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Safety regulators will start a formal investigation of the fire risk in Volts after the above-mentioned tests that resulted in one battery pack igniting and one smoking and sending off sparks, a Detroit Free Press story Nov.26 reported. A test was conducted in May in Wisconsin. The Volt’s batteries, in that incident caught fire three weeks after the crash test.
NHTSA said it was not aware of any roadway crashes that have resulted in battery fires in Chevy Volts or other vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries. Chevrolet dealers have sold about 6,000 Volts, said a GM spokesman. All Volts, he said, are equipped with an emergency safety notification system. Nissan Motors says it was not aware of any fires in its electric car, the Leaf.
The Department of Energy and others figure that “battery costs need to come down to $350 per kilowatt-hour to make electric vehicles competitive in the market place, according to the Institute for Energy Research.
Scientific American in February wrote: “It is difficult to say how likely such an arbitrary goal [Obama’s forecast of one million cars on our roadways by 2015] might be….”
Of course, the Obama administration realizes that attaining such a goal will be impossible without help from the federal government. To that end, the article mentions the $7,500 tax credits, the $2.4 billion subsidy for high-powered batteries for the electric vehicles, $300 million in “clean city” grants, $115 million for installation of electric charging infrastructure in key metropolitan areas and the $25 billion being doled out to U.S. car companies to retool.
The Electrification Coalition, an organization of hopeful pro-EV leaders from companies including Nissan, Federal Express, Coda Automotive and Coulomb Technologies, and others predicted that as many as 14 million EVs could be on American roads by 2020 if lawmakers create “electrification ecosystems” in major U.S. cities simultaneously. Extremely unlikely.
Even with all the federal funding, “a million EVs on the road by 2015 may still be just a pipe dream,” said James Sweeney of Stanford University’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center. He calls the plan “very aggressive.” He explains that it took over a decade for hybrids—which “did not require any difference in infrastructure and had as great a range as conventional vehicles– neither of which is likely to be the case with electric vehicles”—to capture three percent of the U.S. passenger car and light truck market. EVs would have to achieve the same market share in just four years if Obama’s goal is to be realized.
In January, a panel of industry experts, brought together by Indiana University, issued a 78-page report that said the one million goal was not doable. It based it’s conclusion on production volumes and its analysis of consumer demand.
The Department of Energy (DOE), political to the core, shot back in an 11-page report saying based on “conservative” estimates of production plans, a total of 1.22 million plug-in vehicles could be built and sold by the end of 2015.
Astonishingly, but unsurprisingly, the DOE gave its source not from car makers but from media reports of plans, with two thirds of the 1.22 million coming from Government Motors’ hybrid Volt.
Dream on, DOE.
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