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Dan Neil: An auto industry falls short of green

Discussion in 'News' started by tonybelding, Nov 14, 2007.

  1. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

    Aug 17, 2006
    Hamilton, Texas
    Report here in the LA Times:,1,5822645.story?coll=la-news-highway_1&ctrack=3&cset=true

    I agree with the great majority of Dan's observations, as I often do. I think he's overstating the case when he says battery technology isn't ready.

    He says the Chevy volt is a gamble and nobody knows if it's actually going to work. What is not going to work about it? The A123 batteries have been pretty thoroughly tested in power tools and the Killacycle. The obstacles are mostly economic, not technological. The cost of batteries is to be solved through mass production, the same way it was for cell phones, plasma TVs, and even piston engines. No technological breakthroughs (or large government-funded research programs) are needed.

    He complains about EV advocates who think car makers could "throw a switch" and begin building practical electric cars "today". I'd say in the car business you can't throw a switch and begin building anything overnight. It typically takes GM about 3-4 years to bring a new car model, on a new platform, to market. Tesla worked on the Roadster for about three years before revealing it to the public. And three years ago most car companies weren't even thinking about BEVs or PHEVs. So, when Dan Neil goes to the auto show and looks around, it's not surprising that he doesn't see any electric cars. It's partly a matter of industrial time lag. It's not because everyone is waiting for the miracle battery.

    What's scandalous is that many car companies still aren't even working on EVs or PHEVs today. Then again, some are -- like GM and Mitsubishi. If the battery technology didn't exist, GM and Mitsubishi wouldn't be pushing ahead with the Volt and the MiEV.

    OK, I've got that little rant off my chest. But I really do agree with Dan Neil on most of what he's written, and a couple of things in this article really struck home with me. "The cognitive dissonance is plain in the Cayenne hybrid, or the elephantine Cadillac Escalade hybrid (also at the show). These slightly more efficient monsters will look, in some future Museum of the Automobile, ridiculous, a testament to our conflicted times."

    Also. . . "When I walk through the L.A. Auto Show, I see vast, misdirected genius. If you took all the brains and expertise invested in, say, the BMW M3 and turned it to the problem of clean electric propulsion, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

    Too true.
  2. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Aug 20, 2006
    I would like to see everything go hybrid including the big, behemoth gas guzzlers. Sure it seems like an oxymoron to go to the trouble of making a 12MPG vehicle into a 15MPG vehicle, when you could have a 60MPG vehicle, but every little bit helps. We can hope that people come around to the idea of using smaller, lighter, more efficient vehicles, but as long as the big car companies continue to sell the giant SUVs at least lets make them a bit more efficient. Besides, the advances on the hybrid drivetrain lend themselves to further improvements (and eventual full BEV) as batteries improve.
  3. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

    Aug 18, 2006
    CA CA
    Dan is a cool guy. I agree he maybe overstated the battery problem with statements like "This is the contention of people who don't have to put out the fires of overtaxed lithium-ion batteries."

    There was something like 7 laptop fires last year. There are hundreds of automobile gasoline fires every year. These laptop batteries were not in a controlled environment. Auto batteries can easily be swaddled in their own temperature controlled cocoons.

    He said that the [auto] critics are half-right I'd say it is more 60-40 or even 70-30 with dozens of credible EV projects going on world-wide just like the ones Tony mentioned ..., and the Tesla.

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