Saturday, December 13, 2008

France Spikes Politically Inconvenient Report on Electric Cars

Some months ago, Nicholas Sarkozy’s government commissioned one of Frances most respected energy regulators, Jean Syrota, to draw up a report analyzing all options towards building cleaner, more efficient cars by 2030.

The 129-page report, completed in September, possibly will never be published because it confirms some inconvenient truths the global warming crowd would sooner ignore.

The report concludes, according to the Financial Times, that electric powered cars are cultural and technological a cul de sac, to use a French term:

“Instead, it suggests that the traditional combustion engine powered by petrol, diesel, ethanol or new biofuels still offers the most realistic prospect of developing cleaner vehicles. Carbon emissions and fuel consumption could be cut by 30-40 per cent simply by improving the performance and efficiency of traditional engines and limiting the top speed to about 170km/hr. Even that is well above the average top speed restriction in Europe, with the notable exception of Germany. New so-called “stop and start” mechanisms can produce further 10 per cent reductions that can rise to 25-30 per cent in cities. Enhancements in car electronics as well as the development of more energy efficient tyres, such as Michelin’s new “energy saver” technology, are also expected to help reduce consumption and pollution.

“Overall, the Syrota report says that adapting and improving conventional engines could enhance their efficiency by an average of 50 per cent. It also argues that new-generation hybrid cars combining conventional engines with electric propulsion could provide an interesting future alternative.

“By combining electric batteries with conventional fuel-driven engines, cars could run on clean electricity for short urban trips while switching over to fuel on motorways. This would resolve one of the biggest problems facing all electric cars – the need to install costly battery recharging infrastructures. The report warns that the overall cost of an all-electric car remains unviable at around double that of a conventional vehicle. Battery technology is still unsatisfactory, severely limiting performance both in terms of range and speed. The electricity supply for these batteries would continue to come from mostly fossil sources.

“The misgivings over the future of the electric car may explain why the French government appears to have spiked the report. It probably considers it politically incorrect, especially when some of Mr Sarkozy’s big business chums such as Vincent Bolloré and Serge Dassault are developing either electric cars and lobbying hard. Renault too has struck a deal with Israel to jointly develop a mass-market electric vehicle. To paraphrase Al Gore’s documentary on climate change, Paris may feel it is not the best of times to publicize the inconvenient truth about electric cars.”
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