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Hybrid car sales fueled by affordability

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Hybrid car sales fueled by affordability

Cutting gas use also a factor, says expert on trends

BY GREG GARDNER

FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

Buyers of hybrids and first-generation plug-in electric cars are driven more by affordability and reducing gasoline consumption than recapturing the performance of a traditional gas-only car, said a California expert on future trends in transportation.

"People are remarkably willing to change if they see some value in doing so," said Daniel Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis.

Sperling was one of about a dozen speakers Monday at Building the U.S. Battery Industry, a conference sponsored by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. The two-day meeting continues today at Schoolcraft College in Livonia.

Sperling said the auto industry is framing electric vehicles and advanced technology as a series of problems such as developing a battery that can last long enough to ease fears of being stranded. The industry is fretting over whether there will be enough of a network of recharging stations.

Instead, people who will buy the vehicles are motivated by social values such as reducing gas consumption, not supporting foreign countries that supply most of our oil and might be associated with terrorists, or having a modest effect in containing climate change.

Sperling said one group of his students has studied about 100 people in southern California who have driven early versions of BMW's Mini E. Among their findings:

• One-third say being able to drive 100 miles without recharging is good enough.

• One-half say the 100-mile range meets more than 90% of their driving needs, and when it doesn't, they are willing to adjust.

• People who began driving the all-electric cars started mapping out routes so they could get to required destinations within the 100-mile range.

Other speakers focused on the need to cultivate a large supply base for batteries and electric vehicles.

Despite the $2.4 billion the U.S. Department of Energy awarded to companies such as A123 Systems, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and Compact Power, much of the basic materials and battery cells continue to be sourced from Asia.

Tom Watson, who leads Johnson Controls' battery technology business, said about 80% of his company's supply base is manufacturing outside the U.S.

"This is something we need to change," Watson said. "One way is to stimulate a stronger push to encourage suppliers to conduct their research and development in the U.S."

link:

http://www.freep.com/article/20100727/BUSINESS01/7270306/1331/Hybrid-car-sales-fueled-by-affordability

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Buyers of hybrids and first-generation plug-in electric cars are driven more by affordability and reducing gasoline consumption than recapturing the performance of a traditional gas-only car, said a California expert on future trends in transportation.

I think this should earn the automotive Captain Obvious award of the year.

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