People who say that alternate sources of fuel are 10-15 years away crack me up. As someone who worked at BMW for two years who was planning on running an online dealership, I knew what the auto industry had in the pipeline. BMW touted its hydrogen hybrid when I worked there back in 2004 and VW presented the cleanest burning diesel vehicle ever at the L.A. Auto Show last month. You could literally run this diesel engine on peanut oil with no modifications to the engine whatsoever if you had to. The diesel engine has been this way since its inception, and biodiesel technology is becoming more efficient every year. Americans pay over $100 per gallon because 1.) we don’t realize the optional technologies already being used by other countries and 2.) even though increased gas prices act like a horrible oppressive tax on everything we consume, we fail to look for reasonable alternatives.
According to a BusinessWeek article, Honda is releasing their Honda FCX Clarity to beta testers in Los Angeles as early as 2009. The Clarity is a slick-looking hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle already being tested by major auto magazines. The cost? A lease will run drivers $600 a month.
I just can’t get excited for the prospects of this vehicle just yet. America’s favorite sport, like it or not, is Nascar. We get larger cars than we could possible could because they’re large, and faster cars than we need because they are fast. Cars are ingrained in the American culture. Would people spend more on a car with 136 horsepower than they would on a fully loaded BMW 328, an ultra low emissions vehicle? Wouldn’t that money be better spent just getting a home closer to work?
What would I do if I were a Honda executive? Pick an assortment of technology leaders, non-profits, journalists, scientists, and plain regular folks, and just give them the cars to try out. Ask for their feedback on how to make it faster, cheaper, and more practical. And then tell us all about it. Show the car from all aspects, good and bad, to the people who will hopefully buy it one day. Make it ours. A $600 lease means it will just go to the Leonardo DiCaprios or Ed Begley Jrs. of the world, and they are going to like anything that’s green. That includes cars that aren’t affordable or marketable. In the long run, that’s just stupid. Being green shouldn’t be seen as a holier-than-thou status symbol or a pie-in-the-sky ideal. Being green means we can finally remove the elephant from the room, which is Exxon’s 40 billion dollar per year profits at the expense of the American people.
Inspired by Ed Schipul’s honest post on the economy. Although the economy is bleak, acknowledging our options is the first step.
Cool Related Links:
The Audi A8 diesel drove from London to Edinburgh and back on one tank of gas.
The X Prize Foundation is giving $10 million to the fastest production-ready car getting over 100 MPG.