Carbon Crusaders

Improving the road ahead by ddelcourt
September 15, 2007, 11:07 pm
Filed under: transportation

The Frankfurt auto show 2007 is underway. Souped up Ferrari’s rub shoulders with BMW’s 1 series and Bugatti’s $1.4 million Veyron. One very good sign is the omnipresence of “green” and eco-friendly cars coming to the market. In a New York Times article (sorry, you’ll need Times Select to access this one), the centerpiece was the Mercedes Benz F700 concept car, which manages to churn a whopping 295 ft lbs of torque from just 1.8 liters…sounds more like one of those after market Japanese suckers in the Fast and the Furious.

What I liked most about the Mercedes is that it highlights one pivotal point regarding the auto industry today. With existing technologies, without even hybrid drive technology, it is possible to achieve significant eco-positive attributes for automobiles today, not tomorrow. The Mercedes starkly contrasts the U.S. executive’s position on MPG standards. Here is a pdf of a U. Michigan study discussing the President’s proposed “attribute-based” changes to CAFE (Corporate Avergage Fuel Economy) standards. CAFE is what governs corporate fleets and is a key cog in the struggle for better fuel efficiency standards. Basically, the attributes model allows for issues like size and materials to come into play in determining MPG standards. The results of the proposed CAFE standards would allow the Detroit automakers to meet lower fuel standards then other manufacturers, lead to higher market share for the big three and higher profits. All of this while only having mild environmental benefits. I say let the free market system work and make all automakers conform to better standards.

Back to the auto show. My second favorite discovery was the Fiat/Microsoft software package called Blue&Me. The program allows users, via USB drive, to download data from their Fiat, upload it onto their computer and learn how they can change driving habits in order to maximize performance. This type of technology is worked into higher end cars, though the future is one universal device that can plug into any car via a Bluetooth or infrared port to download the data. So, can I save driving to and from work and in the rental car when I visit my folks.

Next time we’ll take a trip down biodiesel lane and take potshots at those silly U.S. ethanol pundits.

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