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Fleet Briefing: GM to Open VE Plant; 60% Would Consider a PEV; New Steel Cuts Life-Cycle Emissions by 70%

General Motors broke ground Tuesday for the $269.5 million addition to the facility housing its two-mode hybrid and heavy duty transmission operations. The electric motor plant near Baltimore will be the first by a major U.S. automaker dedicated to making the components for vehicle electrification, and is slated to open in 2013. The campus will be powered in part by a 1.23 megawatt rooftop solar array by Constellation Energy, expected to generate nine percent of its annual energy consumption and save approximately $330,000 during the life of the project. Constellation Energy will build, own and maintain the solar power system, and GM will purchase all of the electricity generated by the solar panels under a 20-year power purchase agreement, the company reported.

The majority of consumers would consider buying a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) for their next car purchase, according to a global study, Plug-in Electric Vehicles: Changing Perceptions, Hedging Bets, from Accenture. However, consumer preferences for charging PEVs could increase the cost and complexity of managing the electricity grid and charging infrastructure, Accenture said.

60 percent of consumers would consider buying a PEV for their next car purchase. 68 percent would “probably” or “certainly” do so within the next three years. Respondents in China are by far the most enthusiastic, 96 percent of them probably or certainly considering a purchase in the next three years, according to the findings.

Consumers’ preferences for charging PEVs, however, could challenge utilities and charging service providers by increasing grid congestion and peak time electricity demand. Two thirds of the survey’s 7,000 respondents are not willing to let charge-point operators limit when they can charge their PEV. A further 20 percent would only accept limits if they fell within time periods they had chosen. Additionally, 62 percent are not keen on the concept of battery swapping, where empty batteries are quickly replaced at service stations for fully charged ones, preferring to plug in their car to recharge their own battery. This could limit the opportunity for charging off peak, when battery swapping companies would most likely refuel batteries, Accenture said.

Consumers would also need more supportive charging infrastructure in order to adopt fully electric PEVs. Only 29 percent of car drivers would buy fully electric PEVs. 71 percent would prefer plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs), which also run on gasoline / diesel if the battery gets low. 85 percent say fully electric PEVs have insufficient battery range to cover their daily driving needs, the study found.

The successful launch of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) depends greatly on the deployment of a robust residential and commercial network of charging equipment, according to the findings of the “Pike Pulse Report: Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment” from Pike Research.

This market is in its infancy with many companies selling their product for less than five years, but the competition in this sector is set to intensify. The report evaluates electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) suppliers and rates them on 12 criteria for strategy and execution, including go-to-market strategy, product portfolio, partnerships, innovation, reach, market share, pricing, and staying power.

According to Pike, two EVSE vendors are early standouts: Coulomb Technologies and ECOtality.

Coulomb attained the highest overall score in the Pike Pulse report due to the company’s successful technology partnerships, global sales network, and extensive product portfolio.

ECOtality is assessed as second. ECOtality’s contract to provide equipment to the federally funded EV Project, which it is also managing for the U.S. Department of Energy, is driving the majority of the company’s sales, and ECOtality likewise has formed extensive partnerships and has a strong product portfolio.

Rounding out the top ten are Elektromotive, AeroVironment, General Electric, Siemens, Eaton, Leviton, ClipperCreek and GoSmart, the company reported.

The Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), in collaboration with WorldAutoSteel, has released results of a three-year program to develop steel-intensive designs for electrified vehicles that reduce greenhouse gas emissions over their entire life cycle. The FutureSteelVehicle (FSV) program features steel body structure designs that reduce mass by more than 35 percent over a benchmark vehicle, and reduce total life cycle emissions by nearly 70 percent. This is accomplished while meeting a broad list of global crash and durability requirements, enabling 5-star safety ratings and avoiding high-cost penalties for mass reduction, according to the groups’ statement.

The FSV program developed optimized advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) body structures for four proposed 2015 to 2020 model-year vehicles: battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV-20) for A-/B-Class vehicles; and plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV-40) and fuel cell (FCV) for C-/D-Class vehicles.

The FSV concepts are efficient and lightweight. FSV’s BEV concept weighs 188 kg and reduces mass by more than 35 percent over a baseline internal combustion engine body structure adjusted for a battery electric powertrain and 2020 regulatory requirements. FSV’s A-/B-Class PHEV20 vehicle weighs 175 kg, and the larger C-/D-Class vehicle versions weigh 201 kg.

The FSV portfolio of advanced steel and steel technologies, including more than 20 new AHSS grades of materials, are expected to be commercially available in 2015 to 2020.

The first U.S. hydrogen fueling station (pictured) opened this week in Torrance, California. The station is a collaborative effort between Toyota, Air Products, Shell, South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and the US Department of Energy (DOE). The facility, fed directly from an active industrial hydrogen pipeline, will provide hydrogen for Toyota’s fuel cell hybrid demonstration program vehicles as well as other manufacturers’ fuel cell vehicle fleets in the Los Angeles area. Toyota plans to release a fuel cell vehicle to market in 2015.


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