Is the developed world reaching “peak car”? The Economist has an article suggesting just that. “…in the rich world the car’s previously inexorable rise is stalling. A growing body of academics cite the possibility that both car ownership and vehicle-kilometres driven may be reaching saturation in developed countries—or even be on the wane, a notion known as “peak car”.” And it is not just the Great Recession which is the cause.  The trend started a decade or more earlier in countries like the UK, Germany and Japan. Now other developed countries are catching up with this trend. (See chart above.) The author has some interesting information on how young people’s love affair with the Internet has contributed to this downward trend. In contrast, the underdeveloped world is moving in the opposite direction. “People in Asia, Latin America and Africa are buying cars pretty much as fast as they can afford to, and as more can afford to, more will buy.” This is happening because their transport infrastructure has developed faster than it did in richer countries, cars are cheaper in real terms, and urbanisation is happening faster.

OILPRICE tells us Boeing is testing a hydrogen fuel powered aircraft. Using a 737-800 ecoDemonstrator aircraft, the company is working with a regenerative fuel cell which stores the surplus energy produced during take-off and cruising, and then uses it to power the aircraft’s systems. Since fuel accounts for almost half of an airline’s operating costs, they are constantly looking for new methods to reduce costs. The drawback with hydrogen is that it is bulky and Boeing has found that the hydrogen fuel cell fills up the whole cargo compartment.

Honda intends to sell hydrogen fuel cell cars in the US in 2015 says The Columbus Dispatch. A fuel-cell converts a fuel, often natural gas or hydrogen, into electricity. Toyota and General Motors have also indicted their intention to introduce a fuel cell vehicle in 2015.

Deutsche Welle writes about car sharing in Germany. The German city of Karlsruhe is the car sharing capital of Germany. We learn that car sharing works out to be cheaper than owning a car if you drive less than 150 km (93 miles) a week. “Experts say car sharing is particularly successful in cities such as Karlsruhe, which have good public transportation systems and well-maintained cycling routes. According to the German Carsharing Association, Karlsruhe has the best cars haring programs in Germany, followed by Dusseldorf, Munich and Stuttgart.”

The Atlantic Cities introduces us to the electric skateboard.

TopSpeed has an infographic on the impact of the electric car.

Toyota drops its plan for widespread sales of an all electric mini car reports Reuters. The company now thinks there would be a very limited market for such a vehicle in the US and Japan. By dropping plans for a second electric vehicle in its line-up, Toyota cast more doubt on an alternative to the internal combustion engine. Instead it intends to put its emphasis on hybrid vehicles.

Baltimore Magazine asks: Will Greater US Fuel Efficiency Standards Kill the Electric Car (Again)?  Meanwhile, smartplanet wonders where EVs will be driving us in 2020 and 2030 and EurActiv asks what will Europeans be driving in 2030?

EVs, hybrids and diesel combined will have a 5% share of the North American car market in three years says hybridCARS. This figure comes from Edmunds.com which says this will be 2% higher than it is today. The reason for the increase has to do with the number of new alternative vehicle choices for consumers over the next few years. For example, GM’s Chevy Cruze will become available in both a diesel and EV version. The article lists several of the new alternative vehicles destined for North American dealerships.

From MercuryNews we find US sales of plug-in electric vehicles will reach about 400,000 units annually by 2020, well short of President Obama’s prediction of 1 million. The forecast, from Pike Research, also suggests there will be about 392,000 electric vehicles total on Amercian roads in 2015. California, New York, Florida and Texas will lead the way. The top five metropolitan areas for plug-in electric vehicle sales are expected to be New York City, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Portland, Oregon. California will have 4 of the top 10 EV markets: Los Angeles/Long Beach; the San Francisco Bay Area, which includes Oakland and Fremont; San Jose/Santa Clara, and the Sacramento area.

Green Car Congress discusses a new report from Pike Research. Pike forecasts more than 41 million vehicles with stop-start systems will be sold annually worldwide by 2020—nearly a tenfold increase over 2012 sales. (You can access the report here.)  Stop-start technology for internal combustion engines is most popular in Europe at present, but is expected to spread to North America and Asia-Pacific with the increase in clean diesel vehicles. Most existing stop-start systems activate when the vehicle comes to a complete stop; however, research and testing is underway on enhanced systems that can save even more fuel by shutting off the engine under coasting conditions. While hybrid and electric vehicles are also expected to increase sales volumes, Pike projects that vehicles with those powertrains will remain in the low single digit percentages of the overall market, due primarily to cost.

EurActiv reveals that the US EV industry is poised to overtake Europe. The site says the new US fuel efficiency standards (54.5 mpg by 2025) will jump start that country’s EV industry, carrying it past Europe’s. BMW believes European auto exports would not be able to compete with the US, if the fuel economy gap remained so wide.

heraldonline tells us about a new Frost & Sullivan report on the rise of the North American medium-to-heavy hybrid and EV commercial vehicle market. In 2020, approximately 307,000 medium- to heavy-duty hybrid and electric trucks and buses will be manufactured globally of which nearly half will be produced in North America. By that time nearly 7% of all commercial vehicles will have hybrid/electric powertrain systems. Facing competition from emerging technologies such as liquefied petroleum gas/compressed natural gas, manufacturers are focusing on power electronics and batteries. Almost every major truck maker and bus manufacturer in North America has a hybrid model now. Hybrid/electric demand is being driven by energy price volatility, the need for energy independence, rising consumer demand for green technologies, and government regulations and incentives.

The US Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported this week that federal government electric vehicle policies will cost taxpayers $7.5 billion through 2019. Plattsnotes this figure includes tax credits and incentives for manufacturers as well as subsidies for consumers to purchase EVs. The federal incentives include direct loans to auto makers or companies that manufacture parts for high-fuel-efficiency vehicles, at a budget cost of $3.1 billion; tax credits of up to $7,500 each for buyers of EVs, at a budget costs of $2 billion; grants to companies that make batteries or other components of EVs, $2 billion; and grants to accelerate the introduction and use of EVs, $400 million. The CBO concluded that, given the new mandated fuel efficiency standards now in place, the subsidies given to auto manufacturers “cannot significantly affect total gasoline use or greenhouse gas emissions” in that country. See also NASDAQ Doubt Surrounds Electric Vehicle Tax Credit Effectiveness.

Over in the UK we find green car schemes are subsidising wealthy motorists. The Telegraphfocuses on a Parliamentary report that finds government policies to promote the use of EVs has led to taxpayers contributing more than £6,000 towards the cost of second vehicles for wealthy families. So far the UK government has given out £11 million to provide charging points for electric cars. With only 1,706 charging points on the road so far, this works out at nearly £6,450 for each motorist and this does not take into account subsidies of up to £5,000 towards buying the vehicle. UK motorists who buy one of 10 approved electric cars receive a grant equivalent to 25% of the purchase price. They are also exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty. See also TheGreenCar MPs report: Electric car grants failing to boost demand.

 

 

 


 

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