British performance carmaker Aston Martin’s chief sees his country taking a very unrealistic approach to dealing with air pollution.
The UK government’s July announcement that it will be banning the sale of petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040 is “meaningless” to Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer.
Government officials are certainly not automotive engineers and are missing the mark, he said.
“Policy makers should not try to be engineers,” Palmer said. His conclusion was that the July announcement banning fossil fuel vehicles by 2040 was “just spin” and doesn’t stand a chance of being achieved.
China is now becoming one of four countries joining the UK in stopping fossil-fuel powered vehicles on its roads, along with France and Norway. Xin Guobin, the country’s vice minister of industry and information technology, announced in a speech earlier this month that regulators are working on a timeline for phasing out the sales and production of the gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles.
Other countries central to the global auto market are considering heading toward an eventual phase-out of petroleum-powered cars through government incentives and mandates. It’s a big job – with about 695,000 of 84 million new vehicles sold last year being electric; and with about a billon gasoline and diesel vehicles out on roads across the world now.
These regulators are getting their wires crossed with national mandates, Palmer said.
“In my view as an engineer, it’s better to prescribe the emission, and then let the engineers figure out what the right technology is,” he said.
Palmer thinks the technology is already there with fuel efficient gasoline engine vehicles. He made reference to Formula 1 racers in development that can already double their previous fuel economy.
Hybrid vehicles can confuse the issue.
“If you take today’s engine and you simply slap a hybrid on, you end up more or less in the same place,” he said.
Understanding the end result and how the technology and fuel work is essential to making realistic government policies, he said.
“Are we trying to solve clean air? In this case, ban diesels. Or are we trying to solve CO2? In this case, you need to use less fossil fuel. The two are different. And a lot of the dialogue right now is mixing those messages,” Palmer said.
Palmer does take alternative vehicle technologies very seriously.
Prior to heading Aston Martin in 2014, he’d been chief planning officer and executive vice president at Nissan Motor Co. Palmer was considered to be a champion of the Nissan Leaf, the very first mass market plug-in electric vehicle along with the Chevrolet Volt.
One of his more visible periods was facing angry Nissan Leaf owners in town-hall meetings who’d had their Leaf battery packs degraded by extreme weather conditions, such as 120-degree heat in Arizona. Palmer committed to lead improvements to the Leaf battery, which did take place.
Palmer recently said in an interview that all new Aston Martin vehicles will be hybridized by somewhere near 2025. By 2030, he expects sales to be 25% all-electric vehicles and the remainder hybrid vehicles. The upcoming all-electric RapidE will be the first of its electric vehicle offerings.
The company will continue making gasoline V12 engines, which are at the heart of their performance.
The Aston Martin chief sees heavy-duty trucks being another major barrier for fossil fuel bans to work. They’ll need to be electric trucks, but their powertrains probably won’t have access to the battery packs needed to keep these trucks on roads for long distances, he said.
That would block Tesla from its big plan to roll out electric semi-trucks. The electric carmaker has scheduled a product announcement next month on its plans for launching electric trucks.
Aston Martin is embracing alternative technologies for their performance gains and emissions reductions, but it has to be a profitable strategy for the company’s executives.
Palmer led his company to its first half-year profit in a decade during the first six months of this year.
New vehicle launches like the DB11 model and the upcoming all-electric RapidE are central to the company’s strategy to roll out more high performance, advanced technology vehicles. That’s considered central to rebuilding Aston Martin’s image as a leading luxury, performance carmaker.
By Jon LeSage for Oilprice.com
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