May 23, 2011
Toyota Expects Prius To Surpass Camry
In a sign of the times Toyota is going to bring up wagon and smaller coupe versions of the Prius and a Toyota executive expects Prius to eventually outsell the Camry (which is the best selling car in America).
“We know the hybrid segment will grow faster if we add a little versatility,” Carter said. “It won’t happen in the next 12 to 24 months, but Prius will outsell Camry. It’s going to be what defines the Toyota brand in the future.”
It is telling that Toyota foresees this shift. Though another Toyota executive has already made clear that Toyota expects Peak Oil by 2020. So the bigger role for the Prius seems consistent consistent with Toyota's expectation of fundamentals driving the need for much greater fuel efficiency.
The Prius, or Pius as I generally refer to it, is a quality vehicle. I've seen 5 people get out of one before, with luggage for a weekend stay at the beach in Oregon. It's something of an environmentalist idol vehicle, but at least they collectively picked a solid and reliable machine for their fetish. It's got a good combination of very low trouble, excellent mileage, and adequacy for most uses by smaller families. It also makes a pretty good impromptu generator with a bit of work.
I doubt it'll displace the Camry anytime soon, as the Camry is also a pretty solid design, fitting a lot of family use cases that the Prius doesn't do as well, and there's a hybrid Camry on the market also. I've given thought to getting a Pius V station wagon though perhaps in 3-4 years when I can get one that is 3-4 years used.
Worldwide or the US. Camry isn't sold in Europe and its sales in Japan aren't earth shattering either
This is just the beginning. There are already many significant incremental improvements in batteries. Instead of the best lithium ion batteries that are designed by the A123 systems, there are now lithium-sulfur batteries that have twice the energy density per weight. The Sion Power company already demonstrated such batteries by putting them in electric military drones. Please read the news at the website:
Sion Power's Li-S technology provides rechargeable cells with a specific energy of over 350 Wh/kg, which is 50% greater than the currently commercially available rechargeable battery technologies. Over 600 Wh/kg in specific energy and 600 Wh/l in energy density are achievable in the near future.
Apropos of the peak oil comment ... . How much is your view of the subject changed by the introduction of fracking technology, which I gather drastically increases the supply of natural gas? For some uses natural gas is a superior substitute for petroleum; I'm not sure whether it can be made an adequate substitute for petroleum as a fuel for automobiles or not.
Apparently fracking technology will make several decades of natural gas available as a stop-gap measure to replace foreign oil. Natural gas is very economical, and all metro buses in Los Angeles run on natural gas. And because the oil industry is in favor of natural gas (since refining and processing natural gas fits their busine$$ model), it is possible that the government can legislate to make sure that all trucks and trains run on natural gas, and in the latter case this would cut foreign oil imports in half. It will take another decade to make cheap batteries for electric cars, but once this is done, the world will very quickly switch to electric cars. It will take only a few decades. By 2020 Israel and Denmark will have closed all their gas stations.
Some points about natural gas for transportation:
- Compressed natural gas vehicles have less range and usually less trunk capacity. But I do not think this is decisive once the cost of gasoline goes high enough. The average commute is pretty short and home recharging will be an option for some (I'd really like to know the percentage of homes with natural gas service btw). Plenty of families can afford a commuter car that is specialized for that purpose. The 2-3 car family can use different cars for different purposes.
- CNG increases the cost of vehicles more than hybrid tech (at least so far in the US).
- CNG could be combined with hybrid tech to increase vehicle range. Hybrid tech's fuel savings in that case would provide a bigger benefit in increased range than it would in reduced fuel costs (since natural gas is so cheap to begin with).
- CNG has bigger barriers to entry (as compared to hybrid tech) due to the need for refueling stations. However, Steve Kopits says the biggest obstacle is CNG's added cost to vehicles. Basically, if CNG cars cost only a small amount over gasoline cars then the refueling stations would get built in very short order. I think Kopits is correct.
In a nutshell: I see the viability of CNG for cars as a function of CNG vehicle cost and the spread between gasoline and natural gas. Either CNG car costs need to come way down (and I'm not at all clear on the prospects for that) or the gap between gasoline and natural gas has to become much wider. If the optimists about fracking technology and shale natural gas reserves are correct (i.e. if Arthur Berman is wrong) then I expect it is only a matter of time till CNG cars become cost competitive.
I expect LNG trucks to become competitive sooner than CNG cars.
I hope the fracking optimists (meant also in the Battlestar Galactica sense) are correct because that will make the decline in world oil production far less damaging to the world economy and especially to the US economy.
I'm still expecting hydraulic (and perhaps pneumatic) hybrids to have a larger global impact in the medium term. They have a large impact on city mileage and don't require expensive batteries, electric motors or power electronics.
CNG build at the assembly line is not more expensive than hybrid tech.
Hydraulic hybrids can't be plug-in which is why their future has already passed
Pogo stick gets better mileage than all of them.
So why aren't we seeing hydraulic hybrids already? What's going to change that will make them more competitive?
I'd really like to know the costs of CNG, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and pure electric tech 5 and 10 years from now. How soon will substitutes help us? That's the biggest Peak Oil question.
In countries with a large CNG fleet in private hands (In short Iran) CNG is $1k more expensive than pure gasoline. Don't expect that to change. The others depend to much on the size of their market and the price of batteries to say something useful
According to this article, the Saudis think that if the price of oil stays above $100 then this will be a danger for their long term control of the energy market because at that price the West will seriously develop alternative energy.
Alwaleed: Saudis Seek Oil Price of $70-$80
By Eric Martin - May 28, 2011 9:00 PM PT
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said an oil price of $70 to $80 a barrel is in the best interests of Saudi Arabia because it diminishes the urgency in the U.S. and Europe to develop alternative energy sources.
“We don’t want the West to go and find alternatives,” Alwaleed, a nephew of Saudi King Abdullah, said in an interview on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” scheduled for broadcast today. “The higher the price of oil goes, the more they have incentives to go and find alternatives.”