Arthur C. Clarke is perhaps best-known as the fellow who wrote “2001: A Space Odyssey”, but he is notorious among science-and-engineering types for having once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This statement is, of course, entirely relative. The vast majority of human beings in this or any other era can be easily confused by everything from a torque wrench to the weight difference between a pound of bricks and a pound of feathers.
The news that came out of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory last week, however, is going to blur the science/magic boundary for most of us. A group of scientists there discovered a way to turn water that has been saturated with CO2 into ethanol using nano-spike catalysts. At room temperature. It’s (not quite) as simple as this: You apply a lot of electricity to the water in the presence of this material, and it turns into ethanol.
This is going to cause a lot of problems.
A number of Volkswagen engineers cheated on tests used to determine carbon dioxide emissions because goals set by former group CEO Martin Winterkorn were too demanding and difficult to achieve, reported German outlet Bild am Sonntag.
The report was “broadly confirmed” by Volkswagen, stated The New York Times. It’s believed goals set by Winterkorn, which would have made Volkswagen vehicles cleaner than required by European regulations, pressured the engineers to manipulate the tests as they were afraid to admit they could not meet those goals.
The engineers pumped up tire pressures to reduce rolling resistance and put diesel in motor oil to make the vehicles more fuel efficient, thus producing less carbon dioxide. The practice “began in 2013 and carried on until the spring of this year,” reported Automotive News.
German authorities said Wednesday that they would retest all Volkswagen cars — regardless of engine type or brand — for emissions compliance, Reuters reported.
German transportation minister Alexander Dobrindt expressed his “irritation” with the automaker that more cars were being added to the deepening scandal. On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency notified the automaker that some of its 3-liter diesel models may contain an illegal “defeat device” to fool emissions tests. (Read More…)
After months of investigation regarding the German government’s support of Daimler’s continued use of R134a — in violation of a law mandating use of refrigerants “with a global warming potential no more than 150 times that of carbon dioxide” — the European Commission has given Germany two months to comply with the law, or be fined and taken to court.
The European Union Parliament approved new CO2 targets for the year 2020, mandating an average of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer, or roughly as much as a Toyota Prius emits. Current standards sit at 130 grams per kilometer. Just-Auto reports that within a few months, discussions will kick off regarding a post-2020 target.
After months of intense lobbying, Germany has convinced European Union environmental ministers to keep 2020 new car carbon dioxide emissions standards at 130 grams per kilometer instead of the proposed, stricter 95g/km standard. The German government argued that the tighter regulations would cost jobs and hurt German automakers. BMW and Mercedes-Benz produce larger and heavier cars than other European car companies like Fiat and Renault and they would have a more difficult experience trying to meet the new CO2 standards.
While Americans are still asking whether it’s even wise to buy small turbocharged engines instead of larger naturally aspirated ones, we in Europe are slowly losing our ability to even choose a car without a turbocharged engine. Volkswagen has recently announced that it is going turbo only – but in our market, the transition is nearly complete. Except for base engines in Polo supermini and Up! city car, basically everything else has a turbo slapped on it – and it looks much the same with other VAG brands. Others are following closely – Ford eliminated most of its naturally aspirated engines, except for the base 1.6 in Focus and small engines in Fiesta. Renault is coming with new tiny turbo plants to replace small four cylinder NA motors – and is even introducing them to its low-cost brand Dacia. PSA, Fiat, Opel and others are heading this direction as well.
But, why is that? Is it that Europeans are more forward thinking, more interested in economy an environment than polar bear killing ‘murricans with their massive V6s and V8s? Is it the European driving style and road network, requiring smaller and lighter cars?
In the face of potential CO2 regulations that would mandate tough emissions regulations for new cars in the Eurozone, Germany is doing its best to shut them down completely. And the rest of the EU, along with some OEMs, are not happy about it.
Senior members of the German government are leaning heavily on EU member states, warning “that German automakers could scale back or scrap production plans in their countries unless they support weakened carbon emissions rules,” Reuters writes. Cabinet members are said to focus their strong-arming on EU countries that recently have been bailed-out, mostly with German money. “They have tried everything at the highest level to pressure member states, in particular countries in the bailout club, to support their proposals,” a diplomat told Reuters. The EU Parliament is set to finalize rules that set a 95g CO2 / km limit by 2020.
The fight however seems not so much a quest for cleaner air than an underhanded fight for more breathing room for the auto industries of some member states. (Read More…)
An attempt of Germany to water down CO2 targets, about to be imposed by the EU, explains why automakers are eager to build EVs despite a lack of an eager market. Germany proposes that so-called supercredits can be used to off-set the limits. “Unlimited supercredits could allow the manufacture of electric cars for which there is little or no demand, while allowing just as many polluting vehicles as before on to the roads,” campaigners against supercredits told Reuters. (Read More…)
Advocates of diverting tax money raised from motorists on mass transit insist doing so is essential for protecting the environment. Data published in August by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) show that buses outside London produced an average of 221 grams per kilometer of greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than the figure given for small gasoline-powered cars, 210. Small and medium diesel-powered cars also beat the bus with scores of 172 and 215.
“Perhaps those who criticize lone car drivers should turn their attention to empty off-peak buses instead,” Association of British Drivers environment spokesman Paul Biggs said in a statement. “Although buses provide an important public service, even London can only manage an average occupancy of around fifteen passengers. Modern efficient cars outperform buses not just for CO2 emissions, but for genuine pollutants as well.”