A Changing Climate For Green Vehicles

Martin Romjue
Posted on December 17, 2014
With the way green vehicles have panned out, maybe Toonces the Driving Cat should take a few out for a spin.

With the way green vehicles have panned out, maybe Toonces the Driving Cat should take a few out for a spin.

With the way green vehicles have panned out, maybe Toonces the Driving Cat should take a few out for a spin.
With the way green vehicles have panned out, maybe Toonces the Driving Cat should take a few out for a spin.

Just five years ago, you dared not criticize alternative fuel vehicles. I did so, along with pointing out the obvious sham of global warming-turned-climate change, and caught some flak for it. Green vehicles just didn’t seem to add up: They cost more, required more energy on the manufacturing or disposal end, and took years to offset the added price premium through energy savings.

How so much has changed, as this National Journal article reports. And so has the weather, by the way, as it always does from season to season.

A global energy boom, especially on the North American continent, has sent oil prices plummeting. Americans rank the fabled, fallacious global warming hysteria among the least of their concerns, as scientific evidence mounts against the theory and Americans suffer more snowstorms but far fewer hurricanes. Manufacturing improvements that lighten auto materials coupled with technological advances in engines make the V-4 the new V-6, and the V-6 the new V-8. Flex fuel, corn-stuffed vehicles were never green to begin with, considering the added energy needed to refine ethanol and the croplands shifted from food growing to energy production. To top it off, the all-electric Tesla and Chevy Volt sedans, despite their golden-moment status as techno-green darlings of wealthy enviro-conscious motorists, are prohibitively expensive for most consumers and rank among the most tax-subsidized sugar babies of the American auto eco-system.

I’ve talked to enough limousine operators by now who have abandoned, sold, de-emphasized or quietly distanced themselves from green vehicles. Lincoln no longer includes the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid as part of its limousine and livery vehicle program. A black Toyota Prius with a TCP number is a rare sighting, even here in Southern California. In fact, one San Francisco Bay Area operator who bought a Prius for hipster Silicon Valley clients ended up giving the compact away to his mother-in-law.

Until Toonces learns how to drive properly, he should be limited to green vehicles.
Until Toonces learns how to drive properly, he should be limited to green vehicles.

Chauffeured green vehicles just don’t make money like gasoline vehicles, unless you get a corporate transportation RFP zealous about controlling emissions, or enough celebrities clients willing to pay to be seen in them. Chauffeured clients generally don’t ask for green vehicles , or don’t seem to care. Most clients want characteristics they've always sought in vehicles: Big, smooth, stylish, and luxurious. (Translation: Legroom, legroom, legroom).
 
The green vehicle trend in many ways must follow the path of Transportation Network Companies in that the same rules must apply to green vehicles that already apply to conventional gas and diesel vehicles. In the case of green vehicles, it's the free market rules of affordability. Compared to fossil fueled vehicles, greener wheels must cost the same, run just as well, embody the same comforts, rely on convenient and accessible energy networks similar to the gas station infrastructure, take the same amount of energy to build and dispose of, and generate profits for automakers free of government subsidies.
  
Until that happens, green vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius, will remain in their niche for motorists who prefer compact and mid-size vehicles that get better fuel economy mileage. But mass embrace of luxury green vehicles will happen only when consumer preferences and expectations match economic realities.

Related Topics: alt fuel vehicles, client markets, Editor's Edge Blog, green vehicles, hybrid vehicles, industry trends, LCT editor, Martin Romjue, Toyota Prius

Martin Romjue Editor
Comments ( 2 )
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  • Jan van Eck

     | about 3 years ago

    (continued:) For example, I calculated that on the 210-mile run from Baltimore to Morgantown WV, some 40% of the total fuel burn is consumed over just 30,000 feet. The reason is that the trucks/autos have to traverse six steep mountain climbs, burning huge amounts of fuel. If society invested $100 billion on 100 tunnels with no more than a 0.9% internal grade (so heavy trucks can maintain speed in top gear), then the resulting fuel reduction would be 20% of all fuels burned in transport, or roughly 8.5 million gallons/day. How much does the entire limo industry burn? Likely only a very small fraction of that. But it does require that the industry membership point that out to regulators and legislators, and push for those societal goals. I urge everyone to try to focus on the big picture.

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