European Automakers Using Climate Alarmism To Sell E-Vehicles
Europe’s petroleum phase-out planners have long been arch-reifiers of the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis.
Their enlistment of the European auto industry may prove a coup de grace. Historians may pick 2019 as the year European climate alarmism passed a point of no return.
During the 1970s oil crisis, European governments devised stratagems to reduce oil consumption. These involved phasing-out oil-fueled electrical generation; improving public transit; and imposing vehicle fuel efficiency standards.
Much hope was placed in bio-fueled and hydrogen-fueled vehicles…in electric vehicles (EVs), not so much.
One group bucking the pessimistic consensus on EVs later became AVERE (European Association for Electromobility). AVERE recalls its inspiration thusly:
In the early 1970s, the first oil shock shook the planet. The blazing price of oil barrels was starting to create panic into the households around the world and at the same time, the interest in ecology and the transition to a more rationale use fossil fuels were blooming.
In 1974, AVERE founder Professor Gaston Maggetto launched an engineering sub-department within Brussels Free University to research EVs. They built a prototype for the 1984 Parisian EV Symposium.
Maggetto’s team drove their EV from Brussels to Paris (310 kilometers); arriving exhausted but triumphant after a 20-hour trip. Their car could hit 30 kph but couldn’t hold this for long. Such was the state-of-the-art European electromobility circa 1984.
During the 1990s electromobility progress came from Japan. Post-2000 lithium battery breakthroughs re-awoke AVERE’s dream. EV adoption was further aided by plug-in hybrid EV designs wherein small internal combustion engines recharge the vehicle’s batteries and/or co-power the vehicle’s drivetrain.
After decades of obscurity AVERE is now:
“…a recognized actor in the discussions and developments of EU policies related to electromobility. Its voice is heard at the highest level of the policymaking world.”
AVERE hubs a network of 1,000 member organizations (EV aficionados, green NGOs, and carmakers). Europe hosts a dozen national AVERE associations. AVERE belongs to the World Electric Vehicle Association and publishes the World Electric Vehicle Journal.
Far more effective than AVERE, in pressuring European governments into facilitating electromobility, is ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers Association).
ACEA represents 15 car, truck, van and bus makers. While ACEA entertains foreign members (Ford, Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai), Europe’s de facto auto lobby consists of seven Euro-centric firms: BMW, Groupe PSA, Daimler, Groupe Renault, VW Group, Volvo Cars, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Each is committed to electromobility; some irreversibly so.
Munich-headquartered BMW is the world’s 12th largest carmaker. BMW’s 135,000 employees generate annual revenues of $110 billion.
Most revenues come from annual sales of over two million BMW cars, but BMW also owns Rolls Royce and Mini and produces a popular motorcycle line. BMW’s 30 production facilities spread across 14 countries.
Stefan Quandt and Susanne (Quandt) Klatten own 29% and 21% of BMW shares respectively. (Each is worth over $20 billion.) Susanne may be the German Christian Democrat Party’s largest donor.
Since 1999 BMW has topped the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. BMW champions the UN Environment Programme and the World Council for Sustainable Business Development.
BMW unveiled its EV brand, BMWi, at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. Its fully electric i3, and plug-in hybrid i8, models went into production in 2013/4. From 2013 to 2017 BMW’s cumulative EV sales were 157,000 units. Its EV sales in 2018 were 143,000.
BMW’s 2020 line-up includes 10 EV offerings. BMW plans to have 12 fully electrics and 13 plug-in hybrids on the market by 2025. Its line-up of exclusively internal combustion engine models will be halved.
Amongst BMW’s recent battery production investments is a $4.6 billion joint venture with Northvolt to build batteries in Sweden. Another joint venture with Northvolt will set-up a Europe-wide battery recycling operation.
BMW’s motto is: “Leading Electrification.”
Paris-headquartered Groupe PSA conducts business under the Peugeot, Citroen, Opel, and Vauxhall brands. The Peugeot family, and the Chinese and French governments, each own 13.7% of Groupe PSA stock. Thierry Peugeot chairs the Supervisory Board.
Groupe PSA is the second largest Europe-based auto manufacturer. Of 3.9 million cars sold last year, 3.1 million were sold in Europe. The company’s 211,000 employees mostly work in Europe.
Groupe PSA spends 9% of its turnover on research and development. Its R&D focus is electromobility.
Every 2019 Groupe PSA model has either an all-electric or plug-in hybrid version. Fifteen new EVs will roll out in 2019 and 2020. By 2025 PSA will produce only EVs.
Groupe PSA soothsayers acknowledge that Europeans bought only 280,000 EVs in 2017, but foretell this figure increasing 12-fold by 2025. They foresee plug-in hybrids accounting for 50% of all new European car sales by 2025.
From their Stuttgart offices, Daimler execs command 300,000 employees. While renowned for its Mercedes brand, Daimler owns stakes in a dozen automotive firms and ventures; notably a partnership with Geely that produces Smart EVs in China.
Daimler recently purchased a stake in US battery manufacturer, Sila Nano. Daimler also just finished constructing the first of 8 planned Daimler-owned battery plants.
In December 2018, Daimler announced a list of investments, totaling $23 billion, aimed at meeting their battery needs until 2030.
Daimler is the frontrunner in electric trucks and buses. Models include: Freightliner eM2, eCascadia, eCitaro, eActros, and eFuso.
From 18-wheelers to luxury sedans Daimler hopes to offer 130 EV variants by 2022. Daimler anticipates EVs hitting 25% of company sales by 2025.
“We are on our way to a carbon-free future mobility.”
Groupe Renault is a senior partner in the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance that sells 11 million vehicles annually (one of nine new vehicles world-over).
Groupe Renault alone sells four million units annually including 700,000 in France where it enjoys a 26% market share. Of Groupe Renault’s 183,000 employees, 75,000 work in France.
Groupe Renault is Number 1 across Europe for fully electric EV sales. Here they maintain a 25% market share with their Zoe, Twizy, and Kangoo offerings. From 2011 to 2018 the company sold 200,000 fully electric EVs in Europe; 100,000 in France.
The company is bullish on its new Clio E-tech hybrid; even more so on their electric vans and light commercial vehicles – a niche where they’ve captured half of all European sales.
Groupe Renault will be selling 12 plug-in hybrids and 8 fully electric models by 2022. By that year EVs should constitute 10% of company sales.
Groupe Renault’s “fight against global warming” sponsors pronouncements like:
“Electric power is the real breakthrough solution for countering climate change because electric cars emit no CO2 while driving.”
Groupe Renault views EVs as part of the transition to “the complete electronic economy.” They are developing systems whereby batteries in parked EVs will store surplus renewable electricity output.
Their new cars have apps showing where the nearest chargers are along with up-to-the-second data on fluctuating electricity prices.
VW Group merged with Porsche in 2011. The Porsche-Piech clan owns 32% of the amalgamated company’s equity; 53% of its voting shares. The State of Lower Saxony and Emir of Qatar hold respective equity positions of 12% and 15%.
VW Group operates under 12 brands including VW, Audi, Bentley, Scania, SEAT, Skoda, and Porsche. VW Group has 302,000 employees (642,000 counting Chinese joint ventures).
VW Group announced its electromobility program in 2017, accompanied by requiems for the internal combustion engine. The same technological backbone – the “MEB” modular electric matrix – will be used in most VW Group brands.
By 2021 VW Group will roll out 8 new fully electric models. The company has 40 EVs in various stages of development. By 2030 all 300 VW Group models will have electric options.
Present hype is concentrated onto four new I.D. models of which they hope to sell 330,000 this year. I.D.s promise battery-driven ranges exceeding 300 kilometers. (The newest Porsche promises to receive a 100-kilometer charge in 4 minutes.)
VWG plans to sell three million EVs yearly by 2025. In that year, EVs should exceed a quarter of VWG sales. VWG recently signed battery-purchasing contracts worth $48 billion.
AB Volvo sold Volvo Cars to Ford in 1999 who flipped it to Li Shufu, owner of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd, in 2010. (Mr. Li also owns 9% of Daimler.)
Volvo Cars maintain offices and production facilities in Sweden, however, parallel headquarters have been established in Shang Hai to oversee Chinese operations which include two new plants. Half of Volvo Cars’ 650,000 new vehicles in 2018 were sold in Europe (20% in China; 15% in the USA).
In 2017, Volvo Cars announced that starting in 2019 all models will have electric motors, making Volvo the first major carmaker to end production of internal combustion engine-only cars. After 2025 most Volvo Car sales should be fully electric.
For its part, heavy equipment builder AB Volvo is pushing a line of electric commuter buses.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is 30% owned by Exor NV which is 53% owned by the Agnelli family. FCA owns Fiat, Alfa Romero, Chrysler, Jeep, Lancia, Ram Trucks, and Maserati, plus several auto parts companies including MOPAR.
Last year’s revenues of 113 billion euros came mostly from North America. Half its 200,000 employees work in North America.
This American connection explains why, of the European majors, FCA is least committed to electromobility. They offer “mild hybrid” options in their Jeep Wrangler and Ram 1500 models but these aren’t “EVs.” Their marquis EV, the fully electric Fiat 500e, is selling poorly.
On the other hand, FCA is a world leader in ultra-fuel-efficient, sub-compact cars and leads Europe in compressed natural gas (CNG) car sales. Fiat sells 1.3 million sub-compacts a year globally; and has sold 740,000 CNGs across Europe (mainly in Italy) since 1997.
As with EVs CNGs are pitched as climate saviors. FCA claims CNGs emit 23% less CO2 than gasoline-powered vehicles of similar sizes. There’s a big push in Italy toward CNGs. FCA further boosts its climate creds with its ethanol flex-fuel cars; popular in Brazil.
While the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) moils maximum mileage from the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis, they harbor no illusions about relying on appeals to eco-consciences to sell EVs.
In April 2019, ACEA Secretary General Erik Jonnaert bemoaned:
“Meeting the 2021 CO2 targets – not to mention the extremely stringent 2025 and 2030 targets that were agreed to recently – will require a much stronger uptake in alternatively-powered vehicles… However, the reality is that customers are not rushing to buy these vehicles in large numbers.”
Motorists eschew electromobility because EVs remain pricier than comparable internal combustion engine cars; and because EVs lack the range of internal combustion engine cars – a problem Jonnaert re-frames as: “lack of public re-charging points.”
ACEA recommends overcoming customer resistance through wartime levels of government intrusion; starting with purchase incentives. European governments already facilitate EV sales with cash rebates and tax exemptions.
Some governments issue “E” license plates entitling drivers to free parking, bus lane access, and toll waivers. Some provide free charging.
In 2013 Norway sought 50,000 EVs on its roads by 2018. Through rebates and exemptions, they achieved this goal three years early; albeit at substantial cost to the treasury.
Not all Norwegians are okay with this. The program is being tapered back. Nevertheless, over 50% of new vehicle sales in Norway are now EVs.
In 2010 the German Government announced a goal of 1 million German EV owners by 2020. They initially rejected cash rebates in favor of R&D grants to German carmakers. (Rebates were seen as gifts to Japanese carmakers.)
After 2016 Germany began offering purchase subsidies of $4,500 for fully electrics, and $3,500 euros for plug-in hybrids.
French consumers receive enviro-bonuses on select EVs of $7,000; rising to $12,500 if gasoline or diesel vehicles are traded-in.
Regarding public re-charging facilities, ACEA is clear:
“Today, there are some 150,000 public charging points for electric cars available in the EU. At least 2.8 million will be needed by 2030, according to conservative estimates… We urge national governments and EU policymakers to make the much-needed infrastructure investments so that sales of electrically-charged cars really take off in Europe.”
According to AVERE, Europe possesses 161,500 public charging points. About 30,000 are added annually. This rate of addition shall increase 10-fold.
Carbon taxes are electromobility’s battle-hammer. Taxes already make-up most of the European fuel prices. Carbon taxes shall be remorselessly inflicted to boost EV sales.
Europe isn’t the only region bedeviled by electromobility lobbying. East Asia’s EV industry is more aggressive. As well, electromobility isn’t all there is to a Climate-Industrial Complex.
This megaplex encompasses wind power, solar power, coal-to-gas, biofuels, building retrofitting, and ultra-efficient appliances. That said, Europe’s embrace of electromobility signals a tipping point.
Motor vehicle manufacturing directly employs 2.5 million EU workers (8% of EU manufacturing employment). Auto manufacture, repair, service, admin and construction employ 13.5 million EU workers (6% of the EU workforce).
Europeans make 20% of the world’s cars. They run a $105 billion annual surplus in the auto trade. What’s good for Europe’s automakers is good for Europe.
European automakers are political Titans. Their owners are governments; too-big-to-fail institutional investors; and well-connected oligarchic dynasties.
Their sprawling R&D departments bulwark engineering faculties across Europe’s campus archipelago. Automakers are top advertisers. They steer public opinion. They drive public policy. They just bet the farm on electromobility.
Popular belief in the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis is integral to the success of their gamble.
Europe imports four billion barrels of oil a year. Barrels sell for $70 but prices are volatile. The European dream of staunching this hemorrhaging of cash is finally technologically feasible.
The electromobility revolution will require a few trillion euros in public expenditure, but over the long haul (depending on oil prices) it does make cost-benefit sense for Europeans. For oil-producing regions, however, electromobility makes no sense whatsoever.
William Kay’s books are on Amazon and he blogs at Ecofacism.com
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