Do You Know What the Car Company of the Future Should Look Like?

Michael Giberson

From the Steven Mufson article in the Washington Post, The Car of the Future — but at What Cost?:

Many members of Congress believe they know what the car company of the future should look like.

“A business model based on gas — a gas-guzzling past — is unacceptable,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last week. “We need a business model based on cars of the future, and we already know what that future is: the plug-in hybrid electric car.”

But the car company Schumer and other lawmakers envision for the future could turn out to be a money-losing operation, not part of a “sustainable U.S. auto industry” that President-elect Barack Obama and most members of Congress say they want to create.

That’s because car manufacturers still haven’t figured out how to produce hybrid and plug-in vehicles cheaply enough to make money on them….

In his “60 Minutes” interview on Nov. 16, Obama said that before backing a big loan package he wanted to be sure “that we are creating a bridge loan to somewhere as opposed to a bridge loan to nowhere.”

U.S. automakers have spent enough years fighting Washington-D.C.-based policymakers and regulators that they certainly know what they are asking for when they go to Washington asking for money. That they are, nonetheless, going to Washington and asking for money is a troubling sign.

And speaking of opportunities to subsidize the cars of the future, Randall Stross objects to the idea of giving federal money to Tesla Motors, maker of the high-end electric roadster.


3 thoughts on “Do You Know What the Car Company of the Future Should Look Like?

  1. What would the “car of the future” look like?

    I did some back of the envelope calculating to figure it out. The answer in a Chevy Malibu “mild” hybrid, with a 6 speed transmission, with a “homogenous charge compression ignition” engine.

    Stay with me here.

    In 2008, Chevy offered a “mild” hybrid Malibu, at about an $1800 premium over a standard one. Both had 4 speed automatic transmissions. The mild hybrid increased city and highway mileage by 10%.

    For 2009, Chevy has a different hybrid technology (two-mode) in the Malibu. It is a more expensive technology, so ignore it for now.

    For 2009, Chevy offers a 6 speed transmission in the Malibu. It increases both city and highway mileage by a little more than 10%. It is a $600 option.

    According to my link, HCCI is good for a 10 to 15% improvement in mileage.

    GM currently equips the Malibu with a 2.4L engine. The same engine is available in 2.2, 2.0, and 1.8L varieties. To really get the maximum mileage, we want the 1.8. Figure that it increases mileage another 5%.

    Doing the math, I get a vehicle that gets 35 mpg combined (30 city, 40 highway). 35 mpg is the required CAFE standard in 2020. The premium over a base Malibu is about $3000.

    That’s the car of the future (mild hybrid, smaller engine, less power, more gears in the transmission, and HCCI). Oh, and 15% more expensive than a car today.

  2. What would the “car of the future” look like?

    I did some back of the envelope calculating to figure it out. The answer in a Chevy Malibu “mild” hybrid, with a 6 speed transmission, with a “homogenous charge compression ignition” engine.

    Stay with me here.

    In 2008, Chevy offered a “mild” hybrid Malibu, at about an $1800 premium over a standard one. Both had 4 speed automatic transmissions. The mild hybrid increased city and highway mileage by 10%.

    For 2009, Chevy has a different hybrid technology (two-mode) in the Malibu. It is a more expensive technology, so ignore it for now.

    For 2009, Chevy offers a 6 speed transmission in the Malibu. It increases both city and highway mileage by a little more than 10%. It is a $600 option.

    According to my link, HCCI is good for a 10 to 15% improvement in mileage.

    GM currently equips the Malibu with a 2.4L engine. The same engine is available in 2.2, 2.0, and 1.8L varieties. To really get the maximum mileage, we want the 1.8. Figure that it increases mileage another 5%.

    Doing the math, I get a vehicle that gets 35 mpg combined (30 city, 40 highway). 35 mpg is the required CAFE standard in 2020. The premium over a base Malibu is about $3000.

    That’s the car of the future (mild hybrid, smaller engine, less power, more gears in the transmission, and HCCI). Oh, and 15% more expensive than a car today.

  3. Bailouts and stimuli: the hubris of centralized control

    Lynne Kiesling Last Monday Mike asked “do you know what the car company of the future should look like?” The various politicians and bureaucrats who have been wrangling over the auto bailout requests think they do. The management of the…

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