That leads into true future energy sources, things like hydrogen. A hydrogen future will never exist until there is wide scale production and distribution. All the folks in the above paragraph (oil companies, nuclear providers, and green energy suppliers) don't want to see this come to fruition, since it means a dent in their own plans.
Right, because hydrogen is practical, right? Storage, compression, a cycle that is maybe 10% efficient if coming from something like solar...
CNG fuel cells may work, but there is a major capital cost associated, and the reality is that this really is only an evolutionary improvement too, with well to wheels effiencies in the 40-ish percent, which better diesels can do right now. There is a benefit at part load, of course, but the end result is TBD and not the end all, be all.
It is actually more efficient to do solar to battery for mobility than solar to hydrogen.
So the question will ALWAYS come back to one thing - what is the right mobiity fuel?
The volt has it right. Liquids are an optimal energy store, despite low conversion efficiency, but storage in the end all is a very efficient way to provide mobility if the density of the storage aligns with the use cycle. IMO a 40 mile range on the volt is ideal. I commute 9 miles, I have more than enough energy to do 20 miles.
And lets recall... The volt uses about 8kWh for 40 miles. So my commute would cost 4kWh, or 60c, all efficiency aspects considered. A 40 MPG car would cost me roughly $2 in gas.
So every day Im saving $1.40 in fuel costs. Compelling? Maybe not.
But at the end of the day, nobody will ever be able to drive 400 miles on a battery. But for the driving that 85% of the population does normally, a volt would be ideal and cheaper to operate. As fuel goes up in cost, this benefit will become more substantial.
Whether it is worth it in terms of economics is another story, since a 50 MPG hybrid might make it silly given the fuel savings and acquisition cost. But toyota obviously doesnt think so, since the PHEV version of the prius is coming for the same reason that the volt exists. The motor trend article on the PHEV prius stated that "No, 12 miles doesn't sound like much -- the Volt aims for 40 miles gas-free. But even so, Toyota says that most journeys are less than 12 miles. It expresses that by calculating that if all cars had a 12-mile electric range, gas use would be cut by 60 percent."
And I bet it will be a $30k car with a 12 mile range. Better value? More of a sweet spot?
Maybe, maybe not.
But for those who did put solar on their homes, and who chose to live reasonably close to work, they may well be laughing all the way to the bank with a volt or PHEV prius when gas goes to $5 or $6/gal, let alone higher in the future due to supply, refiners, tax or whatever else.
The volt adoption in year one is no suprise to be a flop. There is a ton of misunderstanding, fear, etc. to come on top of the high acquisition cost. Plus there is the need factor. Would I consider buying a volt? Yes. Do I need a new car? No. Does my lack of need of a new car cause the volt to be a flop?
Like it or not, this general type of architecture is the future, and will integrate in one way or another. Id have preferred to see greater hybrid penetration first, with advanced batteries that could then be upsized to fit the volt/PHEV type application. However, there is benefit to jumping in with two feet to gain insight, real test info, etc.
That's what the volt is/did, and even if it looses money (the prius did too), it provides great engineering info and helps to display the tech gap areas so that they can be addressed based upon real life use.