as the auto companies look beyond oil

I attended an event tonight in Ann Arbor on the future of the automotive industry as it moves beyond oil. I hope to have links up to video in the next few days, but, for right now, you’ll just have to take my word for it. It was pretty damned good. There were senior strategy people from Ford, Toyota, GM, the Automotive X Prize and the Center for Automotive Research, among others, on the stage, mixing it up, and the result, at least from my perspective, was a substantially more significant dialogue than I have seen anywhere else on the issue. Granted, there were a few gaps, but, on the whole, it was incredibly impressive and I can’t wait to share the video it with you. In the meantime, I have two short articles from reporters who were in the audience.

– “Detroit Free Press
– “Detroit News

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  1. mark
    Posted June 13, 2007 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    A list of speakers can be found here.

  2. Posted June 13, 2007 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Since Tesla and their electric vehicle company was a no-show, the TechKnow forum did have another Detroit based electric vehicle company in the display area down by the Bosch exhibits. Did you see EcoVElectric? We are a company that develops and markets an urban electric Low Speed Vehicle using an established world-class manufacturing partner in Detroit. EcoV is a road-worthy commercial fleet vehicle starting at less than $10,000. We had hoped someone would have picked up our story. We need investors and this was a great event which could have helped by focusing on another “environmental transportation solution” (our company name).
    Electric vehicles are not getting their fair time in the press. EV’s have the potential to have zero carbon foot print, particularly if the electricity is generated off the wind or sun. But until the public starts understanding this option and demanding EV’s, we struggle to educate. What if you could “fill your tank” by pluging into your wall socket, fuel cost 2 cents per mile, your vehicle is virtually maintenance free, need have to stop at a gas station again, and costs $10,000? Sound to good to be true…then visit us at
    Mark, You should visit my blog, too. We think along similar paths.

  3. Citizen Blogger
    Posted June 13, 2007 at 7:57 am | Permalink


    Did the forum include any Detroit-based bus or train companies? Or bicycle manufacturers? Or walking shoe companies? As Richard points out, this was a great event which could have helped by focusing on another “environmental transportation solution”, rather than simply on transitioning from petroleum to snake oil.

  4. egpenet
    Posted June 13, 2007 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Doing more shopping, entertainment, eating, walking to the library and the post office … I’ve personally been able to move beyond oil these past few weeks … visiting the BP once to the tune of $20 for half a tank May 15-June 12. Bienvenudos dos Hermanos, y viva VG!

  5. dr. teddy glass
    Posted June 13, 2007 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure why a panel on the future of the automotive industry would have representatives from shoe and train companies, but, yes, clearly all aspects need to be addressed. Conservation is certainly key. Unfortunately, not everything can be addressed in a single two-hour event.

  6. Citizen Blogger
    Posted June 13, 2007 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I suppose that makes sense. After all, the 1907 panel didn’t have room to invite Henry Ford – it would have taken time away from the discussion of hydrogen fuel cell buggy whips.

  7. egpenet
    Posted June 13, 2007 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Aside from rising sea water inundating some 20,000 miles of scenic coastal highway in our country alone … why should the auto companies worry about oil? Bush just authorized tapping the eminently refinable oil shale deposits out West. Canada has an abundant supply of oil sands, as well. Oil sands are a bit more difficult to process. Truth is, if the oil companies and the refiners weren’t so in bed with each other and the government, gasoline COULD be as low as $1.50 a gallon in this country. All this doesn’t solve the greenhouse problem … but the savings on highway maintenance (if we lose most of our 1A and A1A roadways due to global warming) could be quite substantial.

  8. mark
    Posted June 13, 2007 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Citizen Blogger, I can’t tell you how much I admire you for sharing your opinion without having been there to hear what was actually said. Some people in your position might sit by quietly, waiting for the facts before making comments. Not you though. You just jump right in. Man, I wish I had the ability to do that kind of shit.

    OK, so you’re probably just busting my balls. I can deal with that… And, you do kind of raise a valid point. The conversation was, at least in this instance, restricted to single-family vehicles. There’s certainly a need for a more wide-ranging conversation to take place, but that doesn’t make last night’s event any less meaningful. Hopefully I’ll have video soon so that I can better make my case.

    The reality of the matter, like it or not, is that the automotive companies are going to play a part in this. I’m of the opinion that we should work with them… And, for what it’s worth, if the event had been set up to be more adversarial, I doubt we’d have seen the automotive companies take part. At the very least, I doubt we would have had the level of conversation that we had. Yelling at the automotive companies, in my humble opinion, isn’t going to get any of us anywhere.

  9. Posted June 14, 2007 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    Ignore the fact that, around 1907, electric cars were still the most popular types of personal vehicles (over steam, diesel, or even the lowly gasoline-engined carriages…)

    Tesla would have been a good exhibitor, their fast-as-Hell electric sports cars (they were meeting with Lotus that night!?) will make the ture electric car a status symbol for the vain, balding GOP crowd.

    Lutz’s enthusiastic mention of the greenlighted Chevy Volt at the “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” AA taping got wild applause.

    Personally, I’d prefer to live obscenely close to my job and drive the most ridiculous car I want (a mid-engined V8 2 seater with enough luggage space for a one hour weekend trip). It’d use less gas than a Smart driver commutin’ 3x as far. And I’d get there 10x faster with a grin.

    The simpler answers are all in personal location geography and planning, not in billions of $$$ in vanity tech.

  10. Citizen Blogger
    Posted June 14, 2007 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Humbug. Cars are over. They just don’t know it yet. But go ahead and continue to fool yourself.

    We’ll ride again, Mr. Maynard!

  11. paulg
    Posted June 16, 2007 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    Good point leighton. I practice personal location optimization myself, though admittedly it’s due more to my dislike of traffic, commuting, and suburbia than any environmental concerns.

    I keep telling myself I need to bike to work. This would have three benefits- it would reduce pollution, save money, and keep me in shape. Yet so far I’ve been too lazy to do it on a regular basis. A talented orator, who could align our perceived self-interests with the public good (who could correct American slothfulness without making it seem like a sacrifice) might achieve more than billions of dollars in technology investment…

    Such an orator would need to attack the perception that the suburban house (in a good neighborhood, with a spacious yard, plenty of room for the brood, top-notch schools, friendly harmless neighbors, and significant upside price potential) is actually desirable. This shouldn’t be the American dream but the American nightmare. Parody might be a better tool than eloquence- maybe what we need is an Al Gore with the personality of Swift or Flaubert.

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