Thursday, August 31, 2006

It's time to regulate the Auto Industry

Clearly it's time for the EU to regulate the automobile industry. The voluntary targets that the manufacturers set for themselves in 1989, to reduce their overall European fleet emmissions to 140gm CO2 / km by 2008, will not be met. Not by a longshot. So much for handshakes.

Instead, most car manufacturers have driven up sales of large 4x4s, which are cheaper to produce and allow a higher profit margin. Unfortunately most 4x4 models also emit higher levels of CO2 and NO2 than typical family sedans.

This summer, Ford UK was falling over itself with an anouncement that it would be devoting millions of pounds into researching technologies to reduce CO2 emmissions. However, that research may be looking in the wrong place. Using alternative 'bio-fuels' will not be a real solution, as the source of local biofuel would not be sustainable. The manufacturing of bio-fuels is dependent on harvesting large 'mono-crops' and encouraging corporate-run agribusiness just when we need our farmers to increase their localised production of diverse food crops to decrease food miles and provide food security.

More importantly, the rush for bio-fuel technologies does not increase the overall efficiency of the outdated combustion engine design, which is at best 20% efficient. Electric cars that run on batteries are about 90% - 95% efficient.

What we need is new innovative designers to think outside the box. Ideas such as the new all-electric Tesla sports car (that accelerates 0-60 in 4 seconds) are a step in the right direction. We also need new transport plans for cities that decrease our dependency on motorised transport. We can look to Portland, Oregon in the US for example.

It's time for getting down to real innovation. And accepting responsibility for the future, which depends on all of us.