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Mercedes To Phase Out Gasoline By 2015

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the what-no-flying-monkeys dept.

Earth 908

arbitraryaardvark sends in a story a couple of weeks back in Yahoo's Ecogeek blog, reporting that Mercedes will phase out petroleum-powered cars by 2015 (mirror), and notes: "Story is unconfirmed but well sourced." "In less than 7 years, Mercedes-Benz plans to ditch petroleum-powered vehicles from its lineup. Focusing on electric, fuel cell, and biofuels, the company is revving up research in alternative fuel sources and efficiency."

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In other news (0, Flamebait)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 5 years ago | (#24105833)

In other news, the public will phase out Mercedes purchases by 2015.

Re:In other news (5, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#24105877)

Why? Nobody really gives a damn what fuels their cars, they care about cost and acceptable performance (can I make 70-80 on the freeway, or will I have a top speed of 40). If they can solve the problem of refueling infrastructure and sufficient mileage per refuel, there's no reason why not to go with a non-gas car.

The electric car you want is ready now: (5, Informative)

RichMan (8097) | more than 5 years ago | (#24105943)

Nobody really gives a damn what fuels their cars, they care about cost and acceptable performance (can I make 70-80 on the freeway, or will I have a top speed of 40). If they can solve the problem of refueling infrastructure and sufficient mileage per refuel, there's no reason why not to go with a non-gas car.

you want this [teslamotors.com]

Re:The electric car you want is ready now: (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106007)

How does a car that costs $109,000 address the "cost" concern? Sure, Mercedes vehicles aren't exactly the cheapest, but few of their models go for over 6 figures.

Re:The electric car you want is ready now: (1, Interesting)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106437)

Actually I've stood next to one and it come up to about my kneecaps. It's way too freakin' small for me to fit into. Think Honda S2000 and then shave 10% off of that. A 6 foot tall person will not fit in that car. Now for you short people out there this car is awesome. I see lots of sales happening in the areas with high densities of Asian people.

Re:In other news (2, Interesting)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106041)

Nobody really gives a damn what fuels their cars

That's not true, I'm proud that the food that I eat powers me across town not some hydrocarbons bought in some country I really don't give a damn about. In other words, I walk or take a bike. Revolutionary! And I do it in Idaho, a state with let's just say an unproven track record in sustainability. Mass transit, clean air and energy efficiency that's for the Californians to worry about!

Or what about the fact I don't buy cat food that utilizes fish products? If I'm going to help deplete the world's fisheries I at least want to taste the devastation. I figure my cat can survive on beef and poultry and be happy knowing he's eating the product of over grazing, over feeding, over fertilizing, under paying, subsidization, etc., etc..

No the problem is a lot of us do care about the costs of our actions and choices. But an announcement like this is just a red herring. It says they will also concentrate on bio fuels. So they really aren't changing anything. Since I have yet to hear of a viable bio fuel that doesn't run in an engine compatible with petroleum.

Everyone wins (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24106171)

So here is the key sentence in all its diplomatic finery: "We seek to share with all parties to the UNFCCC the vision of, and together with them to consider and adopt in the UNFCCC negotiations, the goal of achieving ** at least 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050**, recognising that this global challenge can only be met by a global response, in particular, by the contributions from all major economies, consistent with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities."

You notice that there is not mention of the baseline year, and that it is "global", sounds like an average to me.

Re:In other news (3, Interesting)

digitrev (989335) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106175)

You sir, are the exception rather than the rule. A lot of people in my area claim to care, but as soon as it hits their wallet, they go right back to their old ways. Me? I'm too poor to do too much driving, so I walk and take the bus. But that's only because I value other things above my time. Others see time as their only asset - probably because they're overworked and overstressed - but I'd rather relax, hop on a bus, and read.

Re:In other news (0)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106251)

That's not true, I'm proud that the food that I eat powers me across town not some hydrocarbons bought in some country I really don't give a damn about. In other words, I walk or take a bike.

For the record, assuming that you consume a fairly healthy, well-balanced, and at least minimally palatable diet, it still consumes more resources to walk/bike than it does to drive - Do the math. But, food stores are more renewable than petroleum so I commend you - I just object when people claim to bike to save money. There are a lot of great reasons to bike, but $$ isn't one of them.

It says they will also concentrate on bio fuels.

That's the part that bugs me. Bio fuels are neat and, when they're made from materials that would otherwise go to waste, they're great. But growing crops just to produce bio fuels is BS. It wastes resources, is bad for the planet, and takes food out of people's mouths. Of course, it is a step up from paying farmers not to plant anything...

Great, now I'm depressed.

Re:In other news (2, Insightful)

RanCossack (1138431) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106335)

There are a lot of great reasons to bike, but $$ isn't one of them.

It is in this city -- and, I imagine, many others -- but that's due to how expensive it is to park rather than gas.

Of course, it all depends on location, location, location.

Re:In other news (4, Insightful)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106433)

There are a lot of great reasons to bike, but $$ isn't one of them.

It is in this city -- and, I imagine, many others -- but that's due to how expensive it is to park rather than gas.

Good call - I've never had to work anywhere where I had to pay for my own parking. I only factored in price-per-mile (and left out all kinds of random overhead - If you can actually eliminate a car from your life, it makes a big difference). Sometimes I forget that not everyone shares my life-style - Shallow, I know.

Cheers.

Re:In other news (4, Insightful)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106405)

"lot of us do care"

With 300 million people in America and 6 billion in the world, "a lot" of people do a lot of things. But the Majority does not care.

Re:In other news (2, Informative)

martinw89 (1229324) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106149)

And that refueling infrastructure is exactly why the general public gives a damn about what fuels their cars. One manufacturer phasing out a fuel is only a step in the right direction; we then have to actually get that fuel everywhere. In 2002, there were literally more than half a billion cars [shef.ac.uk] out there. That article doesn't give specifics as to the number of gas-powered cars, but with 590 million total there are definitely a lot. The cost to support the current gas refueling infrastructure is only going to hold back building even more infrastructure for alternative fuels.

Re:In other news (1)

omeomi (675045) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106227)

Call me pessimistic, but it seems like an easy way to meet this goal, especially for a company that already sells a lot of diesel cars, is to offer every car as a biodiesel...It's basically the same as a regular diesel, and they don't have to worry about the missing infrastructure because, hey, it can run on diesel too...

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24106255)

If they can solve the problem of refueling infrastructure and sufficient mileage per refuel, there's no reason why not to go with a non-gas car.

How is Mercedes supposed solve the infrastructure problem?

A lot of this sounds like marketing misspeak. Let's go through it:

1) Electric vehicles: only plausible option to using no fossil fuels. The only reasonable options right now are ultralight vehicles. Every electric vehicle designed in the last 20 years has been a highway death trap due to the fact that ultralight cars don't respond well to impacts with normal mass cars and trucks.
2) Biofuel vehicle? Your car doesn't care where the hydrocarbons came from. A vehicle that can run biodiesel can also run diesel. This is a classic marketing exaggeration. They will advertise that the cars are carbon neutral if run with biofuels only. There is no such thing as a "biofuel vehicle" except for the fact that you need to change certain rubber hoses on older diesel vehicles to use biodiesel.
3) Fuel cell vehicle? It is highly unlikely that a fuel cell vehicle will use a hydrogen storage tank due to the infrastructure issue and the low energy density issue. This means that there will be a reformer in the vehicle (something that strips hydrogen from hydrocarbons and releases CO2). End result is that the car will only be carbon neutral if you run it with biofuels.

This article is getting so much attention because the claims are ridiculous. And the poorly science educated are falling for it. Unless Mercedes is planning on opening 20,000 biofuel-only gas stations, this is nothing more than a marketing exaggeration. They will probably increase their fuel efficiency by 2015, but there is no chance that the vehicles are going to be free from fossil fuels.

Re:In other news (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106419)

Well, if I was Mercedes I'd solve it by going up to a major gas station and saying "Hey, we'll give you an exclusive license to sell our fuel batteries for x years if you give us y% of the profits and promise to roll this out to your stations on z timeline". But any company looking to make a serious attempt at non gasoline vehicles needs to solve the refueling problem to be taken seriously.

Re:In other news (3, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#24105923)

In other news, the public will phase out Mercedes purchases by 2015.

Which public is that?
Mercedes is kind of a big deal in Countries that are not the USA.
Not to mention that it'll be a lot easier to build the necessary infrastructure in Europe, rather than in the USA, to support fuel cells & biodiesel.

Re:In other news (5, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106159)

the USA only seems to import the luxury cars from Europe. In Spain and Italy, I have seen Mercedes-Benz garbage trucks, which shocked the hell out of my the first time when I was 15. Trips since then, barely noticed.

But the thing about a lot of Mercedes and BMWs and stuff -- especially the older ones: turbo diesel engines. Can't any diesel engine run biodisel unmodified? That was my understanding.

Lamborghini makes tractors (4, Interesting)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106267)

Mercedes truck division is way bigger than its car division.

And plenty of Italian farmers drive a Lambo [lamborghini-tractors.com] to work.

Re:In other news (3, Informative)

omeomi (675045) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106281)

Can't any diesel engine run biodisel unmodified? That was my understanding.

I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure you have to swap out your fuel lines and injectors. The engine is the same, though. All told, it's supposedly a very easy conversion to biodiesel.

Re:In other news (4, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106415)

You only have to swap out fuel lines on pretty old diesels. The injectors should be no problem.
The only real problem with bio diesel is that it tends to "clean" old diesel engines. You get a bunch of old crude floating around and hopefully clogging your filters.
Any modern diesel can run bio right now. Now straight vegetable oil takes some mods.
So to meet the goals all MB has to do is drop there gasoline power plants.
Of course what people tend to forget is that you can make gasoline from a lot of non petroleum sources including water and air. The only thing that prevents it is cost.

Re:In other news (2, Interesting)

SlowMovingTarget (550823) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106275)

Sadly, the emphasis is on biofuels rather than electric. Basically this boils down to burning food. At best, arable land that could be used for food crops will get used for fuel crops instead (this is already happening).

Electric cars, on the other hand, can be powered by nuclear reactors. And dang it, where's my flywheel?

Re:In other news (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 5 years ago | (#24105929)

In other news, the public will phase out Mercedes purchases by 2015.

In other news, economically feasible oil and gas supplies to be exhausted by 2015.

Re:In other news (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106211)

The 'economic feasibility' of gas has NOTHING to do with supplies being exhausted, unless you're referring to the 'supply' of other nations being willing to accept US dollars.

http://www.financialsense.com/fsu/editorials/bms/2005/0422.html [financialsense.com]

Once we get to where we cannot trade dollars for gas, we also will find Mercedes unwilling to accept those same dollars.

Then where will we be?

Thank god! (5, Insightful)

RabidMoose (746680) | more than 5 years ago | (#24105849)

Maybe this precedent (if true) will prompt the other automakers to follow?

Re:Thank god! (5, Insightful)

digitrev (989335) | more than 5 years ago | (#24105975)

Only if the technologies aren't locked up and hidden away by patents. The fact is, we either need a better infrastructure (so electric cars are possible), or a reasonable and standard selection of fuels. If the average consumer has to think too hard about which fuel his car uses, he won't be getting that car. Of course, the real solution is to get urban centers off of a car based infrastructure, and go to a different system, such as good subway or bus system, coupled with a public taxi type system, as in Hominids [wikipedia.org] , by Robert J. Sawyer.

Re:Thank god! (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106091)

If electric cars can be made to charge from ordinary outlets, isn't the infrastructure already there? I suppose the trick would be to get the cars to charge fast enough and/or to last long enough on one charge that you don't have to stop every 4 hours to charge the car for 12 hours at a time, but assuming we can solve that, replacing all those gas pumps at fuel stations with extra outlets shouldn't be that big of a deal.

Basically, I think electric cars are the only real way to handle this stuff long term, but battery technology has to get better. Today's batteries are too heavy and don't last long enough.

I think better public transit is a good step, but I don't think you can put the private vehicle genie back in the bottle at this stage. People are accustomed to private transport, and the more efficient and environmentally friendly we can make that private transport the better.

Re:Thank god! (4, Informative)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106385)

Most electric outlets have a 15 or 20 amp breaker. That means on the best of days you're only going to be able to get 1.8 to 2.4 kw or about 2.4 to 3.2 horsepower out of it. Unless your car uses less than an average of 3hp while it's running you're going to have to charge it, or at least your spare battery pack, for a pretty long time to get any range out of it.

Re:Thank god! (4, Interesting)

lgw (121541) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106389)

If electric cars can be made to charge from ordinary outlets, isn't the infrastructure already there?

Absolutely not. At least in the US, electrical power distribution networks are already are at capacity, and are not even *close* to what they'd need to be:

* Total electrical power consumed in the US - about 12 Exajoules (for more is generated, but most power is lost in generation and distribution).

* Total petroleum power used for transportation in the US - about 28 Exajoules.

The way these numbers are measured, electric cars are significantly more efficient, but still we'd need to distribute *triple* the electrical power distributed in order to stop using gas for transport. That's significantly harder than replacing the tanks and pumps at every gas station.

Re:Thank god! (5, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106217)

Never going to happen. Nothing will ever beat the private car for convenience. Its right there, whenever you want it. Its fast, it can be used by almost anyone, regardless of physical health. No wait times to use it, no sharing it with the smelly unbathed guy, the psycho homeless person, or the screaming infant. No stops along the way. And it can be used for trips of any length, to any location, without being forced to walk a mile from a bus stop to the destination. And depending on where you're driving, it can be quite pleasant- driving in the mountains with the top down is *fun*. I've never had a fun bus ride.

On top of that- cars, to a large portion of the population, are freedom. Freedom to go where you want, when you want. Freedom to live where you want. Freedom to just say "fuck it" one day and go on a road trip. Freedom from the clock- I don't have to leave the bar with my friends to make that last 10:30 pm bus, I can stay til closing time (assume I'm sober for this one). There is no substitute for this.

The people will never give up their cars. Don't bother trying to make us- we won't. We'll use every last drop of gasoline first. Find a better way to power them instead, they will never go away.

Re:Thank god! (5, Interesting)

digitrev (989335) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106387)

You missed the key point of my post. I said for urban centers. I was aiming for a system like that for just intracity travel. For intercity, some suburban, and rural transportation, cars are obviously the best option. I just thought that getting people in cities to be less dependent on them (while in the city, when they want to leave, go for it) would save huge amounts of money. I've heard an apocryphal story that New York City has more cars than parking spots.

To summarize:
  • If you live in a city, such as Ottawa, Toronto, New York, Buffalo, etc... - take a bus, take a subway, take a taxi-like system.
  • If you live near a city, such as a suburb - have park-and-rides to get into the city, make it cost money to get into the city, or have the taxi-like system come out to get you.
  • If you live in a rural area - keep your car.

My point is not to get rid of cars, I understand that. My point is to give people better alternatives for urban transportation.

Re:Thank god! (1)

jhfry (829244) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106383)

I have noticed that Mercedes has been fairly resonable about getting their technologies into the hands of other automakers (at least it appears so). If you look at their Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercedes-Benz#Innovations), they are attibuted with many innovations that have become standard on many US vehicles... Including: ABS, Air Bags, and traction control.

I am sure that many of these are merely licensed to other automakers, however the terms must be reasonable as almost all automakers appear to have licensed Mercedes technology in the past.

Slashdot editor fooled again. (1, Informative)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106197)

It's NOT true.

Fraud Alert: This is just a technically ignorant person's blog post. He wrote an attention-grabbing headline, and the Slashdot editor apparently didn't read the entire story.

Even the writer, Jaymi Heimbuch, doesn't believe the heading. Quote: "While car models may be able to run on fuels other than gasoline or diesel, we have yet to find a method of both running and producing vehicles entirely free of fossil fuels. I'm waiting for a mainstream car line that creates renewable fuel, clean-running vehicles out of 100% recycled materials in plants run on 100% renewable, clean power ... Will I even be alive when that finally happens? I have hope."

Electric cars are NOT "clean power". The electricity generation plant uses coal or oil or nuclear fuel, and those are as dirty as before.

Correct link to "HCCI" (3, Informative)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106393)

Also, the link to HCCI [ecogeek.org] in the story is broken. Use the one here instead.

The discussion about HCCI is written by someone named named Benjamin Jones. He obviously does not have much technical understanding.

Nobody wants to be the next GM (5, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | more than 5 years ago | (#24105865)

GM failed to appreciate the coming change.

Good for Mercedes to be acting ahead of the curve. That is how you build technology and establish markets and presence.

Nobody killed the electric car. They killed their own opportunity. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Nobody wants to be the next GM (5, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106031)

Don't get too excited. It will be difficult to make a "biofuel" engine that won't run just fine on petroleum. And they won't try. As soon as they have biofuel capability across their product lines they will declare themselves "green" regardless of what the customers are actually putting in the tanks.

Re:Nobody wants to be the next GM (2, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106245)

And what is the problem with that?

Then it will be up to economics (with a "graceful" nudge from subsidies and taxes) to determine what consumers put in their tanks... the point is that petrofuels will not be required.

Seriously, I fail to see what the problem is... what exactly would you want Mercedes to do instead? Make power trains that will get all borked up if someone tries to use petrol? That's a great way to make sure no one buys their product.

I think that fuel flexibility is one of the answers. When the cars support multiple fuel streams, it allows for a gradual infrastructure and production change to biofuels (or eletric-only vehicles, etc). One of the big issues with changing to alternate fuel- and power supplies is that it requires wholesale change of the delivery infrastructure and production capabilities. Cars that run on petro-fuels and bio-fuls help bridge the gap.

Re:Nobody wants to be the next GM (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106287)

Don't get too excited. It will be difficult to make a "biofuel" engine that won't run just fine on petroleum. And they won't try. As soon as they have biofuel capability across their product lines they will declare themselves "green" regardless of what the customers are actually putting in the tanks.

Depends entirely on the biofuel in question.

Ethanol, you're probably right.

Vegetable oil, however - well, a diesel engine will (under some circumstances I won't dive into) run just fine on that, but I wouldn't recommend you put petrol in it.

Re:Nobody wants to be the next GM (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106357)

It will be difficult to make a "biofuel" engine that won't run just fine on petroleum.

If we are talking about bio-diesel, the main issue is replacing all the rubber hoses in the fuel injection process due to bio-diesel's tendency to dissolve rubber. Once you bypass that hurdle, a conversion of a standard diesel to bio-diesel isn't a major jump.

Of course if we are talking about converting engines from gasoline to ethanol, then its a bit more tedious

But once they've retooled the assembly line, its no longer a problem.

Deisel. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24106391)

There's a huge movement in CA right now of folks using old cooking oil to fuel diesel engines. The bio fuel guys run around to restaurants and pick up their old cooking oil and then process it - without ANY petroleum or other fossil fuels.

The problem is that those companies that collect the old oil for a fee (restaurants pay $$$) are lobbying the CA legislature to make it illegal except for a licensed company to pick up the oil - in effect putting the biofuel guys out of business - or forcing them to buy the old oil from the companies that pickup. These companies are telling the CA legislature that they should be the only ones to pick up old oil because the public's safety is in jeopardy. Of course with enough $$$ the politicians will be on board.

It's amazing how low folks will stoop to save their business.

Oh! The favorite car that the bio fuel guys use is a Mercedes Diesel - unmodified.

Re:Nobody wants to be the next GM (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106213)

That's why we pay them the big bucks.

GM CEO compensation was $8.5e6, but I'm not sure if that was before or after the 50% pay cut he took. I couldn't readily find the CEO compensation for Mercedes, but for Toyota I found $900k.

Maybe if we paid the GM CEO more like the Toyota CEO, GM's business results would be more like Toyota's? Extrapolate that!

Incidentally, GM didn't just fail to foresee it, they denied it. Clinton was pushing US automakers on the efficiency front, and they supposedly had a hybrid plan in place. Bush let the off the hook, with the "late enough to never matter" hydrogen plan. US automakers stunningly, retardedly shut down any sign of vision, and made money today by doing what made money yesterday, with no thought that things might change.

That really sounds like management that is 9 times better than Toyota's, doesn't it?

Re:Nobody wants to be the next GM (2, Insightful)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106229)

Such news should have come out of Detroit, not Germany. We need our fancy business schools gutted.

I'll wait (4, Insightful)

fishybell (516991) | more than 5 years ago | (#24105889)

As this isn't an official announcement, I'm not holding my breath. Sure Mercedes have been at the forefront of vehicle technology for quite some time, but do you really see their entire truck line going non-petroleum in 7 years? Maybe the passenger cars, but not the trucks.

Re:I'll wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24106013)

Why not?

Re:I'll wait (0)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106297)

As this isn't an official announcement, I'm not holding my breath. Sure Mercedes have been at the forefront of vehicle technology for quite some time, but do you really see their entire truck line going non-petroleum in 7 years? Maybe the passenger cars, but not the trucks.

Diesel? Anyone?

Seriously, I'm in the UK and over here there is, to my knowledge, no such thing as a petrol-driven lorry. They're all diesel. I suspect the same is true in most of continental Europe.

Re:I'll wait (2, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106429)

"Petrol" != "Petroleum"

Diesel is a petroleum derivative. A diesel-burning truck is still petroleum-fueled. So, the question (and skepticism) about non-petroleum-using trucks stands.

Mercs run just fine on used chip-fat - TODAY! (4, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106355)

Plenty of people are already running their Benz on the stuff the local chip-shop would have thrown away. How hard is it to ramp that up a bit?

and US car companies ? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24105911)

are still left in the 70's building 5 litre v8 guzzlers with solid rear axles

though looking at GM and Fords financial statements they wont be building much of anything if they dont change, fast.

Re:and US car companies ? (5, Interesting)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106271)

We can have them going out of business, now can we? Congress will just have the US tax payers keep them floating like we do the airlines.

Haven't they heard? (2)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#24105933)

> Focusing on ... biofuels, the company is revving up research in
> alternative fuel sources and efficiency.

Haven't they heard? Biofuels are now officially evil.

Re:Haven't they heard? (1)

mini me (132455) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106027)

At yet, grain commodities dropped significantly the last couple of days. So much for biofuels being the cause of higher food prices.

Re:Haven't they heard? (2, Informative)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106145)

At yet, grain commodities dropped significantly the last couple of days. So much for biofuels being the cause of higher food prices.

Biofuel processing plants have been going belly up recently as well, I wonder if there's a connection.

Either way, the population isn't going anywhere (until the pubs cause wwIII), so we should NOT be using food grade arable land to grow biomass for fuel.
There are plenty of weed-like plants which can be used for biomass, one is non-marijuana grade hemp. It's not my fault politicians are so polarized they refuse to act for the good of the country and legalize its cultivation.

Re:Haven't they heard? (1)

MrMunkey (1039894) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106395)

North Dakota recently passed a bill allowing the growing of hemp. The problem is the DEA still doesn't differentiate between hemp and marijuana, even though they look different and if you plant marijuana in the middle of a hemp field you'll just get bad hemp and bad weed. A few farmers recently filed a lawsuit, with the help of votehemp.org, against the DEA for not processing their requests for licenses in time to plant, but it was thrown out of court. Most anything is better than corn, but even then we can't produce enough biofuel to satiate our current fuel needs (or so I heard on "Car of the Future: Engineering For the Environment").

Re:Haven't they heard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24106291)

At yet, grain commodities dropped significantly the last couple of days. So much for biofuels being the cause of higher food prices.

Nah, the cause of higher food prices are idiotic speculators who figured that converting a relatively small portion of the non-food corn grown into ethanol would lead to widespread starvation or something. (Never mind that the government paid people to make more, or that the process generally uses feedstock quality corn, not the sweet corn that is canned or sold on-the-cob... and not only that, the byproduct is still meal that can be fed to animals so even the animals don't have to go hungry)

And now the bubble is popping. Any bets on the next big investment bank to run crying to momma government for a bailout because their bigwigs thought this corn thing was a sure bet, just like mortgages and real estate?

Re:Haven't they heard? (1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106369)

Haven't they heard? Biofuels are now officially evil.

Hmmm... typical Slashdot oversimplification. Biofuels are not necessarily good or evil. It's the way they're made that makes the difference.

If you're using farmland that would normally be used for food crops to grow plants for biofuels, rainforest is cut down and burnt to make more farmland to grow food. That burning ends up releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the biofuels save.

If you're able to grow plants where vegetation is normally sparse, those plants can be used for biofuels. Because burning those plants only releases the carbon dioxide they took out of the atmosphere, that burning does not release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

This is great! (-1, Troll)

MiniMike (234881) | more than 5 years ago | (#24105935)

Most of the Mercedes I see seem to be fueled by inflated ego and poor driving skills. This will be a welcome change.

biofuels (0, Troll)

Denger256 (1161267) | more than 5 years ago | (#24105947)

Great so we will use our already short supply of corn to create ethanol. So we have green cars but half of the world will starve to death.

Re:biofuels (2, Insightful)

mini me (132455) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106083)

Since when has there been a corn supply shortage? There is more corn in storage now than there ever has been before.

Re:biofuels (4, Informative)

hansraj (458504) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106381)

Perhaps what the OP meant was that as producing corn becomes more profitable, farmers will switch to producing corn instead of other crops, thus creating a scarcity of *those* grains and raising the price of food in general. A big chunk of world already finds it hard to afford food and hence the conclusion of people starving if prices rose further.

Shifting Focus... (2, Insightful)

Lumenary7204 (706407) | more than 5 years ago | (#24105985)

Until we convert to completely non-combustive and non-fissile energy production, all vehicles will continue to use a certain amount of nuclear, petroleum and/or carbon-based fuels as a source of power.

All that these so-called electric and fuel-cell vehicles do is shift the point source of the pollution and fuel consumption away from the vehicle and onto the electrical grid (and by extension to coal, nuclear, and natural gas generating stations), because charging vehicle batteries and capacitors (or splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, so the hydrogen can be used as a fuel) takes electricity.

Besides, the vehicles will still probably depend on petroleum-based products for lubricants.

Re:Shifting Focus... (4, Insightful)

realmolo (574068) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106167)

"Until we convert to completely non-combustive and non-fissile energy production..."

Why would we phase out fissile energy? We should be using that for everything. Nuclear power is the best thing we have.

"Besides, the vehicles will still probably depend on petroleum-based products for lubricants."

Not so much, actually. If you have a 100% electrically-powered car, you simply put an electric motor on every wheel. Electric motors don't need much lubrication.

Re:Shifting Focus... (1)

Lumenary7204 (706407) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106397)

> "Why would we phase out fissile energy? We should be using that for everything. Nuclear power is the best thing we have."

Because of the health and security problems inherent to radioactive waste.

A much better "nuclear" alternative would be deuterium fusion. The waste products of a deuterium fusion reaction are helium (which we need anyway, because it's in short supply planet-side) and heat.

The biggest problem with induced nuclear fusion, as it stands today, is that it's not sustainable. Even though fusion facilities are inching toward the "break even" point, scientists haven't really figured out a way to punch a hole through the magnetic containment field that will let them pump in enough fuel to keep the reaction going.

But long-term, we need fusion.

GM, FORD and Toyota (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106035)

Now we need these three big boys to jump on board with the same claim.....gas prices will be barely over a dollar within weeks.

Re:GM, FORD and Toyota (1)

digitrev (989335) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106115)

Not likely, as you still need gas for plenty of other things. Will it drop? Maybe. Just hope it doesn't drop too low, otherwise the whole point of the alternatively fueled cars will be seen as a moot point by most people.

Re:GM, FORD and Toyota (2, Funny)

Otter (3800) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106185)

Why wait for them? Just start a blog and report it as "unconfirmed but well sourced"! You can throw in John Deere and Boeing while you're at it.

Re: Toyota (2, Informative)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106401)

Toyota are already selling hybrids and were the first to do it on a significant scale.
Now those are not as spectacularly "green" as some people think, but they are a good start. This makes Toyota one of the few major brands that have taken the risk of releasing something really new as product (as opposed to waiting until someone else does it and then copying it ;-)

phasing out "gasoline" is not phasing out "diesel" (3, Insightful)

holden caufield (111364) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106047)

Since this isn't an official announcement coming from MB themselves, I'm going to guess that "phasing out gasoline" and "focusing on biofuels" still means that they will still be running on diesel for their internal combustion engines. Not knowing much about automobile engines, or diesel in particular, I'm going to guess that they'll focus on the lower-sulfur diesel fuel that Europe has mandated (I believe, again, too lazy to look this stuff up), but it doesn't mean "no petroleum products ever"

Not to mention, there's still going to be plenty of oil in that engine, not to mention plenty of petroleum products in the rest of the car.

Exactly (1)

Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106329)

I doubt the article is even true, BUT in typical corporate speak they *could* revert to all diesel engines which *could* be biodiesel...or not...depending on local availability. That's a pretty huge loophole.

Cheers,

Biodiesel FTW (4, Interesting)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106049)

tremendous energy density, easy to transport, not even hazardous when spilled, near-identical performance to diesel /50 mpg in my VW

Gasoline (5, Informative)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106089)

No matter how we choose to generate power in the future, we have very few options for switching to anything other than gasoline for transporting that power.

Gasoline has a fantastic energy density. A 14 gallon tank of the stuff contains 491.2 kilowatt-hours of energy ($68 in electricity at New York rates [michaelbluejay.com]), and the gasoline itself only weighs 81 pounds. If you fill up the tank in five minutes, you're transferring power at 7.368 megawatts. Can you imagine what kind of electrical infrastructure you would need to transfer the same power over mere wires?

About the only alternative I can imagine that would be comparable would be to hot-swap whole huge batteries at gas stations.

No, I think we'll be using gasoline, or at least a similar liquid fuel, for quite a while.

Re:Gasoline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24106309)

Bzzzttt!

People will be leaving their cars plugged in overnight or anytime they are home for the vast majority of vehicle energy recharging.

And most likely more and more parking lots will have metered electrical hookups as the number of electric powered vehicles increases.

Re:Gasoline (1)

Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106319)

It's unfortunate that about 3/4 of that energy is converted to heat rather than usable energy. Electric and diesel engines are a LOT more efficient than gasoline engines.

Cheers,

Re:Gasoline (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106325)

No matter how we choose to generate power in the future, we have very few options for switching to anything other than gasoline for transporting that power.

Butanol is a direct gasoline replacement produced by bacteria from any organic matter. It can be carried and delivered via the existing infrastructure.

Biodiesel is a direct diesel replacement produced by transesterification of fatty acids. You can use animal or plant oil as a feedstock and it can be produced from algae which can be grown in seawater.

That's two liquid fuel options there. You do have your weasel words at the bottom of the article ("or at least a similar liquid fuel") but this is about getting off of petrofuels, not about getting off of liquid fuels.

Can you imagine what kind of electrical infrastructure you would need to transfer the same power over mere wires?

Yes, high voltage DC.

But beyond that, most people's daily vehicle needs can easily be served by charging overnight, when your objection does not apply.

About the only alternative I can imagine that would be comparable would be to hot-swap whole huge batteries at gas stations.

About the only alternative to going extinct if we ruin our biosphere is to move into a bunch of bio-domes.

It may be too late, though, in which case we might as well just keep having drag races and flying across a nation criss-crossed with rail.

Re:Gasoline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24106339)

Thats not really a good criteria for using a certain fuel. For example I'd imagine that a single nuclear reactor grade uranium rod has a higher energy release(via conventional means)/weight ratio than gasoline. It's a fun fact but not really significant in any way.

By your argument if we had a city with a robust subway system, you would argue that it should be driven by gasoline because it has a good energy density, when it could of course be driven electrically without the having to carry it's fuel on board the train at all.

I hope my point has been made

2016: Mercedes sales tumble (1, Interesting)

Hawthorne01 (575586) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106097)

As owners of new Mercedes can't find places to fill up their cars.

Look, I'm all for alternative power sources, (I've been driving a Honda Civic hybrid since 2004), but a unilateral decision like this is just silly. Mercedes just isn't a big enough player (even in Europe) to force the construction of the infrastructure needed to support common use of fuel cells, etc. by 2015.

And don't biofuels lead to worldwide food shortages? A better route for Mercedes would be to ease the transition with regular hybrids and plug-in hybrids, then take the leap into leaving gasoline and diesel.

Me? When I sell my Civic Hybrid in a few years (like, say, six or so), I'll probably get a Chevy Volt. 40 miles on batteries only = never having to use gas on my way or going home from work.

Re:2016: Mercedes sales tumble (1)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106327)

Remember, this is a Chevy we are talking about; do you really expect quality? I'd be willing ot bet the car get's 40 miles in pristine conditions, and about 30 in normal conditions, and down to about 20 in rush hour.

Re:2016: Mercedes sales tumble (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106367)

> As owners of new Mercedes can't find places to fill up their cars.

Their "green" "biodiesel" vehicles will run just fine on petroleum.

Seems fitting (2, Insightful)

Lucas123 (935744) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106113)

Mercedes invented the modern automobile, now they're leading in innovation again. Now if only American automakers would muster up the grit to do the same. Electric motors have been around since 1881 for Pete's sake. Howabout it folks?

Sounds nice, but not very credible (2, Interesting)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106135)

Even if a car manufacturer is serious about going to alternative fuels, I don't see it happen within 7 years for the major brands. Because the alternatives are not at the point where they could do as well as gasoline motors in all aspects. A small company might choose to make only electric cars and sell enough to make a profit, but I doubt the market would absorb the numbers a large manufacturer makes.

Besides, it is Mercedes we're talking about. Historically they tend to be late to adopt technology trends. With direct injection diesels and cars that could use unleaded gasoline, they were among the last on the German market.
Which is not to say Mercedes are incompetent, my impression of their cars is that they offer solid quality and a friend of mine who is a car mechanic agrees. But they are rather conservative, which means they offer mature technology but are rarely the first to do something.

A lot of smoke from a backside... (0)

Simonetta (207550) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106173)

This is absurd. Maybe they made a typing mistake and meant to say that petroleum cars would stop being made by Mercedes by 2115.

    Change happens slowly, even when it is anticipated and expected. No giant car company is going to stop making petroleum vehicles by 2015, least of all a German company. Some little schmuck (Yiddish: penis; stupid person // German: jewel) in their Press Relations department is talking out of his ass.

    This is the most absurd statement to come out of German car company since Daimler announced that they had 'great syzygy' with Chrysler.

    Wait.... isn't Mercedes Daimler in disguise? Are these the same bozos as before?

Not a big leap (1)

Myrddin Wyllt (1188671) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106277)

If the main focus of this is going to be diesel engines running on biofuels, there doesn't seem a lot of extra work to be done. Their light commercial diesels, especially the 2.1L fitted in the Sprinter van, is a phenomenal engine: quiet, powerful, economical and very tractable.

I don't have direct experience of their diesel-engined cars (except seeing them go past me on the motorway), but I would imagine the technology is pretty similar.

The switch from petro- to bio-diesel is a lot more straightforward than with gasoline, so I would expect this to be the area they focus on.

Why this is _really_really_ stupid. (0)

$criptah (467422) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106279)

I hate environmentalists who want us to stop using gas. I hate them with a great passion becuase they cannot see that switching from one type of fuel to another single type of fuel is equivalent to shooting ourselves in the foot. Running out of oil and gas prices are not the problem. The real problem is seeing gas/oil as the only source of energy that can be used for transportation. So let's ditch gas and start using biodiesel. How long do you think it will take until we start running out of biodiesel?

I have a friend who converted an older Benz into a car that runs on french fry oil. He gets his fuel for free so essentially he is not affected by the current gas prices. Twice a month he goes to a local college, gets a barrel of used oil and there you go. This was tits while he had the only veggie car in town. Guess what is happening when gallon goes past $4? That's right, everybody wants free oil from french fries. We are back to square one. While local restaurants may be able to supply enough oil for a hundred cars, there is no way in hell we can get enough products for everybody. Exactly the same thing will happen to people who jump from one source of energy to another. The answer to the problem is diversification.

What we have to do is to realize that everybody's needs are different. People who want to commute 40 miles per day can get away by using an electric car. Guys who want to target Rubicon trail will benefit from Diesel/electric combo (due to torque) and in some cases gasoline will be appropriate. And while I am highly pleased with the fact that a car company wants to step away from gas, I hope that this world is not going to jump on the bandwagon to find out that in 100 years we are back to exactly the same spot: Running out of fuel.

If it is going to happen.... (3, Insightful)

trickno (1227142) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106311)

It is going to be with an electric car. I'll admit, the electricity distribution system needs a drastic overhaul, but it is for all intents and purposes, in place. Can Mercedes do it? Absolutely. As previously mentioned, Tesla Motors is doing it right now, and that's with a sports car faster than almost all exotics off the line. Toning down performance and allowing the technology to mature will all attribute to a successful conversion.

So what will they use? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24106321)

Given that nobody has a clue what the future infrastructure will be at the moment (though electric would seem a good guess *now*) this would be a brave to the point of suicidal move on their behalf.

It probably won't be feasible to have a common body-work and slot in different fuel regimes, so this will shoot costs right up.

Irrespective of whether or not such a transition is desirable, I'm not convinced that it's practical.

EV1 revisited (4, Interesting)

Nonillion (266505) | more than 5 years ago | (#24106427)

You know, GM really stepped on it's dick when it decided to crush the EV1. Here they had the chance to become the biggest auto manufacture on the planet, design a fully electric car, nearly maintenance free. Nickel metal hydride batteries that would outlast the life of the car, a motor good for a 1,000,000+ miles, regenerative breaking, would go 130+ miles between charges (NiMH), 300+ with L-ion.

If I had the chance I would buy a fully electric car, my commute is 60 miles round trip. However, not using gas would get me labeled as a thief by the state and federal governments since I wouldn't be paying the gas tax that never seems to go towards it's intended purpose (and never goes down when said road project is finished).

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