where hydro or nuclear predominate). But that isn't going to change in 5-10 years - lets try +50 for a signifigant move away from oil as the dominate power source.

And BTW th best ICEs get ~50% effeciency (I'm talking big generators on ships and stuff). Using all the known technology on car engines you can do quite a bit better than we're doing today at least...
 

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Does anyone think that GM would distribute Hydrogen through its dealerships? It will be a longg time before they are as plentiful as gas stations, this would probably logical, rite?
 
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