Fleet News

Green experts meet for blue-sky thinking

AN international call for consistent Government support for clean fuels has been made by some of the leading figures in the global automotive industry.

Efforts to reduce emissions and help the environment will be impossible without clear and consistent guidance from authorities, both nationally and internationally, industry heads say.

Richard Parry-Jones, group vice-president, global product development and chief technology officer of Ford Motor Company, warned delegates at the Environmentally-Friendly Vehicles Conference that manufacturers were aware there was no ‘silver bullet’ to slash emissions, so they needed to work on several different technologies at the same time.

But he said the automotive industry needed to know that the massive investment required in different technologies was going to be supported in the long-term when vehicles arrived on the market.

He told delegates: ‘Collaborative efforts are required between manufacturers and other companies, such as fuel suppliers, to achieve the large emission reductions needed.

‘For biofuels including bio-ethanol, we need 10 filling stations in London just to get off the ground. But we also need the fuels to be treated the same as other alternative fuels, with exemption from the London congestion charge.

‘Technology solutions can be expensive and consumers are not willing to pay for them with no financial inducement. A huge proportion of consumers, while they want to contribute, either can’t afford to or are unwilling to allocate personal resources.

‘They are looking to use to make the problem go away at no cost to them. But for LPG, uncertainty on Government grants and provision of the fuel has impacted on demand.’

Beth Lowery, vice-president of GM North America, said the firm was not ‘putting all its eggs in one fuel tank’ as it needed to reflect consumer demands, but added that its main push was towards fuel cells.

She said: ‘Our main concern is that we will be all dressed up for the party with nowhere to go. We need the support of the Government on refuelling infrastructure.’

The view was supported by Elliot Morley, UK Minister for Climate Change and Environment, who told delegates: ‘Environmentally-friendly vehicles have a key role to play in the goal of reducing air pollution and to reach that goal, we all need to work together.’

Hybrids and biofuels point the way ahead

A GOVERNMENT announcement last week promising a massive increase in the use of biofuels is not the only environmental shift fleets will see in the next few years, delegates heard.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling has promised that 5% of all fuel sold will be biodiesel by 2010, but manufacturers are also expecting a massive increase in the use of hybrid models.

Major manufacturers are planning to launch a range of hybrids in the next few years that are intended to slash emissions and improve fuel economy dramatically.

Richard Parry-Jones, group vice-president, global product development of Ford Motor Company, said: ‘Popular culture is increasing awareness of the need for green vehicles. Hybrids are an important part of the solution set and hybrids of different types will play a different role in different areas.

‘We will make 250,000 hybrids by 2010 and we are developing hybrids in the EU including diesel micro hybrids.

‘We have already launched a hybrid SUV and have four further hybrid models planned. We are also developing hybrids or the EU.’

Parry-Jones said developments would range from micro-hybrids, which are effectively stop-start systems which turn the engine off when the vehicle is stationary, to full hybrids which combine an electric motor with a petrol/diesel engine, working independently or together.

Katsuhiro Nakagawa, vice-chairman, Toyota Corporation, said: ‘Hybrids can work with anything and we hope to be selling one million hybrids a year early in the next decade.’

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