Change is coming and coming very fast
As the diesel shockwaves continue, the race for alternative fuel sources is immense, writes Campbell Spray
In a way the Volkswagen scandal couldn't have come at a better time so that the end of diesel can be truly highlighted along with the massive developments that are being made in alternative fuel sources.
By chance I am going to Hamburg for a day next Wednesday (check in 5.20am, return 11pm in case you are interested) to see Mirai, Toyota's first Fuel Cell vehicle. Mirai features both fuel cell technology and hybrid technology including Toyota's new proprietary FC stack and high pressure hydrogen tanks. It is an executive-sized saloon that will initially be made in very small batches and will be heavily subsidised by the parent company.
Meanwhile the following Monday, Nissan - which with its partner Renault has been at the forefront of producing electric cars - is launching its Leaf hatchback with a much more efficient battery to try and take care of some of the range anxiety which has dogged such vehicles in the past.
The company is also urging the Irish Government to rethink its energy efficiency action plan and to implement a series of radical solutions if it is to achieve its target of reducing CO2 emissions and putting 50,000 electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2020.
Nissan CEO, James McCarthy, said: "Abolishing Benefit in Kind (BIK) taxation for employees supplied with electric vehicles as company cars would be one such measure which could seriously move the dial."
McCarthy has also urged the Government to retain the €5,000 grant and Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) exemption for zero emission electric vehicles in addition to providing free parking and opening up bus lanes to those who drive the vehicles.
"Incentivising motorists to make the switch to zero- emission electric driving works, but the Government needs to go further to truly succeed in changing the profile of the national fleet."
Nissan sold its 1,000th Leaf last week but "are only scratching the surface" of the potential consumer demand for zero-emission EVs, said McCarthy.
"The initial target of having 230,000 cars or 10pc of the national car fleet electrified by 2020 was reduced to 50,000 EVs in the 2014 National Energy Efficiency Action Plan. That target is unlikely to be achieved, but there is the opportunity to get there because Ireland has an excellent recharging infrastructure," he added.
"The new target was based on an 'adoption rate of 0.5pc of new EVs in 2014 rising steadily to an adoption rate of 15pc of EVs in 2020'. Without initiatives such as BIK incentivisation, which has worked in other countries like the UK and Norway, that is an unrealistic target," he continued.
Nissan says that the Government could also certainly go a long way towards achieving its target were it to require all 17,000 taxi drivers operating in Ireland to drive an electric vehicle by 2020. An all-electric taxi fleet would be a huge boon to drivers, their passengers and the environment," said McCarthy.
"The Nissan Leaf has proven that zero-emission mobility is not a dream but reality. It is affordable and costs just over €200 to drive 20,000 kilometres a year, while its new 30kw battery has increased driving range to 250 kilometres on one charge," said McCarthy.
Meanwhile, the hybrid technology pioneered by Toyota has been celebrated with the company announcing that it has sold eight million hybrid vehicles in the last 20 years.
Toyota chairman, Takeshi Uchiyamada, likes to tell the story of how his team couldn't get the first Prius prototype to move for 49 days. According to him: "We had no idea what was wrong, so we worked late every night trying to figure it out. We finally got it to move around Christmas time, but it only went 500 metres!"
That was back in 1995, when hybrid cars were experimental machines with a very unclear future. Fast-forward 20 years, and eight million sold, with just 10 months between this and the last million-unit milestone.
It can be hard to get a sense of what the number eight million might mean for the environment and for hybrid owners.
For a bit of context, Toyota calculates that as of July 31, its hybrid vehicles have resulted in approximately 58 million fewer tons of CO2 emissions than would have been emitted by gasoline-powered vehicles of similar size and driving performance.
Toyota also estimates that its hybrid vehicles have saved approximately 22 million kilolitres of fuel compared to the amount used by gasoline-powered vehicles of similar sizes.
Hybrid technologies, which encompass all of the component technologies necessary for the development of environment-friendly cars and which facilitate the use of different fuel combinations, are positioned by Toyota as core environmental technologies for the 21st century. Using these technologies, Toyota is also working on improving non-hybrid cars.
All in all, I believe that the end of diesel is fast approaching and that unless you are a heavy business user it would be very wise to think long and hard before buying one. As we come up to 2020 they will be regarded very differently.
Sunday Indo Business