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L.A. Auto Show wrap: Back to the Future

  • The L.A. Auto Show hit full stride with global automakers tipping off plans to ramp up production and designs to take advantage of the North American demand boom.
  • Honda (HMC), Toyota (TM), and Hyundai (HYMLF) pounded home the commitment they will make to hydrogen fuel cells. This is no flux capacitor chatter. All three plan to invest to have fuel cell models on the U.S. market within two years, although details on charging station infrastructure are sketchy.
  • General Motors (GM) was the talk of the town as the Chevy Colorado truck impressed analysts mightily and looks set to give challengers from Nissan and Toyota a run for their money.
  • BMW (BAMXY), Porsche (VLKAY, POAHF), and Mercedes-Benz (DDAIF) all have big plans for the luxury market, while Kia enters the segment as a darkhorse with the K900. Kia?
  • On the zero-emission front, Honda was full of swagger by landing a major green award for the new hybrid Honda Accord on gaudy fuel economy ratings.
  • Automakers to watch: Subaru (FUJHY) and Chrysler (FIATY) look well-positioned for 2014 market share gains. Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk is off monitoring his latest Space X rocket, while the Tesla debate gets even livelier on SA.
Comments (28)
  • Reel Ken
    , contributor
    Comments (3855) | Send Message
     
    Just what we need.

     

    The blog battles weren't long enough on EV vs. ICE , we now have to expand to cover Hydrogen Fuel Cells(HFC).

     

    My guess is they will all co-exist until we get "transporters". You listening, Scotty?
    23 Nov 2013, 12:00 PM Reply Like
  • rockinghorse
    , contributor
    Comments (279) | Send Message
     
    If people knew, how much it would cost to fill tank with hydrogen, I doubt that there would be that many people pondering that very low performance hydrogen vehicles are serious alternative for plug-in vehicles.
    23 Nov 2013, 01:07 PM Reply Like
  • Dampflok
    , contributor
    Comments (854) | Send Message
     
    It's "transponders" Kirk.
    24 Nov 2013, 08:23 AM Reply Like
  • Dan Fichana
    , contributor
    Comments (1883) | Send Message
     
    Hydrogen fuel cells come down to the old chicken and egg problem.

     

    People are hesitant to buy them without an infrastructure and cost. The infrastructure people are unwilling to invest without a large market. Then manufacturers and dealers are not willing to go full swing unless they know people will buy them.
    23 Nov 2013, 12:03 PM Reply Like
  • Reel Ken
    , contributor
    Comments (3855) | Send Message
     
    Hi Dan,

     

    Right on the money.

     

    My read of the manufacturers at the show is that many think HFC is the ultimate future. I think they are positioning themselves for EV as a transitional power source while the infrastructure is put in place.

     

    Please, everyone, this is not my opinion of how it will play out, just a read of what the execs are thinking.

     

    All you tech guys will surely have a lot to say about this.
    23 Nov 2013, 12:06 PM Reply Like
  • King Rat
    , contributor
    Comments (657) | Send Message
     
    Take away the "HYBRID" emblem and the Accord is a nice car. Though I am confused on why SA refers to it as "on the zero-emission front".
    Is it Chrysler that looks well-positioned for gains or Fiat itself? I'd put my money on Fiat owning the coat.
    I am worried about what governments will do regarding gasoline taxes in countries where gasoline consumption drops, especially in countries with aging populations such as in Korea, Japan, Italy, and Spain. Even without cars to drive on them roads will deteriorate from the elements and with less money to repair that infrastructure will the roads fall apart? Who will get taxed to pay for the roads?

     

    Or perhaps life is one big toll road.
    23 Nov 2013, 12:08 PM Reply Like
  • Dan Fichana
    , contributor
    Comments (1883) | Send Message
     
    The fair and just way would be to do a tax based on mileage * a function if the gross vehicle weight.

     

    Essentially, from engineer textbooks road damage is a function of AXLE weight^4. Heavier the vehicle, the more damage is caused to the roads. Thought it was tire weight but, it clearly says axle weight.

     

    As an example, take a 3000 lb car, for every dollar they pay a 6,000 lb Fisker should pay $16, and a fully loaded 9 axle 80,000 lb tractor trailer should pay $1200.

     

    Also a 4,000 lb Prius should pay $3 for every dollar the 3,000 lb car pays, and a Tesla Model S should pay $6.

     

    You don't want to know about those 5 axle 80,000 GVW fully loaded dump trucks- those are the real culprits for road damage. Having one drive a mile is equal having almost 13,000 cars go over that same road- yikes!

     

    The EV paying is kind of odd though since there are taxes in some states that cover EVs and in others, the services utilized during registration are not applicable to EVs (in NJ its a state run inspection and EVs don't need it).

     

    As an EV owner I'm fine paying my share, but let's make it fair all the way around, cars, EVs, trucks. Pay for the damage you cause... Although if you do that the trucking companies are going to be peeved.
    23 Nov 2013, 02:26 PM Reply Like
  • Reel Ken
    , contributor
    Comments (3855) | Send Message
     
    Hi King Rat,

     

    Interesting comment and thought.

     

    Gas taxes are for road infrastructure. EV's don't pay gas tax, but use roads. The more EV's the bigger the problem.

     

    I won't predict what, other than something will be taxed to get it done.
    23 Nov 2013, 12:14 PM Reply Like
  • King Rat
    , contributor
    Comments (657) | Send Message
     
    A friend in California bought an ICE last year and pays $90/year in registration. Another got an EV and pays 3x that. She asked the CA DMV why. The DMV explained that hybrids and EVs consume less fuel and "to pay their fair share" of gas tax they have higher registration fees. She then asked, "why does the state give me a $2500 discount on my vehicle (above the federal discount) then charge me $200 more per year to make up for lost gas revenue?"

     

    Where I live now most highway limits are the equivalent of 50mph. If you drive a traditional ICE that gets 26 highway mpg at even 55 instead of 65-70 you'll find you get 15-25% more mpg. Yet states don't want to lower speed limits back to 55 because they need the revenue. In fact, I would not be surprised to see states like CA raise the speed limit in areas to 70 or 75 to encourage even lower fuel economy. Short term solvency sadly trumps long term well-being.
    23 Nov 2013, 01:36 PM Reply Like
  • azgog
    , contributor
    Comments (164) | Send Message
     
    If Tesla's vision works out (no battery shortage or spontaneous fires) I think EVs will win the battle because the infrastructure is mostly in place and electricity is getting cleaner and less fossil fuel dependent every day.
    23 Nov 2013, 12:34 PM Reply Like
  • rockinghorse
    , contributor
    Comments (279) | Send Message
     
    There is also the cost issue. If hydrogen is made with electrolysis using electricity, hydrogen will cost without capital expenses at least four times as much as electricity for BEV. As BEVs can utilize better the cheaper off-peak electricity, the difference is probably six fold. And if we add there immense capital expenses for the infrastructure we can roughly guess that filling tank with hydrogen is approximately 8–12 times more expensive than charging plug-in vehicle.

     

    Somehow this rough cost estimate is NEVER mentioned, when Big Car companies are talking on fuel cell vehicles.
    23 Nov 2013, 01:26 PM Reply Like
  • King Rat
    , contributor
    Comments (657) | Send Message
     
    EVs will win out long term and nobody has doubted that. However the current situation is that the materials needed to create and recharge batteries are still more harmful than gasoline (though the gap is quickly closing).
    Tesla is neither a pioneer nor a leader in EV sales either. For that matter, when a Tesla costs $50k-$70k more than this Accord, overall causes more damage to the Earth, AND the $50k-$70k can be put toward solar panels, wind turbines, energy efficient appliances, and planting trees in depleted forest areas... Teslas make ZERO sense from either economic or environmental perspectives. The only reason to get a Tesla is from the perspective of it being a luxury/sports car. As far as that is concerned, the Model S is a fine vehicle. It is just not economically or environmentally efficient.

     

    Within 7 years, solar will surpass grid parity to the cheap side, EV battery cost will halve, and efficiency will double. ICE will give way to hybrids and hybrids will give way to EVs. At that time, we'll see more and more charging stations replace gas stations. Manufacturers minus Tesla will agree to an IEEE standard charger for use at such stations and Tesla will keep their proprietary standard only usable at Tesla stations. Tesla reminds me of the German slaves in the rebellion of Spartacus. They insisted that they would fight by themselves because they were better than the others... and got slaughtered.
    23 Nov 2013, 01:57 PM Reply Like
  • surferbroadband
    , contributor
    Comments (1613) | Send Message
     
    Tesla is building a monopoly by not going with a IEEE standard. Monopolies are very profitable.
    24 Nov 2013, 03:07 AM Reply Like
  • Cassina Tarsia
    , contributor
    Comments (643) | Send Message
     
    Hydrogen has a long, long way to go before it could ever begin to compete in the market ... starting with the infrastructure. Then there is the little problem of range anxiety which is even worse than it would ever be with electric ... and it takes almost as long to fill as with electric. Of course, it is explosive ... and it takes most of the trunk space to hold the tank of liquid hydrogen. And we haven't even started to consider the leakage problem which adds to pollution. And lastly, it is still an internal combustion engine which powers the car ... thousands of parts. No ... I think that I will stick to my Tesla and move along quietly, with nothing to worry about except when I will arrive home.
    23 Nov 2013, 01:39 PM Reply Like
  • moreofthesame
    , contributor
    Comments (743) | Send Message
     
    To fill a tank with hydrogen takes about 3 minutes. The engine driving a Hydrogen fuel cell car is electric not ICE. Hydrogen is non toxic, you would have to inhale pure hydrogen in order to suffer health hazards.... etc etc.
    23 Nov 2013, 02:32 PM Reply Like
  • Raymondalpha
    , contributor
    Comments (76) | Send Message
     
    Fuel Cell vehicles do not have an "internal combustion engine which powers the car". It is a direct hydrogen to water process ("hydrogen" means generate water) and releases electrical energy, which is the opposite of hydrolysis (separate water). The FCVs have pumps and fans just like BEVs which use coolants for the battery pack and controller. So the only different components between a pure BEV and a FCV is the fuel cell, the plumbing, and the hydrogen storage tanks.
    23 Nov 2013, 02:55 PM Reply Like
  • Reel Ken
    , contributor
    Comments (3855) | Send Message
     
    Hi Raymond,

     

    Question.... several years ago FCV were considered problematic as the byproduct was water.

     

    This sounds innocent enough, but in large quantities it was thought to be climatically disastrous.

     

    Has this been mitigated with technology or does it remain an issue?
    23 Nov 2013, 03:00 PM Reply Like
  • Cassina Tarsia
    , contributor
    Comments (643) | Send Message
     
    moreofthesame ... I stand corrected about the ICE part of what I said - was thinking of NG instead of hydrogen fuel cell here ... but the infrastructure and problems with leakage and just making the fuel cell technology viable seems overwhelming at this time. We need to get away from non-renewables anyway, even if hydrogen is the most easily available of this type of energy; use that and eventually there will be a problem with the atmospheric balance or something else somewhere.
    23 Nov 2013, 06:23 PM Reply Like
  • Dan Fichana
    , contributor
    Comments (1883) | Send Message
     
    Correct,
    There are little differences in the way a HFC and EV work, just a different way to get the electricity.

     

    They do have these things called proton exchange membranes inside. H+ goes one way, electron goes another.

     

    The storage tanks and passing the airport test is always a question too. Hydrogen is not meant to be stored on a routine basis. Think a sugar screen and jello. Stick the jello in there, wait a few weeks, the jello all went through the screen via gavity. Same principle with hydrogen and a tank, put it's pressure, not gravity that does the job.
    24 Nov 2013, 04:25 AM Reply Like
  • John Bingham
    , contributor
    Comments (889) | Send Message
     
    Hi Dan,

     

    Apart from the somewhat inefficient fuel cell in a HFC car it still strikes me as a little risky to be sharing a vehicle with a pressure tank holding ANY gas at up to 700 atmospheres, let alone hydrogen which can form an explosive mixture with air at only 4% concentration.

     

    Considering that HFC vehicles appear every time the EV looks like a threat (think back to the 1990s when the EV1 and RAV4-EV, etc first appeared) it looks more like smoke and mirrors from Big Auto to take our collective mind off EVs.

     

    And the cheap HFC car has been "just a few years away" for at least 25 years now!
    24 Nov 2013, 11:45 AM Reply Like
  • Reel Ken
    , contributor
    Comments (3855) | Send Message
     
    Hi Cassina,

     

    What you say makes sense.

     

    Just to relay where the industry is... they think it's HFC over EV because HFC has comparable range and refill times to ICE.

     

    They look at infrastructure and Elon's is miniscule when it comes to what is necessary to support wide scale distribution. Elon's can support thousands of cars (maybe) not millions. Either way, a massive infrastructure would need to be built. EV's have an advantage because home-charging is already there.
    I
    They are investing large sums of money, I would think they have a vision different than yours.

     

    Personally, I see HFC as remote, but obviously there are a lot of savvy techs that think not.

     

    Not taking sides, just looking for clarity.
    23 Nov 2013, 02:36 PM Reply Like
  • Dan Fichana
    , contributor
    Comments (1883) | Send Message
     
    Ken,

     

    That is the real advantage for EVs, utilizing a preexisting convenient infrastructure.
    With Elon's supercharger network it is supposed to be utilized only for long trips, so he only needs a few hundrend total. Most people charge at home or other place where they park.

     

    For hydrogen, because it is so different than gasoline it is costly to build, last time I checked, the stations cost close to 1 million each. You need about 10-25% of the amount of them as gas stations (simply as to not inconvenient people). The amount of money needed is rather insane, and I don't think the car companies and scrape together that kind of money.

     

    Also the reason they are pushing hydrogen is because they get 9 CARB credits for each vehicle vs 7 for a long range EV such as the Tesla Model S.
    24 Nov 2013, 04:14 AM Reply Like
  • Reel Ken
    , contributor
    Comments (3855) | Send Message
     
    Hi Dan,

     

    Thanks.. Clarity.
    24 Nov 2013, 07:52 AM Reply Like
  • winfield100
    , contributor
    Comments (731) | Send Message
     
    foolcell/fuelcell vehicles. take CH4 (which could run an ICE car with mods). flash heat to get off carbon, freeze it, squeeze it , bottle it at a few 1,000 atmospheres pressure, even the H2 is very leaky, use 90% of the available energy to do this, then run thru a fuel cell (which gets gummed up and dies after a few years) to convert to electricty, or use batteries to begin with
    23 Nov 2013, 04:13 PM Reply Like
  • surferbroadband
    , contributor
    Comments (1613) | Send Message
     
    Oh dear. Hydrogen. Remember the Hindenburg?

     

    Also the chicken and the egg problem.Need an infrastructure to go with the product. Tesla is building the infrastructure with the supercharging stations that will blanket the US as well as other countries across the globe.

     

    The oil companies are doing everything to stay relevant. Hydrogen is made from CH4, so why go through the exercise? Burn Natural gas for electricity and then use that electricity to run electric cars.
    24 Nov 2013, 03:02 AM Reply Like
  • mindscape8088
    , contributor
    Comments (10) | Send Message
     
    There seems to be this odd desperation to compete blindly with tesla. The fuel cell thing move is not feasible. Fuel cell cars cannot be charged at home like the EVs .
    Setting up a charging station at home costs less than $100.00 and some manual electrical work. I just finished helping a friend install his Tesla home station.
    In order to charge a fuel cell car a very expensive hydrogen producer would need to be purchased. There are NO consumer hydrogen units yet. Playing around with the technology is very dangerous.
    Go ahead by all means produce some a fuel cell car then Tesla will be the only viable option.
    It would be cost prohibitive and take time to produce affordable hydrogen generators. You would also need to start a hydrogen producing company and new fuel pumps and trucks that can carry liquefied hydrogen. Good luck with that. There will be more than just battery fires. There will be massive explosions.
    24 Nov 2013, 04:26 AM Reply Like
  • Tojones1949
    , contributor
    Comments (5) | Send Message
     
    I am sorry, but that last line was mean-spirited. Where were other CEO's.
    24 Nov 2013, 05:22 AM Reply Like
  • 2157051@gmail.com
    , contributor
    Comments (4) | Send Message
     
    Why isn't Ford included in the recap? Considering the excellent managerial and employee coordination, high quality products, and the fact they were not bailed out by the government, they are deserving of equal comment by the financial and business analysts!
    24 Nov 2013, 10:06 PM Reply Like
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