Plug-in 2010 Conference

July 29th, 2010 by peter

I had the opportunity to attend the Plug-in 2010 conference at the San Jose McEnergy Convention Center yesterday by volunteering for Plug-in America.  Sherry and Marc of PIA reignited my interest in EVs back when Sherry’s book came out, so I was eager to contribute and get to catch up on the latest in the EV world.

Well, the biggest news to come out of Plug-in 2010 was the Chevy Volt pricing.  GM was planning on releasing the pricing at about 10am on Tuesday, but Bloomberg had already leaked it by 8:30am when attendees were finishing up breakfast and coming into the exhibition hall.  Oops.

Nissan scored the best spot in the hall right in front of the entrance, with Chevy to the left.  Even before attendees came in, there were at least half a dozen people hovering around the Leaf.  The Volt– well I saw two camera men setting up for the GM press conference.

There had been speculation that the Volt would cost about $45,000.  This was correct.  The Volt’s MSRP will be $41,000 with another $4k in options.  The other choice is a $350/month lease– not sure what GM will require down.  The Leaf is about $33,000.  GM had one ace up it’s sleeve to beat the price difference and perceived better reliability of the Nissan offering: an 8 year, 100,000 mile warranty.

Except that right after the GM press conference, the head of Nissan North America announced that Nissan would match Chevy’s warranty.

The GM Volt team members walking around looked rather dejected, versus the Nissan employees, who were giddy.  To be fair, the Volt looks like an all right car, and for those who need the range, it offers something the Leaf doesn’t have.  But the Leaf looks really good inside and out, and it’s a whole lot cheaper.

The big news for me was the explosion in charging options.  At least half a dozen companies– consuming at least 1/3 of the floor– were offering some sort of charging solutions.  Several of these companies also overlap home and industrial automation, angling for a position in the coming smart grid.

The conference was much bigger than two years ago and definitely more interesting.  However, it is tiny compared to something like the SF International Auto Show.  Then again, it costs a whole lot more too.

I ran into David Herron, owner of the forum, and also Kane Fortune and Colin from Fortune-Hanebrink, makers of the Hanebrink All Terrain Electric Bicycle.  I’d been wondering how Hanebrink had managed to use a hub motor for a bottom bracket drive.  I couldn’t find a reasonably powerful hub motor that could fit in between a set of pedals.  Well, the answer is, neither could Hanebrink, because they had to increase the spacing between the cranks (called Q-factor) by, well, quite a lot.  The hub motor axle was shortened on the non-drive side and beefed up on the drive side.  It was a little hard to make sense of all that’s going on, but there are some free wheels, sprockets, and bearings in there… take a look at the photos below.

I also had fun talking to the folks from EETrax in Boulder, Colorado.  They sell parts for EVs but in their spare time build crazy electric vehicle and drink beer.  My kind of fun.

FYI, parking at the convention center is $20– but you can park on the street just a few blocks away for free.

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San Jose McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, CA
Jul 28, 2010