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Prototype Lite Hybrid Starter-Generator
In the future two things are certain; people will want to travel more and as a consequence auto emissions will continue to rise. Dealing with these two forces will necessitate new transportation technology like the prototype 'lite-hybrid' starter generator displayed at right and is beginning to find its way into European sedans this year.

Why Hybrids Must Succeed - Part 1

What happens when declining oil production meets rising oil demand?

By John Wormald

Hybrid-electric vehicles offer the best course of action currently available for confronting a powerful phalanx of environmental and resource issues facing the world in the next twenty to thirty years.

This is the conclusion of a presentation given by John Wormald, the president of autopolis at the Intertech 2000 conference held in Windsor, Ontario last September. We wish to express our thanks to Mr. Wormald for making his presentation available to EVWorld.

Environmental Challenge

One of the most powerful forces propelling the research and development of hybrid-electric vehicles is the environmental challenge. Wormald shared several slides which highlight important trends that bear directly on the future of the automobile.

His first slide projected energy demand over the course of fifty years starting in 1971 and out to 2020. His source, the International Energy Agency, foresees the most dramatic growth in energy demand occurring not in the developed nations of the world, which have tended to make use of the lion's share of the world's energy, but in three key regions, mainly located in the Far East.

China, much of Asia and a group of nations called "Transition Economies" will be making demands nearly comparable to that of the developed Western nations by 2020. This trend parallels a similar projection by the US Central Intelligence Agency which predicted that as early as 2015, 90% of the oil from the Middle East will be heading to the Far East to fuel the economies of Asia-Pacific and China. In short, there is going to be far greater demand for energy then than there is now.

Wormald's next slide showed the correlation between income and travel. As one might expect, the more money one makes, the more likely they are to spend an increasing percentage on travel. But what is of even greater concern is the fact that the number of passenger-kilometers per head actually increases faster than the per capita GNP. This means that as incomes rise, travel spending increases at an even faster rate. Wormald surmised that the same principle probably applies to freight movement, as well.

Not only do people with increasing incomes travel more, that travel shifts increasingly away from mass transit modes like trains and buses to private modes, i.e. personal automobiles. In Wormald's word's, "Clearly, the poor ride public transit and the rich in their cars."

There are, of course, regional differences. In Japan, nearly half of all travel is by train while in Europe the mix is split almost equally between trains and buses, though in Europe the automobile clearly dominates by something on the order of 5 times the passenger kilometers traveled compared to buses and trains combined. US passenger rail travel is not even a discernable line on Wormald's chart. By contrast, in America long distance travel is usually by car or commercial airline. Assuming an optimistic world-view that says global wealth is gradually increasing also presages more and more personal automobiles on the road as we race towards the future of 2020, which leads to the next slide.

In 1995, the developed world, which Wormald calls the "Triad" of North America, Europe and developed Asia, accounted for two thirds of the motor vehicles in the world. However, as affluence spreads to the developing nations, especially India and China, this situation begins to change, so much so that by about 2030, the non-Triad world reaches auto-parity with the West and by 2040, it clearly dominates in terms of sheer numbers of vehicles on the road. JD Power and Associates estimates there could be as many as 1.8 billion vehicles in service by 2040.

As would be expected, traffic-generated CO2 emissions also shift from West to East with parity being reached by 2010. By 2030, the East could be producing nearly twice as much CO2 as the "Triad" nations.

Looming somewhere ahead -- how far ahead is still up for debate -- is the inevitable "X" spot where the plummeting line of oil production crosses the climbing line of oil consumption. Wormald refers to a March 1998 issue of Scientific American which shows world oil production peaking in 2000, just last year, and beginning its slow but steady decline after that. Depending on whose projections you believe, that "point-of-no-return" happens somewhere between 2020 and 2030.

Another factor that also needs to be weighed is the impact of VMT -- vehicle miles traveled. VMT in the US has been steadily increasing since 1970. Shifting population centers, sub-urbanization, more and better highways encourage the use of cars and trucks. We are simply driving further each year than we did the year before, on average. Wormald credit's his next chart to Tom Gross of the US Department of Energy. It shows three lines, a blue one illustrating VMT between 1970 and 2030 and a corresponding red line showing increasing petroleum use in the transportation sector. Both lines show steady upward movement over time. More sobering is the green line of US domestic oil production that steadily declines over the same time period. This line crossed the petroleum use line once in 1980, leveled out and crossed it again about 1990 as oil from Alaska and other domestic sources began to flow through distribution pipelines. However, in the early 1990's it began its steady decline once more, crossing the VMT line about 1998. From that point on, the US began importing more oil than it produces.

Wormald's point is that not only do we face a burgeoning population of private automobiles, but those automobiles are being driven further, consuming more and more of a non-renewable resource.

Transportation's share of the energy pie is also increasing. In 1990, it ranked third among the primary energy uses behind energy used to heat, cool and power buildings and that used by industry. In 1997, transportation edged its way past the industry sector and by 2010 it will be the dominant source of CO2 emissions in the US.

"All-in-all," Wormald writes, "we do have a problem with carbon dioxide emissions, global warming and with petroleum resources, both of which are increasingly going to clash with the perpetually increasing demand for mobility."

Hybrids -- The Least Problematic Alternative Technology

Wormald next turns his attention to which alternative transportation technologies offer the most attractive solution to the problems of emissions and energy. He asserts at the outset that for any transportation technology to be successful it must be, above all, "acceptable to the market." He also contends that levels of consumer expectation are very high and that conventional vehicles continue to improve in terms of their efficiency and emissions.

To illustrate this point, his next slide compared three alternative technologies against the current ICE standard in terms of initial cost, fueling cost and availability, driveability, flexibility, reliability, resale value and serviceability. In his comparison, the hybrid-electric drive comes closest to matching the performance of the ICE. The hybrid's initial 30% higher cost is somewhat compensated for by its 30% reduced fueling costs. Interestingly, the battery electric ranked second with fuel cell electric vehicles posing more questions than answers with an acquisition cost 10 times that of the ICE.

In Wormald's view, hybrids offer the best alternative to addressing the environmental and resource challenges of the future... if only the fuel price were "right," he concedes. But waiting for some future oil shock before tackling the problem of building affordable hybrids isn't very wise, he contends. "We can't just sit there passively and wait for it to hit us. We have to prepare for the future." He suggests that the way to prepare is to target those market segments that are most in need of the solutions hybrid's offer.

CONTINUED In Part Two ... Finding "Susceptible" HEV Markets

Times Article Viewed: 5661
Published: 11-Feb-2001

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