FROM CHINA WITH HYBRIDS.
According to a new study by the Spanish Institute of Oceanography - Climate Change in the Spanish Mediterranean - the Mediterranean Sea could be on course to rise half a meter (20 inches) in the next 50 years. Sea levels have been rising since the 1970s with the rate of increase growing in recent years - between 2.5mm and 10mm (0.1 and 0.4in) per year since the 1990s.
Global warming is to blame, with water expanding as it warms and melting ice adding to the pot.
Try to visit Venice (elevation 0.0) before it finally succumbs to the waves.
China is now the third largest producer of motor vehicles in the world behind Japan and the US. In 2006 more than 7 million cars, trucks and whatever rolled off Chinese production lines. About the same were sold there. Japan and the US each saw over 11 million vehicles produced.
Are you alarmed that this new automotive powerhouse will flood the world with inexpensive cars while contributing to the flooding of low lying areas around the Mediterranean?
Maybe, but maybe you need not be. China could be on route to becoming the world’s capital of green vehicles. Think hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles, but not necessarily biofuel-powered.
Though without connections to officials within the Chinese government it’s hard to determine what their thinking is regarding green vehicles, but it’s easy to imagine minimal support for ethanol or biodiesel. After all, they’ve got 1.3 billion mouths to feed all living on a patch of land the size of the US. There may not be much arable land to devote to significant biofuel production. Food comes before fuel.
Further, there’s the air pollution issue. China has some real problems in that regard. Biofueled cars and trucks are a little cleaner than petroleum-fueled but they still pollute. A high population with the potential of more vehicles than the US means that the cleanest possible vehicles must be chosen.
China is not a democracy even though their industry is more and more market-driven like the US. But they are unlike US industry, which has special interests constantly looking for handouts and favors from politicians all too willing to comply, China can just tell it’s industry what to do. They must comply: no argument. A guess is that electric drive of some fashion is the eventual choice.
Already at least four Chinese car makers are developing hybrids, plug-in hybrids or pure electric vehicles - Geely, Chery, SAIC, and BYD. All are near launching to at least Chinese markets.
Details are slim on the promised product offerings. Here are some tidbits.
--- SAIC Motor Corporation, China’s leading car maker by sales volume, is building a demonstration fleet of what it is calling “new energy vehicles.”
For the “new energy” vehicles - could be hybrid or fuel cell - lithium-ion batteries are being supplied by a joint venture of Johnson Controls and Saft. The batteries will be produced in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, thus a rare export item for the US. The batteries will be installed in demonstration vehicles in early 2008.
--- Chery Automobile is building a hybrid to be launched in the second half of 2008. It will have nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries also supplied by Johnson Controls and Saft, but this time manufactured in France, developed in the US and integrated with Chinese help into vehicles in China.
--- BYD Auto (Build Your Dreams) is presenting its dual-mode F6 DM (cover graphic) at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Dual-mode means all-electric or hybrid drive take your pick. The company says the car has an all-electric driving range of 60 miles driving at highway speeds of 60 mph. The company hopes to start selling DM-enabled vehicles in North America within three to five years.
In the F6 DM a 1.0-liter engine drives a generator as a range-extender, or works in parallel hybrid mode, in which the engine and electric motor both provide propulsion. It’s a plug-in hybrid too and can be recharged fully by a 220 household outlet in about 9 hours. Total range in and out of various modes is a little under 300 miles.
The company thinks their technology will be the one copied by others around the world. Could be. It’s very similar to the Chevrolet Volt concept. The company is only about 12 years old.
--- Finally, Geely is said to be developing a variety of hybrid cars in five years - mild, light, moderate and full hybrid-electric cars - any sauce you like.
So, China may be bringing to world markets, and for itself, much more than conventional cars. It may bring a greater offering of fuel efficient cars than is now available. After all, Shanghai is low to the waterline too. The largest city of the People's Republic of China and the eighth largest in the world is only 13 feet above sea level, much of it lower than that.