Hybrid Concepts, Niche Markets Not Enough

Jan. 24, 2007: The Washington Post—Energy Grants Back Plug-In Cars, Ethanol

Summary: "The Department of Energy announced yesterday $17 million in grants to support the development of battery technology for plug-in hybrid vehicles and ethanol, two areas in the energy debate where officials in Washington and Detroit are closely aligned.

The money will be offered as two grants, one for $14 million for the plug-in technology and the other for $3 million for ethanol. The money for battery development is intended to improve the technology’s performance. The $3 million in ethanol grants will support engineering advances to improve how flex-fuel engines use the E85 blend.

Alexander Karsner, the Energy Department’s assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, made the announcement at the press preview day of the Washington Auto Show. He used high-tech cars from General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler as his backdrop."

Standing before one-off models meant to exemplify the technologies being pushed, Karsner pointed out that the country needs much more than concepts and cars built for niche markets to end its dependence on petroleum imports. It needs fuel economy gains across all automotive markets.

And DaimlerChrysler exec Dieter Zetsche discussed European (36 mpg) and American (24 mpg) average fuel economy. He pointed out that Europe’s governments and citizens have learned to endure some pain at the pump in service of a greater goal. But he can’t see Americans doing the same. Would you?

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  • shawn

    Suggesting consumers should be willing to pay more for fuel as a solution to development for alternative fuels is not a solution.

    Both the oil and auto industry have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, thus no incentive to change their current business models.

    It is not the lack of intellect and brain power which has slowed the transition from pushrod engines to hybrid engine technology, but the lack of will, drive and purpose.

    Would Ford and GM be in the predictament they are in had they chosen the path of Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Daimler Chrysler?

    Instead of being overtaken by the tidal wave of change, the industry should be part of those making the waves. The Japanese auto industry chose to spend profits on R&D in lieu of large executive pay packages for lackluster performance.

    So why should the consumer be forced to pay more at the pump for the lack of vision and selfish interests of a handful of CEOs and their board of directors?