Nissan Leaf In The News In Europe: Car Of The Year, Post Peak

I don't own a car and do not plan to buy one, especially considering the economic situation we face, which is really a global bubble bust, and if you are lucky, you live in a country that still has a banking system. I take the trains and walk a lot. If I was in great need of a car, what would I do? (Again, not a scenario that is on the radar)

In the midst of all the news from Europe about huge risks that the Euro Zone may collapse, and what will the Germans do after the Irish bailout, with worries about Spain (and others), how is this for some "good" news:

The Telegraph: Nissan Leaf wins Car of the Year

Yup. The world's first mass produced battery electric car wins the premier European award. That's how serious things have gotten. No more SUVs, Hummers (and Volvo, now owned by a Chinese upstart, came 6th in the rankings).

I find it ironic that mass media is still so caught up in the car craze. I understand that a lot of people live in places where they really, really need a car to get to work or do whatever they have to do. But that is about to change. Gasoline is not to be taken for granted, not at reasonable prices. We are now living in the post peak era.

As for electric cars, well, The Nissan Leaf has some very clever engineering, but where is the infrastructure? How many nuclear power plants would we really need to shift to all-electric cars? Let's be honest, this is not the solution. Having 500-800 cars per 1000 people is not possible.

How are the hybrid cars doing, so far?

Toyota Prius has sold about 2 million cars worldwide (only 206,000 in Europe, 826,000 in Japan and 931,000 in North America)
Honda Civic Hybrid: 203,000 in the US
Toyota Camry Hybrid: 167,000 in the US
Ford (Escape and Fusion): 138,000 in the US
Honda Insight: Some 100,000 in Japan, 52,000 in the US

OK, I was wrong about the SUVs, there is one that sold a lot. I wonder if the people who buy this vehicle actually think it is good for the environment, or not.

Lexus RX400h/450h: Just over 100,000 in the US

Data from wikipedia: Hybrid electric vehicles in the United States

This is just so pitiful, in spite of all the energy saving that it promises, as global car production annually is in the 40 million to 50 million vehicles zone, with a peak in 2007.

Year Cars produced in the world
2009 51,971,328 (projection)
2008 52,940,559
2007 54,920,317
2006 49,886,549
2005 46,862,978
2004 44,554,268
2003 41,968,666
2002 41,358,394
2001 39,825,888
2000 41,215,653
1999 39,759,847

Source: Worldometers, data from OICA

Wow! What a website! The International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers really cares about CO2 emissions and wants you to drive sustainably! ECO-drive! And there is a call for a new paradigm for the global auto industry! And they know all about it!

OICA: New Paradigm (pdf)

If I was on a city council, wondering what to do, I would vote for something completely different. Transition towns are already trying. I believe more in electric buses. I would support and encourage hybrid taxis, as the drivers would be able to use all their skills to reduce gasoline consumption (did you know that by 2009, 15% of New York's 13,237 taxis in service were hybrids, the most in any city in North America?) and other forms of car ownership such as car sharing - and more bicycles on the roads, yeah! Make your town pedestrian friendly, fast.

The Nissan Leaf will have to do a lot more to convince me that it is not just a part of the problem, but actually a part of the solution. They are ignoring the real picture: Car sales are down, way down. Look at this graph of US car sales (light vehicles) and how it has gone from on average 15-17 million cars per year to about 10.38 million (still too much in my humble opinion).

Casa Food Shed: Less fuel, fewer autos demands different kind of planning

Data from Calculated Risk, from Post Carbon Oregon (great blog). Quote:

Over the last 60 years, anti-urban policies have resulted in an energy-sucking, emissions-spewing U.S. Edward L. Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard University, points to subsidization of highways and home ownership as deliberate policy choices that have bled cities and encouraged a suburban and exurban infrastructure – one that is dependent on high levels of energy inputs (resulting in emissions outputs) both for transportation and to power buildings.

Glaeser cites studies that find each new federally-funded highway passing through a central city reduces its population by about 18%. Cities don’t benefit much from that highway infrastructure because dense areas already have good means of getting around – like walking.

The same, of course, is also true in Japan.


Pandabonium said…
Too little, too late.

Well,the best selling "vehicle" in the US in June of this year was the Ford F-150 pickup truck which gets 19 mpg highway/14 mpg city. They made 46,502 of them in June alone.

#2 was the Chevy Silverado with 30,994 sold in June. It gets all of 20 miles to the gallon highway/ 15 mpg city.

The days of "happy motoring" are all but over. Mr. Obama should have gone for rail rather than bail out the auto industry. All that money for building cars and roads and airports is throwing good money (or rather debt) at forms of transportation that have no future past.
Martin J Frid said…
Thanks, great insights. I agree that "happy motoring" is all over, but from what I see around me, few drivers seem to mind (I almost got run over today by one, who seemed to think a pedestrian crossing is a great place to inch forward into a left-turn in an intersection).

It is depressing to see that so few people are choosing energy-savvy vehicles. That will be bad for the banks that provide the loans.

I'd say, for good measure, that a lot more people are now finding other ways to commute to work and leaving the car behind. The general decline in car sales is very good news, as far as I am concerned!
Pandabonium said…
Regarding commutes, another way to approach the transportation problem is localize economics so that people live closer to work, shops, and services, and don't need to commute by car or train or bus. Since so much has been invested in the current layout of things, that will take time - something that is also in short supply.
Unknown said…
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Unknown said…
Your article is informative and it is great news for me to know that the Nissan Leaf has won the car of the year award of 2010. I hope that it will also gain it in the current year.
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