Energy Story of 2008: #1 Electrification of the Passenger Car

December 15 2008 / by joelg
Category: Energy   Year: 2008   Rating: 4 Hot

By the fall of 2008, every major automanufacturer from GM to Nissan to Tata--and a few startups such as Tesla and Aptera--had announced production model plans for all manner of electric vehicles, from all electrc vehicles, to plug-in hybrid electrics, to fuel cell vehicles, with deliveries to consumers starting in 2010.  2008 could well be known as the nail in the coffin for the bulky combustion engine which has plagued the auto industry with its manufacturing and design liabilities, and association with volatile oil markets.

How quickly might the world re-tool the global auto industry to build new vehicle chassis based on electric motors and advanced energy storage systems?

Every Auto Manufacturer has Announced Electric Vehicles

Continue Reading other Top Energy Stories from 2008

#2   The Year of Scientific Breakthroughs

#3   The Obama Election

#4   From $147 to $50: The Price of Oil

#5   The Dying Gasp of Corn Ethanol

#6   The Clean Coal Lobby Breaks Through the Clutter...and Gets a Response

#7   Geeks Go Green

#8   The Rise of Local Initiatives

#9   Infrastructure Gains Attention

#10 Emerging Energy Missionaries & Visionaries


Photos courtesy Honda, Chevrolet, Nissan and Jurvetson.



Comment Thread (2 Responses)

  1. Now that prices of gas are very low again, and at the same time the recession is making people think twice about paying much more for hybrids, the combustion engine maybe be not as dead as some might think.

    Posted by: johnfrink   December 16, 2008
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  2. John, I think the combustion engine gets the boot because of its manufacturing and design liabilities—not because of oil.

    It’s about shifting from a mechanical engine that takes up 1/3rd of the vehicle’s body chassis and limits the evolution of body design – in an age where consumers would love extra leg room.

    It’s about shifting from an engine with too many moving parts that requires extensive supply chains. So auto makers have 10 plants each operating at below 80% utilization capacity b/c each plant (and supply chain network) only focuses on one platform (e.g. V4, v6, Hybrid, et al)

    Move to wheel based electric motors, drive by wire (for brakes/steering) – and modular energy storage systems (batteries, fuel cells and capacitors) and you can run fewer factories at higher utilization.

    Fewer moving parts, build multiple chassis in one factory—and let you designers go crazy.

    So I don’t think the price of oil has much to do with it.

    It’s like moving from vacuum tubes to transistors—- the platform is what matters.

    Now, I think it’s going to take 20-30 years to fully kill off the combustion engine as mass platform. But 2008 was surely the year it was put in its place. So that’s a significant turning point for the global auto industry.


    Posted by: Garry Golden   December 17, 2008
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