Green Car Congress has scored not one, but two big news items today. Summing up:
First in sequence, Southern California Edison has joined the plug-in hybrid development consortium; they are now alongside Pacific Gas and Electric. (I'm not Californian; does that include all the investor-owned utilities in the state yet?) The consortium, which includes battery makers and other companies, is devoted to creating vehicles which can travel their first 25-50 miles as pure electric vehicles before having to switch to conventional hybrid mode. This is predicted to produce a typical 100-200 MPG of liquid fuel, depending on the driving cycle and charging schedule. Compared to the CAFE standard of 27.5 MPG, a 150-MPG vehicle would use only 18% of the fuel.
What's odd (and remarked upon in the comments) is that this vehicle consortium does not include a single major auto manufacturer. I'll bet that there is much resistance in Detroit to having a bunch of foreigners and Californians (who no doubt seem like the same thing to crusty old Midwestern engineers) tell them what to put under the hood.
But the second item shows that the dam may be imminent danger of bursting. Honda has announced hybrid Civic price cuts and the possible withdrawal of non-hybrid Civics from some markets. With the hybrid price premium set to fall to $1700, there are fewer and fewer reasons to buy the conventional drivetrain. Eventually, Honda may no longer build them.
Getting rid of the non-hybrid Civic is a very big shift. A company which is willing to do this is probably open-minded enough to make other bold moves. Could Honda beat Toyota as the first member of the plug-in hybrid consortium and the first company to offer a plug as a factory option? I wouldn't bet against it.
With Toyota the leader in hybrid sales and set to overtake GM as the world's biggest auto manufacturer and Honda not far behind in either respect, my prediction of auto production being 90% hybrids by the year 2020 may be pessimistic. If world crude prices continue to rise at the $14/bbl/year of the last few years, any auto company which doesn't follow in a hurry is likely to dry up and blow away.
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