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Leaf Range Not An Issue, And Other Hopes For The Future

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VW Thinks Car Buyers Might Be Able To Rent Out Their Cars

“Has there ever been a new technology so unappealing to the public that huge amounts of public money was needed to move it off the shelves, with curbs on the competition too?”

COLOGNE, Germany – The battery-powered Nissan Leaf’s range is no longer an issue. Battery cars provide transport with zero emissions. Consumers will learn to love electric cars; they just need a little “educating”. The young have fallen out of love with cars.

Automotive News Europe held its annual Congress here, and Europe’s biggest car manufacturers are lining up to offer their wish lists, hopes and fears for the future.

There was much talk of “sustainability” and renewable energy mainly from harnessing the wind. Car owners of the future will not buy one car but the right to mobility, which might be a fuel-sipping town car during the week for the commute to work, swapped for a roadster or minivan at the weekend, depending on the plans. If the computer shows that the best way of getting from Cologne to Paris combines the tram, train, taxi and plane, the mobility provider will offer that to the exclusion of the car.

Nissan’s presentation claimed that the battery-only Leaf’s range is no longer an issue, which would probably be the case if the claimed 175 kilometre-110 mile capability was regularly attainable, and that the company hadn’t decided to offer free gasoline car rental to buyers with range anxiety for a couple of weeks a year if they planned any long journeys. The Leaf, priced at €30,000 after government incentives is priced quite close to the Chevrolet Volt, which gives much less battery miles but a gas-powered car’s flexibility. That would seem a knockout blow in favour of the environmentally friendly Chevy. Nissan persists with the claim that the Leaf emits no emissions, despite the fact that in most of Europe and America, coal-fired power stations provide the energy.

Doom-merchants claimed that the young no longer lust after cars, with ominous implications for the industry. A presentation from Volkswaqen of Germany pointed out that its researches showed 52 per cent of young people say they don’t need a car. But 78 per cent want one, and 60 per cent already have their own wheels. VW’s ideas for the future included persuading car owners who don’t drive much to rent them out “to turn it into a profit centre, not a loss center”. Parking lots full of battery cars could return power to society, rather than just taking as they do now.

Azure Dynamics of Detroit, which has been developing the Transit Connect electric van for Ford, claimed that this would now be capable of 80 miles before charging, as though that might be adequate for a day’s delivery duty. Some members of a panel session on electric and hybrid cars hoped that the buying public would learn to love battery cars. Government subsidy was urgently required to educate buyers into considering battery-only cars, while new regulations should favour them with tax breaks, lower parking charges, and access to town centers.

Has there ever been a new technology so unappealing to the public that huge amounts of public money was needed to move it off the shelves, with curbs on the competition too?


Neil Winton – July 5, 2011

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