Do you feel like your head is swirling with all the green talk? Is it hard to keep track of who is doing something right now, and who just has the best display? Don’t feel alone. There were times when I was at the 2008 North American international auto show that I felt the same way. How does one keep it all straight?
My litmus test is “where the rubber meets the road” “ how many vehicles are on the road. Yes, each manufacturer is working on more than one alternative platform, but which manufacturer is putting the most resources to which alternative platform.
Ethanol flex-fuel vehicles:
Let’s start with ethanol, flex-fuel vehicles. Which Manufacturer has the most flex-fuel vehicles?
General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, and Nissan all have flex-fuel vehicles on the road. Toyota has announced that it will have an E85 Tundra by the end of the year.
General Motors is the winner because they have the most flex-fuel vehicles on the road and they have just announced a partnership with an ethanol company to make ethanol out of non-food sources.
Clean diesel fuel and engines:
Some people don’t consider diesel an alternative platform, but I do.
Mercedes-Benz is the first company to bring clean diesel engines back and they will be in all fifty states. Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Honda and Acura, will follow shortly thereafter.
Plug-in electric vehicles:
Does anyone have a plug-in electric vehicle for sale?
Not for sale, but Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, and Saturn already have vehicles that are being tested with plug-in electric capability. Ford is working with an electric company in Southern California to test their vehicles. Toyota is working with two Universities in California to test their vehicles.
General Motors won a green car of the year award for their two-mode hybrid, but the award for hybrids goes to Toyota. Toyota has more hybrids than any other manufacturer on the road and plans to have hybrids available in all their vehicles.
Hydrogen and Fuel cell vehicles:
Hydrogen is considered the Holy Grail by most of the manufacturers, but Honda gets my nod because of its beautiful fuel cell sports car that can be leased by consumers.
Other manufacturers may have more fuel cell vehicles on the road, some might be working in close collaboration with hydrogen provider, but there is a reason I like Honda. Their fuel cell is a sports car, not a minivan or SUV. All the other manufacturers are still sporting the big vehicles, not the slick sports car with a center fuel cell stack.
Are there other measures for the green in the auto business?
Cars are one of the most recyclable products in the US. Toyota says their cars are almost 100 percent recyclable, including the recycling of the nickel-metal hydride battery.
But I have to give the gold star to Rolls-Royce. Rolls-Royce cars are over 90 percent recyclable, and over 70 percent of the cars ever made are still on the road. If you own a Rolls-Royce and want to recycle it, send it to me.
Toyota, General Motors and Subaru get even greener by recycling or reusing 100 percent of their garbage in their manufacturing plants. My favorite is Subaru. Subaru sells one percent of its trash to a company that produces electricity for the city of Indianapolis.
Its great that the automotive companies are working on all these alternative platforms, but even Nobuo Tanaka, (International Energy Agency) IEA’s executive director acknowledges,
“To attain energy security and climate change objectives, global R&D and deployment of advanced energy technologies are essential and urgent”, Mr. Tanaka explained, “the private sector and business community have key roles to play.”
IEA studies have shown that, if the world continues on its current path, global CO2 emissions from energy production and use are likely to increase by more than 55% to over 42 billion tonnes per annum by 2030. CO2 emissions have steadily increased in recent years. “The longer we wait, the more difficult the task of mitigating
climate change becomes. Governments cannot act alone “ the private sector must be involved from the outset”, said Mr. Tanaka.
“Some of these technologies are already commercial, while others need further R&D effort. While many of them are already available at a relatively small scale, huge investments will be required to enable mass-scale substitution for the incumbent energy solutions. These emerging technologies need markets and government-based incentives for more rapid deployment. Action should start with technologies that are already available.”
We are a brilliant nation. We have the science, ability, and technology to be self-sufficient.
Now we need the will.