By on August 10, 2010

It’s difficult to compete globally when governments try to pick the winning technologies and the direction changes from administration to administration… the U.S. government is going a bit too far in trying to dictate the powertrain technologies of the future.

BorgWarner CEO Tim Manganello tells Green Car Advisor what he really thinks of the billions of government dollars that have gone into the electric car industry of late. And though the supplier boss clearly has a personal interest in non-EV efficiency solutions (namely dual-clutch transmissions which require some kind of combustion engine), he’s also got a point. Why is the government lavishing unproven (luxury) startups like Tesla and Fisker with hundreds of millions in federal largess, while doing next to nothing to increase the market penetration of proven technologies like clean diesel or natural gas?

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18 Comments on “Quote Of The Day: Picking Favorites Edition...”

  • avatar

    Because they’re the government, which means they must give money based on how it looks, not what it actually does. And we all already know that giving NO money is simply not an option for these boners….

    • 0 avatar

      Gotta agree. Sometimes doing the right thing involves doing nothing at all. In this case not spending billions on subsidies for technologies they know nothing about. Look at the feds history of its meddling with the auto industry. Most recently you have cafe regulations which have forced automakers to use 5w 20 oil to save an additional 1% on gas. Do we notice 1% increase in fuel economy? No. Do we notice the 30% decrease in engine life from a 30 weight oil? Yes

  • avatar

    while doing next to nothing to increase the market penetration of proven technologies like clean diesel or natural gas?

    Everytime I have said CNG is an option as a clean/alternative fuel, I have got flames. Because it needs infraestructure blah blah blah…

    They want a powertrain technology in a country that may experience a blackout because of the increased demand. Genius.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      Natural gas is not in its native form a good automotive fuel. It is not very dense and either it must be highly compressed or liquefied, either of which takes a lot of energy and both of which create safety issues in handling and use.

      Fortunately NG can be easily synthesized into liquid hydrocarbons that can be freely mixed with naturally occurring gasoline or with diesel.

  • avatar

    Agree 100% that the government should not be picking winners and losers. Why? Because they cannot. To the extent history proves anything about economics, history has proven that.

    The generous funds provided by the federal government to Tesla and Fisker are unfair to other companies and ineffective. They are pork, pure and simple, given out to those with good government contacts rather than good technology or businesses.

  • avatar

    The government has subsidized traditional combustion technologies in many way, to the tune of billions of dollars, over the past several decades (roads, bailouts, loans, tax breaks). Now they are spending a pittance on green technologies that will clean up the air, reduce dependence on oil, promote domestic industries, and move us forward. Borg Warner is crying because they want some free money. It’s what all these so-called capitalist companies due, feed at the government trough. Quit your whining.

  • avatar

    Because carbon-based fuels are the devil, and electricity magically appears from a wire.

    And power plants are not typically situated in city centers where they can pollute. They are “somewhere else”.

  • avatar

    The arguments against CNG because of infrastructure are valid. CNG is a limited resource, just like oil, so spending billions to give it a viable distribution network is just delaying the same problem we are anticipating with oil – running out.

    Upgrading our electrical grid to handle plug in cars is a bit more future proof in that old fossil fuel burning power plants can be upgraded to clean and nearly limitless sources of energy, like Nuclear, in the future wihout having to replace the existing grid and distribution system.

    Now, there are of course the issues with raw materials for batteries, and the inherent shortcomings related to range on all electric vehicles, but battery material science and capacity are bound to increase with more research. Coming up with a standard easily exchangeable battery pack would also help, so instead of going to a gas station, you pull into a battery station, and swap your depleted battery for a fully charged one, paying only for the electricity, much as you can exchange gas grill propane tanks today.

    Hydrogen and biofuels are also worth plenty of research. If we can grow our own fuel supply cost effectively, we can mostly carry on with the ICE designs we’ve been refining for decades.

  • avatar

    Handing out money to unproven technologies happens all the time. I have seen it in other industries. The money needs to flow, and it will flow longer if the technology has a long way to go.

  • avatar

    Government is the least efficient spender of money. Full stop.

    See highway bill for the prime example of this.

  • avatar

    In terms of CNG/LPG (petrol replacement) and LNG (Diesel replacement), I think the general theme of comments is way off base. The infrastructure is largely in place, this country has a massive transport/storage capacity for NG (the compression and liquidification could be done at the hubs or stations, using…wait for it, solar power). The problem is that these are viable alternatives, while mass electrification isn’t and that’s what all governments (both parties) want to avoid, anything that changes the status quo, while acting like they are.

    It’s like the clinton program, billions to develop cars that got 100 mpg, yes the technology was developed but wasn’t cost viable. If they had made the target 50 mpg, the US would have been the hybrid kings (atleast the patents ford amassed allowed to say screw you to toyota), but once again, the goal was spending money, not accomplishing anything that might change the status quo.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t imagined the compressors needed to increase pressure to 3000 psi in the pump could be powered by sun.

      Down here it would be EPIC, it’s sunny all year. The ones installed in the fuel stations wouldn’t use electricty from the grid.

  • avatar

    No, sometimes you do need government involvement and public money to help “pick a winner”. The private sector is far from perfect when it comes to investing in technologies with little short-term ROI and/or a long incubation period and/or that stomp on an existing oligopoly’s business model

    Case in point: the Internet.

    Anyone remember the state of online communication in 1990? Remember CompuServe, GEnie, Prodigy, the nascent AOL? Without government sponsorship, the internet wouldn’t have come to fruition for the reasons above: it wasn’t profitable, it did directly compete with private business and it’s true usefulness only came about after it had incubated for some time.

    This is similar: there’s no real money in sustainable transport now. There might not be for ten years, but do we really want to be forced to make the change at proverbial gunpoint? Government intervention is supposed to be proactive; it’s supposed to plan for sea-changes and shield society from the (often brutal) market corrections. It’s also supposed to plan for a better future and not wait until things get so horrible that it’s change or die.

    The problem is when progressive planning is compromised because of existing interests, and that’s as much the responsibility (and fault) of government and industry. I suspect that, if CompuServe or GE had gotten a whiff of the internet’s potential they would have done everything in their power to knife it in the cradle, much like the way incumbent telecomm companies are trying to kill commodity wireless today, or the way Chevron has managed to hamstring BEV development by patent hoarding.

    • 0 avatar

      The United States federal government did nothing to “pick winners” regarding the Internet. No companies got government funds for operating expenses. Instead, all companies were treated equally.

      And Chevron did not manage to hamstring battery-electric vehicle development by patent hoarding. That’s a myth.

    • 0 avatar

      The “winner” the government should pick is a universal charging scheme for EVs. Setting standards is something the government does pretty well, and should do as a service to the American EV market.

      Building codes and other safety codes, and road construction standards are good examples. These aren’t developed in a vacuum, but in conjunction with industry experts. Sometimes a particular company’s idea merits becoming the standard. Too bad for the rest.

      Conformity with the efforts of harmonization with the other developing EV standards would be nice, but probably unattainable.

  • avatar

    Nice pic! The Prez looks happier in a Ford than in a Chevy.

  • avatar
    George B

    One thing holding CNG back is the available CNG cars all stink on ice except possibly the full size pickups. Since the major customers are all government or business fleets, only fleet quality vehicles ever get enough interest for EPA certification. My low cost solution would be less EPA regulation, not more subsidies. Allow small volume CNG conversion without EPA testing and focus most of the regulation on the safety of generic fuel tanks that fit many different vehicles.

    I agree that the low density of natural gas, methane, is problem, but it’s better than the density of hydrogen and, unlike hydrogen, methane exists in nature both associated with oil and separate from it. Methane exists in some shale formations, in coal beds, as methane hydrates, etc. In addition, anaerobic digestion of organic matter makes new methane.

  • avatar

    He doesn’t have a point – He’s just bitching about not getting more government help (Would he really be selling so many DI gas turbochargers and DCTs without CAFE increases?). You don’t turbocharge an EV.

    Here’s the full text of BorgWarner’s official comment filed with the EPA and NHTSA on the NPRM for CAFE:

    “BorgWarner would first like to commend the EPA, NHTSA and the State of California for their combined efforts to harmonize the standards in this very thorough joint proposal. [NHTSA­ 2009-0059-0076, p.1]
    General Comments
    BorgWarner is very supportive of EPA, NHTSA and the State of California’s efforts and sees the joint proposal as a major step forward in our desire for energy independence and reduced CO2 emissions. [OAR-2009-0472-7289, p.3]”

    Now what was that about Tim wanting the government to restrain itself? Seems like a different tune when he was actually asked by the government for his opinion.

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