GM Announces Plug in Hybrid

GM is scheduled to announce their Chevy Volt today. While details are still scarce, early information looks very promising.

The car is reported to get 50+ miles/US gallon (about 4.7 l/100 km). But I think we may need a new way to rate fuel economy with plug in hybrids, so I am suspicious of this number.
The car is reported to take 6 hours to fully recharge, and to travel 40 miles on a single charge. Essentially the car gets infinite miles per gallon for the first 40 miles of its trip, and after that, the gasoline engine kicks in to charge the batteries.

Plug in hybrids are a potentially potent part of the solution to climate change and peak oil (or oil geopolitics if you don’t buy peak oil theories). After all, for many people, the first 40 miles would be almost all their driving. So for those people, gasoline consumption could drop by almost 100%. Add in Blog Reader Steve Lapp’s idea with solar panels on the roof of the car, and emissions could drop further.
The source of generation of electricity is a big difference in the emissions of the vehicle, but they should almost always be better than a regular gas vehicle. This is because of the efficiency of electric vs. gasoline engines. While there would no doubt be some energy losses as the car batteries were charged, if those losses were 15%, and the electric motor was 90% efficient, it would still be a big step up on the 30% efficiencies found in gasoline engines. The efficiency from the wall to the wheel would by .9 X .85 = 76%. So emissions would improve in most electricity grids, except for those with only the oldest coal plants. In my case, I would continue to buy emission free electric power from Bullfrog Power, so the portion of driving under battery power would be emission free.

Missing from the announcements so far are things like price, and delivery. The release also talks about the need for additional battery research, so the vehicle may not be shipping for quite some time. The reports descibe it as a “concept car”, whatever that means.

Still, it is an interesting announcement. It is interesting for the electricity business. It is interesting for the oil business. And it is interesting for the climate.

I have never owned a GM vehicle. GM is now on the list to consider for my next vehicle.

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