Yesterday's second annual Green Car Summit was not nearly as fiery as last year's discussion, and maybe that's a good thing.

Once again co-moderated by Warren Brown of the Washington Post and Ron Cogan of the Green Car Journal, which sponsored the event, the panel members this year stood in stark contrast to the varied technology proponents that we saw last year. Instead of getting someone to represent the diesel and natural gas industries, as happened in 2009, the organizers seemed to think it was time for a full-on discussion about vehicle electrification. In fact, Jason Wolf, vice president of Better Place, seemed to sum up the panel's vibe when he said that the industry today has "a lot more consensus across the board that EVs [electric vehicles] are inevitable, more than you would have seen two years ago." Instead of whether or not EVs are coming, he said, the question is "what route will we take to electrification?"

Follow us past the jump to read all about it.

This year, the panel consisted of:
  • Stefan Jacoby, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America
  • Dr. Alan Lloyd, president of the International Council on Clean Transportation
  • Brian Wynne, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association
  • Kevin Czinger, president and CEO of CODA Automotive
  • Nancy Gioia, director of Global Electrification at Ford Motor Company
  • Scott Becker, senior vice president at Nissan North America
  • Jason Wolf, vice president at Better Place
Jacoby provided the only real voice of dissent to the pro-electric vehicle message that we heard in the Cannon Building yesterday. This makes sense, considering his role in a company that sells a lot of vehicles that rely on diesel and gasoline. If everything about EVs is so great, he asked, why isn't the market providing those vehicles today? He said that Volkswagen sees the near future belonging to hybrids in the U.S. Why? Because gas is so cheap. Even if the price doubles, he said, it still won't be high enough. What's the future of the internal combustion engine? "We have only scratched the surface of their efficiency," Jacoby said, and pointed to VW's 1L concept that was introduced in Frankfurt last year as an example of what he meant.

Ford's Gioia, too, made sure to stick to the company line about having a diverse product portfolio. Still, she was more bullish on EVs than Jacoby, and said that Ford expects 10 to 25 percent of its fleet to be electric – meaning hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure EVs – by 2025. Standard hybrids will make up 70 percent of those electric vehicles, she said.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest pro-EV voices were Nissan's Becker and Coda's Czinger. Considering that both men have important EVs coming to market this year, the Nissan Leaf and the Coda Sedan, they have a lot to gain from a strong interest in EVs. Becker said that Nissan knows EVs are not for everyone, the upcoming generation EVs can be great for a large segment of the population.

A lot of those EVs will have stated ranges of 100 miles. This is the limit of what is being introduced now, and it certainly won't be good enough for the whole market. That's not a problem, Becker said, because Nissan sees 100 miles as the beginning, and ranges will grow (as will the recharging infrastructure) as EVs mature. The 100-mile range limit won't light up people's imagination as the be all and end all of electric vehicle capability, Becker said, it's a starting point. Oh, and the batteries will be more affordable than some suggest, too. "Some of the numbers thrown around about how expensive the batteries are, are unrealistic," he said.

Czinger said that the first step in widespread EV adoption is certainly going to be home charging and that, "What is essential is that up-front, people know the all-in costs." (Oh, and safety). Even if the initial target market for EVs is reasonably small, and both Nissan and Coda agree that it is, getting vehicles out there is vital, Czinger said. Cars on the road signal that the batteries are ready, that EVs are ready. This signal will create a larger market, which drives up demand for the next generation of EVs. And so on.

Want to hear things for yourself? You can listen to the discussion by clicking play or click here to download the MP3 file (38 MB; 1 hour, 50 minutes)

Sorry it's not the cleanest audio. To read about and listen to last year's Summit, click here.

Our travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the Auto Alliance.

Share This Photo X