Archive for the 'Environment' Category

Analysis: Regulation is not the mortal enemy of automakers

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

I was recently visiting a new Porsche web site called 911 Nation. On the site, there was a new post arguing the U.S. President Obama and the Democratic Party, which presently controls the U.S. Senate, is working to take certain high performance cars off the road, much to the detriment of the car-buying public.

This is hyperbole and conjecture and it’s apex. They only one putting an end to the Porsche is those that own the company. CAFE standards do not nor will they ever prevent a company from operating. At worst, they charge a sort of fine for each vehicle that does not meet requirements. Though the OEM pays this fine, it is effectively passed on to the consumer, at the risk of that automaker being less competitive. That said, Porsche like every automaker has every incentive to develop state-of-the-art technology that provides us with both a great driving experience and the comfort of know that we are polluting ourselves to a lesser degree as the world population continues to climb.

Obviously, CAFE has nothing to do with extremism of the environmental or other kind. Extremism might dictate that none of us use powered vehicles of any kind, which is clearly not the case here. Indeed, one could further argue that generations of people who have lived in an era of fossil fuel consumption are cheating future generations by consuming resources that are not sustainable.

We need look no further than the new Porsche Panamera Hybrid S, which according to sources has a CO2 g/km of only 160. Indeed that is a competitive number, especially for a car capable of great handling and performance.

I might further posit that America is the follower, not the leader, in developing improved environmental standards with respect to the automotive industry.

Analysis: EPA’s proposed fuel efficiency notification change leaves much to be desired

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

EPA fuel economy proposed sticker

The big news of the day, aside from Tom Brady crashing his Audi S8, is that the EPA wants to change the Fuel Economy stickers that appear on all new cars. The current sticker uses numbers to explain a vehicle’s fuel economy. The proposal stick would take that idea and but a big fat letter grade on the sticker. The motivation may be in good faith, but the practicality of the proposed change leaves much to be desired so far as consumer education are concerned.

Beyond the KM’s concern with putting a letter grade versus a nominal integer is that people associate letter grades on products in the same way they associate letter grades with school performance.


VW/Audi “UPs” the electric ante — Q1 2010 Update

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

No doubt that Audi started the year off with a bang. Audi with VW, Mercedes, and BMW have all been pushing diesel-powered cars lately, and even Porsche has joined in the party. But the Audi A3 has been a “slow seller” for Audi in America. It sells massively in Europe where petrol prices are sky-high but Audi has likely been looking for new ways to move the car on this side of the pond. That said, the A3 diesel seems like a good option – it’s relatively spacious and gets real-world gas mileage every bit as good as a Prius.

Observers were no doubt surprised to see Audi spending serious buck at the Super Bowl to promote the clean diesel technology. Indeed, Audi’s humorous “green police” commercial was well composed and sent the message that diesel is the new hybrid. Indeed, it is still cheaper technology as well. (more…)

Early Fall auto news round-up

Saturday, November 7th, 2009



VW in an effort to promote the tons of eco-friendlier cars launched at IAA in Frankfurt in September has decided to pursue eco-sales with a new eco-friendly racing series. The company is starting a single-make racing series where all of the cars run on bio-produced compressed natural gas. The model used in the series is the new Scirocco and should reduce racetrack CO2 output by 80 per cent over today’s racing fuels. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder cars will have 220 horsepower on tap. Not bad for an alt fuel car!


On other green fronts, VW Group is working with Stanford University in California in a US$5.75 million project to make VW the largest carmaker with R&D in Silicon Valley. Already the two companies have produced autonomous (read self-driving) versions of the VW Passat and now the Audi TT-S. The Audi TT-S will attempt to drive itself up the 14,110-foot Pike’s Peak next year, according Wired.



Audi’s Johan de Nysschen, critical of the Chevy Volt, took an interview with Time recently to express his views on the state of the luxury auto industry. He stated that Audi’s goal is to be the “top” German luxury manufacturer, but not necessarily in terms of sales. He also reiterated the push for more fuel-efficient vehicles leading to Zero emissions cars in the not so distant future.



Bugatti has unleashed a new concept car the 4-seat, 4-door (can you believe it???) Galibier 16C. Autocar magazine claims the production will start in 2013 at £900,000. We will believe it when we see it! Interestingly, the car’s engine will be the same as in the Veyron but will only sport 800BHP. Apparently, 200 get lost when adding 2 doors.


Rarely does Caterham make the news, except when they unleash new, wildly fun lightweight roadster, but unfortunately, Caterham’s found Graham Nearn died in late October. Nearn has been selling the then-titled Lotus 7 since its introduction in 1959, and then when the car was discontinued in 1973, Nearn bought the rights and has been producing the car ever since and in more exciting, evolving versions. You can even buy a kit and put a Caterham 7 together yourself. If you are not familiar with this brand, you should be!

Top Gear featured it in a segment awhile back:



Beyond the KM has previously marveled at the sales resiliency of the Ferrari nameplate. But even THIS economy has the prancing stallion kow-towing to the bear market of Wall Street.

Its third quarter results for 2009 showed revenues of 396 million euros (£359m) – down from 450m euros (£408m) in the same period last year. It sold 1454 cars, down 4.3 per cent year on year.

However, Ferrari announced that it has grown its market share in every market it monitors, against a drop in supercar sales of around 40 per cent.


Weekend entertainment: Tesla on Letterman and Coal power on 60 Minutes!

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Tesla’s Elon Musk on Late Night with David Letterman

60 Minutes on Coal power

European investment in green cars is all the rage!

Thursday, April 16th, 2009


Mercedes E-class BlueTec Hybrid

Mercedes E-class BlueTec Hybrid



Without a doubt, the EU has become the leader in improving the pollution problem for the automotive sector. Recently the U.S. put in a 27.3 mpg average fleet requirement for 2011. Please see: for the latest information and the impact analysis. But is the change enough to get us on the right track? How exactly do carmakers implement changes in their fleet to address the higher requirements?

The European Union defines specific emissions targets for the following 5 years as the following:


Weekly Energy Roundup

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009


On March 23, 2009, Martin LaMonica of CNET wrote:

Seeking to boost the U.S. clean-energy industry, President Obama on Monday announced $1.2 billion for science research at national labs and a proposal to extend a business tax credit for investments in research and development.

At an event at the White House, Obama told researchers and green-technology business people that their work was vital to revitalizing the U.S. economy and cutting the country’s dependence on foreign oil. About 120 researchers, lab directors, and CEOs from energy technology companies attended the event.

President Barack Obama at the White House speaking to researchers and clean-technology company CEOs.

“We need some inventiveness. Your country needs you to mount a historical effort to end, once and for all, our dependence on foreign oil,” Obama said. “Your country will support you, and your president will support you.”

Obama said that his administration’s budget proposes a 10-year extension to a tax credit for businesses that make investments in research and development. This tax credit has been in place in the past, but lacked a long-term commitment from the federal government, he said.

For every dollar that the government spends on this tax credit, it delivers two dollars to the economy, Obama said.

Obama also announced the availability of $1.2 billion in basic research at the Department of Energy’s national laboratories. In addition to money to upgrade facilities at national labs, grants are available for research in renewable energy, such as solar power and biofuels, as well as in nuclear energy, underground storage of carbon dioxide, and hydrogen.

It is in the same week that we have learned that a startup called Virent Energy is seeking round C venture capital funding for a plant in Wisconsin, which will be capable of of producing petroleum from sugar at a much more powerful 102 octane, diesel, and jet fuels. The solution for Virent is said to be joint partnerships due to the high cost of creating a 100-million-gallon-per-year plant: US$200 million. Critically, the company is not producing Ethanol, rather they are producing hydrocarbons.

In motor sports news, the Green Earth Technologies company is said to be producing a synthetic, and “green” motor oil for cars. Specifically, they are pushing the product on the International Motor Sports Association by making it the official motor oil. IMSA has pushed recently to be the “green racing series” with requirements that all cars run on one of four fuel systems: cellulosic E85, E10, clean sulfur-free diesel, or gas-electric hybrid. Will Porsche sever its relationship with MobileOne? Probably not, the announcement certainly stands to benefit the otherwise unknown Green Earth Technologies. Candace Lombardi of CNET blog network fills in the details.

A new engine to pay dividends

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

It is not every day that a car company reinvents the wheel, or in this case, the engine. Lotus thinks it has though with the implication that one engine can now run a variety of fuels with varying energy densities. There should also be fewer parts to break down as it is a mono-block construction eliminating the use of poppets.

Lotus' new Omnivore Engine

Lotus' new Omnivore Engine

From Lotus:

Lotus Engineering, the world-renowned automotive consultancy division of Lotus Cars Limited, unveils its latest research into engine efficiency at the 79th International Geneva Motor Show. The Omnivore engine concept has the potential to significantly increase fuel efficiency for sustainable alcohol based fuels, which increases the prospect of a greater amount of vehicle miles travelled using renewable fuels. On display will be the single cylinder research engine monoblock that demonstrates the novel architecture designed for high thermal efficiency when fuelled on any alcohol based fuel or gasoline.

The Omnivore concept features an innovative variable compression ratio system and uses a two-stroke operating cycle with direct fuel injection. It is ideally suited to flex-fuel operation with a higher degree of optimisation than is possible with existing four stroke engines.

The engine concept features a monoblock construction that blends the cylinder head and block together eliminating the need for a cylinder head gasket, improving durability and reducing weight. In this case, the application of a monoblock is facilitated by the absence of the requirement for poppet valves. A novel charge trapping valve in the exhaust port allows asymmetric timing of exhaust flow and continuous variation of the exhaust opening point.

The variable compression ratio is achieved by the use of a puck at the top of the combustion chamber. This simple, yet effective system moves up and down affecting the change in geometric compression depending on the load demands on the engine.

Mike Kimberley, Chief Executive Officer of Group Lotus plc said: “We are delighted to unveil this major milestone in the development of an engine configuration for a new breed of more efficient multi-fuel engines. The automotive sector is focusing on its environmental obligations to improve efficiency, minimise reliance on fossil fuels and reduce harmful emissions and Lotus continues to be an industry leader through our work on all aspects of future fuels. Sustainable alcohol based fuels have the potential to reduce the overall CO2 footprint of internal combustion engines towards zero and for this reason, need to be embraced as future fuels for road transport.”

In this collaboration with Queen’s University Belfast and Orbital Corporation Limited Australia, with sponsorship from DEFRA/DECC and DOE NI through the Renewables Materials LINK programme, Lotus Engineering is currently in the final stages of commissioning the Omnivore single-cylinder research engine. It uses the Orbital FlexDI™ fuel injection system which produces fine in-cylinder fuel preparation irrespective of fuel type, and together with air pre- mixing allows efficient two-stroke combustion and low-temperature starting, whilst offering singular opportunity for advanced HCCI control.

The Omnivore programme is another development of Lotus’ research into understanding the complex combustion processes involved in running an engine on mixtures of alcohol based fuels and gasoline, which included the Lotus Exige 270E Tri-fuel, unveiled at the International Geneva Motor Show in 2008. This research is vitally important for a successful transition from today’s fuels to the more efficient sustainable fuels of the future.

Geraint Castleton-White, Head of Powertrain at Lotus Engineering said, “The absence of poppet valves in two-stroke engines makes the incorporation of a variable compression ratio system relatively straightforward. Our research into these systems on four-stroke engines has led us to the conclusion that while thermodynamically it is a desirable technology to incorporate, practically it is very difficult, particularly taking into consideration production feasibility. This two-stroke engine could solve these practical difficulties and simultaneously permits a much larger range of compression ratio adjustment, with the potential to perform at a much higher efficiency when running on renewable fuels.”

Check it out, Beyond the KM’s new Hydrogen Car List

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009


We will be keeping this list updated with the latest cars that run on Hydrogen fuel. Check back soon!

LOTW: California’s hydrogen highway

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Of all of the people you might expect to ignore environmental concerns, a Humvee-driving Republican governor must rank fairly high on the list.

Without a doubt, he is the governor who best knows that environmental concerns rank near the top of priorities for his constituency.

This article comes on the heals of the Obama administration’s move to allow the states more leeway in how they pass and apply laws as they pertain to automakers’ emissions. This could pave way for more fuel efficient vehicles, including some that run on renewable fuels, such as hydrogen.

For more information on hydrogen cars, check out these links:

For more on the Honda Clarity, the only known hydrogen vehicle actively being sold by a major automaker, click here.

Economic failures = new car models for European automakers. Month in review.

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Audi R8

The economy is hurting and more and more carmakers are suffering. Not all are doing poorly, though. Audi, as an example reported record sales for 2008, with over 1,000,000 vehicles sold. Lamborghini, owned by the VW/Audi Group, also posted record sales for 2008. Both companies produce sports cars that retail at over US$100,000.

Let us examine the developments of the last month by automaker:

Porsche. There is no substitute for a strong economy. A poor economy negatively impacted sales at the sports car maker, and even a significantly revised 911 model did not save it from a virtual sales slump. Porsche is tighter with numbers than most companies, but while sales were slowing, the company hopes that new models in 2009 will help it combat slumping sales. A four-door car, the Panamera should hit showroom floors in the first half of 2009, while you can expect to drive a 2009 Boxster/Cayman with revised powertrain as soon as March.

In financial news the company announced the first week of January that they had bought an additional 8.16 per cent stake in VW worth 6.1bn Euro/US$8.2bn. Porsche now owns 50.76 per cent of VW Group but may gain further stake in VW, rising to 75 per cent in coming months (if all goes as planned).  In November, news came out that Germany’s upper house of parliament passed new laws regarding ownership of VW, despite European Commission rulings that such laws were illegal.

In November, the high profit-maker in the world gobbled up a stake, which sent hedge funds scrambled to recover from trading, which briefly left VW as the most valuable company in the world. Porsche’s finance team effectively practiced something called “cornering”. Let us not forget that Porsche is better as an investor than as a carmaker – though they are a damned good carmaker. In 2007, the company made 3.6 billion Euros on investments, and only a paltry 1 billion Euros on cars. At a 12 per cent profit margin, the decision to invest in VW stands financial positioning, and partly seeking a partner with whom to share technology development costs.

Still, everyone is watching the dollars and cents these days. Even Porsche has announced that is it pulling out of the American LeMans series for 2009 – in part. It is pulling the P2 team, but not pulling support for the 911 GT3 RSRs in the GT2 category.

Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes has finally announced the much-anticipated E-class for 2009. The new car replaces the round headlights with more rectangular ones, perhaps in the style of the C-class or a Lexus.


Porsche produces a diesel? Really?

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Porsche’s communications department has release information indicating that the company will in fact sell a diesel-powered version of the Cayenne SUV.

The benefit to Porsche? The obvious benefit is that consumer demand has finally forced even the sportiest of automakers to consider satisfying consumer demand for large vehicles that get 30 miles per gallon or more. As fuel prices increase over time, demand for vehicles that hit the wallet less, will increase. It’s simple economics.

Another benefit to Porsche is that a 30mpg car reduces the company’s overall emissions output. For the Cayenne, Porsche will source VW/Audi’s 3.0 litre TDI engine. This engine apparently produces 240bhp while creating 244g/km of carbon dioxide. Still not super environmental, but it’s a fair start for a sports car maker.

What’s not clear yet is if the car is coming to the USA. Imagine that with the US as the largest buyer of Porsche’s the company is considering this as an option, but American acceptance of diesel-powered cars has never been too great. Rest assured petrol prices will increase again in the not-so-distant future, at which time the case will be re-made for the fuel efficiency that diesel offers.

If it does come to the USA, imagine a price around $50,000. That is a $6K+ premium over the petrol Cayenne. At present, the UK edition will start at £40,250 and will be out in February 2009, just in time to get your wife a nice Valentine’s Day gift!

LOTW: How much is your trip to Tampa costing you?

Monday, October 6th, 2008



We’ve discovered a great new site that can help budget your costs for the next cross-country road trip.

To review the site, it’s a little slow at times, but if you have a 2000 or new car and have your itinerary planned out for your great drive across America, Cost2Drive can calculate, pretty accurately, the cost of driving from Phoenix to Los Angeles in a 2001 Honda Civic. The answer is of course: $35. The price for driving a $1.5mm Bugatti Veyron with more than 4 times the horsepower? $135. But guess what, you won’t get there any faster…at least not legally!

Porsche congestion follow-up

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Last week, Porsche and Boris Johnson’s London government announced that the £25/per day congestion charge that the the previous London government, headed by Ken Livingstone, has sought to impose would be overturned. A judicial review concluded that critical evidence suggested that the enormous charges, more than three times what is currently in place, would actually do more environmental damage, rather than less.

Porsche on congestion charge: the right move

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Now with direct injection and PDK for increased fuel economy!

There are three reasons that Porsche is concerned about London’s impending congestion charge. First the people don’t want it, second it affects the sales of Porsches, and because it unfairly punishes the people by raising money for the city of London through a sort of taxation without direct representation, and is therefore unlawful.

Another observation: Porsche is by no means the carmaker in European Union with the lower overall emissions, but let’s look at the numbers…

The 911 has a 3.6 liter H-6 engine this base Carrera has a combined cycle of 25.7 mpg, with CO2 emissions of 266g/km. The car also costs $73,000 US, or £61,620.

The 2.7 liter H-6 Boxster engine costs $46,000 US or £33,375. It however with it’s smaller engine gets a very reasonable 29.7 mpg on the combined cycle with 227 g/km of CO2 emissions. The 3.4 liter version of that engine produces just 254 g/km. These three models are sports cars. Competitor Ferrari on the other hand produces a V8 engine in the F430, which has output of 420 g/km – quite a lot- and gets only 15.4 miles per gallon. The V12 599 GTB that Ferrari makes produces 490 g/km and drinks a gallon in 13.2 miles.

A BMW that runs on pollution

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

No, it’s not April 1st. BMW’s engineers have done something seen only in Back to the Future: using pollution to fuel a car. Looking nothing like a modified DeLorean, the modified BMW 7 series has the ability to consume pollutants that typically occur in in their Hydrogen 7 model. The Hydrogen 7 model normal creates little pollution because the main resultant is water.

Biodiesel, Hydrogen, and now… Air?

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Of course it seems like something out of a Sci-Fi book. Hail the day when we can transport ourselves across the continents without ever stopping. How? Use “Air” of course! Take a look at MDS’ new Air Car:

Air Car

Well, the future is today and MDI Group of France (near Nice, if you want to visit) is leading the way to an air-powered future. Compressed Air that is. While petrol-based engines are based on fuel ignited in the engine, causing combustion, the compressed air-powered car is powered when the air expands in the cylinder – think expansion instead of explosion.

How to End the Oil Crisis

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Sorry, we haven’t posted lately, the holidays and Barrett-Jackson auction here in Scottsdale, AZ have kept things quite hectic. A return to normality has arrived – we hope!

Recently, we found a video so provocative and intriguing that EVERYONE should see this. The video discusses the realities of a change in energy infrastructure, and critically, the costs involved. We could summarize the video for you, but it is worth your time to see it.


Porsche Hybrid at LA Auto Show

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

At the LA Auto Show, Porsche announced an all-new version of the Cayenne SUV. What’s so different about this model? It is battery-powered. But this Cayenne is no Toyota Prius. Instead, this model is more practical, traveling at in excess of 75 KM/hour just on battery power! Revolutionary? Perhaps. Lighter on the the wallet? DEFINITELY!

Enjoy this brief introduction.

Yellow Spots on Your Car? It’s Bee pooh!

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

The L.A. Times posted a very interesting investigative report on those yellow/orange spots that sometimes show up on your car’s clear coat layer. You’ll have a different view of honey after you read this!

L.A. Times Investigates Car Spots

Enjoy this messy story…