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Detroit's Green Machine?
Alex Steffen, 24 Jul 05

Daniel Akst, in a piece titled The Green Machine That Could Be Detroit asks, What would happen if a major Detroit automaker broke from the pack and "went green"?

What if a major automaker decided to reinvent itself as the world's first and only green car company, producing only hybrid, clean-diesel and other high-efficiency vehicles? Not Birkenstocks on wheels, mind you, but enjoyable, functional cars that get great mileage.

Consider the advantages. Such a company could drive down the cost of producing hybrids by attaining economies of scale. It would be ready - nay, eager - to comply with stringent clean-air rules wherever they were imposed. It would be positioned to exploit the federal mandate for low-sulfur diesel fuel, which will open the door next year to cleaner-burning diesel engines. And it would no longer have to compete as much on price, because consumers have shown a willingness to pay more for more efficient cars.

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Of course that would be great, but I'm afraid that making automobiles is quite a risky business. And there are very few successful niche automakers out there. In this scenario, the clean green cars would have to be radically green and clean, so as to distinguish them from other brands that have a broad spectrum of cars, a few of those being hybrids and clean diesel.

It's nearly impossible to pull this off as a separate venture, I think. The big automakers are already pushing the green button, maybe to slowly according to some, but that's because their shareholders are risk averse.

A while ago, I tried to make a funny appeal to the auto industry: - but I dropped it, because I realized that it was a waste of time. (never mind the horrible english, this was just a first sketch.)

Posted by: Lorenzo on 24 Jul 05

Daniel Akst, writing in The New York Times Sunday Business Section (here, or find it here at the cal-cars group) says, at least one car company could save itself by enthusiastically and energetically building and selling cleaner, better cars. Many auto experts say Detroit is 5 years behind on hybrid technology. GM and DaimlerChrysler are trying to catch up by joining together, which sounds like decision-making by committee. And Ford's first hybrid, the Escape, can't even qualify for some incentive programs or "car-pool lanes for hybrids" programs because its miles per gallon aren't high enough.

As The NY Times automotive reporter Danny Hakim wrote, CalCars and EDrive Systems converted the Prius to get 100+MPG (gasoline plus electricity). And the people who picked up on this, showing how we could get 500MPG cars, included Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria, LA Times Auto Critic Dan Neil and Set America Free.

Imagine, for instance, if Ford called off the lawyers and called in the engineers. That Escape could have a large enough battery so all the local commuting would be electric -- turning this 36/31 MPG car into a 75+ mile plug-in hybrid. If they made it "flex-fuel", it could run on biodiesel and then on cellulose ethanol. Having shifted most of its fuel away from imported oil, its effective gasoline use would be over 300MPG.

Millions would buy that kind of car.

Posted by: Felix on 25 Jul 05

I don't think that Detroit has much of a choice to eventually produce green machines. As long as this is not done, the Prius and other hybrids will first gradually and then later on with much monmentum, replace US car sales. Have a great laugh at my expense until the cost of a barrel of oil reaches $100 or so.

I submitted an article to time magazine showing that at $2.00/gallon, a 50 mpg hybrid saves $6,000 per 100,000 miles on gas as compared to the average American car. At $3.00/gallon, the savings are $9,000 per 100,000 miles. Presently, on the island of Lanai in Hawaii, gasoline costs $3.37/gal for regular. The time editor said for me to write more but he did not bother to print my letter.

In other words, the higher the gas goes, the greater the desireability for hybrids. Can Detroit control OPEC??? I think not!!!

Posted by: Adrian Akau on 31 Jul 05

It had nothing to do with the car makers it had everything to do with the battery makers the power management system makers and the motor makers... And the simple fact that japan is a totaly different place.

You dont realy understand the difference between japan and armerica until you see japan. Its that that made all the difference not the car makers.

Posted by: wintermane on 31 Jul 05



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