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Friday, September 13, 2013

New Hybrids And Electric Cars Debut At Frankfurt Auto Show

Porsche's new hybrid sports car the 918 Spyder retails for $850,000. (Porsche)

Porsche’s new hybrid sports car the 918 Spyder retails for $850,000. (Porsche)

The 65th International Motor Show in Frankfurt is one of the biggest in the world. A wide array of the latest and greatest vehicles and technologies is on display in Germany and open to the public through September 22nd.

There are some 70 new or concept vehicles on display at the show, and just about every manufacturer is introducing a vehicle with electric battery technology.

Among the highlights is a plug-in Porsche 918 Spyder that can rocket from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under 3 seconds. But get ready for sticker shock: The price tag is $850,000.




The world's largest auto show is underway in Frankfurt, Germany. From ultra luxury autos to hybrid sports vehicles and electric cargo vans, there are some 70 new or concept vehicles on display at the 65th International Motor Show. Paul Eisenstein of the auto news website Detroit Bureau is just back from Frankfurt and joins us on the line. Paul, it looks like electric cars are the big trend at Frankfurt this year.

PAUL EISENSTEIN: Everybody is introducing some form of battery-based technology, whether they are plain old hybrids. You know, it's a decade old and we now call it old technology like you saw in the Toyota Prius. That's in a lot of new vehicles. But a lot of the stuff that we're seeing in Frankfurt is powered by plug-in technology, even the new $850,000 Porsche 918 Spyder. And then there's a lot of pure battery electric vehicles ranging from low-end products like the eGolf from Volkswagen, all the way up to some very, very high-end electric vehicles.

YOUNG: So a plug-in Porsche - that's a first.


YOUNG: I also hear that Toyota has unveiled a new Yaris hybrid that's kind of punchy.

EISENSTEIN: Yeah, the Hybrid-R. And this is a thing that you get, well, let's go back to that Porsche 918. We're talking about a plug-in that you can drive on electric power alone for something like 20 miles, which is important, by the way, because some European cities are talking about banning gas power from the inner cities. But this same vehicle can also launch from 0 to 60 in under three seconds and...

YOUNG: Oh my gosh.

EISENSTEIN: Yeah. And Toyota has recognized that if there's a market where people are willing to get these green machines, that you trade performance off for better mileage. But there's also a budding market for hybrids and other battery technologies that will deliver performance as well.

YOUNG: So Paul, you mentioned that there are shifts in the European auto market. I was interested to hear you say that, you know, some European cities are considering banning gasoline-fueled vehicles from city centers, or that they may eventually do that. But I also wonder, we've been seeing very fancy, exciting hybrid and electric vehicles at car shows for a couple of years now, and yet, you know, they still haven't made that huge leap in terms of market share. Why is that? What are the car manufacturers waiting for before they introduce, you know, a bunch of new lines to the consumer level?

EISENSTEIN: Well, there's a chicken and egg situation here. So for one thing, manufacturers have been bringing out a fair number of hybrids. They've been adding a lot. But only a few of them really gained much traction so far. Part of the problem is cost. Part of the problem is when you're talking about plug-based vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, there's not a lot of infrastructure out there. There aren't a lot of places outside of the home where you can go and plug in, say, if you want to make an extended drive.

Then there is the issue of performance. Well, not everybody wants a Corvette or a Ferrari. People do like a little bit more acceleration when they're, say, trying to pass somebody on the freeway. And a lot of the early battery vehicles just didn't have this added measure of performance. So all these things added up to really constraining the market. The $7,500 incentive that you have here in the United States is helping a little bit, but you're also seeing governments around the world starting to take steps to build up the infrastructure, boost incentives, and in some cases by mandating changes.

So for example, in California there's a new zero-emission vehicle, or ZEV requirement, that manufacturers will have to come up with vehicles that can operate purely in electric mode. And if they don't meet certain sales numbers, they may be banned from selling in the state of California. So that has a lot of manufacturers coming up with vehicles that they don't even know if they can sell without essentially giving them away.


Paul, so when you were at Frankfurt, did you get a sense that maybe we're near the tipping point when it comes to solving this chicken and egg problem, because it would be great to have the infrastructure in place, but who's going to do it?

EISENSTEIN: Yeah. That's a real issue. There's an awful lot of battery vehicles out there right now and more coming very quickly. But it is just not clear whether the consumer is going to go along with everything, even if the makers supply the vehicles and the governments supply the infrastructure. So far all battery-based vehicles of all forms account for less than four percent of the U.S. market. That's pretty small and it's going to take a lot of work to grow significantly.

CHAKRABARTI: Well, Paul Eisenstein is publisher of The Detroit Bureau. There's a link to his coverage of the Frankfurt auto show at hereandnow.org. Paul, thank you so much.

EISENSTEIN: Hey, my pleasure to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    I have to say that about half of what Mr. Paul Eisenstein says in this piece is flat out wrong or misleading. First off, plugin hybrids and full EV’s do *not* require new infrastructure – they can run perfectly well using only charging at home. Having public charging stations will be nice and more convenient and enable longer drives – but for most (like 95%+ of all daily drives!) we ready to go.

    Secondly – a hybrid from Porsche is *not* all that crazy – the very *first* car built by Dr Porsche in 1898 called the Lohner-Porsche – was a hybrid. And their second model is also a hybrid and it is the first four wheel drive vehicle.

    Thirdly, electric vehicles are anything but slow, as they have full torque available virtually from 0 RPM. They are quick when we need it, and this needs to be experienced to be understood. The Chevy Spark with an internal combustion engine (ICE) has about 83 foot pounds of torque – and the Spark EV has 400 foot pounds! The Honda Fit EV is similar.

    Driving an EV saves a LOT of money over time, because the cost of electricity vs gasoline means that a typical car costs just 2-3¢ per mile vs about 15¢ per mile. In addition, EV’s require almost NO regular maintenance, and this saves another ~3.5¢ per mile.

    So, driving a Nissan Leaf vs a typical ~23MPG car saves you about $17,000 per 100K miles driven.

    When you can put solar PV panels on your home, and drive an EV – you have a match made in heaven. My brother and his wife each drive an EV (Mitsubishi i MiEV and Leaf respectively) and they have a 6.37kW solar PV system on the roof of their house. In July their electric bill was just $18, and in August, they have a 66kWh credit. This includes their new heatpump hot water heater (they no longer are using an oil fired heater that was costing ~$1,000/year), and it includes A/C in the house.

    Their electric bills before getting the solar PV system were from ~$70-180/month. Their average monthly bill will probably be ~$25-30/month. THIS INCLUDES VIRTUALLY ALL OF THEIR DRIVING.

    So, the solar PV system will pay for itself in 6-10 years, and they essentially will be driving *for free*. I have no doubt that once this becomes more well known – EV’s and plugin hybrids will become the majority of vehicles on the roads in short order.

    Hydrogen powered cars have a real infrastructure problem. EV’s do not.


    • Randy

      Hydrogen cars are a fantasy. The future is definitely electric… Charging on off peak demand often uses wasted energy and can help balance the energy load, lowering cost per kWh for consumers.

  • sun

    all out electric car marketing start
    everything is electric system
    in high dimension
    like powerful powerful God

    who win?
    maybe google

    • Randy

      What does google have to do with the electrification of the automobile? The people of the world are the true winners.

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