Volvo has become the latest European manufacturer to join the hybrid parade, with a joint- venture program with the Swedish power company Vattenfall. Production of Volvo “plug-in” hybrids are coming in 2012. This is well behind the auto industry’s hybridization, which has been underway for more than a decade now, with Toyota producing its third generation of Prius, while Honda is on its second generation Insight.
“There is no doubt that the environmental issue is at the very top of Volvo Cars’ product development agenda right now,” says Stephen Odell, CEO of Volvo Cars. “Carbon dioxide emissions from our cars will be drastically reduced by the plan we are now implementing and our aggressive electrification strategy will put us in a leading position when it comes to environmentally optimized passenger transport.”
What Odell is leaving out is the quite visible hand of European regulation governing carbon dioxide, which is forcing all makers to downsize cars, and produce electric cars to get “Super Credits” to allow them to continue to produce vehicles that resemble the ones we know today. More than a dozen hybrid and full electric vehicle models are slated for release by 2010. This includes new vehicles from Ford, Daimler, BMW, Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, and Opel.
EU and CO2
The European Union is moving ahead — over automakers’ protests — with new CO2 standards for passenger cars that dictate a reduction in average CO2 emissions from new cars to 120 g/km. Fewer than 9% of the cars sold in the EU in 2006 met this level of emissions. The costs of moving towards CO2 of 120 g/km by 2012 through vehicle technology are estimated at about €3,600 ($5,108) on an average per car. (The EU does not recognize light trucks as we do in the U.S., just cars and commercial vehicles. And naturally there are complicated credits and exemptions or special treatment for cars bought by the wealthy.) (more…)