Ford boss reveals vision of green future
Land_e concept car designed to reduce emissions
Ford's chief in Europe and head of its Premier Automotive Group, Lewis Booth, today told of his vision of the near future for the troubled car manufacturer, given the onslaught of global warming.
Booth spoke at the British motor show of the challenges facing Ford. He envisions that 'in the next 10 or 15 years' consumers will become as aware of their annual carbon output as they are of their bank balance today. Choices such as walking to work in order to drive a sports car at the weekend or not using the tumble dryer in order to fly the family to Florida on holiday were examples he gave.
Given the predicted availability of fuel for the next 50 years at least, Booth felt that neither fuel prices nor taxation on motoring will be enough to effect the change needed if carbon emissions are to be cut.
“Hybrid tax breaks are cuckoo”
Booth called on European governments to instigate cross-regional policies that will help to shape consumer demand – particularly taxes that applied across Europe to avoid the expense and waste of resources involved in responding to differing tax regimes. He called some countries’ favourable tax treatment of hybrid vehicles that still emit high levels of CO2 'completely cuckoo'.
Roelant de Waard, head of Ford in the UK, clearly agreed - he called for the London congestion charge to be scrapped for biofuel-powered Focuses, as they emit less than 100g/km of Co2 - less than all the hybrid models which are currently exempt from the charge.
Ford's basic strategy is not to put all its eggs in one basket: it is resting its hopes on improvements in diesel and petrol engines, lightweight vehicles (the aluminium Jaguar XJ and XK are good examples of this, the 2.7-tonne Land Rover Discovery is clearly not), biofuels and hybrids – in the hope that one or more of them will prove to be a major success. Booth warned, however, that ‘there is no silver bullet' to magically fix all.
Using a range of developments to improve environmental performance across Ford's car range would deliver far more substantial results than the 'tiny' numbers of hybrids sold, he said, pointing out that Ford sold 145,000 Focuses in Britain last year and therefore that its mission to reduce CO2 output across the Focus range by 20 per cent in the next decade would have a large impact.
Forthcoming developments include gear-shift indicators to encourage economical driving, second-generation biofuels which offer an 80-90 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions (Booth believes this to be a much more efficient route than hydrogen-powered cars) and systems such as that on Land Rover's Land-e concept, which co-ordinates vehicle systems for economical driving.
'Environmental motoring has to be brought into the mainstream,' says Booth. With the CO2 emissions of the Focus 1.8 TDCi having come down by 26 per cent since 1998 there's been progress, but clearly more must be done by manufacturers, governments and consumers alike.
‘We can't sell this thing on “save the planet”,’ Booth concluded. 'It has to be done by market forces.'