Will EVs have us humming into a greener future?

'Automotive News' reports on the advancement of the electric car industry, with a focus on Nissan and Chrysler.

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Automotive News

DETROIT--We're going on the grid sooner than you thought.

Electric and plug-in hybrid cars will arrive in dealerships in just two years or so, several speakers at the Automotive News Green Car Conference and Exhibition said on Thursday, Nov. 13.

The electric grid is ready, but customers who accept buying cars and gasoline separately will need to adjust to buying cars and batteries separately.

Conference speakers also said more-efficient gasoline-powered autos are well along in the pipeline. Expect lighter vehicles driven by small, turbocharged engines.

Talk about plug-in hybrids has centered on the Chevrolet Volt, Saturn Vue plug-in, and Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, all due in 2009 or 2010. But more electric-powered cars are coming.

In 2010, Nissan Motor Co.'s first electric vehicle will be launched in select markets. In 2012, it rolls out globally.

Batteries not included

Nissan's electric will have "pricing similar to a conventional car" before adding in the cost of the battery, said Carlos Tavares, Nissan's executive vice president for product planning and design.

The battery lease will be separate--similar to fees charged today for in-vehicle services such as OnStar. "Buy the car; sign the battery lease," he said.

The total cost of ownership over the vehicle's life, Tavares said, will be lower than that of a gasoline car.

By 2010, Chrysler LLC will start selling a car with an electric motor, said Lou Rhodes, Chrysler's vice president of advanced engineering.

It will be an electric Dodge sports car or a hybrid based on either a Chrysler minivan or a Jeep Wrangler. The hybrid will be driven by an electric motor, with the electricity produced by a gasoline engine combined with a generator.

Chrysler began developing hybrids in response to increasing green awareness among consumers, expectations of tougher regulations and advancing technology, Rhodes said.

"We had the right basic landscape" in laying out those plans, he said. "What we underestimated was the rate of change."

Also, now that Chrysler is no longer "the support arm" for DaimlerChrysler's fuel-cell efforts, Chrysler is rethinking the role of fuel-cell technology, Rhodes said. "We see it as an enabler on a range extender, not as the primary energy source" for a car.

Utilities are ready to meet the demand from electric cars, said Eladio Knipping, senior technical manager for the environment at the Electric Power Research Institute.

"Yes, the grid can handle it," he said. There is plenty of capacity, and more can come on stream as the electric fleet grows.

Even if older, coal-fired plants were the only source of electricity for plug-in vehicles, Knipping said, the greenhouse gas emissions from the plants would be 25 percent lower than the emissions generated by an equal number of vehicles running on gasoline.

PACE green awards

Separately, four suppliers were honored with the first Automotive News PACE Environmental Awards. The winners: BorgWarner Turbo and Emissions Systems, Continental, Magneti Marelli, and PPG Automotive Coatings. PACE stands for Premier Automotive suppliers' Contribution to Excellence.

(Source: Automotive News)

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