Dr. Lyle J. Dennis today asked readers of his GM-Volt.com enthusiast site to sign a petition asking the Bush Administration to bail out GM. As a public advocate of the electrification of the automobile, Dennis believes without a bailout, GM will die and so will the Volt, not to mention Project Driveway, GM’s fuel cell initiative.
GM has announced the Chevy Volt will ship in 2010 with a price somewhere in the $30,000 dollar range. The big question is whether or not GM will survive long enough to see 2010 and the release of the Volt.
Why This Is Important to the Future of Energy
The first successfully mass marketed electric vehicle will tip the market away from oil and to electricity.
Here at The Energy Roadmap we’ve been talking over Skype about the Volt’s future given the economy. Garry Golden told me, “At the end of the day, they’re likely to tank Chrysler before they tank General Motors if they see it as a much more functional and valuable company.’”
Says Golden, “GM is in the best position to make this leap to electric vehicles,” because of their R&D commitment to these vehicles.
General Motors (GM) and OnStar have successfully demonstrated a prototype technology called Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, which does exactly that – it allows OnStar advisors working with law enforcement to send a signal to a subscriber’s stolen vehicle to reduce engine power, slowing the vehicle down gradually.
The exact process for Stolen Vehicle Slowdown (at right) goes as follows:
- Once the vehicle has been reported stolen to law enforcement, the subscriber can call OnStar and request Stolen Vehicle Assistance. OnStar will confirm the subscriber has not opted out of the Stolen Vehicle Slowdown service.
- OnStar uses real-time GPS technology to attempt to pinpoint the exact location of the stolen vehicle and provide this information to law enforcement to help them recover the vehicle.
- When law enforcement has established a clear line of sight of the stolen vehicle, law enforcement may request OnStar to slow it down remotely.
- OnStar then sends a remote signal to the vehicle that interacts with the Powertrain system to reduce engine power which will slow the vehicle down gradually.
Worried that the wrong car might be targeted? OnStar insists that “Safeguards will be in place to ensure that the correct vehicle is slowed down.”
Stolen Vehicle Slowdown comes along just as more people are installing automobile kill switches to protect their property, bring down insurance rates and protect innocent bystanders in the event of a high speed chase.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, about 30,000 police chases occur yearly and approximately 300 deaths occur as a result of those chases. Kill switches could have a major impact on these casualties.
Call it a man bites dog story for the clean energy era. German solar cell manufacturer SolarWorld recently made a bid for Opel, GM’s European car company.
Not that Opel was for sale. But it does show that at least one solar manufacturer is looking for a way to make a solar powered car.
What This Means for the Future of Energy
SolarWorld Chairman Frank H. Asbeck insists the offer is in good faith. SolarWorld is betting that GM is in bad enough shape that they’d have to sell off assets, such as European brands, making an easier entry into the automotive market for SolarWorld than having to create a car company from scratch.
More importantly, it shows that the electric vehicle market is up for grabs. SolarWorld wanted to buy a car manufacturer so that they could get a leg up on bringing an electric vehicle to market; then, they could sell the solar panels that could be used to charge it up. One solar installer consulted for the reality of solar panels powering an electric vehicle quoted an installation costing $12,000 to $15,000 to be adequate to charge up a typical electric vehicle.
Could this be a signal that cleantech could lead the way in many business deals in the future? What’s next, a bid from First Solar for Chrysler?
GM & Segway are hoping to commercialize a new category of smart micro-vehicles for urban environments by 2012 (See previous post). I love the application of Segway software, but am skeptical of a 'plug in' battery version.
I'm not sure how many wall sockets are accessible to urban dwellers who don't have garages! So I love the idea, but think the real potential is the 'access' business model. Let's keep the PUMA owned and operated by mobility service companies, not urban dwellers themselves!
General Motors and Segway unveiled a new type of small electric motor vehicle with advanced software that could shift how we look at mobility as a service.
In an effort to appeal to digitally connected urban audiences, GM describes Project P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) as a low-cost mobility platform that 'enables design creativity, fashion, fun and social networking.' This protoype model travels up to 35 miles per hour (56 kph), with a range up to 35 miles (56 km) between recharges (though it's not clear how urban residents will access wall sockets!)
Vehicle-to-Vehicle communication systems that relay alerts and information to drivers to reduce congestion and prevent collisions are already being integrated into luxury vehicles. But within a decade or two we can expect low cost vehicles embedded with sensors and ‘situation awareness’ detection systems that make cars 'smarter' than drivers.
Access and Ownership (and Potential Chaos) A compelling vision of Personal Urban Vehicles is the emergence of personal 'mobility as service' companies that connect outer hubs with urban destination points (offices, retail, recreation, et al). In addition to owning personal vehicles, we can imagine paying for 'access' to fleets of vehicles that we don't have to park. (Of course, adding fleets of small vehicles could mean chaos in urban areas for pedestrians! Not to mention pushback from the Cabbies in New York!)
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