Blog: Fuel for thought
Dave Leggett | 5 June 2007
I see Honda is dropping the hybrid Accord model in the US. Looks like it didn't really stack up for the consumer in terms of the price premium you pay and the economic payback. Honda still has its Civic hybrid though. Rather than adapting an existing model, the volumes on hybrids probably point towards making the extra investment in a purpose built model, these days - like Toyota has done with the Prius - to get the efficiency up even further.
Great. Except that a hybrid involves lugging two powertrains around (not the neatest solution) and the CO2 used in their manufacture - especially the battery - is still the subject of some controversy. Are diesels, diesel-hybrids and stop-start (around town) a better way to go? Could be. Some companies in Europe are investing heavily down that route (PSA, for example).
And what about ethanol? Fuel from plants, fantastic! Except that if you're talking corn in the Midwest, that's quite an expensive route to go down, heavily subsidised by the government. And the price of corn - also used, let's not forget, as feedstuff for people and livestock - is going up as demand from automobiles equipped to run on ethanol rises.
Cellulosic ethanol - a type that can be made from almost anything pretty efficiently - seems a way off. Ditto the hydrogen fuel cell.
Plug-in electric? We ain't quite there yet. Tootle around on short journeys and avoid the London Congestion Charge perhaps, but the products are well short of mass breathrough appeal. And if you buy a G-Wiz for the school run you may be a little bit concerned about it's latest crash test evaluations. Still, looking forward to a go in a Tesla, though.
Meanwhile, the Chinese are letting it be known (and who can blame them) that yes, they are concerned about the global environment, but they are not going to make those concerns blunt their economic growth - their priority number one. Western countries have been milking the consumer society cow for quite some time. Can they begrudge the Chinese a good go on the udder? No, not morally. At the very least they need to set some sort of example.
What about diesel prospects in the US? Interesting discussion thread on just-auto here.
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