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autoPOLIS report suggests tackling automotive environmental and energy problems from the market end first, rather than by technology push; need for a new transportation model

Wormald’s roadmap to an 80% reduction in automotive GHG by 2050. Source: Wormald 2011. Click to enlarge.

Addressing automotive environmental and energy supply problems would be better done by working from the market end first, rather than through technology push, according to a recent report by Dr John Wormald, Managing Partner of autoPOLIS, an automotive consultancy.

The report, “Hot, thirsty and crowded: are the New Vehicle Technologies the Answer?”, starts by stipulating that the automotive industry globally has been a “runaway success”, with the current parc of some 800 million units to expand to some 2 billion by the year 2050. However, Wormald notes, “We are now running into physical limits to the growth of motorized mobility.”

The planet is getting hotter and hotter, because of man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, notably CO2. The growing vehicle parc is the largest consumer of crude oil, which is starting to run out. The highway infrastructure is increasingly saturated, with a decreasing appetite for building new roads.

There will ultimately have to be a new transportation model. This will clearly have to be consistent with the new energy infrastructures and these cannot come about quickly. It will have to be integrated into the new habitats and be consistent with them, which is a long-term project. It will be solution-based, by which I mean sets of transport offerings, not just selling people cars and letting them get on with it. It will be systems-led. This sounds like another innocuous platitude but the implications are profound, in terms of who has access to, and control over, the market. New technologies will be deployed, and not just on board the vehicles. There will very likely be a new set of leaders, different from the vehicle manufacturers of today.

...serious negative externalities have moved in on the industry. The supply risks inherent to a non-diversified primary energy source—98% of road vehicles are propelled by petroleum-based fuels—are beginning to be felt again, as they were during the Oil Shocks of 1973-4 and 1979. There are serious supply-side inelasticies in the oil industry, which cause wild fluctuations in the price of oil. We have a non-transparent and volatile oil market, not helped by the lack of scrutiny over the national oil companies within OPEC. There are the obvious geopolitical tensions. And, lastly, the fact is, the internal combustion engine is not that good on tank-to-wheels (TTW) efficiency in transients. Which is why we need those increasingly complex transmissions and ever more sophisticated driveline controls.

—“Hot, thirsty and crowded”

While electrification is generating much excitement in the industry today, Wormald notes, the catch is that electricity is difficult to store in any quantity; hydrogen fuel cells remain very costly and require a new generation and distribution infrastructure; and carrier energy has to be generated from primary energy sources. That latter point is where the problems lie, Wormald says.

...the Electrification Coalition wants 75% of US vehicle miles traveled per year to be electric by 2040. This would require an extremely rapid build-up of the EV + PHEV parc, to reach 75% by the same date. To get there means that 90% of new vehicle sales would have to be EV + PHEV by 2030. This is plainly unrealistic. The real motivation is geo-political, to eliminate US dependence on imported oil, with no regard for the environmental consequences. Blow the tops off all those mountains in Appalachia, burn that coal!

—“Hot, thirsty and crowded”

“China may have to lead the way, given the problems it faces with the environment and energy supply.”

Wormald suggests that the current enthusiasm for EVs is a poor choice of time and circumstance. Although seriously disadvantaged in the short term, EVs will likely come into their own “later on”. Short term advantages to EVs include zero tailpipe emissions (which, however, are only being transferred to the power station); silence; regenerative braking, which is limited by battery charging rates; and energy cost (with no one mentioning that electricity is much less taxed than are motor fuels).

The short-term disadvantages are severe, Wormald says: cost (which leasing can disguise but not change, like a sub-prime mortgage); complete uncertainty about residuals (which makes leasing risky for its providers); limited range; long recharging times; and limited charging point networks.

Long-term, it could all reverse: the match to decarbonized and intelligent electricity supply is potentially very beneficial; petroleum-based fuels will become scarce and expensive at some point in time; EVs could form the basis for quite new transportation systems. The uncertainties perhaps have less to do with technology than with the availability, cost and timing of alternative primary energy sources. The fossil and renewable energies cost curves will cross, but at lower volumes and higher prices than people like to think, and not all that soon.

—“Hot, thirsty and crowded”

Selecting the short-term disadvantage of limited range as an example, Wormald suggests that the range problem can be overcome, if consumers accept specialization of vehicles by role.

We have become accustomed to buying cars for their universality, rather than being the best fit for a specific use, which becomes possible with multiple car ownership. The key is to get people to use smaller cars for commuting and shopping trips, rather than buying the largest they can afford.

—“Hot, thirsty and crowded”

Wormald suggests a three-stage market-focused roadmap to reach an 80% reduction in automotive GHG by 2050:

  1. 20% GHG reduction in 5–10 years. Stage 1 involves existing technologies but smaller, slower vehicles, some limited modal shifts and modest restrictions on driving.

  2. 50% GHG reduction in 10–20 years. Stage 2 entails strong specialization of vehicles—individual, shared and public—which opens the door to EVs and matches decarbonization of electricity better, with new transportation packages and more planning and control of transport networks and infrastructure.

  3. 80% reduction 20-50 years out. Stage 3 involves new habitats and mobility habits, and a decoupling of mobility from GDP growth.

Ultimately, in Stage 3, we have to control the demand for mobility itself, through habitats such as those, which already exists in Freiburg-im-Breisgau in the Black Forest, where housing is high-density and energy efficient. It is close to the town center and linked to it by efficient and convenient public transport. It offers a far more neighborly and civilized form of life than spread-out suburbs, wholly dependent on motorization. In crowded Asia, it is in fact the only realistic option.

We cannot entirely dispense with individual motorized mobility but we can maintain it in a much more sustainable form, through new systems approaches.

—“Hot, thirsty and crowded”




not going to happen.
miles travelled in light-duty vehicles will increase with population, but miles travelled per gallon of gas will decrease, then miles travelled per CO2 eq. will decrease. Unfortunately, 2010 to 2020 will not see reductions in tailpipe CO2, then a drastic drop-off as electrification and range-extending technology bites into vehicle mobility followed by a drop off of electrical/energy source CO2. But not soon. Vehicle and its energy sources will see CO2 emissions straddling miles travelled for the next 20 years and that's ok because if we impose hard regulations and restrictions now, so will innovation be stifled. And it is technology that will save up in the long-term not conservation and self-denial.


Stage 1 of this proposal translates into gas powered golf carts.

Stage 2 elctric powerd gas carts at twice the price of the gas powered variety.

Stage 3 just say no to personal transportation for the masses but the elites and wealthy (upper classes) may carry on as before.

This reflects the remarkable nonsense one ends up with when social engineers displace the real engineers.


This is a consulting group and they bring up some realities. Right now, people are thinking in terms of their budget, so when you tell them they plug in and don't pay for high priced fuel, they pay attention.

Personal budget interest is not necessarily good national policy. It comes from the idea that if everyone just takes care of themselves, the aggregate will be the good of everyone. That is not a policy plan, but a market driven wish.


Affordability played a major role in house ownership. Non-millionaires can no longer afford large $1+M houses. The same thing will happen with large over sized heavy gas guzzlers. It is just a matter of time before liquid fuel goes well over $5/gal and 2+ tonnes gas guzzlers are taken over by banks and other financial institutions.

Smaller, lighter, more efficient vehicles will be in demand soon in many areas. Rebuilding existing roads and bridges will demand huge investments and vehicle owners will have to pay for it. People with heavier vehicles will have to pay more through higher gas tax, registration fees, usage fees etc.

Even deniers will feel the crunch and may have to change their mind.


I have an issue with this statement: "Short term advantages to EVs include zero tailpipe emissions (which, however, are only being transferred to the power station)"

Tailpipe emissions are not just transferred to the power station. They are reduced in the process by the fact that electric drives are far more efficient than ICEs. Even if somewhere in the northern hemisphere there lurks a mythical electric vehicle that is somehow 100% coal powered (impossible since electric grids use a mix of sources like natural gas and hydropower) that car would STILL be more energy efficient and less polluting than a comparable gas car. Why? Over 80 percent of an all-electric vehicle's stored energy is applied to forward momentum. Contrast that sort of astonishing efficiency to your average internal combustion car in which only 18 to 32 percent of total energy produced by the engine actually moves the car. (even a hybrid is only about 42% efficient) Energy is wastefully lost to heat, friction and the vibration of hundreds of moving parts involved in the combustion process. That energy loss translates directly to needless and almost incalculable tailpipe pollution.

And if that weren't enough: As clean as ICEVs have gotten in recent years it is still easier to put CCS on a few hundred stationary smokestacks than a hundred million mobile tailpipes.


I think that's possible, Harvey, but that also poses problems it seems to me.

Last week, for instance, GM's CEO told CNBC that a sustained national gasoline average cost of $4.50 would be "very detrimental" to the US auto industry. Previously, at the Geneva Auto Show, the same CEO told reporters that the auto industry didn't learn enough from the 2008 gas spike.

Consequently, $5.00 gas might provide the impetus to greatly affect consumer choices, but without the profit margins of the light duty truck space, can the US auto industry afford US manufacturing?

Yet, if gas prices are not sustained above $4.00, minimally, most consumers just won't care enough about fuel economy to achieve any major transition.

Ultimately, if gas hits $5.00 for good any time soon, I'm gonna invest in one of those Chinese electric scooter companies, not one of the Big 3.


As long as the U.S. car companies continue to make large trucks and SUVs that people buy in great enough numbers we will continue to use more oil. I calculate that 1 million barrels per day of oil extra are used due to the great number of these large vehicle that are on the road.

30 years ago, the number of large SUVs sold were a small percentage of all vehicles sold each year. Each year saw an increase in that percentage and the mileage numbers were rigged by saying they were FFV as if it was measured in miles per gallon of gasoline. Very few of those FFV large SUVs ever run E85, there are not enough pumps even if they wanted to.


"Ultimately, in Stage 3, we have to control the demand for mobility itself, through habitats such as those, which already exists in Freiburg-im-Breisgau in the Black Forest, where housing is high-density and energy efficient."

This sounds a lot like Mr. Wormald's book title: "Hot, Thirsty and Crowded." High density housing aka "cities" will always exist. Technical evolution makes city building materials and design more energy efficient. However, architectural aesthetics plays a major role in city growth and must never be sacrificed to mere efficiency.

Merely compressing population into inner cities to avoid building roads and suburbs produces a whole new set of urban problems (density related.) Families and new parents will always resist living in dense city environments because they want children to grow up with more than canned green spaces. Grass, trees, playgrounds and ball fields will always be attractive to families.

Like many green agendas, Mr. Wormald disguises his real concern - population, in an automotive wrapper. And EV/PHEV representing 90% sales by 2030 is NOT unrealistic. With $4.50 gas here now we can expect the flow of new PHEV buyers to increase rapidly.

Of course Mr. Wormald's biggest failing is to key his fifty year plan to GHG reduction - for which there is little or no political or public support these days. Far better to ride the wave of energy independence and domestic job creation - than failed global warming.


People will not give up the suburbs until they have to and right now they do not have to. This was the whole push after WWII, live out in the country and work in the city. Then gasoline cost 20 cents per gallon and the average car got 6 mpg, but we had lots of oil, so who cared? Until they ran into traffic jams, long commutes and air pollution, be careful what you wish for because everyone else is wishing the same things.


"Last week, for instance, GM's CEO told CNBC that a sustained national gasoline average cost of $4.50 would be "very detrimental" to the US auto industry."

I'm paying $5.19/USgal up here in Canada and we're still buying Fords and GMs.


dah...can the US auto industry afford US manufacturing (special for smaller vehicles)?.

The answer is probably NOT. Look at what happened to TV, Radios, Computers, Shoes, Cell phones, Telephones, etc etc. The majority is no longer built in USA. E-vehicles (starting with the smaller models) have a very high probability to follow the same route.

SJC....we will soon learn that suburbs could continue to exist with more suburban e-trains and city subways to transport people in and out of the city cores more efficiently. More highways is not the best solution.

Roger Pham

Mr. Wormald's concern is already put in practice in Beijing wherein new car license plates are issued in very limited numbers of only 1 for every 23 prostective car buyers. This means that most new car-owner-wannabe won't be able to buy a car.
In Japan, new car buyers must demonstrate availability of home car parking spot before they are allowed to buy a new car.

The traffic congestion due to overusage of automobiles is a big problem in most large metropolitan areas in the USA. A substantial mileage tax would be nice to help reduce the congestion problem while bringing much-needed revenues to local governments that are running severe budget deficits. This will force people to carpool or to use public transportation, or move closer to the place of employment.

Fortunately, advancements in cell-phone and computer networking can make GPS-assisted computerized door-to-door car pooling or shuttle service much easier, convenient, and cost effective. It generally costs the UPS no more $2-$3 to deliver a large parcel from their local warehouse to a private address, and this could be an indication of the cost of a one-way door-to-door pick-up and drop-off from home to arrive at the office. How about contracting UPS and FedEx to modify their trucks to carry people...15 passengers per truck...picking up and dropping off people on schedule or on demand using automated service from an Iphone or a PC. It would cost more for an on-demand pickup, but most people can schedule ahead of time when they will go shopping or to see the doctors.

"dah...can the US auto industry afford US manufacturing (special for smaller vehicles)?

There is no other way! The gov. and the people must get together to make it happen. The gov. has already done its share by bailing out it's up to the people to buy GM products. People may still want to buy large cars, but save them for weekend pleasure trips.


"I'm paying $5.19/USgal up here in Canada and we're still buying Fords and GMs."

ai vin, you have the productivity of a healthy population through universal health care. Also, your leaders weren't stupid enough to send armies overseas as target practice at $2700 per day per soldier times 100,000s times decades.

GM has maintained the same mileage poor/truck heavy product line because they know they can wipe out any debt through bailout.


As a recent convert from Autoblog Green, I see that Green Car Congress republishes garbage findings too. The (republished) article starts with assumptions that indicate a lack of objectivity.




Who is going to pay for all the etrains and subways, the country is broke.



Canadians have the same problems with corruption as everyone else. Provinces like BC are run by mafia-style rule. Insurance monopolies control government which employs far more people than industry.

And their vast, natural resources are exploited, reduced and sold to foreign buyers - all out of sight or accounting of the general public.

Canada is too small and clever to send their tiny military off on foreign adventures. And they got their own oil.

HarveyD could recover $$$$$B you gave away to Banks-Insurances-Wall Street and others in the last 2+ years and build suburban e-trains with it.

If it is not enough you could stop giving away $$$B to oil producers, corn/ethanol producers and use does funds too.

It still not enough, you could do away with oil wars and use those $$$B to build local electrified tracks and trains.

It is rather a matter of using the proper priorities.


Woulda, coulda, shoulda, same old wishfulness. The fact is it wasn't and probably won't. Go with what is possible and what will actually work.

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