This year's Detroit Auto Show marks the first time I wrote the acronym REEV, and also the first time I saw it in print. So I guess we're just going to have to accept it; REEVs are the new thing to look forward to. While we spent a long time in the '90s waiting on hybrids, now it's time to stop being excited about hybrids and start getting excited about REEVs.
So I know what you're thinking...WTF is a REEV. It's a "Range Extended Electric Vehicle" and we're going to be seeing a lot of them soon.
The idea of a REEV is that an electric motor drives the car 100% of the time. REEVs plug in to your house and charge overnight or while you're at work (4-8 hours depending on batteries), and then the REEV drives purely on the more-efficient (though still not carbon-neutral) grid power for a set number of miles (generally betweem 20 and 60.)
After those 20 - 60 miles of driving, a small onboard generator kicks on to recharge the batteries and "extend the range" of the electric vehicle. This onboard generator can be anything that produces power: gasoline engine, diesel engine, ethanol engine, or even a hydrogen fuel cell. The vehicle remains as efficient as a hybrid even after the grid power is all used up because they still use regenerative braking.
At this year's Detroit Show we saw half a dozen REEV concepts. Three from GM (all of which were released in the last year) the Chevy Volt, the Saturn (Opel) Flextreme and the Cadillac Provoq. From Chrysler we saw two REEVs, the Jeep Renegade and the Chrysler ecoVoyager. And from Fisker, we have the Karma, which can be considered a REEV, as it is all-electrically drive for 60 miles.
The Fisker, however, is actually a production vehicle. The difference is that the internal combustion engine doesn't just charge the batteries, it also runs the car, so it is not technically a REEV.
We've also seen REEV concepts from Ford Volvo and VW this year, but somehow Toyota seems to be staying 100% out of the game, promising that the only REEV that will ever be economically viable are diesel locomotives (which, interestingly, have been REEVs for over 30 years.)
Unfortunately, there are a lot of details to work out. Making sure the batteries are safe, integrating them into the vehicle, and engineering the software and hardware to make everything run smoothly and then doing a heck of a lot of quality assurance on a technology that has never seen the light of day.
However, GM has set a June date for testing the first REEVs. These won't be a production model, just hollowed-out Malibus, but it is a first step, and it's coming soon. GM hopes to have the Volt REEV out on the road by late 2010, but by all reports, that's a very optimistic date. But I suppose we will see.
One thing is for sure, the hybrid's days as the most ecological drivetrain on the road are numbered.
Note: GM paid for my travel to attend the Detroit Auto Show.
written by Ammy Short, January 15, 2008
written by ASiegel1, January 16, 2008
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