Carlos Ghosn: Three Ways Carmakers Can Save The World

POSTED BY admin ON 15 March 2012

Carlos Ghosn at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, launching the Renault Zoe

Carlos Ghosn is Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance and a member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All.

Below is his open letter to open letter message to the greater automotive industry.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, through his initiative on Sustainable Energy for All, is challenging governments and private companies to use traditional energy resources more efficiently and expand the use of renewable energy sources.

I’ve agreed to help find solutions because this issue is critical to the future of my industry – auto making. About 25% of global oil output is used to fuel cars and light trucks. That’s about 1 billion tons of petrol a year. Meanwhile, the planet’s demographics and energy needs are shifting dramatically. In my lifetime, the world’s population has grown from 2.7 billion to more than 7 billion people. In 1999, consumers in China bought 600,000 vehicles. Last year, Chinese consumers bought more than 17 million vehicles.

For millions of consumers joining the middle class across the developing world, a car is the first thing they want to buy. In the United States, there are about 800 cars per 1,000 people; across Europe, it’s an average of 500 vehicles per 1,000 people. This contrasts with China, where there are only 50 vehicles per 1,000 people, and India, where it’s 15.

People living in these countries – and other emerging markets that will drive global economic growth in the decades ahead –want the same level of personal mobility consumers enjoy in advanced economies today. The West will not lower its standard of living, while China, India and other emerging markets will not reverse their economic and social progress. The solution lies in innovating and adopting new energy technologies that enable us to increase our quality of life and use energy more efficiently.

For automakers, there are three keys to success in improving energy efficiency and expanding the use of renewable energy.

The first is to improve the efficiency of internal combustion engines. This is already happening in response to stricter regulatory mandates in the United States, Europe and Japan. New vehicles in Europe consume an average of 18% less fuel than they did in 2000. By 2025, U.S. vehicle fleets will be required to average 54.5 miles per gallon.

We can meet this technological challenge in the USA. The question is whether we can roll out cleaner technology across all geographies, particularly emerging markets where gasoline itself is typically of lower quality with higher costs to the environment.

Secondly, we must diversify the energy mix used to fuel our vehicles. Petroleum-based fuels now account for 96% of the world’s automotive energy mix. By mandating targets and requirements at the level of the state, we can increase the mix of renewable fuels. Leading the way is Brazil, where flex-fuel cars and light trucks running on a blend of petrol and ethanol accounted for 83% of all sales last year.

The third lever of sustainable mobility is electrification. Electric vehicles are “energy agnostic.” In other words, they can be refueled with natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal or hydroelectric energy – whatever fuel sources are part of a region’s power supply. They liberate regions and countries from reliance on a single non-renewable fossil fuel. Furthermore, as local energy suppliers increase their use of renewable energy, the carbon footprint of electric vehicles goes down. At the same time, EV costs continue to go down, as they have for more than a decade. EVs have obvious social, environmental and economic benefits, which is why I’m optimistic about the future of zero-emission transportation.

Partnerships are also helping us reduce the cost of developing new energy solutions. In 2010, the Renault-Nissan Alliance formed a collaboration with Germany’s Daimler – a partnership that allows the companies to combine their significant development resources on research-intensive projects. The three companies are collaborating on small-car platforms, light-commercial vehicles, electric vehicles and engine production. The partnership also includes research on fuel cell vehicles – the best minds in Paris, Yokohama, Stuttgart and Tennessee are working together to create the second wave of zero-emission cars.

More than 50 million people around the world earn their living in the auto industry. If vehicle manufacturing were a country, it would be the world’s sixth largest economy. We have a social responsibility to ensure that this industry grows sustainably – and if we uphold our responsibility, we will increase the quality of life for everyone on our planet.


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