Carmakers think outside the box as electric dreams shatter
There is a growing awareness that conventional hybrids and slow-selling battery cars simply won't be enough to meet rigid EU emissions limits.
Among those showing off new ideas at the Geneva car show this week, Volkswagen presented its diesel-electric XL1 - a low-slung two-seater that burns less than a litre of fuel per 100 kilometres - while PSA Peugeot Citroen rolled out a compressed-air hybrid.
Automakers are broadly on track to meet the interim goal of trimming vehicles' average CO2 output to 130 grams per kilometre by 2015. But drastic steps are needed to meet the 95 gram target set for 2020 and the potential for tougher standards after that.
"We can't get the necessary gains we need with traditional technology any more. We're seeing a real break with the past," Peugeot innovation chief Jean-Marc Finot said in an interview.
Arthur Wheaton, automotive expert at Cornell University, offers a succinct summing up of the problem. "Battery technology has not been able to resolve the century-old problem of too much weight and limited range capability," he said.
Despite the billions spent by the likes of Renault-Nissan to develop electric cars, optimism about their future has "dampened considerably", KPMG said in a survey in January.
World leader Toyota, which launched the Prius hybrid in 1997, dropped plans for broader sale of the battery-powered eQ last September, saying it
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