GM on hybrid vehicles

General Motors is using the New York International Auto Show to dispense various comments on hybrid vehicles.

We had the technology to come out with a hybrid at the same time as Toyota,” says vice chairman Bob Lutz, “in hindsight, it was a mistake” not to bring it to market. Lutz estimates that it would have cost $250 million per year to do so, but staying on the sidelines “cost GM billions in sales because it lost its image of having superior technology.” Of course Toyota managed to turn a profit on its hybrids after a few years.

GM doesn’t intend to make the same mistake with its plug-in hybrid, the Chevy Volt. “We won’t make a dime on this car for years, and the board is OK with that,” says Lutz. The Volt is part GM’s plans to mass-produce hybrid vehicles with lithium-ion batteries by 2010. GM hopes to choose a lithium-ion battery supplier by April.

Lutz also says, “by 2020 we figure that 80% of vehicles will require some sort of hybridization” to reach the eventual fuel economy standard of 35 mpg. That includes both mild and full hybrids. But he estimates its hybrids will be only 15% by 2015.


Hybrid cars will fell the sky!

Two articles appeared today that project the resources that will be consumed by hybrid cars. The headline in the Science Daily is “Hybrid Cars May Require Hundreds Of New Power Plants To Be Built,” while headline in the Economic Times is “Hybrid cars will spare petrol but guzzle water.”

The problem is that neither of these articles are actually about hybrid cars, in the sense that every hybrid car manufactured by Toyota, Ford, Honda, Nissan, Lexus, Mercury, Saturn, Chevrolet, GMC, and Dodge is fueled completely by gas. You couldn’t plug them in even if you wanted to, so they place zero extra demand on the power grid.

Both articles are actually talking about plug-in hybrid vehicles, which aren’t being made yet (except experimentally) but might be some day. If they ever catch on, they will indeed pull power from the grid. To that end, studies of their resource implications are a good idea. I just wish they were presented in a less alarmist manner.

In its second paragraph the Science Daily article says that the “study examined how an expected increase in ownership of hybrid electric cars and trucks will affect the power grid.” Not until the fifth paragraph does it clarify that it is an “analysis of the potential impacts of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles projected for 2020 and 2030.” (Emphasis added.) The article in the Economic Times never does clarify.

edit: Science Daily now mentions “plug-in hybrid electric cars and trucks” in the first paragraph.

Heterogeneous Clarinet Quartets

Most clarinet quartets consist of either four sopranos or three sopranos and a bass. Don’t get me wrong. They sound great, especially the ones with basses. But I have sometimes wondered why there aren’t quartets with four different sizes of clarinets, in the manner of most saxophone quartets.

Quartetto Italiano di Clarinetti

Well, I just found one. The Quartetto Italiano di Clarinetti consists of Maurizio Morganti on E♭ soprano clarinet, Carlo Franceschi on soprano clarinet, Giovanni Lanzini on alto clarinet, and Augusto Lanzini on bass clarinet.

There are three sample MP3s on the group’s web site, so you can listen to them for free. One of those tracks, Gershwin’s Lady Be Good, sounds to me like clarinets playing the exact same saxophone quartet arrangement I’m familiar with. Not that that’s a bad thing—it’s a fine arrangement.

I do have a trouble hearing four different timbres in the sample tracks, which is seldom the case when I listen to saxophone quartets. Perhaps that’s why heterogeneous clarinet quartets are rare. Each member of Quartetto Italiano di Clarinetti does also play some soprano clarinet, so some of them may be doing so in the sample tracks. What do you think? (Please leave a comment, especially if you can think of a better term than heterogeneous.)