Issue: Oct 2010


by Bob Brooks

 The Electrification Coalition, Washington, DC, composed of numerous related interests seeking conversion of light duty vehicles to electric power, has effectively challenged alternatives in a published roadmap’ document which forecasts “total light duty vehicle miles traveled in 30 years will be 75% electric”. The reference is to both all and partial electric propulsion.

The roadmap states that “instead of scattered, inconsistent federal support for a wide variety of alternatives, needed is coherent, focused strategy to drive down (imported) oil
consumption by the light duty fleet with electrics, since alternatives cannot ultimately revolutionize America’s fleet and end oil dependence”.

The roadmap makes this point by suggesting that “75% reduction in U.S. oil consumption by light duty vehicles from 8.6 mbd today to 2.0 mbd would conceivably cut oil imports to zero”. The roadmap ads to this a long list of national security, economic, and lost job aspects of the imported oil issue to which it adds an equally long list of reasons why costs, battery and electronic material supply issues and other electric vehicle factors are manageable. .

The roadmap position of the Coalition precedes market availability, hence consumer experiences with electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf and GM plug hybrid Volt car.

Bucking the electric car wind are a number of push back factors listed below

- With few exceptions, world auto makers have repeatedly asserted that light vehicles
powered primarily by IC (internal combustion) engines will dominate the in-use fleet
for a long time to come..
- The expectation that fuel efficiency of IC based power trains will continue to
improve is illustrated by periodic announcement of significant Otto and Diesel
technology gains. An example is recent news that technology for car diesel cost and
complexity reduction has been developed coincidental with further fuel efficiency
gains. Planned diesels at the same cost as Otto engines are claimed by Mazda.
- Investment in industry basic vehicle and fuel distribution technologies & facilities
is so huge that vast change even in 30 years makes it difficult to anticipate the sources
of new investment needed other than from tax payers already stretched to support other
programs and cost of government..
- Perhaps the most difficult to forecast yet dynamic factor of all is the timing for
volume production of new, domestic, economic, drop in CO2 neutral fuel with related
energy security . Support for alternatives is now heavily driven by the military and air
plus recent call for action by Ford which stresses algae based fuel development. Also,
the U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation (HR 4168) that provides
production of algae based fuel with $1.01 tax credit parity with cellulosic
ethanol and 50% bonus depreciation allowance for property used for algae
.- A not inconsiderable value of IC engines and liquid fuel is motor fuel
tax revenue (now about 15% of current gasoline retail sales) for road construction,
maintenance and repair. No provision for fuel tax revenue from grid electric motor fuel
has been proposed but a spokesman for the Coalition suggests that use per mile fees
may be a viable equalizer for all vehicles in the future (but may not equalize on a
ton/mile basis if it follows current toll road fee practice). . Tax payer funded subsidies
for electric car purchase are in place.

Taken together, it is evident that the Coalition’s primary focus on the imported oil problem contrasts with the important question of when CO2 neutral, alternative drop in fuel will be available in large quantities for the IC engine powered fleet.

Put another way; which overall strategy would be the most cost/effective (1.) re-tool both the auto and motor fuel industries for electrics, or (2.) develop better sources of high quality IC engine compatible alternative drop in fuel for current and future light duty vehicles?

Send your comment:
Name: Email:
Phone: Town & Country:
Dear Sirs,
Can you please clarify your definition of light vehicles?
Thank you in advance.
Jim Glauser
Senior Consultant
SRI Consulting
Jim Glauser , Charlotte, NC, USA
Hi Jim:
Light vehicle group in the U.S. refers to cars and light trucks(largely pick ups and vans).
Bob Brooks

Thanks. Is there a breakdown of hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) produced in the US? I have seen sales statistics, but not production figures.
Thanks again.

I have not seen HEV U.S. production data (surely very small) but will ask my publisher if numbers are available.
Many planners here are focused on impact of new IC engine technology such as Mazda Sky D & G to which HEV can be added.....planners wonder about cost.
John Larkin , USA

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