Powerplant Ponderings

The Frankfurt Motor Show has brought to light a fair bit of discussion about the trendline that powerplant design might take in the future. It’s an important decision that car companies are going to have to get right as the penalties for getting it wrong could be huge in terms of marketshare.

Autoblog rightly point out that what’s interesting about the marketshare equation is that right now, the urbanite Europeans have a solid preference towards highway-friendly diesels, whilst the long-distance-travelling North Americans with their 5-lane highways are still embroiled in a love affair with little hybrids.

And which one suits their lifestyle more? Well, if you talk about MPG being a factor in the decision, the diesel/hybrid test recently conducted by AutoBild magazine (reported via Autoblog again) would have you taking the diesel, hands down IMHO. It was more efficient on the highway run, only marginally less efficient around town and in terms of twist when you need it, well, guess which engine’s got you covered?

I mentioned here the other day that Bob Lutz doesn’t think diesels are a certainty for the US, though I’m pretty certain that Saab’s competition will be introducing them when the legislation makes the commercial environment better suited. A failure on GM’s part to get this right will lead to a huge loss of marketshare. There’s been enough comments here and elsewhere to make this decision an apparent no-brainer. The old adage that American customers wouldn’t accept them because they’re scarred by bad memories of diesels is rightly squished by The AutoProphet when he says that “the myth would be dispelled the moment that modern diesel engine cars from Europe [were] demonstrated here.”

Diesel engines have improved by several orders of magnitude over the old-smokeys of times passed. GM has a great diesel engine in the European Saab range and it should be looking to bring it into the US when regulations encourage it. End of story.

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As an aside, it’s also interesting to read (via the StarCourier online) that pending legislation in Illinois could reduce the cost of flex-fuel cars, such as Saab’s Biopower 9-5. Now all they need is a bunch of people selling the fuel……

Flex fuel vehicles can burn fuel that is as much as 85 percent ethanol. That’s good for farmers and good for the environment, and lessens our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, two state legislators say.

So this week, State Sen. Dale Risinger, R-Peoria, and State Rep. Donald Moffitt, R-Gilson, announced proposed legislation giving buyers a break when they purchase flex fuel vehicles.

The vehicles burn a fuel called E85, which is 85 percent ethanol. Ethanol is made from corn, and is seen by a number of agricultural organizations as a boon to the farm economy.

The legislation proposed by Risinger and Moffitt would waive state sales taxes until the end of 2006 on flex fuel vehicles. The state sales tax on car sales is 5 percent, Moffitt pointed out, so if the legislation passes, buyers of a $30,000 flex fuel vehicle would save $1,500.

“We’ve been way too heavily dependent on foreign oil,” Moffitt said. Promoting the production and use of ethanol is one way to lessen that dependence, he said.

Moffitt said as far as he knows, his and Risinger’s legislation would be the first of its kind in the nation.

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4 Comments

  1. See, I knew that biopower would have to appear on the radar sooner or later. Now if they will make it from sugarcane, its even more sustainable.
    Makes you wonder about all those cane farms in queensland which screamed for ( and got) and exemption from the Aus/US FTA. Imagine if all these farmers were producing fuel for biopowers….wouldn’t see this massive link between Aus fuel prices and US crude …or am i too naive?
    probably.

  2. Twas me, disingenuous fred. Here in illinois, home of many diesel makers, corn/soybean farmers,
    and big ag processors…it never ceases to amaze
    how ethanol and biodiesel interests are beating each other bloody when they should have a common goal of selling more of both biofuels. Ethanol(E85)has a future, as does ethyl ester(bioD
    made with ethanol). This constant wheel-spinning is not appreciated by Saab drivers everywhere.

  3. PT, the queensland farmers would be loving it, wouldn’t they? I don’t think JWHoward is capable of a decision like this, but it’d be good.

    Diesel will come in the US. If it don’t GM, well, GM’s stock can’t get rated any lower, can it? Their competition will be all over this in 2006/7. If they miss this boat with so much notice, they’d almost deserve to sink.

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