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General Motors Tries for a Halo With Hybrid Bus: Doron Levin
June 3 (Bloomberg) -- Size gets attention. Just ask General Motors Corp.

For a few years, the No. 1 automaker worldwide has been a target of environmentalists, who are pushing the auto industry to introduce fuel-saving hybrid technology.

GM still hasn't built or sold any fuel-saving gas-electric hybrid passenger vehicles, prompting the accusation that it's slow to match Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., which together sell thousands each month. GM says it isn't slow, it's deliberate.

Ford Motor Co., the No. 2 producer worldwide in terms of sales, will begin building its first hybrid vehicle, the Escape sport-utility vehicle, in July.

Last week General Motors delivered the first of 235 diesel- electric hybrid transit buses for the Seattle area. A Canadian company, New Flyer, built the buses. Caterpillar Inc. made the diesel. GM integrated the software and controls in the system, so the automaker got most of the spotlight at a ceremony in Seattle.

The experience and knowledge that GM gains with its bus diesel hybrid systems will help, it says, in pursuit of its overall fuel conservation strategy. GM will offer a ``mild'' hybrid system for a small number of its pickup trucks this summer. A mild hybrid will come in the Saturn Vue in 2006 and Chevrolet Malibu in 2007.

Wearing the Halo

General Motors then will offer its first full-fledged gas- electric hybrid system to consumers in its Tahoe and Yukon sport- utility vehicles in 2007, which will improve fuel efficiency by 30 percent. Again, the number of vehicles will be small.

In a mild hybrid, an electric motor and large battery assist the engine, which still provides most of the power. Energy from braking is used to recharge the battery. In a full hybrid, the engine or motor, or the two together, run the vehicle. The engine and the brakes recharge the battery.

Chris Preuss, a GM spokesman, explained that environmental advocacy groups have been punishing GM since it abandoned its EV1, a battery-powered, zero-emission electric car, in 2001. The EV1's performance proved to be marginal due to battery limitations; not more than a few thousand customers were interested enough to lease it.

``The same environmentalists that criticize us for the fuel efficiency and emissions of our pickup trucks are less critical of Toyota -- even though Toyota is getting into pickups,'' Preuss said.

General Motors was able to wear the halo of environmental virtue with EV1; Toyota and Honda now wear it with their hybrids.

The Economics

The advantage for individual automakers could be critical when lawmakers consider -- which they do routinely -- whether to respond to environmental pressure and tighten federal fuel efficiency and air-quality standards. Depending on how standards are changed, the government may penalize some automakers more than others.

For the time being gas-electric hybrids -- or even diesel- electric hybrids -- don't make a lot of economic sense, in GM's view. The system's additional cost means that the automakers must subsidize sales of passenger vehicles to motivate enough customers to buy them.

Toyota claims it can make money with hybrids. The Japanese automaker underscored the point this week by raising monthly production of its Prius hybrid to 10,000 from 7,500 in the wake of higher gasoline prices.

In the case of taxpayer-supported transit buses, General Motors said that Seattle is paying about $645,000 per hybrid bus, compared with $445,000 for a conventional diesel bus. The improvement in fuel economy will be about 60 percent. Some emissions will be reduced by 90 percent.

The premium price for a hybrid bus, with an average life span of about 12 years, will be repaid only after seven years of savings on fuel purchases, GM said. All of which assumes that diesel fuel prices remain stable, a shaky assumption at best, given the volatility of the Middle East.

Reading the Public Mind

For most environmentalists, hybrid technology isn't about saving money, it's about saving the planet. Seattle, a hotbed of such thinking, is an ideal location for a taxpayer-subsidized project to demonstrate the virtues of hybrid technology.

Automakers, by contrast, must make their case for hybrid passenger vehicles based at least partly on economics, since shareholders won't subsidize investments that don't provide a fair return.

General Motors's EV1 battery-powered electric car was a $1 billion mistake, one the current management can't afford to repeat by trying to outdo Toyota just to prove a point.

GM, thus, is hedging its bets by investing in an array of fuel-saving technologies, including hydrogen-powered fuel cells and even ones that make conventional gasoline engines more efficient, such as ``displacement on demand,'' which shuts down cylinders that aren't in use.

Hybrids look more and more like a technology that full-line automakers must know how to build in the event that gasoline prices go higher and stay there. Economics isn't entirely the reason. It's the public's belief -- valid or not -- that fossil fuel and air must be conserved at almost any cost.

Full Article Here


 

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"...It's the public's belief -- valid or not -- that fossil fuel and air must be conserved at almost any cost."

Yes, and as good an argument as many have made against hybrids, this nagging point is a reality.
 

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I completely agree that right now, hybrids don't make economic sense. Most industry analysts don't actually think that Toyota is making money off of their hybirds. The Escape hybrids will be an interesting test.
 

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Can someone tell me why GM thought (thinks) its not worth it to make hybrids? In 2007 they will be about 8 years behind Honda, 7 Toyota and 2 Ford. I realize finacial reasons, but why can't GM do it but the others can't? All I can say is GM had better be the first with a production Hydrgogen vehicle. I think that theyw ill be though; their concept car was promising and I always see those advertisements with those toddlers pushing this play car and it reads "Who will be driving the future?" and then they talk about Hydrogen power etc... GM can prove they made the right descion by have hydrogens first.
GM :afro:
Honda :plasma:
Ford = :flush:
My thoughts on Toyota = :argue:
 

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Why not make electric buses? They used to run 'em in Edmonton Alberta (they were GM buses too - those old Fishbowls), but now they are slowly going to diesels again. Things like buses don't really need to run internal combustion engines, since they run the same routes time and time again, especially in the downtown areas. With a car, you cannot (obviously) use electricity via batteries, or overhead transmission lines, but with a bus this is all fairly easy. Loads of gigajoules are used up accelerating and braking on a bus. Regenerative braking could make huge efficiency gains. There is little energy in a 2000lb car going 100km/h (60mph) - but on a 50km/h 33,000lb bus there is a LOT of energy.



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WHy not electric buses?
Most cities (Like Los Angeles) do not like the unsightly overhead wires that are required to run electric buses. San Francisco uses the electric buses extensively... partly because they are better at climbing and descending hills... ANd their regular buses are Low/Non emission... says so right on the side. :lol:
 

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GM's not impressed with Hybrid technology. If you want economy and want to save the environment, go for the natural gas Pontiac Grand Am. You'll get many more miles for your buck than any Hybrid Toyota or Honda are offering, and Natural Gas burns clean...not to mention, you don't have all those batteries full of deadly poisons to dispose of every few years.
 

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Originally posted by mgescuro@Jun 5 2004, 09:28 AM
WHy not electric buses?
Most cities (Like Los Angeles) do not like the unsightly overhead wires that are required to run electric buses. San Francisco uses the electric buses extensively... partly because they are better at climbing and descending hills... ANd their regular buses are Low/Non emission... says so right on the side. :lol:
Electric buses are clean only if the electricity is generated via waterfall or nuclear...but in the case of water, there's a huge environmental impact, and with nuclear, you still have to dispose of the radioactive spent rods somehow. If it's coming from a coal-generated hydro plant, the pollution is worse. Not to mention, electricity is very inefficient...you have to burn many times more energy than you'll get out of the bus, because there is so much loss during transmission. You're always better off if you can transform the fuel directly into usable energy, whatever the fuel may be.
 

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Originally posted by Smaart Aas Saabr@Jun 5 2004, 12:06 AM
Why not make electric buses? They used to run 'em in Edmonton Alberta (they were GM buses too - those old Fishbowls), but now they are slowly going to diesels again. Things like buses don't really need to run internal combustion engines, since they run the same routes time and time again, especially in the downtown areas. With a car, you cannot (obviously) use electricity via batteries, or overhead transmission lines, but with a bus this is all fairly easy. Loads of gigajoules are used up accelerating and braking on a bus. Regenerative braking could make huge efficiency gains. There is little energy in a 2000lb car going 100km/h (60mph) - but on a 50km/h 33,000lb bus there is a LOT of energy.
Seattle once (in my childhood in the 60's and 70's) had an extensive network of electric buses that ran off overhead wires. The key difficulty with them was that the long spring-loaded arms that made contact with the powerlines would fly off in corners and the driver would have to get out and manuver the contacts back into place. And the wires were an unsightly mess.

It would be very interesting today to see how the good citizens of Seattle would react to the trade off between overhead wires and petroleum consumption. My bet would be: no trade-offs are permitted. We must have everything, and we must have it now! And anyone who dares question us is evil, corrupt and stupid.
 

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Originally posted by Dodge Drivin' Paul+Jun 5 2004, 01:07 PM--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Dodge Drivin' Paul @ Jun 5 2004, 01:07 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> <!--QuoteBegin-mgescuro@Jun 5 2004, 09:28 AM
WHy not electric buses?
Most cities (Like Los Angeles) do not like the unsightly overhead wires that are required to run electric buses.  San Francisco uses the electric buses extensively... partly because they are better at climbing and descending hills...  ANd their regular buses are Low/Non emission... says so right on the side.   :lol:
Electric buses are clean only if the electricity is generated via waterfall or nuclear...but in the case of water, there's a huge environmental impact, and with nuclear, you still have to dispose of the radioactive spent rods somehow. If it's coming from a coal-generated hydro plant, the pollution is worse. Not to mention, electricity is very inefficient...you have to burn many times more energy than you'll get out of the bus, because there is so much loss during transmission. You're always better off if you can transform the fuel directly into usable energy, whatever the fuel may be. [/b][/quote]
Excellent point, Paul, but the sort of thing that those devoted to the religion of electrified mobility are utterly blind to. I suspect that if you raised such concerns at a public meeting in Seattle you would definitely be shouted down, and probably sentenced to wear a scarlet P (for "Petroleum") for your heresy. Dark rumors about your hobby of killing baby whales would begin to circulate.

The self-styled protectors of mother earth are equally blind to the big picture of hybrids: that those big heavy batteries have short lives, take tremendous amounts of energy to manufacture (not to mention haul around), and create serious disposal problems of their own. All to seize the small gains of regenerative braking.

Has anyone done a full life-cycle analysis of the energy savings of hybrids? I've been betting since the advent of the Prius that the answer is "minimal".

Let's face it: hybrids exist primarily so that their drivers can feel good about themselves, while making damned sure that the rest of us do not miss their ostentatious display of virtue. Why else, after all, is the Prius graced with such unusual styling?
 

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The Escape will be the first available hybrid vehicle that might actually have an impact. The Prius and Hybrid Civic don't get sufficiently impressive fuel economy compared to other gasoline vehicles. The Insight gets good fuel economy, but at the cost of practical space/capability. So the Escape Hybrid may well be getting fuel economy that Civic owners only dream of while still giving plenty of cargo space and some degree of hauling capacity. But then, it really all depends on what the final real-world numbers are from owners.
 

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GM's buses are the perfect candidate for hybrid technology. A lot of stop and go driving, a lot of idling - no long runs at full power. Let a relatively small diesel run at an efficient rpm and load to regenerate the batteries, and also recapture braking energy in the batteries. I've read that the firt few seconds of take off from dead stop is where buses emit the vast majority of their pollution, so let the electric motor launch them cleanly without the heavy load on the diesel which takes it out of it's most clean-burning, efficient operating mode.

There are much bigger gains to be had here than on small economy cars.
 

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Originally posted by MelvinJ@Jun 6 2004, 05:05 PM
GM's buses are the perfect candidate for hybrid technology. A lot of stop and go driving, a lot of idling - no long runs at full power. Let a relatively small diesel run at an efficient rpm and load to regenerate the batteries, and also recapture braking energy in the batteries. I've read that the firt few seconds of take off from dead stop is where buses emit the vast majority of their pollution, so let the electric motor launch them cleanly without the heavy load on the diesel which takes it out of it's most clean-burning, efficient operating mode.

There are much bigger gains to be had here than on small economy cars.
I believe that's precisely what GM has been saying about its upcoming full-size truck hybrids: you get bigger bang for the buck when you hyprid-ize a larger vehicle.
 
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