エコカー競争 普及への追い風を生かせるか [英字新聞]

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jul. 17, 2009)
Eco-car development needs full support
エコカー競争 普及への追い風を生かせるか(7月17日付・読売社説)

The age of gasoline engine-powered vehicles--a mainstay for the past 100 years--seems to be at a major turning point.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. will this month start putting next-generation electric cars on the domestic market--the first companies in the world to do so. Nissan Motor Co. will sell electric vehicles in Japan and the United States starting next year.

There are moves, meanwhile, to further boost the production of gasoline-electric hybrid cars, such as Mazda Motor Corp. having reportedly asked Toyota Motor Corp. to provide core parts for the making of a hybrid car.

With the help of government tax breaks and subsidies, 200,000 orders have poured in for Toyota's Prius hybrid car. The Japanese auto industry believes the time is ripe to popularize fuel-efficient vehicles, and the trend toward post-fossil fuel automobiles will certainly accelerate from here on.


Benefits outweighing costs

The biggest benefit of an electric car is its cutting of carbon dioxide emissions--a major cause of global warming. When driving, such cars' CO2 emissions are zero. And even when emissions produced during the process of generating electricity are included, CO2 emissions per kilometer of travel by an electric car are 40 percent less than that of a hybrid vehicle.

Charging the battery under late-night power rates adds only 1 yen per kilometer on an electricity bill. This would mean a round trip from Tokyo to Osaka would only cost 1,000 yen.

However, these vehicles carry a price tag of more than 3 million yen, and even when accounting for government subsidies, they still cost more than double the price of the gas-powered minicar model materials they are based on. In addition, it takes 14 hours to fully charge the batteries using a 100-volt home socket, and these electric cars have a range of only 160 kilometers per charge.

When it comes to practicality, hybrid cars easily best electric cars. But in regard to attaining a situation in which all cars are electrified, hybrids aim in the same direction as electric cars. In both fields, developing batteries with large power outputs at lower costs will be key to popularizing the vehicles.


Bringing industries together

Japanese manufacturers lead the world in the development and mass production of lithium-ion batteries that have great power output and are light in weight. However, some European countries and the United States also are developing batteries under public and private cooperation and the gap between them and Japan is rapidly closing.

If Japan is overtaken by other countries in the development of such batteries, the manufacturers that grab the lead could end up dominating the world market. This makes it crucially important for the survival of Japanese companies that they win this development race.

As batteries come to play an increasingly key role in a vehicle's performance, it is possible that domestic electric appliance makers will begin entering the auto world. The auto industry should be flexibly prepared to reorganize and tie up with companies from other fields.

Although eco-cars are quiet when operating, this attribute can also be seen as a problem. For example, a pedestrian might be unaware of an approaching vehicle and collide with it.

Keeping in mind such issues, the government should take immediate measures for entering the era of the eco car.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 17, 2009)
(2009年7月17日01時41分 読売新聞)

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by ROW (2009-07-17 15:17) 



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