Thursday, September 4, 2008

Is it the technical challenge or the scale that holds back new cars on the road?

Take one look at the US Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website at ( and you will see the vast proliferation of Drivetrain Fueling choices. Some you probably didn’t know even existed, but the fact is that the future direction of Transportation fueling is being hotly contested and there is more choice and less certainty than ever before in the history of the automobile. The DOE lists – and allows you to locate - refueling stations in the following technology categories:

• Biodiesel (B20 and above)
• Compressed Natural Gas
• Electric
• Ethanol (E85)
• Hydrogen
• Liquefied Natural Gas(LNG)
• Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Propane)

And that extensive list is not even inclusive of refueling choices in other technologies such as:

• Clean Diesel
• Compressed Air
• Stirling Fuel

And of those listed stations none of them includes the result of the larger initiatives that are already planning regional roll outs of targeted refueling networks such as:

• The Pickens Plan CNG network
• Project Better Places’s Electric infrastructure
• California Fuel Cell Partnerships Hydrogen Infrastructure

What is happening in this country? What ever happened to leaded or unleaded? Super or Regular? Gas or Diesel?

From individual technologies to whole network plans, choice is proliferating; however, due to

1. the massive dollar cost of most infrastructure development,
2. the large number of competing champions for individual technologies, and
3. the limited availability of cars to run on a specific type of energy storage….

alternative refueling markets are increasingly segmented. This segmentation creates a specific problem for auto manufacturers who ideally like to build single types of cars and to build those types in big volume.

The problem is not the length of time it takes to develop most alternative fuel drivetrains. Automakers are less concerned being able to meet the technical challenges as they are in meeting the economies of scale. A standard hybrid car can be converted to a plug-in Hybrid in an hour, a CNG drive train that is bi-fuel ready costs $12,000 and will have you running in no time, biofuel conversion is basically a no-brainer, etc, etc.

Said another way, its not as much a worry that the targeted refueling networks will pop up and disappear overnight so that an automaker might make a car for Sacramento’s CNG station network and then that network disappears by the time the car is ready to be built. No. It is more a problem that the networks are not big enough and widespread enough to support the roll out of an OEM car program where a major car manufacturer sells cars from a diffuse dealership network all over the country, so they simply don't do it.

Big-capital plants, high-finish products, tightly integrated channel and upstream manufacturers together are a perfectly terrible recipe for choice, change, and adoption of local refueling solutions.

Local Motors aims to change that recipe.


Unknown said...

Listen, there are many varoious bloviators on this subject but the straight way to go in this mess is Gas/Propane conversions on existing vehicles or Gas/CNG on extisting vehicles or Diesel/Propane or Diesel/BioFuel.

In your case you are certainly bloviating in your prsentation.

Congress passed a law in 1998 due to heavy lobbying by the Oil industry and BIG 3 auto manufacturers prohibiting private
vehicle conversions and putting it
under the auspices of the EPA. The
auto makers Mercedes and BMW lobbied the congress heavilly to prevent importantion of GREY MARKET cars and putting them under the auspices of the EPA and DOT. Did you know this??????

Further to the above did you know that 90% of cars and light trucks in South Korea run on Gas/Propane, 60-70% in India, approximately 80% in Pakistan, Ecuador has a propane conversion program and the have domestic oil, Dominican Republic has a propane conversion program. In Brasil you can buy a new car that runs on Gas/Ethanol or Gas/Ethanol/Propane. Brasilian manufactured cars are shipped to the Merco Sul or South American common market.

Italy started propane convrsions 30 years ago. They developed the measure of Propane to Octane. Italy os the largest producer of propane Conversion kits in the world. Europe has been driving on Gas/Propane conversions since the early seventies.

When I was in Brussels belgium in 1987 Mercedes Turbo Diesel taxis were running on Diesel/Propane.

By congress passing the law prohibiting private vehicle conversions they brought us to the current Gasoline/HeatingOil/Diesel problem. If it was not for the corrupt congress that passed this unfortunate legislation and instead informed the American people of the need to convert and then put heavy pressure on the BIG 3 auto makers to develope Gas/Propane or Gas/CNG or Diesel/Propane/CNG we would never have this problem which allowed speculators to do the damage they have done.

Your comments about not having sufficient fueling stations for Propane or CNG is moot. I don't think that you use perceptive thinking in your hyperbgole. As long as the vehicle runs on Gas/Propane or CNG likewise for Diesel it can switch to the available fue if one or the other is not available.

Did you know that all taxi cabs in Las Vegas are converted to run on Gas/Propane. Those conversions were done at a cost of $3,400.00 each. Conversions can be done for around $2,500.00 or less.

Never mind your bloviating about the auto manufacturers being put in a box as to what type of cars to produce. I just told you that in Brasil you can order a two or three flex fuel car. If it is possible there from major manufacturers the it should be possible here as well.

$12,000.00 for a flex fuel car? From what distant planet did you get that ridiculous figure. And while I am at this reply please note if you did your research properly which would have caused you to omit the hyperbole you have provided you would have discovered that in Canada you can order a new vehicle that runs on Gas/Propane from the major auto producers. In addition Honda offers the Civic available from the factory as Gas/CNG.

This country was provided a gift in the first amendment however, it is being buried deep from your unreaserched and speculative information which ahs no value to someone who is looking for solid clear information with reagard to vehicle fuel conversion.

Do your homework. Do your research and learn something that will benefit the people.

Local Motorhead said...

lgmerionrohr, Thank you for your lively response. By the tenor of it, I can tell you care. The good news is that we are both on the same side. I want to see CNG conversions as much as the next and believe that it can happen. I happen to be the CEO of an auto manufacturer that can help to make that happen. I have dedicated my life to this and work very hard every day to see that it comes to pass. Perhaps we can sell you a car some day? Maybe you run your own car company and are doing the same. Here's hoping since you are so passionate about it. Keep up the interest and the outreach. We need more folks like yourself.

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