By on March 11, 2013

The Geneva Auto Salon is a small show in a small city of a small country. The show is big because it is an annual confab of automakers where shoulders are rubbed, mergers are planned, policies are set. The cars are mostly decoration. A top topic in Geneva was how to meet rigid EU emission limits. “There is a growing awareness that conventional hybrids and slow-selling battery cars simply won’t be enough,” Reuters reports from Geneva.

The interim goal of 130 grams  of CO2 per kilometer by 2015 does not appear to be a big deal. Most carmakers think they will meet it. “But drastic steps are needed to meet the 95 gram target set for 2020 and the potential for tougher standards after that,” Reuter says.

“We can’t get the necessary gains we need with traditional technology any more. We’re seeing a real break with the past,” Peugeot innovation chief Jean-Marc Finot told Reuters.

While GM’s Dan Akerson made bold battery announcements, there is growing conviction everywhere else that battery electric vehicles won’t be the answer. “Battery technology has not been able to resolve the century-old problem of too much weight and limited range capability,” Arthur Wheaton, automotive expert at Cornell University, told Reuters.

This view reaches the staunchest battery supporters. Said Francois Bancon, Nissan’s upstream development chief:

“Demand for electric cars isn’t where we thought it would be. We’re in a very uncertain phase, and everyone’s a bit lost.”

To meet the fleet goal, cars must do more than output little CO2. They also must be bought. Green cars that just sit in the show room don’t help the environment. High-priced batter-electric vehicles collide with this simple fact. “There’s more and more regulation, but customers want to pay less and less,” Nissan’s Bancon said. “So we have to cut prices and increase technology content – that’s the headache we’re faced with.”

One company does not seem to be worried about the 95 gram limit, and that is Volkswagen.  A day before the show started, VW announced that it is “committing to reducing the CO2 output of the European new car fleet to 95 grams per kilometer by 2020.” Volkswagen also wants to reduce “the CO2 output of its European new vehicle fleet to less than 120 grams per kilometer by 2015. Volkswagen intends to outperform by more than 12 grams the figure required by law for its vehicle fleet.”

Note: While Europe sets CO2 targets, while the U.S. has ostensibly different mileage targets, when all is said and done, both more or less  want the same. Use less fuel, generate less CO2. There even is a handy conversion formula.  Except that the formula is not EPA compliant …

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27 Comments on “Carmakers Convinced Batteries Alone Won’t Meet Green Goals...”


  • avatar
    Dr. Doctor

    Fuel cells could be a viable option. Ceramic-based solid oxide cells can be run off of natural gas or propane both of which are more readily available than hydrogen, they’ll still produce CO2 as a byproduct but in much smaller amounts than a regular ICE.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      True, pretty much any hydrocarbon fuel that can pass through, will work. My big beef with fuel cells is that they never seem to leave the lab. I’d like to see a Manhattan Project totally controlled by manufacturing engineers and technicians becuase those peopl eat, breath and sleep practicality and efficiency. I think they’re the ones who can make it viable. It needs to start with fleets. Speaking of which, what ever happened to the Ballard fuel cell bus test fleet? What was the result? Since I haven’t heard, I assume there was reliability/cost issues.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Fuel cells together with all the other stuff around them that are necessary to make a vehicle work, are not automatically guaranteed to be more efficient than a good diesel engine. The picture at the top of the article is probably the best vision of things to come that is currently available, and that uses an 800cc TDI diesel that is basically half of a current 1.6 TDI.

  • avatar
    MrFixit1599

    After all these years of hybrid technology, I am still surprised that a small diesel engine connected to a generator and battery pack isn’t available. It certainly wouldn’t make a sportscar, but for reliable around town transportation, plus extended range, similar to the Volt seems reasonable.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      The VW XL1 in the article uses an 800cc diesel. BUT. If you are going to have an engine, the most effective use of that engine is to drive the wheels with it – not to generate AC and rectify that to DC then charge a battery then discharge the battery to make DC then invert that to AC then operate a motor that still has to go through a gearbox!

      There’s a reason that a Prius has most of the power go through the transmission mechanically. There’s equally a reason that the VW XL1 uses the engine to drive the wheels through a gear-to-gear transmission: it’s more efficient!

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        The stop/start issue has been solved right? My impression is that some of the European diesel engines already do stop/start at traffic lights. That used to be one strike against small diesel-hybrids, because the diesels needed to be closer to operating temperature for various reasons.

        The second issue I’ve heard is the gearing in diesel-hybrids needs to be different because of the different range of torque/RPM for diesel engines, but that seems solvable too.

        Still, it seems like most of the development for diesel-hybrids has been bigger vehicles, such as buses and UPS trucks.

  • avatar
    niky

    Small diesels cost a lot for the output. That’s also why diesel motorcycles are such a niche product.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Well we’re approaching times when decisions must be made will the world sheep out and follow everything the eu says or will people stand up and say enough is enough, elitists making billions by lobbying for money has to stop, support for the idea of man made GW is at an all time low because the evidence doesn’t add up. It doesn’t take brains to see all of these people say one thing and do something else many times before you question their motives.
    All that electric cars do for the majority of us is the “cool” factor.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      The whole electric cars movement is bogus. Just the crack pipe of some like-minded environmental idealists.

      Battery tech, such as it is today, isn’t ready for prime time.

      There’s nothing wrong with the fuel that got us to where we are today, and there is plenty of it.

      I’m not against electric cars. I think everyone who wants an electrified sardine can on wheels should be able to buy one with their own money, just like I think that everyone who wants an electric golfcart should be able to buy one. But let’s not subsidize this pipe dream with taxpayer money.

      The whole GW thing is also bogus. If anyone takes the time to look over geological time and analyze the warming and cooling cycles of the earth, they would find that there was much worse GW AND cooling over the millennia past.

      The planet can take care of itself. It was here long before us, and it will be here long after we’ve returned to the dust of the ages.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        Agreed on all points except one: my Leaf isn’t a ‘sardine can’.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          LOL! Hey, if it works for you, that’s all that matters.

          I’m not a candidate for anything smaller than a full-size pickup truck, and certainly nothing smaller than a 2012 Grand Cherokee or 2008 Highlander. That’s about as tight as I want to get packed in any vehicle, for any length of time, going any distance.

          I do not believe in this government-initiated behavior modification of the masses to get them to drive smaller, economical and more fuel-efficient cars.

          My brother in Manhattan had a Leaf. But he and his wife drove his F150 or her Camry a lot more than they did their Leaf. He ended up selling his Leaf last year to a guy who owns a golf course in the Huntsville, AL, area.

          So like I said, if it works for you, that’s all that matters. No doubt the $7500 taxpayer-funded subsidy helped like the $4500 subsidy helped spark interest during C4C. In the case of the $4500 C4C bonus bucks, the recipient had to count that as income and pay taxes on that amount, IIRC.

          I have to admit that I’m curious about what you do if you ever had to go further than the 50-mile radius of your battery, within a limited time span.

          What my brother did, each time, was to take the F150 or the Camry, if his wife was driving.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            “In the case of the $4500 C4C bonus bucks, the recipient had to count that as income and pay taxes on that amount, IIRC.”

            You are giving incorrect information here. What you’re saying is a myth if you are talking about federal income tax. I’m also not aware of any state that counted it as income for state income tax purposes either.

            www dot snopes dot com/politics/taxes/clunkers dot asp

            There are some cases where states did include Cash for Clunkers cash as part of the sales tax or excise tax base, but that’s not the same thing.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @Highdesertcat
            I think the governments around the world needlessly waste billions of tax payer (or borrowed) funds on ventures that aren’t self supporting, in other words viable.

            Liberalise the motor vehicle industry globally and let market forces find a solution.

            There is still more technology to be found and exploited using existing technologies.

            I do know your view on vehicle sizes and I respect that. If people want and can afford to operate any vehicle they want let them.

            Keep what lithium we have for cordless drill and laptops. That is not an endless supply of resources either.

            Leave any research to universities and let some government funding go that way. But other than that if it costs 3-4 times more for an EV or hybrid, then that’s what you pay.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            corntrollio, I wasn’t one of the recipients of the C4C bonus bucks, but I do recall that I heard or read something somewhere that mentioned that the $4500 was counted as taxable income and that taxes had to be paid on it, on all levels.

            That’s why I wrote IIRC. That means, “If I Remember Correctly”. I could be wrong. I did not benefit from that handout, nor was I entitled to it. I don’t know anyone who got the bucks to ask if they had to pay taxes on it.

            But, it would be interesting, although quite out of date now, to get feedback from someone, like a CPA, who actually knows about what the bonus bucks entailed and whether or not real people in real life actually had to count that as income and pay taxes on it.

            I do remember that when Oprah gave away all those free cars to her audience, those people had to count that as taxable income and pay taxes on each gift car.

            Feel free to enlighten us if you have more info. I’m always ready, willing and able to learn something. That’s why I peruse ttac. The best and brightest reside here.

            ————–

            —————-

            Big Al, I think we can have commercially-built electric vehicles and Hybrids available to the public.

            That old saying of, “If you build it, they will come”, even has some merit to it when applied to EVs and Hybrids. They did build it. And they did come. Toyota’s Prius line sure did better than expected. The others not so much.

            Some people will buy anything, most of the time. Sometimes they buy “whatever-it-is” as a novelty, other times as a toy, and yet other times under the mistaken belief that it is somehow environmentally more sound than “whatever else is out there.”

            My personal belief is that we should have EVs and Hybrids available for anyone who wants to buy one. But let’s not subsidize them. We don’t subsidize electric golf carts, so why electric cars?

            Fundamentally, the whole EV movement, the sun, wind and wave power epidemic, is brought on by zealots who do not like our use and application of carbon-based resources, like oil, natgas, coal, uranium, that have made America what it is today.

            I probably use and waste more power and energy than many Americans, but as long as I am paying for it, and as long as I can afford it, I am not going to alter my behavior because it suits my purpose.

            That said, battery tech has improved tremendously from when I was a kid. And that is a good thing. I like portable electronics, cell phones, and the like.

            If someone, somewhere can make batteries work in cars as good as gasoline, diesel, LPG and natgas work in cars, I say let them bring it on. Right now costs are insurmountable obstacles to EVs and hybrids, for the great unwashed masses, living from paycheck to paycheck.

            I prefer gasoline over everything else. I make that clear. It works for me, in my cars, in my AC generators, in my outdoor kitchen.

            Hey, you haven’t cooked until you’ve cooked with Premium Unleaded gasoline! And while I was in Nam, we heated our water with gasoline so we could have hot showers.

            The applications for gasoline have proven to be endless. The applications for batteries are still limited, and limiting.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @Highdesertcat
            Be careful with that gasoline. I know this isn’t to do with cars, but gasoline.

            When I was in my early 20s I had a small business that used timber (lumber and from rainforests:). The scraps gradaully made a pile about 30′x30′ and a yard high. There was a lot of air pockets between to wood.

            All I had was 2 drums of gas to get it going so I poured US 12 gallons all around and made a ‘wick’ gas to light.

            Guess what, I didn’t have matches and it was about a 200 yard round trip to get some.

            When I came back with the matches I couldn’t find the ‘wick”, so I light matches and threw them in the genral direction of the wood heap, getting ever so closer with each new match.

            And boom, I was knocked on my ass after the gasoline became fumes. I got up in a daze and thought to my self wow, I’m not doing that again.

            My brother was on the other side of the 33 acres came screaming over because he felt the shock wave.

            There are two things to the story gasoline is dangerous and young men pay more for insurance:)

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Big Al, I agree, it is tricky business.

            The way I use it to cook with is very similar to the Coleman Camping cooking stoves that can be used with either Reg Unl or Coleman Kerosene fuel, except I use a much, much bigger gas tank.

            For my applications I use an old 2-gal Roundup pump tank filled with gasoline (Premium is all I have in my two 55-gallon drums I keep for my AC generators and to top of my cars), pump up the Roundup tank and run the sprayer hose to a burner. The gas never vaporizes until it gets out of the burners.

            That’s how we did it in Nam too. We fashioned a burner out of steel pipe, drilled tiny holes in it, hooked it up to a tank of gasoline, and when the burner was lit the gas would vaporize in the pipe and shoot out of the holes. There was a flow-valve that regulated the flow of gas to the burner and controlled the intensity of the flames which heated the water in the drum over it.

            Hey, I burn the weeds on my property the same way too, except I hook up the same tank hose to a long steel pipe with a burner at the end of it and scorch my weeds that way. Works real good and is cheaper than LPG.

            I wouldn’t advise the uninitiated to try it but this practice to burn weeds, cook and heat with gasoline or AVGAS is older than dirt.

            My dad told me that they were doing things like that with gas and oil while he was a kid in Portugal.

            If you’re familiar with Sterno, this is Sterno on steroids and on a much bigger scale.

          • 0 avatar
            gslippy

            @HDC:

            I wouldn’t have gotten the Leaf without the incentives.

            FYI – EV rebates are taxable income.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            Cash for Clunkers cash never counted as federal income, and as far as I know it never counted as state income — no idea where you get this stuff, other than making it up.

            Cash for Clunkers was a federal program. It’s not the same as Oprah gifting cars to people. Those situations are not at all comparable.

            If you want to be enlightened, read my previous post above which explained this.

      • 0 avatar
        Defender90

        I agree. All this “environmental” stuff boils down to is that it’s impossible to buy a new car that isn’t more complex and expensive to service than a luxury car was twenty years ago. And it’s getting more and more extreme as time goes on, there’s no apparent end to it.
        It really is time to decide who rules who in the EU. Who is the public and who is the servant here?

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          From what I can tell unelected bureaucrats technically “run” the EU, with member states having a varying degree of autonomy. Its not quite as bad in the US yet, except for the unelected bureaucracies who set rules for different parts of life and industry, oh and all of the unelected White House czars.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            The czar thing is a silly criticism by partisan hacks and is really no different from what any other president does. The term “czar” is something created by the media to describe a point person on a particular issue.

            Every president has had point people on particular issues, particularly noticeable for the so-called “war on drugs.” These people generate coordinate policy goals across various agencies. It’s not as if these people have any more power than the executive branch has already. In addition, some of the so-called czars are Senate-confirmable already.

            Any rules set by an agency can be overturned by Congress or courts if they are found to be overreaching or inconsistent with existing laws, so it’s again much ado about nothing.

            It’d be better to focus on substance as to where you think these czars are doing a bad job, rather than criticize a silly media-created term in the form of a talking point.

            As for the EU, it’s not clear that you understand how EU Regulations work or how the EU Parliament works from your post above. This is sort of like your French immigration comment the other day — I would really recommend reading a book on this stuff, rather than making it up.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Politics aside, its not whats best for the country no matter which side does it, and unelected bureaucrats as a whole are not good for a so called republic.

            If you look at the list of “czars” since FDR, from Truman to Bush I, you have less than ten per administration, until Clinton (11/8 years), Bush II (49/8 years), and Obama (43/5 years). Either the government is too complex post Clinton for anything to get done properly without czar authority, or the power to accomplish tasks was purposely concentrated in the hands of a few loyal to the administration. Either eventuality is a problem to curtail.

            http://en.wikipedia DOT org/wiki/List_of_U.S._executive_branch_czars

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            The title czar is meaningless. I’m not sure you understand that it’s only a nickname, often given by the media, but it conveys no additional powers.

            What specific additional powers do you think “czars” have? This isn’t mother Russia.

            The difference between Clinton, Bush I or II, and Obama, and many prior presidents, is that there were few idiot talking heads on 24-hour news channels during other administrations, or at least they didn’t have very much influence. News reporting was also better, rather than he said/she said garbage.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    Instead of mucking around with everyone’s ride, why not just outlaw pets? After all, the carbon footprint of a dog is greater than that of an SUV.

    It’s interesting to watch the EU regulate itself back to third world status. The environmentalists won’t stop until we’re all commuting to work on bikes made out of recycled cardboard.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      No environmentalist worthy of the Hitler fetish gear in his closet would choose a human life over a dog’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @E46M3_333
      I hate to tell you this but the US is bogged down with different regulations and controls, probably worse than the Europeans.

      You have 50 individual states all independent.

      You have Federal, State, County, Township rules and regulations and taxes. From 50 states and countless counties and townships. Must be a nightmare to live with that and be efficient.

      Your economy is improving, but don’t forget as a nation your tax as a product of GDP is about 28%. Government spending as a product of GDP is near on 40%.

      Sustainable?


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