Auto industry sabotaged by auto industry
In John Fleming’s 18 June opinion column, an important element in the demise of Holden in Australia was missed, which is unsurprising as few people know of it. In the 1990s Holden teamed up with CSIRO and several local manufacturers to produce a series-hybrid car called the ECOmmodore. A small petrol motor powers CSIRO’s UltraBattery pack (a combination of ultracapacitors and lead acid batteries) that then powers an electric motor. This arrangement was a lot simpler than today’s parallel-hybrid arrangement and so the cars could be produced at the same cost, but with a fuel economy approaching or over 100mpg. I was told that a working version was produced in time for the Sydney Olympics (where it was paraded around on a flat-bed truck), but when GM found out they forced Holden to end the project, being concerned it would sell too well and decimate sales in GM’s competing models.
Ford is equally guilty. Five years before the demise of the Geelong plant, they turned down an Australian inventor’s after-market device to crack liquid fuel on the fly into gaseous fuel, which burns a lot more efficiently – once again allowing a normal car to get close to if not over 100mpg. The unofficial reason (from a Ford senior engineer after a few drinks) was that they weren’t interested in any invention that would improve fuel efficiency by more than a few percent, as they’d been arguing for years with the CARB in the US that it was impossible to create cars with substantially reduced pollution without a massive cost increase.
It is a pity that companies are allowed to make decisions based on what is good for a small number of shareholders, even if it is to the detriment of all.
Peter K. Campbell
Port Huon

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