Thursday, August 20, 2009

Electric vehicle strategy

Today’s article in the NY Times about electric vehicles (Toyota, Hybrid Innovator, Holds Back in Race to Go Electric) pulled me out of my summer vacation mode and inspired me to share my insights about the electric vehicle race to market.

When in college I was a big fan of “Game Theory” (According to Wikipedia: “Game theory attempts to mathematically capture behavior in strategic situations, in which an individual's success in making choices depends on the choices of others”).

During that time I also became an admirer of Toyota, their “just in time” inventory process and their ability to bring quality to market in a fast and efficient way impressed me as I was becoming an MS in Manufacturing Systems Engineering.

And here we are today, they lead the market of Hybrid vehicles. Their Prius is the flagship of alternative fuel cars (although it’s not much of a change from gas powered cars).

But, wait a minute! Are you telling me that since 1997 when the first Prius was launched to the market Toyota has been unable to improve on their original product by making a plug-in hybrid or a full electric vehicle???? WHY?

Could this be a case of Game Theory being played out?

Mitsubishi is launching an electric vehicle (the i-MiEV). The city of Berlin is setting a goal of a million electric vehicles by the year 2020. Tesla is starting to show signs of success with their all electric vehicle product line. The famous Project Better Place intends to reshape the vehicle market with their battery swapping and city-wide recharging stations.


So why is Toyota letting their leadership slip away?

Scenario A: most of these electric vehicle companies will build their products around the first generation of batteries. A new generation of more efficient batteries will be developed and Toyota will leap over their competitors to take the lead again

Scenario B: Toyota is miscalculating the power of the electric vehicle market and will be left behind with an obsolete plug-in Hybrid Prius

Which scenario do you think will prevail?

Comments from “Things that make sense”:

First of al I want to add another thing that does NOT make sense (and I forgot to mention). Allowing people to drive while talking on the cell phone. It is inconceivable that some states like Florida are still  allowing drivers to talk while they drive, even though it has been proven more dangerous than drinking and driving.

“I'm confused at your stand on plug-in hybrids. Are you for or against? I agree that the standard hybrid gets 100% of its energy from fossil fuel. I consider that, however, its biggest short-coming. Perhaps because I just spent the last 40 years in the electric utility industry, I'm partial to using electricity as a transfer fuel. It can be generated cleanly and renewably (although it often is not). It can be shipped across the country and directly to the consumer without a lot of loss and with no additional fuel. And, can be used cleanly and with no pollution or byproducts at its ending destination.
I'm also confused (although not by you) at the hybrid vehicle concept. Large railroad diesel locomotives get 100% of their motive power from batteries which are constantly recharged by the big diesel engine running a generator. The diesel has no direct connection to the wheels. Is this less efficient than the auto hybrid that connects the small gasoline engine both to the wheels and to the generator and uses the electric motor only to boost acceleration? “

“all good points, of course. (perfectly designed waterless/odorless/attractive toilets have been around for decades). the bottled water thing is criminal and non-sustainable. 99.8% of all "information/news" in print, online, & TV & radio comes from 6 worldwide media companies whose board members interlock with boards of all, or most other corporations. all "news", is corporate news. all "making sense" is corporate centered. “

“You are so right is really frustrating”

“I had the same feeling commissioning one of my project this year, but after 16 years in engineering design, I know that common sense(knowledge) is not common practice”

I posted my idea on your link but for those that may not venture to a great story you have told, here it is:
Dryer Sheets - They are thrown away by the thousands every day and I have found them to be a really good cleaning tool. They have just enough grit to take crud off of mirrors, doors, walls, jewelry, CHROME, and I am sure a myriad of other things”

“Interesting article. For the toilet perspective, dual flush toilets have done their bit towards minimizing the amount of water that is used for flushing purposes. More emphasis should be made on their use (if not to say imposing an eco-tax on those not having a dual flush system) and retrofitting existing cisterns with water bags or something which reduced flushed volumes.
The argument related to bottled water can also be extended to the impact of soft drinks which are canned or bottled in plastic. What is the energy that is recovered from these packaging. Interestingly in Malta we had a law which obliged soft drinks to be bottled in reusable glass bottles. Ironically with Malta's accession to the EU this law had to be removed as it was perceived as a barrier to trade”

Until next time: SHALOM!