Former Secy. Mineta: EV's, Hybrids not only ticket to better mileage

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 13:29
The battle over which technologies will catapult automakers into reaching ever-stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards wages on. This week, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Commerce, Norman Mineta, released a white paper in conjunction with the U.S. Coalition for Advanced Diesel Technologies – whose members include automotive suppliers Honeywell and Bosch, among others. The white paper, released on November 7, aims to shed light on advanced diesel technologies, which Mineta says have been forced to remain in the shadow of electric vehicles and hybrids due to preferential treatment from the federal government – even to the tune of a $7,500 consumer tax credit. The diesel debate has been going on for decades. Yet, I’m pretty sure that few lamented the day the last diesel car pulled away from the dealership lot, exiting in normal fashion with a notorious smelly puff of black smoke and an unforgettable rattling hum. But diesel is different now. It’s cleaner. And it doesn’t smell. 300px-norman_mineta2c_official_portrait2c_dot-1631384-1463053-3611406 Auto enthusiasts and those knowledgeable about the modern diesel engine have been anxiously awaiting the return of this fuel-efficient alternative for the internal combustion engine. While German-based automakers have largely been answering these cries for diesel-powered vehicles in recent years, other OEMs, particularly those based in the U.S., have had their sights set on hybrid and all-electric paths to fuel efficiency. But Secy. Mineta poses this question to the Obama administration, “Why not support ALL technologies equally that enable automakers to achieve CAFE standards?” The Diesel Coalition and Mineta want to erase our putrid memories and replace them with tangible knowledge about the advanced diesel technologies of today.  That’s why they’re calling for the fair treatment of all technologies that help automakers reach CAFE targets. Below are five main points that top Mineta and the coalition’s wish list as laid out in the white paper entitled, The Case for Technology neutral Public Policy in Fuel Economy Debate: Allowing Performance to Determine Solutions. 
  • Technology neutral policies are essential to maximize the growth and pursuit of innovation in the American automotive industry.
  • Government involvement should neither stifle innovation nor unintentionally pick winners and losers in the marketplace.
  • The EPA should update their mileage formulas to reflect current-day driving habits.
  • The federal government should stop pushing predominantly EV and hybrid vehicles for government fleets.
  • Rather than prescribing technology solutions that aren’t already supported by the market, federal auto public policy should be geared toward achieving efficiency and emissions results.
Some might say that current sales numbers indicate that the automotive retail market still has a ways to go before all-electric and gas-electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt become mainstream purchases; however, looking back, it seems that each new addition to the automotive market share requires time for the general population to adapt. As we have discussed here before, President Obama has called for one million electric vehicles on our roads by 2015. So it is fairly evident that EV’s and hybrids are favored by the Obama administration and the EPA. But what about the consumer? Has anyone asked what they favor? What about the dealer? Has anyone considered that they have to sell these products and explain to consumers why their vehicles are more expensive? I think it would behoove lawmakers and the federal government to keep in the following in mind: the road to good mileage doesn’t have to be all-electric. Please note: I have a professional working relationship with the U.S. Coalition for Advanced Diesel Technologies through my role at Beekeeper Group in Washington, D.C. 

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