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Obama gets peek at Escape plug-in hybrid

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  March 19, 2009 03:00 PM

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Barack Obama at Edison electric vehicle technical centerSo, how's the mileage on your Cadillac limo, Mr. President? (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama stopped by Southern California Edison's electric vehicle garage in Pomona Thursday to promote his plan to fund $2.4 billion in federal grants for the development of plug-in hybrid vehicles.

"It's always nice to get out of Washington a little bit -- recharge your batteries," Obama said.

Obama, who famously traded his Hemi Chrysler 300C for a 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid to appear green-friendly at the start of his presidential bid, is shown above next to a plug-in prototype of his compact SUV. Ford has tested vehicles at the Edison facility — which includes fast chargers, battery labs, fuel cells and a fleet of almost 300 electric cars — since 2007, but won't roll out plug-in hybrids until 2012.

A dedicated electric version of the Transit Connect van will arrive next year as a 2011 model with a claimed 100-mile range. During a presentation in Brookline Wednesday, the company said it would sell "at least four more battery electrified vehicles" by 2012.

According to the White House and a Boston Globe report today, the funds include a maximum $1.5 billion for US battery manufacturers, $500 million for component manufacturers, and $400 million for testing purposes. Plug-in hybrid buyers should also be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, but there's no word if a production limit will reduce that amount, as is current IRS practice for hybrid vehicles.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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48 comments so far...
  1. Cool!

    Posted by Chris March 19, 09 04:02 PM
  1. I will like President Obama to think how good the Goverment's investment in Battery Production will be at the end... you got to remember that, at the end, batteries are not good for the environment... the waste is terrible and we are going to face a huge problem later on ...

    Posted by MJ March 19, 09 04:12 PM
  1. The whole world is waiting for America to produce electric cars and electric buses - but keep them lightweight in design to fit the 21st Century and the fact that you've got a battery powering the car. See as an example of what America should be producing and exporting.

    Posted by John Aidiniantz March 19, 09 04:13 PM
  1. nice, but for the retired, for get it. Same old thing got to be rich to have the finer things in life.

    Posted by Al Jordan March 19, 09 04:22 PM
  1. And where does the electricity come from? Coal *cough* I guess it's just one of those out of sight out of mind things though.

    Posted by Mike March 19, 09 04:25 PM

    Posted by jturner March 19, 09 04:28 PM
  1. They didn't let Obama see the RAV4-EV driven to the event by local Pomona residents.

    Posted by Doug Korthof March 19, 09 04:29 PM
  1. In response to 2 above: The batteries will be recycled so they will not end up in land fills. Eg. when you currently replace your car battery, you can trade it in for a discount on the new one. The same rule will apply so no battery has to end up in a land fill.

    Posted by Barney March 19, 09 04:31 PM
  1. Obama should be pursuing HYDROGEN. NASA have already perfected HYDROGEN vehicle conversions.
    Forget electric cars...they are wasteful and battery acid every where.

    Posted by Nowell March 19, 09 04:31 PM
  1. Could be an import if it's made in Mexico ????

    Posted by jack March 19, 09 04:33 PM
  1. Hey, MJ, you can recycle batteries

    Posted by Randroo March 19, 09 04:36 PM
  1. Welcome to the 21st. Century and the leadership of America is starting to look fresh, innovative and full of intellectual promise. It is a reminder that evolution will eventually overcome those that wish to prevent progress and adaptation toward a more intregrated and dynamic world.
    A world that is both adaptable to scientific realities and the realities of humanity in our universial declaration of shared aspirations.
    Thank You, President Obama for the fine example of leadership and innovation. I personally believe that you represent the best America has to offer and a downpayment to a better, smart future.

    Posted by Dyke Vondale Davis March 19, 09 04:46 PM
  1. Fantastic. What a refreshing change to have an administration not influenced by the oil companies and or big business in general? Unfortunately it's going to take alot to over come the last 8 years of corruption and ignorance, but the last 60 days have shown all steps in the right direction.

    Let's all kill the lapel-pin patriot charades and truly stand behind our current president as he helps to heals "US". If you decide not to support our current president then you are not patriotic and a true traitor to this country, or at least that's the bull I've had to hear for that last 8 years.

    Posted by mvp March 19, 09 04:46 PM
  1. MJ (#2): Batteries are not particularly bad for the environment compared to burning gasoline and diesel fuel, or landfilling used tires. The lithium ion batteries that most folks are assuming will be doing the heavy lifting in applications like this are not even classified as hazardous waste! But it would be wasteful to discard them, they can be shredded and recycled to recover the lithium salts, cobalt, steel, aluminum and copper used to construct them.

    Mike (#5): Even older US coal power plants pollute the air less than burning gasoline and diesel in automobiles. Newer plants (and nuclear/hydro/wind) do even better.

    Posted by Jay March 19, 09 04:56 PM
  1. Just think how much further we'd be if it wasn't for GM? As to who almost killed the electric car here's some insight:
    Yep back in 1997 toyota had fully electric cars. Killed in 2003 by a lawsuit by Chevron, who inherited the rights to the battery technology when they merged with Texaco who purchased them from, care to guess? Yep GM! Chevron then closed down and dismantled the plant that made these batteries.

    I'd say let GM shut down, screw em, they sure screwed us! Oh yea I try not to buy anything from Chevron either.


    Posted by Alex March 19, 09 05:17 PM
  1. A progressive President...
    It's good to see hope in action.

    Posted by Haitiana4Obama March 19, 09 05:31 PM
  1. All of you whom have negative comments get off the planet and start thinking positive its time to work together. Get Positive !

    Posted by tONY March 19, 09 05:49 PM
  1. I,donot know much about the above comentaries but i velive President Obama is doing things on the wright direction.

    Posted by Elias March 19, 09 05:53 PM
  1. $2.4 billion?? we spend that much in gas EVERY WEEK!!

    man , cmon, bring out the real money!!.. execs on Wall Street would have a cow if their bonus was that little and we paid for that. we need plugs in NOW!! we need charging stations NOW!!! not 2012.


    Posted by DaveinOlyWA March 19, 09 06:26 PM
  1. Too bad that Japenese got ahead of us and they master the battery technology 20 years ahead of us. Ford and all the others have a lot of catching up to do. For those who are waiting to drive battery cars, may want to push Obama to develop battery airplanes.

    Posted by Sleepingbull March 19, 09 07:02 PM
  1. To Nowell the Hyrdrogen fueled idiot,

    Please get a clue what you're talking about before unleashing your idiotic notions on the rest of us.

    Hydrogen is far less efficient than electric. Electric vehicles are here, ready to be made, and they utilize low carbon fuel that is also inexpensive.

    EV's are the answer and that's a fact.

    Posted by Nowell is an idiot March 19, 09 09:20 PM
  1. oil is here to stay. once the economy gets back on track and peoples 401k rise again, this whole 'go green' topic will drop like a hot potato. you will never see mass produced electric or hydrogen vehicles in your lifetime. Huge SUV's chuggin gas will be popular again in 2 years. Obamo is just doing this for show, he has no clue what he is doing. The GOP will take over in 4 years and we will invade another oil laden country in the middle east and be right back where we started. So, go get a case of brew and go camping and enjoy what little lifetime you have left on this planet. These 'change' topics are a waste of time.

    Posted by jaminjm March 20, 09 07:33 AM
  1. hydrogen cars are only good where water doesnt freeze because the hdrogen cars make water

    and did you ever hear of wind mills, solar, hydo, or even nulcear power plants to make electricitiy

    and what about natural gas power cars the fuel is cheap and plentiful
    and there is alot located right off the coast of florida

    Posted by greg andrade March 20, 09 07:47 AM
  1. If we, the taxpayer, are going to spend billions on companies which in turn will most likely give the money to executives, then there must be some major oversight. It seems to me when government gets involved the results are less than optimal. For sure Obama hasn't a clue. Let those who have been the leaders developing this technology be left alone and the best will survive. I suspect electric vehicles just don't have the range to be viable for most of us but in metro Boston why not. Eventually Hydrogen will be the answer even if they turn gasoline into electric. Those who say otherwise haven't a clue on what promise hydrogen technology has.

    Posted by usmc68 March 20, 09 08:20 AM
  1. Good to see a President who gets that America becomes richer and stay on top with technological investment in science, engineering and manufacturing real products, not "financial engineering".

    I know we can catch up on this technology, as well as stem cells, climate science, green technology and so on. America does have (relatively) low unemployment, access to decent infrastructure, it's a HUGE market, and American consumers generally will spend money.

    Posted by J March 20, 09 08:48 AM
  1. All we need now are some attractive hybrid family sedans. The new Ford Fusion does this nicely. And they actually make it fun to try and save fuel with their leafy fuel guage display.

    Well done.

    Still waiting on a few affordable sport-hybrids. I think the hybrid Mustang would be an amazing seller if you could get decent enough power out of the engine. Comprable to the base model would be sufficient.

    Posted by Andy March 20, 09 08:49 AM
  1. Batteries use heavy metals, which will eventually need to be disposedas the hazards they are. But the biggest drawback of this path is the common misconception that batter poe[wered cars are "clean". Batteries do not produce electricity, they merely store it. They must be charged by an alternate electrical production source, rightfully pointed out as coal. Here is the real drawback. You always lose energy when you convert it from one form to another, store it and then re-use it. So that car will require three times as much electricity to charge as it will be able to output for use. Currently the electrical grid is running at bettter than 90% of capacity. California has already had to impose rolling blackouts at peak times. We are all being told not touse electricity during peak hours and brownouts are becoming increasingly common in the East. This is because our generating capacity is maxed out, and our transmission system is 1930's technology and very innefficient. We cannot add any significant load to this system without building many more power plants, and because nuclear is anathema, those plants will be either Natural Gass, increasing our dependancy on foreign sources (we cannot tap our own supplies, they are off limits) orcoal. In either case the CO2 produced generating the electricity will outweigh the CO2 sab=ved by not burning gas.

    The only real option is fuel cells which use a chemical reaction to produce electricity, without CO2 production or pooluting waste products. That technology is in its infancy, but would be a far better use of taxpaye money than a feel good boondoggle which accomplishes nothing.

    Posted by mike 236 March 20, 09 09:47 AM
  1. Screw the hybrid......I want my flying car....

    Posted by Old Dude March 20, 09 10:08 AM
  1. Batteries

    Batteries in almost all forms can be recycled right now. Lead acid, alkaline, NiCad, NiMH, Li-Ion, and other rechargeables. Silver oxide batteries used in watches, children's toys, and even some medical devices are particularly hazardous because of the mercury. In the U.S., Batteries Plus stores recycle all kinds of batteries.

    Electricity and coal

    EPRI studied the issue of what will happen when plugin hybrids electric vehicles, or PHEVs, become available to consumers and they get plugged in. Briefly, they concluded there's plenty of excess electricity now so the grid won't go down, and even with half of the electricity in the U.S. coming from coal plugging in will still reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.

    It's all online. Spend an hour or so and read the press release, the executive summaries, the technology primer and the FAQ.


    Read "The Hype About Hydrogen" by Dr. Joseph Romm. He's an MIT graduate in physics. Hydrogen powered cars is a bad myth. The car and oil industries have been saying since the days of President Carter, "Fuel cell cars are only 10 years away." It ain't gonna happen. Evolution of cars will move to hybrids, to PHEVs, and then on to EVs, electric vehicles.

    Posted by Ken Grubb March 20, 09 10:37 AM
  1. I'm impressed and proud that some 90% of the previous 27 comments are positive, either confirming or believing in a new, or at least altered, vision. I am a fuel cell industry analyst, but very realisticly see plug-in FC-battery hybrids, with optimally sized fuel cells and small efficient recyclable batteries. There is significant potential for the renewable or clean production of hydrogen, and high temperature PEM or solid oxide fuel cell technolgy is much more forgiving of hydrogen impurities, not dependent on hydrated operation (no temperature problems) and can even use ethanol or methanol rather than hydrogen. California with its overtaxed grid and the northeast with significant dirty coal plant power would certainly benefit by having many cars able to actually produce clean power and sell it back to the grid in times of high demand. Look to 2012-2015 for some real breakthroughs with significant fleets of such vehicles hitting the roads (more than 200 Honda Clarity's [plural of Clarity?].

    Posted by Jim Horwitz March 20, 09 10:45 AM
  1. Hybrids are overpriced and for the most part, UGLY! Prius, Civic, Volt. Tiny and also underpowered. I have 3 kids. I can't pile everyone in a small uncomfortable Prius. Plus they are so overpriced you can get an normal car for much less money. The money you supposedly save on gas will take a long time to make up the difference in cost.

    Posted by FormerHPB March 20, 09 11:56 AM
  1. I see a lot of people have no concept of basic science. can transform it, not make it.
    An electric car just means you burn the fuel somewhere else. Can you even imagine what the cost of electricity will be if you have electric cars with no increase in electrical production?
    Windmills? How many windmills per car?
    Do the math people.

    Posted by Shipswake March 20, 09 12:19 PM
  1. To the people mentioning coal. Don't think you are the only one to do so & people aren't well aware of it, it always gets brought up.
    Using the US grid avg, the RAV4EV emits 0.4lbs CO2/mi, equivalent to a 49 mpg car. For my local area in CA: 0.22lbs CO2/mi = 90 mpg car.
    Using the fact coal emits 2lbs/kWh, you get 0.6lbs CO2/mi = a 33mpg car. An equivalent 2000 2WD manual RAV4 got 26mpg in the old epa scale, 23mpg in the new one.
    You can do your own calculations here using the fact a RAV4EV is rated at 300Wh/mi, and a gallon of gasoline emits 19.6lbs of CO2 :
    As you can see on average, an EV is better than a hybrid in emissions and even in 100% coal is better than the equivalent ICE vehicle. In areas with less coal, you can be twice as clean as a hybrid.
    This is ignoring the gains you can get from using off peak electricity and that the grid will likely be cleaned up as we adopt more EVs.

    For the people talking about "toxic" batteries, please realize li-ion batteries are not only non-toxic and landfill safe, but that they can be recycled. It's not like we are still only using lead acid batteries.

    Posted by jake March 20, 09 06:05 PM
  1. Hybrid technology is a joke. A JOKE!

    I'm sick and tired of people coming up with half-ass answers to problems and no SOLUTIONS. Why spend billions on using less oil when it's going to run out.

    Lets not use oil at all. Lets put that money towards making a safe nuclear technology...or even working to create a NEW technology that is 100% renewable.

    Posted by Hey news sites...start posting tomorrow's news. March 20, 09 06:31 PM
  1. I agree with the Hyrdogen comment, but don't get it twisted - Hydrogen vehicles run on a battery 5x the size of that which is being rolled out in the Chevy Volt. The reason we will not see hydrogen in the next 10 years (if ever) is two-fold:

    1. Battery size & expense - currently at almost $100K to produce a vehicle, AKA the masses cant afford it

    2. More importantly, there is no way to make significant money off hydrogren. If you are BP, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, etc. would you give up a business where you make record profits on a quarterly basis, just so the public can drive green cars? In an ideal world the answer is obvious, but in our greedy, capitalist, lobby-saturated world this is not going to happen...

    Posted by Jim March 20, 09 06:59 PM
  1. One more at Nowel ....

    Hydrogen cars ARE electric cars. Fuel Cells do not turn shafts - they make electricity. Put a battery in there, and the fuel cell can be smaller, cheaper, but still uses too much platinum/ (and/or other precious metals) to be practical.

    Posted by donee March 20, 09 07:44 PM
  1. Mike 236,,,

    Ahem - you really need to study up on your chemistry. I have not had a chemistry class in 30+ years but still remember that Lithium (as in Lithium Ion batteries) is the lighest metal. It only has three protons.
    Nickel Metal Hydride batteries do not use any poisonous metals. Your thinking of Nickel Cadmium batteries. Cadmium is very dangrous.

    Posted by donee March 20, 09 07:53 PM
  1. Hi Shipswake,
    You are right about science and energy, but apparently you have no understanding of basic engineeriing. For about 1/3 the energy you can run an electric car in city/suburban driving. The gasoline internal combustion engine is only efficient when its putting out lots of power. Anything less and its wastes tremendously. In the city your always throwing away that gas by braking and heating up friction brakes, too. SO, that means you need 1/3 the fuel at the power plant, then you would pump into that internal combustion car.
    Right now overnight, there are copious suppllies of electricity. So much so, its discounted. . If the electric company can make more money each year, on the same plant, with the same numbers of plant operators, with the same property taxes, electricty costs will go down. You might pay them more, but the savings in gas will be more!

    Posted by donee March 20, 09 08:11 PM
  1. Hydrogen is a crappy choice - very inefficient and very expensive. EVs are going to win out in a big way. Electricity can be clean and cheap. Batteries are non-toxic and recyclable and will become cheap in the not too distant future.
    The age of ICE is numbered.

    Till then my Prius is awesome. Roomy, powerful, reliable and a pleasure to have for the family. Also very affordable - there is no premium to pay when buying a Prius.

    Posted by Fibb222 March 21, 09 05:23 AM
  1. I've been driving a Lexus 400h since two years and it's a perfect example how one can reduce fuel consumption by 35 % immediately. The Prius is another role model. These cars refill the batteries constantly and that's a good solution short term. But, your President is absolutely right. It's the USA that should lead the technology now!

    Posted by Jan from Europe March 21, 09 08:08 AM
  1. we need the cool skateboards from back to the future.

    Posted by Mike March 21, 09 10:40 AM
  1. We should focus on cars with a renewable power source. Unless an all-electric car is going to get you 800-1000 miles on a charge, it's not for the general public. I can see all these cars sitting on the mass pike, not moving because someone forgot to plugin the night before.

    Posted by danny March 21, 09 11:22 AM
  1. Think as Roosevelt during the depression years...freeze wages, prices, eliminate bonuses. Tight controls until we have solved an environment that is no longer able to support life i.e.. O2, H20, healthy food, and a healthy life style. Put people back to work building alternative energy (screw those who think windmills are unsightly), ocean tides, thermal sources from down deep without disturbing the devil, solar energy (satellite stations harnessing the solar rays), hydro, and any other clean source that is yet undiscovered. We have to move fast and get the people of their FAT SLOVEN LIFE STYE. Get them walking riding bikes. Bike , walking , should have a separate right of way such as they have in the windmill country, Holland where they have overcome the energy crisis.

    Posted by George T-5 WW2 H.D. Lived during the depression March 21, 09 04:31 PM
  1. Might want touse that govt. money to fix the roads and bridges before we worry about what kind of car we are driving.

    Posted by Rydal March 22, 09 08:53 PM
  1. Great documentary "Who killed the electric car" GM killing there electric car was more of a cover-up then most people realize. The vehicle had these great features like brake pads that never needed to be replaced, air filter that never needed to be replaced, no oil changes, no fuel filters. The auto companies bought all the electric car battery companies up then sold them to Cheveron (for huge profit) who then moth-balled them. As long as power plants are running on coal then electric cars don't mean anything. Also there no such thing as clean coal.

    Posted by Dan March 23, 09 12:30 AM
  1. Educate yourselves! Talking heads on TV is the new propaganda. The truth is uncovered in new age documentory's like this one...

    Posted by Dan March 23, 09 12:36 AM
  1. As a lifelong liberal, I am glad to see there is finally something positive to the Obama administration
    the 1st few months have been extremely rocky

    Posted by knottypine March 23, 09 10:42 AM
  1. whats up with the milage comment on obamas limo under the picture, the reason i havent visited the globe in a month, and bought the because of garbage like that. you mind your Ps and Qs about our presidents means of transortation. maybe the economy will worsent just a bit more so you get a pink slip?

    Posted by joeb March 24, 09 10:45 AM

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
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