By Paul Brown
If the car manufacturers' projections of future sales of electric cars are correct, then demand for oil will have peaked by 2027 or even earlier, sending the price of oil in a downward spiral as supply exceeds demand, said Carbon Tracker (CT), an independent financial think-tank carrying out in-depth analysis on the impact of the energy transition on capital markets.
It said fossil fuel companies have taken into account some engine fuel efficiencies and the effect they would have on oil demand, but not the expected increase in electric vehicles themselves. There is a big mismatch between forecasts of EV market penetration from vehicle manufacturers and from oil majors, said Laurence Watson, a CT data scientist.
"The oil industry is underestimating the disruptive potential of electric vehicles, which could reduce oil demand by millions of barrels a day. Increases in fuel efficiency will also eat into oil demand and the industry's profits. The oil majors' myopic position presents a serious investor risk," he told the Climate News Network.
Expectations Far Lower
The report looks at all the projections of the oil majors, including Exxon and BP, and says their figures for electric vehicle growth in the 2020s are 75 percent to 250 percent smaller than those expected by the global car manufacturers that have announced targets.
Electric vehicle sales in China alone, a figure bolstered by government intervention, are expected to be seven million a year by 2025. These, plus the three million a year aim of Volkswagen by the same date, would exceed oil industry estimates for sales for the whole world.
There are immense variables taken into account in the report. These include the number of miles driven by the average electric vehicle and the sort of car it replaces.
These variables depend on the influence of various governments' policies to reduce oil in transportation in order to keep global temperature rise below 2°C beyond pre-industrial levels. The need to reduce air pollution also strongly favours the introduction of electric vehicles in cities.
More Demand Reduction
Another of the imponderables is the increasing efficiency of the internal combustion engine, which in itself also reduces demand for oil. It follows a growing trend already well-established in several countries, including Sweden, which from 2019 will produce no more vehicles powered by internal combustion alone.
The take-up of electric vehicles is crucial to the future of the oil industry because transportation takes up 50 percent of total oil demand. About half of the demand from transport is from light passenger vehicles, those that are most likely in the short term to switch to electricity.
Heavy-duty transport, aviation and shipping are also beginning to switch, but it is cars that will make the early difference.
The report argues that it is not total oil demand that matters but the difference between supply and demand. The 2014 crash in the oil price was caused by a surplus of 2 million barrels of oil a day, mainly because of a boom in U.S. shale production.
To get the price back up in order to improve oil company profits took the combined efforts of the OPEC oil countries and the Russian government in cutting production, a process that needed three years.
According to the CT report, demand for oil will fall by 8 million barrels of oil a day by 2030 because of the expected deployment of electric vehicles, meaning that the oil-producing countries will have to constantly reduce their production in order to keep prices up.
The report argues that although oil demand will continue to be very large, the peak demand will have been reached around 2025. Demand displacement by electric vehicles "will significantly disrupt oil and gas company business models. Furthermore, we believe that when global oil demand peaks this will fundamentally alter investors' approach to the industry."
Electric Vehicles Will Soon Be Cheaper Than Gas Guzzlers https://t.co/3SJEi1Jnsf @EV_Research @EVdotcom— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1506548412.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
A new analysis reveals that the latest models of diesel cars approved for sale since the 2015 Volkswagen "dieselgate" scandal are exceeding nitrogen oxides (NOx) limits set by the Europe Union.
For the study, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) used a "difficult-to-impossible to cheat" emissions test involving remote-sensing technology and statistical analysis to measure real-world exhaust emissions on more than 700,000 cars and 4,850 vehicle models across Europe.
The results were "a striking confirmation of [the] worst fears about diesel cars," said the U.S.-based ICCT, as quoted by the Financial Times.
According to their findings, all Euro 6 rated cars—the latest emissions standard for diesels—exceeded the Euro 6 diesel NOx emissions limits measured in real-world driving.
For Euro 6 cars in particular, the researchers also found:
- Four manufacturer groups had average emissions more than 12 times above the Euro 6 diesel type-approval limit, and the highest-emitting vehicle family has emissions 18 times the limit.
- All Euro 6 diesel models rated exceeded the Euro 6 diesel NOx emissions limits measured in real-world driving.
- The highest-emitting petrol Euro 6 vehicle family has approximately the same level of NOx emissions as the lowest-emitting diesel vehicle family.
The results were compiled in a new rating database called The Real Urban Emissions Initiative (TRUE). The study also found that all of the Euro 3, 4 and 5 diesels were in the red. Gasoline-fueled vehicles, in contrast, fared much better. Most Euro 3-5 petroleum vehicles had good or moderate ratings. And all Euro 6 petrol cars received a “good" or "moderate" rating.
NOx pollution, which is emitted by automobiles, trucks and various non-road vehicles, is harmful to human health and the environment. Emissions of NOx exhaust gases can be linked to 38,000 premature deaths worldwide, including 1,100 deaths in the U.S., according to University of Colorado Boulder researchers.
The EU has a baseline limit of 0.08mph of nitrogen oxides per kilometer. But as the Guardian noted, the TRUE analysis reveals that diesel models released in 2016 were still on average five times above that limit.
"We can really conclude that pretty much all Euro 6 diesels on the market are not clean," Peter Mock, managing director of the ICCT in Europe, told the Financial Times.
Greg Archer, of the campaign group Transport & Environment, which is part of the TRUE initiative, added to the Guardian: "The True rating exposes the legacy of dieselgate—tens of millions of dirty diesels that are still on the roads producing the toxic smog we daily breathe. It identifies the worst performing models and regulators must act to require carmakers to clean these up."
The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, which represents 15 major Europe-based car, van, truck and bus makers, called the study "misleading."
They contend the study is based on remote sensing results collected between 2011 and 2017, and therefore do not evaluate the on-road performance of the latest diesel vehicles approved to the Euro 6 diesel standard since September 2017.
"The claims from the new 'TRUE' study are misleading for consumers," stated Erik Jonnaert, secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association. "EU policy makers will be equally disappointed that there is no acknowledgement that the latest Euro 6 diesel cars complying with the new RDE legislation are very clean."
Three Years After 'Dieselgate,' VW Fails Pollution Tests https://t.co/JogiY4ED3Q @NRDC @greenpeaceusa @UCSUSA @SierraClub #VW— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1520947827.0
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess made the vow in a letter sent to the German branch of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
PETA publicized the announcement on Monday. The animal rights group said Volkswagen will "never again use animals in testing unless required to do so by law" and will include the new ban in company's code of conduct that will be updated later this year.
The New York Times reported in January that the automaker funded a study in which macaque monkeys sat for hours in airtight chambers watching cartoons while inhaling diesel emissions from a Volkswagen Beetle and an old pickup truck. Diesel emissions experiments on monkeys were also documented in the new Netflix investigative series Dirty Money.
The macaque tests were carried out by the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, a contracted laboratory based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The vehicle happened to be rigged with the Volkswagen's emissions-cheating software, which led to its notorious 2015 "dieselgate" scandal.
BREAKING: After thousands of you spoke out against @Volkswagen for using monkeys in cruel inhalation tests, the com… https://t.co/vdeJMUgKjD— PETA Shares (@PETA Shares)1528147781.0
"Research projects and studies must always be balanced with consideration of ethical and moral questions," Diess wrote in the letter to PETA, as quoted by The New York Times. "Volkswagen explicitly distances itself from all forms of animal abuse. In the future, we will rule out all testing on animals, as long as there are no pressing—such as legal—reasons that would make this necessary."
Diess also said in the letter that the studies did not violate local laws.
PETA, which vigorously protested the experiments, celebrated the news.
"Volkswagen did the right thing in pledging not to conduct tests on animals, which are irrelevant to human health and not required by law," said PETA senior vice president Kathy Guillermo in a statement. "PETA is calling on other carmakers that still test on animals to follow suit and embrace modern and humane animal-free research methods instead."
Volkswagen is still climbing out of its emissions scam, in which the company installed a "defeat mechanism" in up to 11 million cars to ensure that the engine did not pollute during government tests. Affected cars emitted up to 40 times the legal amount of nitrogen oxide when driven outside the laboratory. VW has paid out $31 billion due to the scandal.
Three Years After 'Dieselgate,' VW Fails Pollution Tests https://t.co/JogiY4ED3Q @NRDC @greenpeaceusa @UCSUSA @SierraClub #VW— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1520947827.0
Volkswagen (VW) cars recalled and fixed after 2015's "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal are still failing air pollution tests conducted by the Australian Automobile Association (AAA), The AFP reported Monday.
AAA tested the cars outside of the laboratory and found that, while they emitted less than before the recall, they still exceeded Australia's legal limits.
"Emissions analysis ... found an affected VW diesel vehicle to be using up to 14 percent more diesel after recall, and still emitting noxious emissions more than 400 percent higher than levels observed in laboratory testing," an AAA statement said.
VW came under fire in 2015 when it was discovered that the company had installed a "defeat mechanism" in up to 11 million cars. The mechanism would ensure that the engine did not pollute during government tests, then enable the car to resume polluting when it sensed the tests were complete. Affected cars emitted up to 40 times the legal amount of nitrogen oxide when driven outside the laboratory.
According to the AAA, the results indicate that it is more accurate to conduct driving tests in real-world conditions than in controlled settings.
VW rejected the findings and told AFP that the updated cars "continue to satisfy European and Australian emissions standards."
Stakes are high for VW, which has already paid out $31 billion due to the scandal, but they are even higher for the health of humans and the environment.
Nitrogen oxide released from diesel combustion engines combines with the oxygen in the atmosphere to form nitrogen dioxide, which can worsen respiratory problems like asthma and bronchitis and cause acid rain, Scientific American explained in an article about the 2015 scandal.
However, the scandal also reinforced how much cars pollute even when they are not cheating or failing emissions tests.
Travis Bradford, director of Energy and Environment Concentration at Columbia University, told Scientific American that the modified VW vehicles had not added significantly to global pollution levels.
"Unfortunately, in the grand scheme of things, this is a drop in the bucket in terms of our aggregate pollution," Bradford said.
But that is more a condemnation of the status quo than a free pass for VW.
When it comes to climate change, data published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that transportation, including cars and trucks, accounted for 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010.
The era of the electric car can't come fast enough.
Volkswagen Group to Offer Electric Version For All 300 Models By 2030 https://t.co/fjUQC25nmj @ChevyVolt @NissanLeaf— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1505354439.0
"We are considering public transport free of charge in order to reduce the number of private cars," three ministers wrote in a letter to EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella in Brussels.
"Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is of the highest priority for Germany," the ministers added.
A trial of the proposal is planned for the cities of Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Reutlingen and Mannheim "at the end of the year at the latest."
The letter was signed by German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt and Chief of Staff of the Federal Chancellery Peter Altmaier.
According to AFP, which first reported on the letter, other proposed measures include further restrictions on emissions from vehicle fleets like buses and taxis, low-emissions zones and support for car-sharing schemes.
DW reported that some of the cities selected for the free public transportation trials were unclear about the specifics of the proposal.
"It's not in the planning phase yet," a spokeswoman with the city of Bonn told DW. Rollout dates have yet to be announced and the federal government did not specify about how it will subsidize the free public transportation.
But Bonn Mayor Ashok Sridharan, who was informed about the government's plans over the weekend, said he was happy his city was selected as one of the "lead cities."
"We also have one or two ideas that we can also propose, since we've been working on this topic for some time," Sridharan told DW.
As the AFP noted, the proposal comes just over two years after Volkswagen's "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal. The German company was forced to pay billions in fines and helped prompt its plans to electrify much of its fleet. Other carmakers, including fellow German brand Daimler, have since faced their own emissions scandals.
Last year, Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW announced a €500 million ($593 million) plan to upgrade more than 5 million newer diesel cars in Germany and offer trade-in rebates on older models. They have also agreed to pay into a public transit fund to reduce diesel pollution.
The government "should make sure that the car manufacturers finance the emergency measure" of free transport, Greenpeace told AFP.
Environment ministry spokesman Stefan Gabriel Haufe clarified Wednesday that the measure is not intended to help the car industry pay for cleaning up its polluting cars already on the road.
"In the long run, you can't reduce excess emissions levels in cities unless you cut nitrogen emissions from diesel engines," he said at a news conference. "We have seen speculations that we would like to reduce the burden on the car industry. That is absolutely not the case."
Why Transportation Is Now the Top Source of U.S. Pollution https://t.co/uxE3GZWznN @cleanaircouncil @CeresNews— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1512442504.0
- Governors Pledge to Cut Transportation Pollution - EcoWatch ›
- U.S. Subway Platforms Have Highly Polluted Air - EcoWatch ›
The world's biggest automaker is shifting away from traditional gas guzzlers.
Volkswagen, which has been rebounding from its emissions-cheating scandal, plans to offer an electric version across the group's 300 models by 2030. The company is also rolling out 80 new electric cars under its multiple brands by 2025.
"Customers want clean vehicles. People want to have clean air, and we want to make our contribution here," Volkswagen chief Matthias Mueller told the BBC.
Volkswagen has made a push towards earth-friendlier vehicles ever since its 2015 "dieselgate" scandal, in which the company admitted that 11 million of its diesel vehicles worldwide were secretly equipped with software used to cheat on emissions tests.
But Mueller also told the BBC that the company cannot entirely ditch traditional combustion engines because the infrastructure for electric vehicles is not in place.
"There will be a coexistence between internal combustion engines and electric drive systems for a certain period—I can't tell you how long that will be," he said.
VW's announcement comes as an increasing number of countries plan to ban new diesel and gasoline cars. This week, news emerged that China, the world's biggest vehicle market, is considering a ban on the production and sale of fossil fuel cars. Earlier this month, Scotland announced plans to end the sale of new gas and diesel-powered cars by 2032 and fast-track the development of a country-wide charging network for electric vehicles. Norway is banning the sale of new gasoline- and diesel-powered cars in 2025. Germany plans to ban the internal combustion engine by 2030. India intends to be a "100 percent electric vehicle nation" by 2030. France has also set a date of 2040.
Volkswagen is offering German drivers up to 10,000 euros ($11,810) off a new, cleaner VW if they trade in an older diesel car of any brand.
The carmaker, which has taken a big hit to its public image ever since its emissions-cheating scandal, said in a statement it is "shouldering its share in the responsibility for climate-compatible, health-compatible mobility on Germany's roads."
The Car Connection explained that such an "older diesel" car falls under European emissions standards 1 - 4, which allow diesels to emit up to 0.50g/km of nitrogen oxide. To compare, the latest Euro 6 standards have a limit of 0.08g/km.
According to Reuters, the rebates are available across Volkswagen and its subsidiaries, from 2,000 to 10,000 euros at the namesake brand, 3,000 euros to 10,000 euros at Audi and 5,000 euros at Porsche.
Volkswagen said customers can gain an additional discount of up to 2,380 euros ($2,800) if they buy an alternative energy vehicle, such as ones powered by electricity, natural gas or a hybrid system.
BMW, Daimler and Ford have similar schemes for drivers to switch to cleaner cars.
VW's offer is valid to the end of 2017. A Volkswagen spokesman told AFP that the company is considering extending the offer beyond Germany to cover all of Europe.
Volkswagen has made a push towards earth-friendlier vehicles ever since its 2015 scandal, in which the company admitted that 11 million of its diesel vehicles worldwide were secretly equipped with software used to cheat on emissions tests.
In June, the German carmaker brought back its beloved old-school hippy van but with a 21st century upgrade—the new I.D. Buzz is all-electric.
Volkswagen is bringing back its hippie-approved minivan but with a 21st century upgrade—the new I.D. Buzz is all-electric.
The concept car was first revealed at the Detroit Auto Show in January and now the German automaker is officially putting its reinvigorated Microbus into production.
"Emotional cars are very important for the brand," VW boss Herbert Diess told Auto Express. "We are selling loads of Beetles still, particularly in U.S. markets. But we will also have the Microbus that we showed, which we have recently decided we will build."
Volkswagen has made a push towards earth-friendlier electric vehicles ever since its "Dieselgate" scandal. In October, following its historic emissions settlement, the company agreed to pay $4.7 billion for environmental programs and promotion of zero-emissions vehicles.
Digital Trends reports that the I.D. Buzz is powered by a pair of electric motors that provide 369 horsepower to all four wheels. Its 111kWh battery pack boasts up to 270 miles of range and charges up to 80 percent of its capacity in just half an hour.
And according to Carbuzz, when in autonomous mode, the steering wheel retracts and merges into the instrument panel, allowing the car to take full control of the driving.
"VW is also launching its own ride-sharing company, MOIA, in 2020 and the production-spec ID Buzz will undoubtedly play a key role," Carbuzz notes.
While its shell looks a lot like its iconic predecessor, the new version will be built off of the company's platform for electric vehicles, the Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB).
"With the MEB platform this is the chance now to get the proportions back," VW design boss Oliver Stefani explained to Auto Express, noting that with an electric-car setup the engine does not need to be in the front. The battery pack being underneath the floorpan also allows for a larger passenger cabin compared to conventional cars.
"You can also get much more interior space, almost one class higher," Stefani added.
Digital Trends estimates that the car could hit the market as early as 2021.
"The I.D. BUZZ is not a retro design on 22-inch wheels; rather, we have taken the logical next step forward in development using what is in all likelihood the most successful design of its kind in the world," Volkswagen head of design Klaus Bischoff said before the concept was revealed in Detroit this year. "The entire design is extremely clean with its homogeneous surfaces and monolithic silhouette. The future and origins of Volkswagen design DNA combine here to create a new icon."
Yuankuei / Flickr
This is one of the largest consumer lawsuits affecting more than 475,000 diesel cars in the U.S. The settlement gives Volkswagen owners the option to sell their vehicle back or get a free fix.
"The settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate," U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer wrote in his order.
The German carmaker will also pay $4.7 billion for environmental programs and promotion of zero-emissions vehicles.
#Volkswagen Bets on Electric Cars After Dieselgate https://t.co/gmh5dr6rpd @sierraclub @ClimateReality #EVs @elonmusk— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1466168816.0
"Judge Breyer is making them pay the price. Volkswagen chose to poison our families with dangerous pollution just to pad its pocketbook," Kathryn Phillips, California director for the Sierra Club environmental group, said.
For a deeper dive:
On Jan. 29, 1886, Carl Benz—who had invented the first stationary gasoline engine seven years earlier—patented a "vehicle powered by a gas engine," which he had built in Mannheim, Germany. By 2030, the country may ban his invention.
The world's first automobile, invented in 1886.Mercedes-Benz
Germany's Bundesrat, its upper house of parliament, passed a bipartisan resolution calling for a ban on sales of new vehicles powered by internal combustion engines, which includes both gasoline and diesel.
"If the Paris agreement to curb climate-warming emissions is to be taken seriously, no new combustion engine cars should be allowed on roads after 2030," weekly news magazine Der Spiegel quoted Green Party lawmaker Oliver Krischer as saying.
The shockwaves from this action, reported over the weekend, haven't quite hit the global auto industry or German manufacturers just yet. Germany has one of the largest automotive industries in the world, and it is the biggest industrial sector in Germany. Automobile manufacturing and related businesses employ 774,900 German workers and account for one-fifth of German industry revenue.
The country is also Europe's top automobile market, and U.S.-based manufacturers do big business there as well. General Motors sold 244,000 vehicles in Germany in 2015, while Ford is on track to sell 280,000 vehicles this year. The Ford Mustang is the most popular sports car in Germany. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sold 90,000 vehicles there last year, with its U.S.-built Jeep brand growing strongly.
Part of Germany's plan to fully decarbonize by 2050 is to switch to 100% electric vehicles by 2030. #VergeCon https://t.co/etDf7gRPJE— Bill Gross (@Bill Gross)1474388376.0
The company that Carl Benz started, today's Mercedes-Benz, is investing $1.1 billion in battery production and plans to launch 10 new electric vehicles (EVs) by 2025. The company says that every model series will be electrified. BMW is expanding its EV lineup, while Volkswagen—reeling from its diesel emissions scandal—announced that it plans to sell three million electric cars by 2025. At the current 2016 Paris Auto Show, virtually every major auto manufacturer is showcasing new electric or hybrid vehicles.
1 Million+ Electric Cars Are Now on the World’s Roads https://t.co/VTLRcbX1kI @chrispaine @CoolElectricCar— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1464999306.0
The Bundesrat resolution would require only electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2030, and Germany's action is likely to precipitate wider European Union policy.
"We're ready for the launch of an electric product offensive that will cover all vehicle segments, from the compact to the luxury class," said Daimler AG Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche at the opening of the Paris Auto Show in September. Daimler is the parent company of Mercedes-Benz. The company that invented the automobile now needs to reinvent itself.
When Volkswagen (VW) engineers were challenged to enable small diesel engines to meet stringent U.S. standards for nitrogen oxide pollution, they tried—tried—and failing—cheated.
Now VW has agreed to one of the largest pollution penalties in history—whose hidden underside is that the engineers are still failing. Of the $15 billion VW has so far committed, $5 billion is to balance the environmental harm done by the 500,000 cheat-cars—as you might expect. The other $10 billion, $20,000 per vehicle, designated to deal with the cars, not the air, will not, however, fix the vehicles. Even given an effectively unlimited budget, engineers have not yet figured out how to make these cars emit less NOx pollution without creating an equally disastrous increase in CO2 emissions. If such a solution ever emerges, owners of these cars can get their vehicles cleaned up—but that seems unlikely. Meanwhile, owners can drive the cars for another two years, then turn them in to be scrapped. They get paid the value of the car not on the day they turn it in, but on the day, perhaps years earlier, when the cheating as revealed. So their incentives are to drive the car until the final deadline and then sell it back for more than its value. During these two years the pollution continues.
Given the complexities of the Clean Air Act and the threat of litigation by the purchasers of the cars (who are not the real victims, those who breathe the pollution are) this wasteful use of $10 billion may have been forced on regulators. What the settlements makes crystal clear, however, is that VW's engineers, with an unlimited budget, could not produce diesel engines that met U.S. NOx standards and retained the fuel efficiency that makes automakers (and customers) love diesels.
Auto and truck makers have made remarkable progress in cleaning up soot, hydrocarbons, sulfur and carbon monoxide from internal combustion engines (IC), while making those engines more efficient so that carbon pollution per passenger or ton mile could be lowered. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollutants from gas powered engines can also be cleaned up. Auto-makers like diesels because they squeeze more energy out of fuel—but they also make it much harder to control NOx emissions. VW didn't cheat to save a few dollars—it cheated because it couldn't make its small diesel cars meet U.S. standards. (Large diesels deal with NOx with a cumbersome, bulky urea injection system, which cannot be accommodated in smaller models).
This engineering limit on diesels is running into a global revolution of attitudes about air pollution. Deaths from air pollution are becoming a larger and larger catastrophe and a bigger and bigger political issue. New studies from the International Energy Agency calculated that 6.5 million people each year die from air pollution; similar studies emerge regularly from the World Health Organization. Governments and business can no longer conceal the death toll and publics are unwilling to tolerate it. Governments are acting. The VW settlement is not the only regulatory crackdown on internal combustion engines.
The Chinese government has drastically modified its entire development strategy to respond to citizen pressure about lethal pollution. The Indian government is scrambling to deal with growing public anger. In Europe, where auto manufacturers have been massively manipulating emission testing results and urban air quality degrading as a result, public outcry has led cities to begin banning significant segments of the European auto fleet. New EU pollution testing systems will make it much more difficult and expensive for auto manufacturers to game emission tests, leaving diesel vehicles in particular at risk.
Climate concerns and fuel efficiency standards are also making internal combustion an outmoded technology. The U.S. is moving forward with new heavy duty fuel efficiency and pollution standards for diesels. Countries like India and China are passing more stringent pollution rules and eliminating fuel subsidies. US auto companies are complaining—falsely—that they cannot meet the current round of fuel economy standards; they are rightly concerned that the next round of post 2021 standards, is likely to exceed the capacity of internal combustion engines to meet. This will force a rapid increase in market share for electric cars.
As shared fleet transportation companies like Uber and Lyft seize more and more market share, electric vehicles become more and more and more competitive. Vehicles which drive 100,000 miles a year recover the purchase price of an EV from savings on fuel and maintenance six times faster than a car driven only 15,000 miles.
Oil powered transportation is becoming the most important climate threat. For both the U.S. and Europe, 2015 was the year in which climate pollution from transportation exceeded emissions from electricity. Oil, not coal, is now the biggest danger. That means that advocacy, philanthropic and political energy that has focused on emissions from coal is going to take a closer look at oil. This closer look will increase the pressure on the internal combustion engine, which stands out as the main technology sustaining demand for oil.
Governments all over the world—California, the Netherlands, Britain, Germany among them—are considering outright bans on the sale of internal combustion engines. (A month ago Norway almost implemented its proposed 2025 ban). More immediately, Germany, South Korea, Sweden and China are aggressively increasing incentives for EV's. India's car manufacturers have joined with the government to phase out IC passenger vehicles by 2030.
Elon Musk has dubbed the internal combustion engine, powered as it is by thousands of small explosions inside its cylinders, a "remarkable kludge." Automotive engineers have indeed made modern gasoline and diesel engines perform remarkably—but now the limits are being reached.
In 1969 the California State Senate rejected—by one vote a bill by then State Senator, later Congressman, Anthony Beilenson, to ban the sale of cars powered by internal combustion engines. Beilenson's bill, motivated by a conviction that California's critical air pollution crisis could not be solved by gasoline powered autos, has stood for almost half a century as an example of environmental over-reach.
Now technology trends, public insistence, industry investment and government policy are all signaling that Beilenson's dream—an end to the burden of a transportation system powered by exploding gasoline or diesel combustion engines—is coming within grasp.