If I mention I am flying anywhere on the Twitters, I click send then count the seconds on my fingers (I have to use my fingers or the numbers get jumbled) and by the time I get to three the tweets are coming in. They will all include the term ‘carbon footprint’ or the rhetorical question ‘not very green is it.’
This is intriguing because I have always made strenuous efforts not to use the term ‘green’ or ‘eco’ in relation to my outlook or behavior. As mentioned before in this blog, I believe the terms to be devalued and debased beyond any possible usefulness. They don’t describe anything meaningful.
That said, obviously we should fly less, drive less, consume less than we do. This is very easy to say and very difficult to do.
I flew to Geneva to look at cars, you can’t get much less green than that. Okay, so the cars I was interested in where alternative fueled vehicles, electric and hybrid cars, cars that burn less or even zero drill and burn fuel at point of use.
Notice how carefully I’m covering myself. Point of use, i.e. in the car itself, as opposed to in the power station. I’m learning, every word I write is scrutinised by the most zealous watchdogs. And a good thing too, the days of sloppy greenwash are behind us and I think that’s a good thing
As I walked around the show floor of the Geneva Motor show surrounded by the gleaming hunks of steel, alloy and carbon fibre, I looked for signs saying green or eco. There still were some, but very very few.
There were however a breathtaking number of pure electric, plug in hybrid and traditional hybrid vehicles on display. I spent a lot of time with Volvo who have launched the V60 plug in hybrid here. A production car, not a concept. With a 120 mile to the gallon fuel efficiency when in hybrid mode, a 40 mile battery only range and a mass of safety features, the ability to ‘drive to Scotland’ and even tow a bloody caravan if you wanted makes this an truly credible car. Yes, it’ll cost a bit more than a standard Volvo, but not THAT much more and you’d save a bomb on diesel. And it’s only plopping out 50 something grams of Co2 per kilometer (from the tailpipe, I haven’t forgotten about the power station) which is absurdly low.
Cars that stick in the mind were the high end models, the plug in hybrid Range Rover, the pure electric Rolls Royce were two extraordinary and unexpected machines. The Rangey has the same Co2 output as a Prius, a 3 ton car with sub 90 grams per k is impressive. The Roller has the largest battery of any passenger car ever made. A staggering 71 kilowatt hours, but it is an absolutely huge car.
It’s easy to sneer, it is without question a ridiculous car but it’s very beautifully made and it’s using a lot of new technology. The batteries are made in Scotland by a company called Axeon in Dundee. They have devised a new way of building and packaging lithium-ion batteries into a much smaller space. All that 71 kilowatt hours take up no more room, and add no more weight than the original monster V12 engine and gearbox so the balance of the car remains the same. The drive comes from 2 electric motors driving the rear wheels. Not only that, it is fitted with an inductive charging plate, so when you uniformed driver parks the car in the stable block, he doesn’t need to plug it in or anything plebby like that. It just charges through the air, by magic!
Star of the show for me was the Nissan ESflow, which, I admit is a concept car but one Nissan are very seriously considering producing and it looks very swish.
Although as I’ve said almost every manufacturer had an electric vehicle on display, the only one you could buy today is the Nissan Leaf. Nissan are, without doubt or exaggeration, way ahead in the field.
The Nissan TownPod was another eye catcher, again a concept car but this one is far more likely to be built and soon.
I will post an episode of Fully Charged (http://www.fullycharged.tv/) soon with a much fuller report of what I’ve seen, there’s so much I can’t remember right now.
After walking the floor for hours, talking to manufacturers and engineers, I was utterly exhausted. It’s the first time I’ve ever been to a car show, the lights, the endless mid 1980‘s thundering music that could be used in any Schwarzenegger flick you’ve seen, the gloss and glitter are relentless.
The preponderance of men in attendance is I suppose obvious, the absence of ‘dolly birds’ in skimpy bikinis mounting bonnets is a blessed relief. Yes, I know that makes me sound like a gay vicar, but for goodness sake, they are bloody cars, it’s 2011. Hello.
I think the automotive industry has taken one step. There still are women standing rather pointlessly next to cars but they are all smartly dressed. I also noticed that a few of the droves of men with cameras (I was one of them) were waiting for the woman to get out of the way so they could get a clear shot. Maybe that should be taken as a hint by the manufacturers.
Another aspect I enjoyed was nonchalantly walking past all the boys wet dream cars, the Veyrons and the Maserati’s, the rebuilt Porsche Cayennes with carbon fibre bits slapped on. I didn’t take any pictures of them and I didn’t stop and stare. I wasn’t alone, the interest in the electric vehicles was very noticeable, and after seeing what the combined might of the global automotive industry is up to. They are a group of highly motivated and focussed people who are looking ahead for the next 15 years, I would say alternatives to the bog standard, clunky old internal combustion engine are rapidly coming our way.