November 24, 2008
Fast. Sexy. Green.
The Future of SuperCars has come in the Tesla Roadster.
For several years we have been bombarded with the idea that global warming is caused (in large part) by human activity. One of the major components of this human activity is transportation. Yet since the late 19th century we have had only two viable choices: Gasoline or Diesel. Yet as of recently, a third, more efficient and clean way has come to the limelight: electricity.
The use of electricity has been used sporadically in the early 1900s, but was not seen as a potential competitor to cheap and powerful gasoline-powered combustion engines. Yet now that gas has hit $4.00 (although it has come down a litte these days), we have come back to a cheaper alternative. Electricity gives us the ability to choose how we are going to power our vehicle. Will the electricity in our car be generated by solar panels, wind turbines, nuclear reactors, clean coal, or any other viable option. The point is, we are not dependent on crude that comes from war-torn areas, which supports sometimes dubious backers. We finally have the ability to truly develop domestically-powered cars.
Although this is all great, it does come at a steep price. One of the most talked about electric cars is the Tesla Roadster, which comes in at $109,000 (Build Your Tesla). Yet $109,000 is peanuts compared to the the $130,000 Porsche, $180,000 Lamborghini or $270,000 Ferrari, which the Tesla competes with. The Tesla is a supercar, which can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. A mighty feat for the first economically viable fully electric car.
All I can say is, I can't wait until these types of car hits the general consumer market.
With the imminent decline and possible bankruptcy of the Big 3 (GM, Ford and Chrysler), is it possible for American car companies to successfully transition to green fleets while simultaneously combating a disastrous financial crisis. In the last few weeks we have seen the Big 3 testify in front of Congress in an effort to beg for loans to increase liquidity in the industry. Is this bailout merely an extension to the finite lives of these dying companies, or will they genuinely revive the corporations that built the manufacturing industry in America.
First of all I don't think a bailout will work in reviving the corporations, nor do I think $25 billion+ in tax payer money is warranted by companies who have disregarded the movement towards greener cars by maintaining their truck-based fleets. Now while, GM and Chrysler Executives were begging for cash in front of Congress, Bill Ford Jr., met and discussed the future of the automotive and energy industry with President-elect Obama (Ford Eyes Green Agenda - New York Times). This is a smart move on the part of Mr. Ford, but hopefully Obama will not be swayed and not simply bail out these outdated, poorly run companies.
Big 3 Testifying in front of Congress:
We can't expect that giving money to these companies will change the low demand for the US vehicles. Since they have been slow at building efficient vehicles they should not be given the benefit of the doubt. Although I don't agree with the bailout, I do agree with Mr. Ford in that the US has to build a new infrastructure to support green cars, and also transition to domestic energy supplies, whether it be domestic natural gas, solar, geothermal, wind or a combination of these energies.
The financial struggles experienced by the automotive industries exposes a much deeper and structural problem in our economy. Our dependence on foreign supplies, energy and finance (thanks to free trade) has made the US vulnerable to these fluctuations in the economy. Now rather than giving up on capitalism and free market ideals, we should educate our workforce and adapt to a more flexible economy. By supporting a flexible and educated workforce we will mitigate the effects of the current and future financial (and automotive) crisis.
Will the Big 3 ever become green??
November 17, 2008
The X-Prize is a recently-set up foundation that seeks to entice companies, organizations and start-ups to research and develop new technologies to tackle our most pressing issues. One of these prices is the Automotive X Prize which has a $10 million prize. Surprisingly, no big car maker has entered the contest, even though most of these companies are pursuing and developing their own energy efficient vehicles that would probably meet the X Prize criteria.
According to the following article (New Scientist Technology Blog, large companies such as GM, Ford and Chrysler have failed to enter the race even though progress is being made in the field of fuel efficient cars. Some bloggers and news reporters argue that these large corporations are holding out from the contest to wait and see the types of technologies that are innovated. From there they could sweep in and buyout some of the better technologies.
Others believe that they will hold out until the end (if they actually enter), to not force its competitors to enter as well. I personally believe that one of the reasons they are not getting involved is to prevent small start ups (with fewer resources) from being discouraged and dropping out. By not entering the race, they are allowing different ideas and technologies to develop, which in the end they may examine and buy out. It's a smart move for both the start up companies and the large corporations.
November 15, 2008
PPP: Possible Protectionist Policies?
The recent economic and financial crisis points to the demise and downfall of two of America's longest and most profitable companies: GM and Ford (Reuters-GM and Ford Losses). In normal market conditions, these companies would fail and the share of the market would be taken by a more competitive and more efficiently run company. Yet seeing recent developments in the Congress-fueled bail-out, we may see Ford and GM survive this recession (but barely).
It seems awfully ironic that the United States government is backing a bill that is clearly in line with protectionist policies, something which they have rallied against since the post-Great Depression era. Implementing this bail-out to support financial firms, insurance companies and possibly car companies is entirely contradictory to the pure capitalist mentality that the US is known for. It would have been unimaginable merely two years ago that the government would intervene so drastically in the financial and subsidiary markets to somehow revive our failing economy. And although many Americans feel that this is necessary, others (mainly around the world) are distressed and outraged that America could somehow ignore or throw away its own free trade beliefs in the face of a short-term recession.
More specifically, European automakers are decrying the US Congress' plan to inject $25 Billion of liquid cash into GM and Ford. (Autoblog - EU Government displeased at US's planned bailout of GM and Ford) Seeing as GM and Ford both operate in Europe, the EU Government has threatened to report the US to the World Trade Organization (WTO) if it finds the bailout goes against their free trade agreement. They feel that such a bailout would subsidize the US automakers against other European car companies in the European automotive market.
EU Commission President: Jose Manuel Barroso speaking against the bailout.
November 10, 2008
Why won't the US import efficient diesel cars?
I came across this article a few days ago (www.autobloggren.com), which demonstrates the efficient capabilities of new diesel cars on the market.
The new Audi A3 TDIe outlined in the articled averaged over 70 mpg (US) whilst racing across Australia. Being French, and going back to Europe every so often, I have come to realize European's embrace of cleaner and more fuel efficient diesel technology in cars, which Americans (and Canadians) have failed to accept. Why would a cleaner, more environmentally friendly solution to the global climate crisis, be ignored completely from the US and Canadian Automobile industry.
I don't know if American Automakers are lobbying to restrict the import of diesel cars, by pushing Congress to impose uncompetitive quotas and tariffs, or if Americans simply hesitate to embrace this technology which has a checkered past. And yet I realized after all of this, that Ford actually does sell diesel cars. Just not to Americans. According to the following article, it seems Ford is caving in to European demand and supplying the UK market with a highly efficient diesel cars (www.treehugger.com - Ford)
So then we must ask ourselves why would Ford go out of its way to sell diesel cars in Europe, but wouldn't even implement a similar strategy in the domestic automotive market? It seems that the current federal administration (one which does not wholeheartedly recognize global warming) does not see the benefit in disturbing the market equilibrium by offering diesel cars. While our European counterparts race ahead of us in the green car technology, America is left behind because of petty politics. Auto industry lobbyists have obviously convinced the government to protect the American industry, which has not yet caught up to international corporations in this technological field.
A clear demonstration of the government's protectionist policies, is its refusal to allow California to pass its own more restrictive green house gas emissions control on cars. According to the following article, California is suing the EPA to reverse the Bush administration's belief that 'states have no authority to set standard emissions' (California Sues EPA). The article also goes on to talk about the administration's goal to improve fuel efficiency to 35 mpg by 2030. This seems comical when a German sports hatchback (A3 TDI) can double that with today's current technology. The future government should really look more into the research and development of diesel and alternative fuels and encourage states such as California to pass stricter emission laws.
Audi A3 TDI, courtesy of autobloggreen.com: