The Development of the Auto Industry: Short and Long Term Solutions to Harmful Emissions

The auto industry is slowly shifting to develop more eco friendly cars, as CAFE regulations has increased to 54.5 mpg by 2020. Not only are there regulations on fuel emissions in the U.S., but the Chinese government has also begun to regulate the auto industry as well. The Chinese government is subsidizing the production of hybrid and electric vehicles in order to get a minimum of 5 million electric and hybrid vehicles on the road by 2020. Companies such as Nissan have begun to mass produce electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf, however, the majority of these production lines have been stopped due to a lack of profitability. This lack of profitability can be attributed to poor battery life and lack of charging stations. Hybrids and Electric vehicles thus only represent a short term solution to the emission problem. Electric vehicles can only be used for short trips, while hybrids are too expensive for the average consumer. This makes these vehicles less practical and not very popular among the average consumer.

What many car manufacturers view as the long term solution to the emission problem are fuel cell electric vehicles (FCV). These FCV’s are powered using hydrogen and only emit water and can travel up to 700 kilometers on one tank of hydrogen. Toyota revealed its plans to create an FCV in 2013, it is going to be introduced to the market in 2014, mainly in California. By 2015 Toyota hopes to build 50 hydrogen charging stations throughout California. The FCV is considered a better solution than the problems associated with battery operated vehicles, the only potential with the FCV is insuring a competitive price for hydrogen.

Moving forward, engineers will continue to make changes to the internal combustion engine to meet CAFE standards. This will serve as a bridge until more eco friendly vehicles become commercially viable. The FCV is looked upon by many players in the auto industry as potentially the future of eco friendly vehicles. It represents a cheaper alternative to electric vehicles, which makes it easier to be purchased by consumers in emerging markets. The ability to make cheaper FCV cars is crucial moving forward because it represents a way to lower automobile emissions as well as allow the auto manufacturers to target consumers in poorer emerging market countries.


2 comments to The Development of the Auto Industry: Short and Long Term Solutions to Harmful Emissions

  • Kade Kenlon

    What many people forget is that electric vehicles still require the burning of fossil fuels to gather that energy. Water as a source of energy potentially completely free from burning fossil fuels. However, FCV are definitely a long-term project as the development of these vehicles is no where near electric much less gasoline. To make a successful FCV it needs to have the same driving ability as an internal combustion engine. People have grown up with those cars for decades and the exhilaration that comes with driving a gasoline powered car has yet to be matched by any other power source. Most consumers don’t want to give up that power that an internal combustion provides for a car. Other than the car itself, like you mentioned, charging stations will need to be quick, cheap, and plentiful. But, for the short term, electric is most likely the best option.

  • Fuel cell vehicles turn out to have many disadvantages, in effect you have a power creation source (the fuel cell) on top of batteries (since demands for power are more variable than fuel cell output). Hydrogen remains a huge problem, because it’s hard to store. Instead, why not just rely on batteries alone, and allow economies of scale in power generation? A simple comparison: on many criteria a big stationary fuel cell beats out multiple small mobile ones.
    Now in China the parking I’ve seen in high-end apartment buildings comes with power outlets, though perhaps not with the amperage needed for a battery electric vehicle. But my sense is that driving distances remain short, and so that barrier is less than in the US. The real problem remains up-front cost, which subsidies do not overcome. In effect, the Chinese government says they want it, but as with consumers, when push comes to shove, or shopping turns into purchase, the government isn’t willing to pay what it takes.
    Yes, they’re pulling technology along a bit, but hopes for a speedy transition have turned out not to be realistic, as costs for batteries aren’t falling fast enough, and the investment needs to actually transition to BEVs remain huge and even with a breakthrough, adding capacity for batteries and motors and power controllers and redesigning vehicles would still take over a decade.

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