Tag: dieselgate

TerraE borrows Gigafactory from Tesla

Friday, 4 August, 2017 0 Comments

Fact: The car industry provides jobs for 828,000 people in Germany. This accounts for a hefty 14 percent of the country’s manufacturing industry workforce.

There’s no way Berlin will allow #Dieselgate to sink the ship, but there is an increasing awareness that things have to change if they are to remain the same, for the auto industry, that is. As usual, the future is on the other side of the Atlantic and it has a name: Gigafactory.

The Tesla Gigafactory is a lithium-ion battery production facility in Nevada and its full capacity would enable the company to produce the power packs for 1,500,000 e-cars a year. In a subtle change of terminology, Tesla now refers to what was called the Gigafactory as Gigafactory 1 and Elon Musk has taken to describing the SolarCity Gigafactory in Buffalo, New York, as Gigafactory 2. Next up is Tesla Gigafactory Europe, a combined electric battery manufacturing facility and automobile factory. Locations said to be under consideration are in the Czech Republic around Prague, with a nearby 330 kilotonne lithium deposit, and Portugal, with Europe’s biggest lithium reserves and one of the world’s biggest solar centres.

With Tesla knocking on Europe’s door, German car makers need to get a move on. Enter Terra E. The Frankfurt-based holding company announced yesterday that it has “composed 17 major companies and research institutions to a consortium to handle planning for building large-scale lithium ion battery cell manufacturing in Germany.” In a cheeky act of imitation, it’s calling the proposed facility a “Gigafactory”. What did Picasso allegedly say about great artists and copying?

Terra E will choose one of five candidate sites next month to build the 34 gigawatt-hour battery factory. The plan is to break ground in the fourth quarter of 2019 and reach full capacity in 2028.

So, despite the current crisis, the German car industry is gearing up for the next stage in the mobility upheaval. Millions of plug-in cars are expected to roll off production lines in Munich and Stuttgart early next decade and Berlin believes it has an ace up its sleeve in the race to dominate the roads: Industrie 4.0. The national strategy for the Fourth Industrial revolution could give Germany an edge in manufacturing robotics and automated production. If that were to happen, #Dieselgate would be remembered, if at all, as just one more word with a hashtag and a popular suffix.

Picasso car and bird


The Deutschmark and the Diesel

Thursday, 3 August, 2017 0 Comments

Until it was replaced by the euro in 2002, the D-Mark (Deutsche Mark) was one of the world’s most stable currencies. In its short but eventful 54-year history, it was the official currency of West Germany and later the unified Germany. And then it was gone.

Is this the destiny of diesel? German. Stable. Gone.

Deutsche Mark Sure, history will note that Rudolf Diesel’s invention had a longer run. He filed a patent for an “internal-combustion engine” in 1895 in the US but it’s a safe bet that it is headed for the same fate as the D-Mark. Going, going…

Along with diesel fumes, fear was in the air yesterday in Berlin when German car executives and political leaders met to rescue Rudolf Diesel’s legacy. Their over-hyped meeting — dramatically described as a “diesel summit” — resulted in a plan to update the software in five million cars to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, the diesel by-product most harmful to human health. But it’s too little, too late. There’s a crisis of confidence in Germany’s most important industry. Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW are facing growing public anger at home and abroad for downplaying the health effects of diesel fumes and, in some cases, misleading customers about how much nitrogen oxides their cars produce.

The impact of all this on Germany cannot be overstated because vehicles are its single most important export product. They are also the most visible symbol of German engineering. Those arrays of BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes and Porsches are a source of national pride and (like the D-Mark once) a vital part of post-war German self-image. News that Volkswagen agreed to pay more than $22 billion in the United States in fines after admitting that it had programmed diesel cars to cheat on emissions tests rattled the country, and recent reports that Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler may have secretly agreed to cut corners on emissions hardware has created a feeling of betrayal.

France and Britain want to end the sale of diesel cars. Athens and Madrid are banning them entirely, but Germany is hanging on for dear life to its preferred fuel. It’s a risky strategy because hansom cab drivers didn’t see the automobile coming and the makers of the internal combustion engine might not hear the approaching electric car.

Tomorrow, here: Tesla moves up a gear.


But, but, but… batteries

Tuesday, 1 August, 2017 0 Comments

Norway has put down a marker. It will phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2025. France is giving the industry a bit more leeway, but it will ban the sale of combustion engines from 2040. In the same year, Britain will forbid new petrol and diesel cars.

EV So, what sort of vehicles will people use when combustion engines are outlawed? EVs (electric vehicles), of course. Whoa! Not so fast, say the combustion-engine defenders. They claim that the ecological footprint of e-cars is calamitous. One can drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee or a Mercedes SUV-class for years before doing as much damage to the environment as a Tesla, they claim. How come? Four years ago, in an exhaustive 6,500-word article on the financial website Seeking Alpha, analyst Nathan Weiss made a case that the Tesla Model S has higher effective emissions than most large SUVs of both the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and smog-producing pollutants like sulfur dioxide.

And then there’s the super-heavy batteries used in electric vehicles.

If the environmental argument doesn’t do it for you, the car industry, of all industries, will try ethics. The ethics of batteries, that is. The battery business uses 42 percent of global cobalt production, after all. And where does cobalt come from? Why, the Democratic Republic of Congo, a nation torn by civil war and hobbled by corruption. And if that’s not an argument against cobalt, get this: the ore is often dug out by child labourers. Rounding out the debate are the poisons and dangerous particles released as a side effect of batteries, which have to be disposed of. Toxic waste, in other words.

The problem with the argument for the internal combustion engine is that it doesn’t allow for momentum and innovation. Today’s Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast:

“The EV revolution is going to hit the car market even harder and faster than BNEF predicted a year ago. EVs are on track to accelerate to 54% of new car sales by 2040. Tumbling battery prices mean that EVs will have lower lifetime costs, and will be cheaper to buy, than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars in most countries by 2025-29.”

Thursday, here: The results of tomorrow’s Diesel Summit in Berlin.


Dieselgate

Monday, 31 July, 2017 0 Comments

Naturally, there’s a Wikipedia page listing scandals with the “-gate” suffix. Heard of Porngate? “Three members of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in India resign from their offices after accusations that they watched porn during government proceedings.” And what about Valijagate? “Venezuelan-American entrepreneur Guido Antonini Wilson arrived in Argentina on a private flight hired by Argentine and Venezuelan state officials carrying US$800,000 in cash, which he failed to declare.”

Then there’s Dieselgate (or Emissionsgate):

“International Council on Clean Transportation and West Virginia University caught Volkwagen cheating on emissions tests on about 11 million diesel cars by programming them to enable emissions controls during testing, but not control NOx pollution during real world driving.”

The suffix has spread so widely in two years that no one raised an eyebrow last week when Xinhua, the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China, headlined a story: “Strong Volkswagen Q2 profit despite ‘dieselgate’ cartel scandals.” Along with “dieselgate”, you will have noticed the word “cartel” there. Until recently, that term was more associated with Colombia than Germany. The Cali Cartel once controlled more than 90 percent of the world’s cocaine market. Its founders were the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers, Gilberto and Miguel, who broke away from Pablo Escobar and his partners, who ran the Medellín Cartel. When the car manufacturers in Wolfsburg, Stuttgart and Munich are being seen as shady operators running a racket designed to harm society along Colombian lines one begins to grasp how low their stars have fallen.

Tomorrow: The real enemy is Tesla, says the cartel.

Narcos