looks at all government truck fleets and an annual truck turnover rate of 8 percent, this would provide significant assistance to the early market and is something we would like to see more people talking about,” Mr. Van Amburg said.
In sum, CALSTART’s experience with trucks shows that “listening to the customer and focusing on how we target the key applications that will get the beachhead launched” was successful, Mr. Van Amburg said. “But over the long haul, we really need a coordinated plan that synchronizes our investment strategy, our incentives, and our requirements so that we can move out in a unified, long-term way.” Besides long-term R&D, he said, “we need to target those gaps of moving into pre-production volumes faster and bringing in the user to target these key applications.”
Dr. Sastry of Sakti3 remarked that it was good to hear discussion of the different sizes of battery packs needed, with some speakers talking about 50 kilowatt hours and others about 2 kilowatt hours. “The reality is that these will move up and down the scale,” she said. Dr. Sastry asked what kind of infrastructure companies like GM and Ford have “to regularize, test, and control packs.”
Some companies have invested in that capability, “but clearly there is lots of opportunity for additional test and development capacity for the electric battery, power machine, and power electronics, Mr. Kruse said.
GM has invested significantly in this area, Dr. Smyth said. “But we are still in the infancy. We really don’t have real-world data yet.” Issues such as high-temperature durability, low-temperature performance, how batteries fail, and accelerated testing are poorly understood, he said. “We have made a lot of progress, but a lot more needs to be done.”
Mr. Kruse asked his fellow panelists how important they think petroleum prices are to electric-vehicle adoption rates.
Dr. Sperling said he doesn’t believe fuel prices will stay really high or really low on a sustained basis. “This is probably about where they will be for a long time, except for spikes,” he said. “In the end, it is more of a consumer perception thing. Yes, a high fuel price has a huge impact on peoples’ psychology. At least in the price range we are talking about, it doesn’t affect the economics much.”
Mr. Van Amburg said gas prices may not fundamentally change the economic considerations of buying a hybrid car, but they make a big difference in commercial vehicles. “When you run the numbers on hybrids just at current costs without the platform costs going down, you can make the case for a three-year turnaround at $4 and $5 easily,” he said. “The two biggest variables in commercial vehicles are the up-front costs of the vehicle and the fuel price. With