When this week EU commission, EU parliament and member states agreed on a proposal for roadmap to reduce CO2 emission, it did not take long until stakeholders launched a cacophony of different voices. In most cases they sounded off their decline of the plans for the most different reasons. As usual, the industry cried that the EU plans to reduce the greenhouse gas emission gradually to 120 grams per kilometer went too far and would ruin the industry, particularly against the background of the current downturn. Environmentalists, in contrast, criticized the plans: They fell short of the technological potential and with this roadmap, end users will have to content with sub-optimal vehicles for many years to come, they argued.
As usual, the German automotive industry was one of the most audible groups, criticizing the agreement for imposing limits too fast and too strict. In the current situation such a roadmap would put too much a burden on the car manufacturers, German manufacturers with a tendency toward the luxury side of the model spectrum complained.
I think the proposal is a good compromise. It helps to get the gas emissions down while it does not expect the impossible from the car vendors. The German industry which produces many overpowered environmental hogs will have to rethink and reposition itself, since on the long run there won't be any alternative to reducing fuel consumption and, along with it, greenhouse gas emission. After all, electronic helpers from fuel injection control to smart navigation and "soft" incentives for careful driving such as the eco:Drive software that can be installed on Fiat's Blue&Me system offer a huge potential to effectively reduce fuel consumption and noxious emission.
The field trial recently launched in Berlin shows even a wider perspective. As reported, BMW and Vattenfall jointly try to find ways how electric cars can be used in everyday environments. An interesting aspect of this trial is the benefit electric energy provider Vattenfall will gain through the experiment: The company will use the experience and the data gathered from the field test to find ways how electric cars can be used as variable loads in a smart grid when they charge their batteries. The problem for them is how they can integrate variable energy sources such as windmills into the grid. Electric cars could offer a good way to balance out these fluctuations since during the charging cycle they represent a kind of "low-priority load" if the wind takes a break and the power generated by the windmills gets low, the charging e-cars could work as disposable quantity. And as long the power for these cars is generated by windmills or solar power plants, it won't generate any emissions at all.
So as one can see, there are more ways to get the emissions down than the automotive industry admits. Nevertheless, the fact that one of the parties involved in the Berlin field trial is an automotive OEM is encouraging.