A blog focused on sustainable business issues and challenges

Survey: High Fuel Prices Likely to Make Urban Dwellers Re-think or Abandon Car Ownership

March 19, 2012 | No Comments →

If gas prices continue to climb, will you consider making significant changes to your driving habits? Will you consider buying a different car, or maybe even abandoning auto ownership all together?

Interesting new research from Oliver Wyman and the ESB Business School Reutlingen in Germany reveals that for many urban dwellers in Western Europe and Asia, the answer to all of those questions is a resounding “yes.”

The “Future of Mobility” found that, if fuel prices rose significantly by 2030, more than three-fourths (77 percent) of the 3,000 people polled would change their mobility behavior by:

  • switching to a smaller car,
  • switching to an electric car, or
  • abandoning car ownership entirely and replacing it with a mixture of transport modes.

Survey respondents in Shanghai (91percent) and France (82percent) were particularly open to changing their mobility patterns. High-income respondents (71percent) were the least likely demographic segment to consider a switch.

The survey also asked respondents to predict how their behavior would change under a more aggressive “sustainability mobility” scenario. For this particular scenario, those polled were asked to imagine a 2030 with fuel costs at 4 euro/liter (the equivalent of about $20/gallon), more traffic congestion, better quality public transport and the possibility of planning multimodal trips using smartphone apps. Under this “sustainability mobility” scenario: (more…)

President Obama Announces $1 Billion Challenge to Spur Deployment of Alternative Fuel Trucks

March 12, 2012 | Comments (2)

President Obama at DaimlerLast week, President Obama visited the Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) manufacturing facility in Mount Holly, North Carolina, where he announced a new $1 billion National Community Deployment Challenge to spur deployment of clean, advanced vehicles in communities around the country.

DTNA is a partner in the Energy Department’s SuperTruck initiative, which is focused on increasing the fuel efficiency of long haul trucks (aka, 18-wheelers) by 50 percent by 2015.

While these particular trucks represent only 4 percent of the on-road vehicles in America, they are responsible for almost 20 percent of the country’s on-road fuel consumption, and this class of vehicle currently consumes more than 30 billion gallons of gasoline each year.

In order to achieve the SuperTruck imitative goal, companies like Daimler are developing and improving a number of vehicle technologies, including engine efficiency, aerodynamics waste heat recovery and hybridization.  Through these types of improvements, the Energy Department estimates fuel economy increases could save long-haul truckers more than $15,000 per truck per year in fuel costs. (In an earlier post, I reported that MIT researchers also have identified significant cost savings for businesses that use electric vehicles to make deliveries on an everyday basis in big cities.) (more…)

Ford Announces Plan to Dramatically Cut Both Waste Sent to Landfill and Water Use

February 17, 2012 | No Comments →

Ford of Europe is slashing the amount of waste it sends to landfills.

Ford announced a few weeks ago that by increasing the proportion of waste recycled and reused across European production lines, the company can cut landfill waste by a whopping 70 percent. That means a reduction in the average landfill waste generated per vehicle to 1.5kg by 2016 from 5kg in 2011.

In addition, Ford said it wants to reduce water use by 30 percent.

Based on annual production of 1.2 million vehicles, that translates to reducing water use by approximately 1.3 billion liters per year –or 1,100 less liters of water for each car or van produced.  Ford says this plan will also save €2.3 million (about $3 million) over the same time period. (more…)

General Motors Releases Its First Sustainability Report as New Company

January 25, 2012 | Comments (3)

General Motors believes that sustainability goals are best achieved when directly integrated into its business model, and the company reinforced this commitment last week with the release of its first global sustainability report since restructuring as a new company.

In particular, I was pleased to see that the report includes the incredibly forward-thinking declaration that what GM needs to grow its business is aligned with the needs of society –namely, energy alternatives and advanced technologies to help reduce dependency on petroleum, improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, as well as bold thinking about personal mobility in the 21st century.

Looking back over the past year, GM says it has made marked progress in water conservation, renewable energy use, wildlife habitat preservation, recycling waste and material repurposing. Plus, the company is expanding its Greening Supply Chain Initiative to additional suppliers and joint ventures in China, its largest national market. In 2010, GM also earned the title clean-tech patent leader by the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index for the advanced technology, fuel efficiency and overall sustainability-related aspects of its products.

Looking ahead to the next decade, GM plans to achieve even more. The company says it will: (more…)

Seat Fabric in Ford Focus Electric Made From Used Plastic Water Bottles

December 26, 2011 | No Comments →

The new Ford Focus Electric features seat fabric made from REPREVE®, a polyester fiber derived from a hybrid blend of recycled materials, including used plastic water bottles and post-industrial waste.

REPREVE is manufactured by Unifi, Inc, a global leader in sustainable textile solutions, and Ford is the first automakers to use this branded fiber for its seats. According to Ford, the seat fabric on each Focus Electric now includes the equivalent of more than 20 plastic bottles per car.

For years, Ford has been committed to finding a sustainable solution for textiles used in car production.

In 2009, the company mandated that fabric suppliers use a minimum of 25 percent recycled content for all 2009 and beyond model year vehicles. Since then, 37 different fabrics meeting the requirements have been developed and incorporated into Ford vehicles.

Now, Ford is taking it a step further by mandating that fabric be 100 percent sustainable in vehicles with eco-conscious powertrains like Focus Electric.

REPREVE fits the bill. Unifi officials report that all told, 22 plastic, 16-ounce water bottles are used in the seat fabric of a single Focus Electric. (more…)