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THIS LAST of five mini-essays on the 2012 Toyota Future Mobility Seminar, held Oct. 16-17 in Denver, collects technological nuggets gleaned there.
The price of motor fuels was a recurring topic. As several speakers observed, crude oil is an internationally traded commodity. As such, from an economics point of view, it provides quite a robust model of supply and demand.
Edmunds.com’s Jeremy Anwyl said trends of new exploration and exploitation around the world, as well as increased drilling and pipelines here in the U.S., could well lead to a considerable reduction in the price of crude—and commensurately less expensive gasoline. Attractive though this appears, he noted, it would also have an adverse effect on government encouragement of high-mpg car purchases.
Maybe it’s time to adopt European practice and invoke an additional $4.00/gal. tax on motor fuels? “You go first,” each politician tells the other.
An attendee asked about diesels, their efficiency and beneficial impact on high-mpg goals. CARB’s Analisa Bevan noted that today’s particulate standards have already raised diesel costs; coming regulations complicate matters even further.
Another asked about inductive charging. The concept is attractive, speakers noted—no dirty cumbersome cable to plug in, just park and charge. However, efficiency, safety and matters of electromagnetic interference are its downside. No speaker came specifically to the concept’s defense.
With regard to road use, at the moment BEVs are getting a free ride. It was generally felt that such incentives are necessary now, but not inevitably. Technology already exists for assigning road tax based on actual use (rather than taxing the energy itself, as we do now with motor fuels). However, issues of privacy and personal freedom have yet to be solved to everyone’s satisfaction.
With regard to EV incentives, a recurring idea was not merely to reward technology, but rather to reward its outcome. For example, base the federal tax credit not on battery size, but rather on vehicle range.
Battery size versus recharge time/convenience was raised as an interesting PHEV tradeoff. Several speakers agreed that society’s needs would be more efficiently met with less expensive PHEVs carrying smaller battery packs—albeit with less range—given more readily available recharge opportunity.
There’s an analogy here with computers: For a long time, the emphasis was on speed of a computer’s Central Processing Unit. In time, the more powerful CPUs settled into the 3.0-GHz range. Today, by contrast, memory is the product determinant, with 1-2 Terabytes not out of the question.
Last, Toyota chose the venue to announce activation of a 1.1-megawatt hydrogen fuel cell generation unit located at its Torrance, California, headquarters.
The unit, designed and built by Ballard Power Systems, is the largest of its Proton Exchange Membrane type. Its supply of zero-emissions electricity is sufficient for approximately half the needs of six buildings on the Toyota campus during peak demand.
All in all, a most informative and technologically fascinating seminar. Earlier mini-essays discuss the National Renewable Energy Laboratory http://wp.me/p2ETap-n3, the Boulder PHEV study http://wp.me/p2ETap-mN, Brown Palace Hotel http://wp.me/p2ETap-mw and ZEV 3 http://wp.me/p2ETap-mf. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2012
Thank you Dennis for five informative reports. My non-scientific takeaway goes back to the first report, referring to the primary issue of customer acceptance. I think the key to optimum societal benefit for the next decade, and for all 50 states, will be millions or tens of millions of unlimited range, very low emissions vehicles, not just hundreds of thousands of zero emissions vehicles. I’m guessing the common perception of the “uncool” roller skate can be fixed with good performance. An example of such a trend may be the new Jetta Hybrid, with turbo, and very important for me, a seven speed dual clutch transmission. Bump it up another 50 or 70HP, program the motor to mitigate the turbo lag (drivability – a big plus), bump down the Cd, and even if the MPG est. for this car were to drop from 45 (combined*) to 40, I think the sought after acceptance and sales will come. An additional plus would be the motor(s) powering the “other” wheels, given that AWD has almost become a prerequisite for many buyers even though it’s utilized only .01% of the time. *One last thing – doesn’t “truth in advertising” suggest that every MPG claim in every ad include city as well as highway MPG numbers?
Last, a nod to Toyota – we all like good performance but frugality wins for my daily driver, a trouble-free Prius delivering 46MPG over 107,000 miles.