Archive for January, 2012

Road Trip

January 22, 2012

It is January; so that means it must be time to think about where I go on vacation this year. Given the presence of a toddler in the house, this will almost definitely be somewhere I can drive to. Conveniently, my issue of AAA World showed up with its usual array of great trip ideas. Amongst the trip ideas was a story about efficiency in general and electric vehicles in particular. I must confess I have never put AAA and using less gasoline in the same thought before, so I read this with great interest.

Not only was there a great write-up on how seriously the auto industry is taking efficiency (for both economic and regulatory reasons), there was also an announcement of an upcoming series about trends the magazine believes “to be pushing the envelope of efficiency”. Sample features will include Tesla and the West Philly Hybird X Team. Tesla is a pioneer of battery technology, while the West Philly Hybrid X Team has won all kinds of citations for their entry in a national competition to design a car that can get 80-100 miles per gallon.

The article had a really nice write up on how seriously the automobile industry is taking (mileage) efficiency. This comes from a regulatory basis (the corporate average fuel economy—CAFÉ standards) and a market basis due to how consumer preferences tends to shift when gas hits $3.75/gallon toward higher mile-per-gallon cars. (I’ve seen other sources which say the $4/gallon is the tipping point. Whatever the reasons, I am thrilled to see more investment in developing more efficient cars.

There was a portion of this article that raised some questions about electric vehicles. Some of these concerned an infrastructure for electrics (charging stations), what might happen when batteries are depleted, etc. I think the question of disposing electric batteries is only fair if disposing of regular car batteries is considered as well. As for infrastructure, I have seen an increasing number of announcements of this location or that location being outfitted as a recharging station. Maybe this is part of the reason that, in spite of these questions, the article included a statement saying how AAA is “embracing the role of the EV (electric vehicle) in the future of the automobile”.

That does not mean that electric cars will become the dominant player in the industry any time soon. But it certainly underlines the potential for electric cars to become a noticeable segment in the industry. For example, I noticed that 700 units of BMWs current electric car (the Active-E) are now available for testing in the United States. (I happen to love BMWs, so I really paid attention to this item—too bad I live in the wrong market to qualify for the test.) If companies like BMW, Nissan, Ford, Honda and others gain acceptance over the next few years for their electric vehicle offerings, they will combine with the Toyota Prius to make a very noticeable market segment indeed.

BMW’s new electric vehicle ready for testing

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