Automakers are intensifying the pace to roll out electrified vehicles, with General Motors Corporation (GM), Toyota, and Fisker Automotive announcing their production schedules at the Los Angeles Auto Show in California in early December. GM announced that its Chevy Volt, an extended-range electric vehicle, will be available late next year in California only, and in additional markets later. GM is investing $336 million in its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant to begin Volt production in late 2010. GM is also partnering with three California utilities and the Electric Power Research Institute in a real-world demonstration to establish vehicle charging programs and to introduce the Volt to consumers. GM is drawing on more than $30 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds from DOE for the project.
Meanwhile, the 2010 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid vehicle (PHV) made its North American debut at the Los Angeles show. Based on the third-generation Prius, the latest version adds a lithium-ion battery that enables all-electric operation at higher speeds and longer distances than the conventional Prius hybrid. The new Prius PHV is designed to use the all-electric mode for trips of about 13 miles. After that, it reverts to the hybrid mode like a regular Prius. Toyota plans to deliver 150 vehicles to the United States early in 2010, placing them in regional clusters for consumer tests and technical demonstrations. For instance, Toyota will place 10 Prius PHVs with residents of Boulder, Colorado, under a regional partnership with Xcel Energy’s SmartGridCity program. The residents will participate in an interdisciplinary research project coordinated by the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute, a new joint venture between DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Established companies weren’t the only ones touting their electric innovations in Los Angeles. Fisker, a start-up founded in August 2007, said it would begin will begin delivering its Karma plug-in hybrids in the third quarter of 2010. Fisker is backed by a $528.7 million conditional loan from DOE and operates from its global headquarters in Irvine, California, with an engineering facility in Pontiac, Michigan. The Fisker Karma was displayed at the Los Angeles Auto Show along with a wide array of fuel-efficient and electrified concept and production cars, including the tiny Honda Personal-Neo Urban Transport (P-NUT for short) concept and the CMT-380 concept, an extended-range electric vehicle that draws on a 30-kilowatt microturbine from Capstone Turbine Corporation once its battery pack runs low on power. In essence, the CMT-380 is an electric car with a quiet jet engine under its hood. The Los Angeles Auto Show ran from December 4 to 13.