AFS Trinity Power Corporation today announced it pulled its 150 MPG plug-in hybrid SUV prototypes out of the LA Auto Show but will independently exhibit and demonstrate the super fuel-efficient vehicles on their own elsewhere in downtown LA during the show.
The company's decision followed actions by the LA Auto Show to muzzle AFS Trinity from highlighting the 150 miles per gallon fuel economy of its XH150 prototype vehicles. The suppression by the automakers of information about technologies such as this raises serious questions about the judgment, vision, intentions and capabilities of the leadership of these companies, said Edward W. Furia, Chairman and CEO of AFS Trinity. Such conduct by the automakers, who are currently seeking tens of billions of taxpayer dollars, ostensibly to develop fuel efficient vehicle technologies, is evidence they are reluctant to embrace solutions they didn't invent.
First shown at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit in January, 2008, two XH150 prototypes have toured the country for the last ten months and received positive reactions.
Furia explained that, when AFS Trinity sought exhibition space on the main floor of the LA Auto Show, the only space that show management offered was the Kentia Hall basement and he noted that the LA Auto Show is owned by the Greater Los Angeles New Car Dealers Association, which, in turn, is closely associated with the major auto makers in Detroit. To address AFS Trinity's concern that the Kentia Hall basement space was much less likely to attract visitors to the XH150 exhibit, show management offered the company a package of floor space in Kentia, advertising space in the auto show program and billboard space on the main floor of the convention center, suggesting that AFS Trinity could use the ad and billboard to attract visitors to the basement exhibit.
"There was just one hitch," Furia said. "Before we could proceed, the content of our ad and billboard had to be submitted to auto show management for approval. When we told them that the ad and billboard content would essentially be the same as what the company has used in its web site for the past ten months and which we used at the Detroit Auto Show in January, they responded that our mileage claim of 150 miles per gallon would not be permitted."
Furia quoted an email from LA Auto Show management that said, "We cannot approve this content ... the mileage claim is of primary concern to us. Manufacturers are forced to quote EPA verified mpg numbers in their advertising, and ... [your] 150-MPG figure is an estimation. A banner like this one in the lobby is likely to generate unfavorable reactions from manufacturers, which is something we will take action to avoid." (Email from LA Auto Show Assistant General Manager, Scott Webb).
In response, AFS Trinity observed that EPA does not certify mileage estimates of show cars and prototypes, but nevertheless offered to modify its billboard and ad content with new text, stating, 150-MPG is an estimate, not EPA-certified ...your mileage may vary.
The email AFS Trinity received in response from LA Auto Show management, according to Furia, reads: 'We will not accept any billboard or program advertising that mentions AFS Trinity's 150-MPG claim, including references as part of the graphics on the vehicle. This is no longer a topic for further discussion.'
Explaining AFS Trinity's decision to pull out of the LA Auto show completely, Furia said, "We had no choice but to pull out of the show when they refused to let us state our 150-MPG mileage estimate, as it is the most important and popular feature of our technology. Indeed, I believe our fuel economy would be the main reason that people would go to the trouble to find us at the auto show, he said. Being in the basement was bad enough. Forcing us to be silent about our key benefit was simply unacceptable."
Ignoring the solution?
Furia said, No one questions the sales potential of a 150-MPG SUV that can carry a whole family and provide better acceleration than similar gasoline models. Every single person who has driven these cars loves them and wants one. We have built two XH150 prototypes and demonstrated them across the country. Yet, none of the major automakers has accepted our invitation to see and drive them, let alone license the technology and mass produce them. They usually claim that they are going to come up with something of their own in the future. In other words, they reject breakthroughs they didn't invent.
In the meantime, Furia said, American auto plants are closing, men and women who are among the best trained, most productive auto workers in the world are losing their jobs in record numbers, and America is in danger of losing the last vestiges of its heartland heavy industrial base altogether. We want people to know that a super fuel-efficient automotive solution to our dependence on oil already exists, which the driving public enthusiastically supports and that major automakers can license and mass-produce within an estimated three years.
Furia said, Our desire to deliver this message in spite of the effort to muzzle us is why we decided to bring our exhibit trailer and prototypes to downtown L.A., the American city that, probably more than any other, understands the environmental, energy and economic implications of this technology. The anticompetitive behavior by the automakers is troubling because Americans still appear willing to buy new cars if they are offered the right ones. Now is the time to embrace new fuel efficient vehicle technologies, not stifle them.
EPA and prototypes
According to Furia, The reason the LA Auto Show gave for prohibiting our 150 mile per gallon estimate -- which we have widely used in other auto shows and which has been broadly reported by the media worldwide -- is that EPA has not certified this mileage, but this is a weak and transparent excuse, as EPA does not certify mileage for show cars or prototypes. Certification does not happen until a car is much closer to being commercially produced.
AFS Trinity's 150-MPG mileage estimate is based on a typical week of driving: 40 miles, 6 days per week and 80 miles on one weekend day each week. The first 40 miles of every day are electric, with gasoline being used only for distances beyond 40 miles. For this driving profile, the XH-150 uses up to 2 gallons of gas to travel 320 miles, which works out to 160 mpg, which the company rounds down to 150 miles per gallon.
Furia explained that the difference between the AFS Trinity approach to energy storage in a plugin hybrid and that of other developers is the use of ultracapacitors and proprietary control electronics to solve the power and life cycle limitations of batteries. AFS Trinity has been developing sophisticated energy storage and delivery technologies for 18 years working with a variety of private and government entities, including DARPA, NASA, the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Transportation, California State agencies, Oak Ridge National Labs, Lawrence Livermore National Labs, Lockheed, Honeywell, Mercedes, Ricardo and others.
We applaud attempts by carmakers and others to develop a new battery that might be able to overcome the inherent reliability and durability problems related to the duty cycle demanded of a plugin hybrid, but waiting for it -- especially as it may never emerge or may emerge at an impossibly high cost -- is risky business, particularly when the auto industry needs an energy storage and power management solution for plug ins now, Furia said. We have a solution today that we have demonstrated and that only requires mass production engineering in order to be put into commercial production in a wide range of cars, trucks and SUVs.
Implications for Auto Industry Stimulus (aka Bail-out) Package
Furia noted that the Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday that Detroit automakers are once again on Capital Hall in Washington, D.C. seeking a bail-out and forecasting their own demise if they don't get it. This is certain to be a major issue that the new U.S. Congress and President-Elect Obama will consider. An emergency bail-out could even become an issue in the remaining days of 2008 for the current U.S. Congress, he said.
The action that the LA Auto Show took to muzzle AFS Trinity has implications for such a bailout, Furia said. The idea that the Detroit automakers, through their LA Auto Show agents, would seek to suppress interest in a super-efficient vehicle technology developed by a small company such as AFS Trinity truly challenges the imagination, particularly given the global energy security landscape through which America must navigate in the next several decades, Furia said.
Whether the behavior of the Greater Los Angeles New Car Dealers, and, by implication and association, the carmakers they serve, is based on NIH (not-invented-here) considerations, or something else, it raises questions about whether the current leadership of the American auto industry possesses the perspective, character, capability and vision to escape the death march in which they currently appear to be locked, no matter how large a bailout the next Congress and President-Elect Obama are willing to support.
As dangerous as Detroit's problems may be, they also represent an enormous opportunity to reject antiquated attitudes and behaviors and create millions of new jobs and feed unprecedented economic growth, precisely because these problems are so large and so critical to address. Simply put, Furia concluded, a stimulus package that allows current auto industry leadership to remain in control of the destiny of this critically important industry as it confronts this unprecedented crisis -- and opportunity -- is something that the new Congress and President-Elect Obama should really think twice about.
About AFS Trinity
AFS Trinity develops Fast Energy Storage(TM) for vehicular, spacecraft and stationary power systems utilizing batteries, ultracapacitors, and flywheels. The Company has conducted programs with private and government organizations including DARPA, NASA, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, U.S. DOT, California Energy Commission, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, Lawrence Livermore National Labs, Lockheed, Honeywell, Mercedes and Ricardo. AFS Trinity's patent-pending Extreme Hybrid(TM) drive train utilizes ultra-capacitors, batteries and proprietary power and control electronics for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Ricardo, the world's leading independent automotive engineering firm, with over 1900 engineers in facilities around the world, has assisted AFS Trinity in building the first XH-150 prototypes and is a preferred supplier to AFS Trinity for drive train integration support. For more information visit www.afstrinity.com and www.ricardo.com.