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Google Spends Money to Jump-Start Hybrid Car Development 352

Posted by Zonk
from the to-the-googmobile dept.
slugo writes "Internet search giant Google (GOOG) hopes to speed the development of plug-in hybrid cars by giving away millions of dollars to people and companies that have what appear to be practical ways to get plug-in hybrid automobiles to market faster. 'While many people don't associate Google with energy, analysts say the fit isn't all that unnatural. Renewable energy, unlike coal or nuclear, will likely come from thousands or tens of thousands of different locations. Analysts have long said that one of the big challenges will be managing that flow into and out of the nation's electric grid, and that companies that manage the flow of information are well placed to handle that task.'"
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Google Spends Money to Jump-Start Hybrid Car Development

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  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @07:46PM (#19572687)
    ... every Google Car will have Google Maps built in ... complete with Google ads based on your GPS derived location.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blhack (921171)

      ... every Google Car will have Google Maps built in ... complete with Google ads based on your GPS derived location.

      I would actually really like this. Google maps are usually VERY accurate (as opposed to the majority of in-dash navigation systems that I have used), easily updated due to "centralized" location, and come with traffic reports (at least in Phoenix).

      I know this is doable with an in-car pc + an evdo card, but something from the OEM would be really great. I would whole-heartedly embrace a partnership between GM and google.

      • Re:I'm betting ... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ucklak (755284) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:32PM (#19573187)
        I like how Google Maps updates all the time.

        Back when MapPoint was the only game in town, Microsoft was still 2 years behind in map updates. Sure, the up-to-date construction information was nice but I'be been stuck in 2 states where there was no road in MapPoint and I had to resort to old school tactics by buying a map.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:12PM (#19572987)
      I guess I may get a Beta-Car
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Thaddeaus (777809)
      I guess I can understand how people would object to this, but honestly, at this point, I don't really care. I had to fill up my gas tank today, and it almost gave me a heart attack. (And before people reply with "drive less", I drive the least I can, I use cruise control and I don't have the AC on if I don't completely need it, etc, etc, etc.)

      If Google can help create a car that runs on whatever and doesn't cost a shitload to power up, then let them put their software in it (would you rather have Window

    • by SEWilco (27983)
      ... and Google Street View cameras on every car ...
  • by larry bagina (561269) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @07:50PM (#19572713) Journal
    this is the sort of thing they said their philanthropic foundation would invest in. It's really got nothing to do with managing the electric grid flow of information.
  • X-Prize (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arthur B. (806360) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @07:50PM (#19572717)
    I think it'd make more sense to use the money as a bounty for advances in hybrid cars than to throw it around, the same way the x-prize does. It saves you the difficulty of efficient capital allocation.
  • right... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Well I know how to regulate the flow of water in and out of my body. Therefore I'm well poised to manage the future electrical grid.
  • PHEV already exist (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @07:52PM (#19572743) Homepage Journal

    * Many automakers have built PHEVs in private workshops, and DaimlerChrysler has publicly tested PHEV prototypes. They are converting up to 40 15-passenger Mercedes commercial vans into PHEVs, with some vehicles using NiMH and others advanced lithium-ion batteries, plus diesel and gasoline engines. The program is in cooperation with California's Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), South Coast Air Quality Management District, and Southern California Edison. See the press release, EPRI announcement and Daimler's description (with graphics).

    * The advanced hybrid vehicle research center at University of California-Davis (founded and directed by CalCars advisor Prof. Andy Frank) has converted nine sedans and SUVs into PHEVs that have repeatedly won prizes in US Energy Department-sponsored "FutureTruck" competitions. Dr. Frank, widely known as the "Father of the Plug-In Hybrid," has been working on PHEVs for thirty years, and building them with students for more than a decade.

    * CalCars produced the world's first plug-in Prius (the PRIUS+) in 2004. Since then a number of companies have emerged to offer conversions for sale to consumers and fleet buyers, and CalCars has worked to support a growing open-source conversion movement.

    * In 2003-04, the US Marine Corps demonstrated a diesel-electric PHEV-20 HUMVEE. (The military likes the silent, zero-heat "footprint" in all-electric mode, and appreciates saving fuel that can cost well over $100/gallon to deliver to front lines.) This advanced Shadow RST-V (Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Targetting Vehicle PHEV, built by General Dynamics, uses lightweight lithium-ion batteries and motors in four wheel hubs. See details and photos and more descriptions.

    * Long Island, NY has converted a city bus to a plug in hybrid with 40 miles of all-electric range. Many more heavy-duty vehicle conversions (including three recycling dump-trucks that will run in "silent" mode for pickups) are in progress.
    see here [calcars.org]
    • by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @10:07PM (#19573913) Homepage
      The problem isn't building a plug-in hybrid. The problem is building a plug-in that can be sold for more than it costs to build. The state of today's battery technology makes it impossible, but that could change soon.

      The commercialization of plug-in hybrids is completely dependent on the ability to manufacture what are now top of the line lithium ion batteries for 40-70% less than they currently cost. I believe this is the focus of Google's money. 10 mill isn't going to get you anywhere with fuel cells (which have been 5 years away for 30 years).

      Today's hybrids are not going to seriously dent our dependence on oil, plug-in hybrids absolutely could. Unless a major car company announces a release date for a retail plug-in by next year, I'm going to buy or build a Ford Escape plug-in conversion.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @07:55PM (#19572763)
    If Microsoft copies this endeavor we can all start up the "if Microsoft made cars" jokes again. Here's hoping!
    • you'd have to ask everyone to step out of the car, break out the seats, unscrew the door at the drivers' side and open all your other windows so you can pump gas because your tires were guestimated to a traction experience rating of 2.7 and the gaspump requires an overal experience rating of 3.0. When your gastank opening has a pump experience rate of 5.2...
    • by choongiri (840652)

      If Microsoft made cars, they wouldn't need jump-starting.

      Oh wait...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by pipingguy (566974) *
      A Software Engineer, a Hardware Engineer and a Departmental Manager were on their way to a meeting in Switzerland. They were driving down a steep mountain road when suddenly the brakes on their car failed. The car careened almost out of control down the road, bouncing off the crash barriers, until it miraculously ground to a halt scraping along the mountainside. The car's occupants, shaken but unhurt, now had a problem: they were stuck halfway down a mountain in a car with no brakes. What were they to do?
  • Wait a minute... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SoapBox17 (1020345) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:04PM (#19572883) Homepage

    Analysts have long said that one of the big challenges will be managing that flow into and out of the nation's electric grid, and that companies that manage the flow of information are well placed to handle that task.
    That doesn't make any sense. They distribute information on a virtual network and they own almost none of the hardware used to distribute it... but they are somehow well placed to distribute power from a power grid, which is a completely different network?

    That doesn't make any sense at all. It makes so little sense, I can't even think of an analogy close enough to what they said to properly mock them.
    • Consider the responsiveness of google's applications, the volume of data, and the number of users. This isn't a server at some ISP, or even a server farm-- google owns a massively distributed network of staggering complexity from central points all the way out to local nodes. They snap up dark fiber left and right to augment their backbone. They're currently running somewhere in the neighborhood of a half-million servers.

      If anybody can figure out how to coordinate the use of millions of hybrid-car batter
    • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Excelsior (164338) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @10:55PM (#19574249)
      I totally agree with you. Google doesn't direct traffic. People request things from them, and they provide it. Yes, Google is working on knowing more and more about the people that use them, but their 99% use case is still anonymous user traffic.

      How about Red Hat? They make a Linux distribution, so certainly they must be good at distribution. How about Starbucks? They are used to distributing energy to people, so this should translate to hybrid cars. What about McDonalds? They...oh just stfu slugo.

      Why does every Slashdot story contributor wander off into his own little world of conjecture? Can't we just stick to the story? If you want to comment on the subject, just put it as a reply. Oh yeah, because no one would see it after it got modded down.
  • have put that money to energy source research.
    Better batteries and fuel cells.

    an efficient car takes a lot of resources for different parts, so the research money gets spread thin amongst many different technologies.

    Relax, it's just an opinion.

  • Wha? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:06PM (#19572907) Journal

    "Renewable energy, unlike coal or nuclear, will likely come from thousands or tens of thousands of different locations. Analysts have long said that one of the big challenges will be managing that flow into and out of the nation's electric grid, and that companies that manage the flow of information are well placed to handle that task.'"
    That's definitely not in TFA.

    Which forces me to ask why "companies that manage the flow of information are well placed to handle that task"?

    You'd think that the power companies, at most, would need to update their billing software. WTF does managing the flow of information have to do with a $1 million grant? Am I missing something else?

    As an aside, one of the continuing problems with electric vehicles is battery temperature.
    • WTF does managing the flow of information have to do with a $1 million grant? Am I missing something else?

      Yes: the need for the managers of a publicly held company to come up with a plausible rationalization to give their shareholders for spending $1 million on something that (a) isn't part of their business plan, and (b) isn't a standard philanthropic/charitable (aka tax deductible) cause.

    • Re:Wha? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Loadmaster (720754) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:32PM (#19573191) Homepage
      Simple.
      Information = knowledge
      Knowledge = Power
      Power = Electricity
      Therefore: Information = Electricity

      Google will become the waterwheel of the 21st century.

      Swi
  • ...until I hooked up my LAN cable to it and did a Google search. Then it started right up!
  • by Bob54321 (911744) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:14PM (#19573019)
    I recommend you get a license to sell real estate [dilbert.com]
  • Google-EV1 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrKaos (858439) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:34PM (#19573211) Journal
    What about the EV-1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_EV1 [wikipedia.org] the "leasee's" of these vehicles seemed to be satisfied with them and the batteries were specified to produce a 125 mile range, would it be so hard to have a google version?

    http://www.google.com.au/search?q=ev1&start=0&ie=u tf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en- US:official [google.com.au]

    Seems to me the oil companies are just making sure we keep using oil and make sure no competing infrastructure exists to provide vehicles with energy.

    • by cdrguru (88047)
      Easiest way to kill of an electric car is get the batteries declared as toxic waste and make it illegal for anyone but the manufacturer to actually own one.

      That's a lot closer to what happened to the EV-1 than some "oil company conspiracy".

      All those lead-acid batteries might cause cancer. Funny, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop on the Lithium-Ion batteries in hybrid cars. So far, nobody has done much of anything and there have been very few hybrids junked as end-of-life. I would expect someone to s
      • by frdmfghtr (603968)

        I would expect someone to start noticing the batteries piling up fairly soon, say 3-4 years.
        How is this that different than the "piling up" all those Li-ion batteries in cellphones and notebook computers? Granted the battery in a hybrid is much bigger than a cellphone battery, but there are a few more cellphones than hybrids in the world.
      • Re:Google-EV1 (Score:5, Informative)

        by ppanon (16583) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @10:23PM (#19574043) Homepage Journal
        While primarily composed of cellulose, paper has a number of other organic binding components in a complex composite macro-structure which degrades as part of the recycling process. It is also created from relatively simple, cheap easy-to produce biological source materials (raw wood or hemp fiber). The problem with paper production isn't as much its production as its volume in disposal. The relatively low cost of production of paper is what makes profitable recycling difficult.

        In contrast, lithium is a fairly rare and expensive, volatile "metal" and is combined in lithium-ion batteries cathodes [nec-tokin.com] with other moderately rare elements from simple raw molecules through chemical and mechanical processes. It is therefore reasonable to expect that the process for recycling lithium-ion batteries would be substantially more productive, lucrative, and worthwhile.

        Apples, oranges.

        Plastics are somewhere in between the two. They are often created from a finite non-renewable resource (for which cost is increasing, but nowhere near the cost of lithium) but based on moderately long complex molecules using processes which usually aren't easily reversible. So often, like with paper, you can't go back to the source materials you used to create the plastic. Thus, as the price of oil increases through greater scarcity, plastic use will substitute with types or plastics that can be created without oil (and hopefully which also can be broken down more easily), or substitution will occur with other products that can be more cheaply produced or recycled (aluminium, cardboard, tinfoil hats...)

        In the long run, the increasing price of oil will be good for the environment, although it will cause a lot of pain on the way as economies adjust to increasing average costs for energy.
  • It's nuketastic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:42PM (#19573299)
    Renewable energy, unlike coal or nuclear, will likely come from thousands or tens of thousands of different locations.

    That's great and all, and I'm all in favor of utilizing the zillions of acres of rooftop in the US and around the world to accommodate solar cells. But if you're going to move the automobile infrastructure to electricity and away from petroleum, you're going to have to build more nuclear power plants.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumG (50515)
      Which is not going to happen in the US because the greens have made it impossible to get licenses for new nuclear plants.

      • by Telvin_3d (855514)
        I swear to god, the 'green movement' in the west has done more harm to the environment in the name of headlines that they can ever equal out with actual good work. Talk about a good idea with bad implementation.
      • by nwbvt (768631)
        Yeah, but they don't mind you using hydroelectric power (assuming it doesn't involve damning up a river), wind power (assuming it doesn't involve tall windmills that can kill birds), or solar power (assuming it wouldn't involve paving over acres of wildlife). Ok, I might have made up that last one, but I guarantee you they will complain once they see how big solar panels need to be to provide a viable amount of power.
        • by QuantumG (50515)
          Let's not forget how space based power solutions heat up the atmosphere when you beam it to where it is going to be used.

          Nevermind that all this is miniscule and has little to no effect on global warming, you're making heat, stop it!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Jeremi (14640)
        Which is not going to happen in the US because the greens have made it impossible to get licenses for new nuclear plants.

        I wouldn't be so sure about that... many environmentalists are starting to consider nuclear power [washingtonpost.com] as a way to address global warming. I expect the movement towards nuclear power will continue as the climate change problem gets worse, unless some better power technology appears.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vtcodger (957785)
      ***But if you're going to move the automobile infrastructure to electricity and away from petroleum, you're going to have to build more nuclear power plants.***

      Of course we're going to have to build more nuclear power plants. Anyone who spends as much as a few hours looking at numbers and modeling scenarios (i.e. virtually no one) knows that. Even if you assume that Americans and Canadians can cut per capita energy usage in half (to the level of France or Japan), more nukes looks like part of the equati

  • why not hydrogen? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bl8n8r (649187) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:49PM (#19573361)
    Nice gesture, but can we ditch the fossil fuel dependancy? I can already blow up at the gas pump when Bill Dumbass is smoking next to me or leaving the engine running. Hydrogen cant be much worse.
    • http://www.geothermie.de/egec-geothernet/basic/200 3_05_06first_shell.htm [geothermie.de] I was told that the hydrogen is sealed so good that you can even smoke when you are refilling hydrogen by a scientist from National Renewable Engergy Lab [nrel.gov].
      • by nwbvt (768631)
        Yeah, unfortunately those of us who don't live on one of the planet's most volcanic islands don't have quite as many options when it comes to sources of energy. But then we have a few advantages as well, like a distinct lack of lava in our backyards.
    • Re:why not hydrogen? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Cadallin (863437) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @09:35PM (#19573697)
      In my opinion, the energy storage system to work for is a generalized alcohol fuel cell, designed to be able to handle methanol and ethanol mixtures in any proportion. This system has a number of advantages: for one, this would largely be a refinement of existing technology, and for another, light molecular weight alcohols are very easy to generate from waste biomass. Anything from hemp, to straw, harvested algae, to waste products from paper and other industries, and yet again that it is a carbon neutral technology no net carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Alcohols also have the considerable advantage of being liquid at standard conditions, which makes transport very easy. It's really just a matter of putting the infrastructure in place.
  • by gone.fishing (213219) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @09:25PM (#19573637) Journal
    Google is doing this simply because they can not lose and may gain big. This is not going to change anything else that they are doing.

    The article is very long on fluff and does not give up a lot of details which makes it very hard to read between the lines or even to read much into the article. This is not something that aligns itself with Google's "core business" so one must ask why is Google doing this?

    Almost everyone will agree that the folks at Google are smart. Frankly they have not comitted a lot of money. It could be that they are just funding this for the goodwill (and publicity) that they will gain. From the amount of money that they have pledged, this could be the only reason. Aligning yourself with an energy issue that everyone cares about is worth a million or even ten million to a company with the reach (and pocketbook) of a company like Google. Google is certainly doing "no evil" with this.

    Going back to the part where I said the folks at Google are smart makes me think that this may be something a bit more. Something that they can justify simply for the goodwill and publicity that the effort generates but can maybe give them something more. It seems like this is how they almost always work. In this light, I am wondering if this is a "testing of the water" of the energy venture capital business. Low risk (with billions in available cash one or ten million is not a big wager) with huge potential rewards if the smart folks at Google pick the right project(s) to fund.

    The smart people at Google come from a wide range of sciences and specialties. If you put the right people together to review the requests for funding, they stand a fair to middlin chance of picking the right one(s).

    Google is indeed smart.
  • by grasshoppa (657393) <`gro.oc-onpt' `ta' `ydenneks'> on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @09:56PM (#19573839) Homepage
    Bubble 2.0, but this time it's almost entirely funded by google.

    I don't know about the rest of you, but I can't wait for the crash.
    • Crash? What gives you the idea there is going to be a crash?

      Is it because Google isnt generating earnings at a rate of 70% Year over Year... no?

      Is it because their rival search engines have had such good news [yahoo.com] lately... no?

      Is it because $500 is a lot of money [yahoo.com]for a stock... no?

      So out of curiosity, what bubble are you talking about? And do you have anything substantive other than the hot air coming out of your mouth to back it up?

      ...no?

  • by tinrobot (314936) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @10:57PM (#19574263)
    I think one of the biggest issues with electric cars and plug-in hybrids is not battery life, but charge time. Right now, Tesla has a car that goes 200 miles on a charge at freeway speeds. The problem is that it takes several hours to charge it. When it takes hours to charge a car, then range is a problem. If you could charge a car in minutes, then a slightly reduced range is less of an issue.

    One manufacturer (ZAP) is claiming their new ZAP-X car, based on a Lotus chassis, can get 350 miles with a charge time of 10 minutes using new nanotechnology batteries. Aerovironment (designers of the EV-1) has independently tested these batteries and claim they deliver as promised. But who knows, it could still be hype.

    If Google can focus their attention on reducing charge times, then a lot of the problems associated with electric cars go away.
  • by JRHelgeson (576325) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @11:54PM (#19574579) Homepage Journal
    Nuclear Energy is non-renewable? Excuse me? That is like stating that solar energy or wind power is non-renewable. They are ALL in infinite supply and are non-expendable (we cannot use them all up.)

    Coal fired power plants, which burn a non-renewable and expendable resource, release tons of "greenhouse gases" into the atmosphere. With Nuclear power, we know precisely where every single molecule of waste material goes, which is into a barrel, encased in ceramic, and stored away in a facility designed to last 5x longer than the radiological half-life of the waste material stored there.

    The fear of nuclear energy has its rational sources. First is the environmental movement that fought against atmospheric testing of nuclear warheads during the cold war era. I applaud those efforts. What also happened is during this same period is we were taught what to do in case of a nuclear attack from Russia, which by every measure would have been horrific. Add in a 3 Mile Island and a Chernobyl and you've got an entire generation of Americans that has transferred the horror and fear of Nuclear weapons over to everything Nuclear. Fact is that 3 Mile Island, while it did release radon gas is not a catastrophe that even approaches the generational fear that it inspires and Chernobyl is a classic Soviet-Era f**k-up-cover-up situation. Its funny that nothing is ever said of the 100+ nuclear reactors currently in use in America, or that ALL of France is currently powered by Nuclear Power. With hundreds upon hundreds of plants in use throughout the globe running for all these years, all with nary an incident to report... What are we so afraid of?

    Charging a battery takes electricity. Electricity that is generated from anything other than nuclear, wind, or solar power is a net negative on the 'greenhouse gases' scale. Of all those energy sources, the only one viable for long term is nuclear. Sorry, but it is a fact.

    A renewable resource is one that can be replaced, like a tree. The lumber that is used to build houses, the wood that is used to make paper is all generated from (ghasp!) a renewable resource. What drives me nuts is that these multinational corporations that produce lumber and paper harvest it ALL from their OWN TREE FARMS. They own millions of acres of land where they methodically grow their trees on a rotational basis where they harvest the same spot every 20 years. Oh, and your Christmas tree; it is grown on a tree farm as well. To say that paper production or wood production depletes our natural resources is the same thing as saying that eating french fries depletes our national supply of potatoes.

    I'm an expert (of sorts) in document printing, specifically with optical document security and printing of security papers. A small printing company I work with consumes 28 tons of paper every single day. They know exactly where the wood pulp comes from. You don't make paper from just any old wood pulp (although you could). The trees are bred and grown specifically for use in making paper. But some folks out there want you to believe that they are forever seeking a new rainforest to chop down to consume their insatiable desire for more wood pulp.

    Uh, sorry folks, trees, yeah, trees are a renewable resource.
  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @12:58AM (#19574901) Journal
    Instead of all the rigmarole of dealing with hybrids, why not go with an all-electric car that draws its power from the road like the old toy slot cars did? Electrify the interstates and be done with it. That way, you don't care if your car with cheap lead-acid batteries only has a 100 mile range because the interstates aren't any further away than that. You power the rails with nuclear power and away goes the demand for 40% of the world's oil. Standardize the nuclear plant designs and you can stamp them out of a factory which makes electricity dirt cheap.

    Adding slots adds a few more benefits. Now that the car knows where the slot is, it knows where the road is so you can get on the highway and turn the driving over to the car. You can read, sleep or do whatever on your commute. You get the benefit of trains combined with the flexibility of cars.

      Since the power source is not coal or gas, the air in the cities clears. If you ever have seen Los Angeles on a clear day, you know why people wanted to move there in the 30's - it's really, really pretty when you can see 60 miles. The cities would become attractive places to live again.

    It just requires the will to electrify the roads and we can tell the Saudis to go to hell. Forget hybrids - give me slot cars instead.

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