Friday, August 22

The SUV Is Not Dead Yet

It's just in rehab, recovering from its oil addiction.

So goes the famous quote from Edward Furia of AFSTrinity. Their retrofitted Saturn Vue SUV certainly received a lot of mainstream media publicity this year. By turning it into a plug-in hybrid they got it to go for 40 miles clean on electrons before guzzling again.

Ever since we were finally hit with the gas prices the rest of the world has endured for years, we have seen astounding stories such as Resale value of SUVs drop $8,000 in 6 months!, and Minicoopers down to one-day supply! or Ford stops building trucks! , well, maybe not entirely, but you get the gist...The SUV certainly seems as if it's in its last throes.

So it is no surprise that they got a lot of publicity for their modified Saturn Vue, converted into a plug-in hybrid with an all-electric range of 40 miles. Like a regular unrepentant Saturn Vue, their plug-in hybrid version could go up to 87 mph, but it could do it while in the all electric mode. Unlike the Vue, it therefor got 150 mpg as a result. Of course now that we are dealing with miles per electron as well, some of this needs to change. It also got one of those hard to remember names that just seem designed to shut down your neurons, so I won't repeat it here and distract you.

Now, AFSTrinity has worked with NASA, DARPA, the Navy, the Army, the Department of Transportation, the California Energy Commission, Oak Ridge National Labs, Lawrence Livermore National Labs, and with companies including Mercedes, Lockheed and Honeywell. Ricardo, the world's leading independent automotive engineering firm, with over 1900 engineers in facilities around the world is assisting them in building the first prototypes.

But many green car blogs ask did it deserve all this attention? After all Detroit will likely be building hybrid versions of their addicted SUVs themselves. Some say that by 2020 every vehicle will be hybrid.

However, I think that what conversion companies like AFS are doing is pushing the Overton Window. With enough publicity or even unwarranted hype for a plug-in hybrid, consumers will come to expect and demand them from every automaker.

Only then will Detroit will truly rehab the SUV not merely as a hybrid but as a plug-in hybrid. (And maybe look into their unwarranted size and mass, and reduce that a bit too.)

So, good for AFS. That Overton Window needs to be moved.

For MatterNetwork