Aston Martin CEO Thinks Legislators Are Off Track With Fossil-Fuel Bans

Aston Martin’s chief is taking lawmakers to task for an upcoming ban on gasoline and diesel vehicles for being unrealistic about how automotive technology really works.

Great Britain’s announcement in July about banning the sale of new vehicles running on “petrol” and diesel by 2040 is “meaningless,” according to CEO Andy Palmer.

The regulation is based on inaccurate assumptions on what vehicle powertrains can achieve the end result of reducing air pollution. Palmer sees legislators being misinformed on what vehicle technologies are available to achieve goals on reducing emissions and air pollution.

They’re legislators, not automotive engineers.

“Policy makers should not try to be engineers,” Palmer said, and that the government’s July announcement was “just spin” without any practical potential for being achieved.

“In my view as an engineer, it’s better to prescribe the emission, and then let the engineers figure out what the right technology is,” he said.

Palmer thinks that tangible results can be achieved through what’s in development on the market right now with efficient internal combustion engines, preferably gasoline over diesel. Vehicle electrification will be part of it, but that may apply best to passenger vehicles and not to commercial vehicles, he said.

It’s already happening for gasoline engines that can nearly double their fuel economy, which is already being done with Formula 1 race cars, he said.

Carbon emissions can be cut nearly 50 percent with technology that’s in development, Palmer said.

For today’s traditional ICE’s, hybrid technology isn’t the solution.

“If you take today’s engine and you simply slap a hybrid on, you end up more or less in the same place,” he said.

Clarifying the end results in the type of emissions to be reduced could solve the problem, the Aston Martin chief thinks. Diesel is different than gasoline in what’s coming out of the tailpipe.

“Are we trying to solve clean air? In this case, ban diesels. Or are we trying to solve CO2? In this case, you need to use less fossil fuel. The two are different. And a lot of the dialogue right now is mixing those messages,” he said.

Regulators that want to ban diesel-powered vehicles are looking out what’s distinct about the fuel and its high level of pollutants from soot and nitrogen oxides. People living close to interstate highways are more vulnerable to heavy trucks spewing diesel emissions.

Palmer sees electric heavy-duty trucks as a necessity to living within the confines of fossil fuel bans potentially being adopted in the UK, France, Norway, and China. For diesel and gasoline to be banned by 2040, electrified powertrains won’t have the battery packs needed to power heavy trucks, he said.

Tesla and Nikola haven’t impressed him Palmer enough yet to mention them.

The automaker’s head thinks that “about half the cars will be gasoline and gasoline hybrid, and about half the cars will be alternative fuel.”

That statement suggests that about half will be powered by something other than gasoline, such as electricity or hydrogen.

Aston Martin is going that route, its CEO told The Financial Times late last month, though not up the 50 percent all-electric level. Palmer said that all its vehicle offering will be hybridized by somewhere near 2025. By 2030, he expects sales to be 25 percent battery electric vehicles and the remainder hybrid vehicles.

Hybrids will likely include plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and traditional hybrids for the British automaker.

It’s gasoline V12 engines won’t be going away, he said.

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The automaker’s CEO brought impressive auto engineering and executive management credentials to the company when he took over that role in 2014.

Palmer played a visible role in promoting the Nissan Leaf in its first few years as chief planning officer for the Japanese automaker.

One of his achievements was leading town-hall meetings in states such as Arizona where Leaf owners were furious over battery degradation in hot climates. He promised that improvements would be made to the Leaf’s battery technology.

Aston Martin achieved a profitable half-year in 2017 under Palmer’s leadership, its first profitable six-month profit in a decade. That was helped by the launch of the DB11 model, with several new models coming up including the all-electric RapidE

CNBC


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