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Chrysler CEO: Going Green is Good, But Natural Gas Better Than Electric

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Sergio Marchionne

Sergio Marchionne

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Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne isn't known for his love of electric vehicles.

We really rate the company's first offering, the 2014 Fiat 500e electric car, but Sergio himself doesn't--speaking at the Society of Automotive Engineers 2013 World Congress, he reiterated that the company is losing $10,000 on every example it sells.

According to The Detroit News, Marchionne wants automakers to have more freedom over which green technology to move forward with--and his own preference is for natural gas.

He believes natural gas is the "cleanest alternative available" to oil-based fuels, and that governments should remain "technology neutral" rather than pushing for legislation that dictates the direction of technology.

To his credit, Marchionne does believe that automakers should strive to reduce their impact on the environment--even if that's largely for business reasons.

"We must try to project ourselves into the future, taken account of the consequences of our own individual actions," he said. Fiat-Chrysler is currently the seventh-biggest automaker in the world--and as the market gets tougher, it's unlikely any company smaller will survive on its own.

Maserati: "Electric cars are nonsense"

His words are backed up by those of Maserati boss Harald Wester, who voiced his own concerns at the opening of the Shanghai Auto Show in China.

"All this discussion about zero emissions is nonsense", said Wester (via Autocar), "Nobody talks about the efficiency of how the battery is charged. It varies strongly from region to region, depending on how the energy is produced, nuclear, coal and so on, but even the best is not ahead of the internal combustion engine."

He added that Maserati might well develop a hybrid vehicle at some stage, though largely for meeting emissions legislation than for any practical purpose.

His comments aren't surprising considering Maserati's position under electric-skeptic Fiat, though the observant may note that another Fiat subsidiary, Ferrari, is forging ahead with its own hybrid hypercar, LaFerrari.

Electric still cleaner in 'Compliance Car' California

It isn't hard to see that Marchionne and Wester's comments are partly based on the company's struggle to bring a viable car to market in the hybrid and electric segments. The concept certainly has business potential, as 5 million hybrid-selling Toyota would attest.

Marchionne also has to ask himself whether he's willing for Fiat and Chrysler vehicles to have their emissions measured on a well-to-wheels basis. In California at least, the battery electric vehicle still rules under such a measurement, proving cleaner than Fiat's preferred diesels or natural gas vehicles.

Of course, Marchionne's argument is that such a decision should be taken out of the government's hands--rather than being forced to sell electric vehicles in a particular country or state.

Justifiable complaint or not though, all automakers are in the same boat--and if some can make it work, then Fiat and Chrysler must figure it out for themselves.

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Comments (38)
  1. I agree with the idea that legislation should be "technology neutral."

    It is better to regulate towards the desired result than the means to achieve that result.

    In the case of California, I think it is a more consistent policy than Fiat is willing to admit. California is legislating clean EVs and a cleaner grid at the same time. The result will probably be very impressive.
     
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  2. What percentage of your charging is from the solar panels?
    Congratulations.
     
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  3. Don't have an EV yet. But the solar panels cover nearly 100% of my home electricity needs.

    Hope to get an EV and more panels in the future.
     
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  4. My solar panel is producing 2.8x the electricity I charge at home and my work charge is powered by 1MW solar panel array...

    John's argument is valide. CNG cars in CA gets the HOV access and some of the state credit too. Also, home recharging credit applies to CNG also.
     
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  5. Agreed. There are EV owners that have solar panels. I don't know anybody that makes their own natural gas at home from renewable materials.
     
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  6. Well John then we have to agree to disagree. Car company's dont give a rats ass about technology, only money and if that is all there was ok then. After all, they are here to make money but at what cost? before it was human lives until the GOVERNMENT told them to make cars safer. Now its the environment that will suffer until the GOVERNMENT tells them to fix the issue. So,yes I do support government pushing the "right" technology. NEWS FLASH; Power generation does not have to be dirty
     
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  7. I was going to say something like "when a CEO tells you something is better, he means his company makes more money that way". But you have kind of captured that, thanks. I also particularly like the use of the term "rat's ass", nice.
     
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  8. If Wester really thinks "nobody talks about how the battery is charged", he needs to learn about this new Internet thing. I'd like him to show me the ICE that is cleaner than my EV charging from my solar panels.
     
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  9. Pathetic of Wester (or anyone) to bring up battery charging infrastructure without also bringing up the infrastructure to provide and deliver fuels for ICEs.
     
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  10. Thank you, just thank you... Convenient omission, no?
     
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  11. "Marchionne wants automakers to have more freedom over which green technology to move forward with--and his own preference is for natural gas." Yeah he wants freedom for his preference not the freedom to choose. I love it when these guys don't want to spend money on EV development and sales so they come up with the same lame excuses as to why EVs are bad. Most of all is the stupid dirty power plants excuse, they don't care about power plant emissions, they simply don't want to invest the time or the money so they mouth off about EVs in front of the press hoping to keep people in their gasoline powered cars.
     
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  12. I sure agree with that. My personal favorite lame excuse for continuing to drive an ICE is hydrogen fuel cells. They are going to solve all our transportation problems tomorrow or next week at the latest, so why bother with that icky BEV today?
     
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  13. Hydrogen is the automotive equivalent of the dangling carrot. And you can't chase the carrot if you run out of gas : )
     
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  14. Any serious, well informed, and fair environmentalist knows that replacing coal burning with natural gas is job one for improving air quality around the world. Coal pollutants include particulates, mercury, sulfuric acid, nitrogen oxides, etc. It is responsible for millions of early deaths yearly. Natural gas is the cleanest fuel there is, aside from hydrogen. It is the cheapest, and the most abundant.

    Producing and using natural gas is the best solution for base power, in conjunction with solar, wind, geothermal etc. There is plenty of natural gas all around the world, and it can be accessed with new and future technology.
    http://www.worldwatch.org/sy The main concern for environmentalists worldwide should be to cut the use of coal, es
     
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  15. why not charge EV with natural gas? EV are inherently more efficient than ICE, meaning they require less energy from whatever source, so i'm told. if electric plants use too much coal, that's a different problem.
     
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  16. They already do. Many power plants are NG burners.
     
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  17. NG provides the overwhelming source of power in California.
     
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  18. I should have said "Southern California". Forty-six percent of power from Southern California Edison comes from NG. (12% coal)
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  19. The largest % of California power is from Natural Gas. In SF Bay Area, the coal is only tiny portion of the power. (Less than 10%).

    In my county where I live, most of the power are from the geothermal plant. And my work place has 1MW solar and my house has 3.3KW solar.

    I understand that solar doesn't work for everyone (northern climate will be severely limited). But EVs are very efficient. About 2x as efficient as the most efficient hybrid or about 3x more efficient than the most efficient ICEs... So, there is nothing wrong with driving EVs that are powered by the natural gas generated power plants.
     
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  20. @Xiaolong - the latest data I have seen is from PG&E for 2011 and it's true that the largest power source was from natural gas, but it was only 25%. The second largest was nuclear at 22% and everything else was renewable. They reported zero power from coal. It was actually pretty remarkable.
     
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  21. I know. It is here.
    http://www.pge.com/mybusiness/environment/pge/cleanenergy/index.shtml

    But there is an "unspecified" 15% in there... Some of that are diesel or oil based source. But overall, it is better than most other states out there.
     
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  22. @Norm,

    You can always use Mark Lausier's latest article link to determine each specific zip code's energy mix.

    http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_emissions.php
     
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  23. Which county are you in? I wasn't aware that any CA counties were powered in part by geothermal.
     
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  24. 101 Useful references on natural gas: https://docs.google.com/document/d/19Yf0MWpo91vrlu-mmJtjB1ERukjJo5W41oi4RZVQBug/edit
     
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  25. Also, let us look at it this way. US hasn't had a single coal plant built since the early 1980s. Now, all the new additional power plants are being built are Natural Gas based and more coal plants are being converted to natural gas as well. So, all "additional" load are coming from natural gas and renewable power source. EVs/PHEV/EREVs are new. So, their additional load are being carried by the additional capacity which are mainly natural gas and renewable power.

    Also, if we have 1,000,000 EVs (which we don't) driving 40 miles per day, it will only add 0.38% to the existing load of the grid. We are adding more than that in renewable power each year....
     
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  26. All major European car companies make natural (CNG) gas cars, vans, and trucks! See them here: http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1083676_chrysler-ceo-going-green-is-good-but-natural-gas-better-than-electric#comment-1000154881
     
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  27. What he is actually saying is they don't want to lose all the 1,000% profit on ICE parts sales since an EV motor only has bearings and a rotor, not much to replace, profit from.

    And a major reason, profit center and why they make EV's overweight, overpriced and overteched so they won't be as popular.
     
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  28. I don't think kicking and screaming is going to do Fiat-Chrysler any good at this point. Talking nonsense about ICE coming out ahead no matter how the energy is generated is unlikely to convince the people that matter either. Pushing CNG: that has its fair share of downsides too like substantial extra cost and low energy density tanks that need frequent and lengthy top ups. Doesn't sound like the silver bullet.

    Good thing they have a solid plan B in place with the attractive upcoming 500e.
     
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  29. Chrysler/Fiat group (in the US) isn't exactly known for its "fuel efficiency" in the past. Why should it be any different now?

    Jeep used to have some of the worst MPG ever (on par with Hummer). The Chrysler cars with Hemi aren't exactly fuel sippers either. (Although their performances are good).
     
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  30. Swapped my wife's small Jeep Patriot for a much larger Hyundai Santa Fe. It costs about 20% less to fuel. It is diesel but the diesel is more expensive than gasoline. The Jeep was an economy disaster.
     
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  31. Is everyone here asleep?

    Natural gas derived from fracking is a disaster. It uses huge amounts of water and dumps unknown chemicals underground. The energy companies say that the fracking chemicals will not migrate to drinking water supplies but their incentive is to protect their profits, not our water. And do we have the water to spare to inject underground? I don't think so. Here in Texas, water is getting scarce and fracking isn't helping the matter. The era of depletion we are hopefully emerging from has us brainwashed into thinking that we must have cheap energy whatever the cost. Burning stuff for the "baseload" of going on average 25 miles per day just keeps us barely ahead of the uncivilized peoples we think we have evolved from.
     
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  32. We have CNG cars in Israel. They are deemed unsafe to enter underground parking garages making them completely useless to me. I park underground at least twice a week. Game over.
     
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  33. Congratulations to your country for getting the Tamar reservoir on line BTW. Should be a real boon for your economy. Excellent energy source to generate the power needed for EVs too.
     
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  34. You guys seemed to have covered it all. CEO takes a dump on Electric transportation, claiming that EVs are a dud, while conveniently forgetting how the real price and costs of a barrel of oil. Extolling the virtues of NG, while the gas industry fights to frack all of it that they can before we outlaw fracking. The trump card that no one is playing is how Tesla allegedly drove a Pierce Arrow 75 years ago, just what powered it. If ya really wanna see a house of cards tumble- let's look at power generation a la Tesla without the draconian oversight of an entrenched utility and university mindset...
     
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  35. Going solar at home and will probably buy a Plugin Hybrid electric vehicle using Natural Gas for the engine unless they develop an efficient battery with at least 300 miles per charge then I will stay with all electric.
     
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  36. Going green is not exactly the business or a car manufacturer's CEO, but consumers wanting better gas mileage in their cars today is. Despite the fact that I like green technologies or I dislike the oil business, I recognize that the CEO in question might have a point in what he said. In fact, EV technologies or solar technologies are not immediately available to all kind of consumers today, regardless of whether they have the money in their bank accounts or not. Simply put: people who live in apartment buildings in cities (the majority perhaps with no roof to install solar panels and have to park their car hundreds of yards away from home in the open with no electrical outlet available) are not going to want to buy a Tesla or a Volt unless
     
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  37. or a Volt unless you drive the latter in gas mode always. In addition, natural is closer to be a source of energy than electricity is. Buy the way, last time I checked, electricity is not a source of energy: you need to expend energy to produce it. Solar electricity is highly efficient in the outer space, but not down here on earth where there is an atmosphere. Besides, there are many places on earth where they get to see The Sun only a few days a year. EV technologies would make perfect sense with nuclear power plants, but after what happened in Japan, they are not expected to proliferate in at least 100 years. IMHO, the future car will be hybrid with a natural gas engine long before it is purely EV. EV car manufacturers will have to
     
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  38. sell infrastructure in addition to their cars if they want to be in business (good luck with that!) In know for example that BMW is considering selling solar car ports to power their Ev's. Thinking like a CEO, will that be cost effective?
     
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