Germany: Searching for the Holy Grail of the Zero Emission Engine

As The Guardian reports, Germany’s world-class cadre of car designers are searching for the holy grail – a zero-emission car that wins over the world’s petrol heads. “There are so many concepts,” said one Audi executive. “We’re not sure what the customer is willing to pay for.” At the moment, even with oil prices soaring, the cost of a battery pack adds €10-15,000 to the cost of an electric vehicle, and even then it has a limited range.

“We’ve not yet gone far enough to break through with this technology,” said Audi. “People only change to new technology if they have all the benefits of the old plus something extra at the same cost. Progress is being made in reducing the weight of the car through carbon fibre, but the key to winning the hearts of motorists is coming up with a battery that lasts for the equivalent time of a tank of petrol.

While Renault-Nissan has led the way with its €27,000 Leaf, already on the market, with the cheaper Zoe to follow soon, BMW is the only manufacturer that has decided to design an electric car from scratch, building it around new electric components rather than converting existing conventional cars. Berlin’s Free University, meanwhile, has pioneered a “self-driving” car. It uses cameras, laser scanners, heat sensors and satellite navigation to sense other cars, pedestrians and physical obstacles. Professor Raul Rojas reckons the truly automatic car is the vehicle of the future. “The cars of today,” he said, “are the horses of yesterday.”


Can’t wait to see the car concepts of the future conquer the streets. Electro is good but has to be linked to renewable energy production (and storage!). My ideal? Sun power absorbing car roof material, making cars the long awaited environment friendly perpetuum mobile… House roofs, walls etc should make for a decent source, too. In the meantime I am happy to walk to the supermarket next door (instead of driving, something truly suspicious to my New Zealand neighbours). I also use the bus to work – an option not very obvious to most commuters over here either.

Picture credit: cliff1066TM, creative commons

2 thoughts on “Germany: Searching for the Holy Grail of the Zero Emission Engine

  1. Hang on – haven’t Audi already produced a hydrogen powered prototype? We’re just waiting on responsibly manufactured hydrogen fuel availability. It isn’t even difficult all we need is electricity to add electrons to water and split oxygen out of H2O and we have it.
    1. Any Beach Bum by the seaside with a wave generator can do it. Hydrogen isolated from the sea looks almost immediately doable – isolated by the sea, transported to the fuel outlets – potentially an export from island communities.
    2. Swamp gas is basically Hydrogen with some nasty smelling Sulfur compounds. Queensland University have years ago worked out how to tweak algae to produce swamp gas without the unpleasant smells in brew tanks.
    It is as if we are teetering on the edge of change but big money doesn’t know which way to invest. Most want quick sure return for their outlay which is why coal seam gas has taken off despite the environmental horror of fraccing processes. (See Gas lands) Which is why we can’t trust money people to direct investment in the low carbon economy through carbon trading. We’ve got to see clearly what we want out of the economy and demand no-waste economic processes, Electric cars are an important element but the seem to require building new infrastructure whereas algal bio fuels and hydrogen gas fuel can slot into existing infrastructure set up for petroleum and LPG . Which way will the market jump? It is so frustrating to see so many brilliant potential solutions being ignored by the big manufacturers.

  2. Sorry Florian I forgot to agree with you about the photovoltaic car roof concept. I was going to add that Tesla electric vehicles top up their batteries by using the brakes to generate more electricity which increases their range for each charge. Photovoltaic paneled roof would extend the range further.

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