Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Das Auto Greener

"Ford: Didn't you think it was strange I was trying to shake hands with a car?
Arthur: I assumed you were drunk.
Ford: I thought cars were the dominant lifeform. I was trying to introduce myself."
-The Hitch Hiker's Guide to The Galaxy

From Henry Ford and Rudolf Diesel to Enzo Ferrari and Kiichiro Toyoda, there are people who have pioneered motoring, there are people whose prodigious proclivity towards automobile technology revolutionized our lives, and those of our friendly neighbourhood endemic endangered species. But this blog is not about the environmental or financial detriment of cars. Yes we could save the environment tons of harm by just not driving cars, but that would not be very, uh, progressive now would it? And we could save tons of money by just deciding to walk. But then again, these ideas used to be radical in the 90's, the era of Kyoto Protocols and EnviroCons in Rio. Now they are just plain stupid.

So, any self respecting sentient being from another planet(that's alien to you and me, never heard of SETI??) would genuinely not have a moments doubt in deciding who the primary life form on this planet is. CARS. Yes, they feed at gas stations, congregate at parking lots, take care of their personal hygeine at car washes. And have enslaved a whole race of squishy organic creatures, called human beings to take care of them, clean them, and feed them. Oh yes, they are the masters of our destiny. From the time we desire one, fall in love with one, then watch in sadness as the model is recalled for unnatural brake wear, then fall in love again, then actually save up enough to buy one, and live happily ever after until we crash one into a tree and die. The cars rule our lives like no other dictator ever has(unless you're an 80 year old German-Jew).

Now a company conceptualized by the very same dictator, and developed by a certain Ferdinand Porsche, called Volkswagen was supposed to be the creator of the first people's car, or a low cost family car. It was supposed to be available at a discounted rate of 990 ReichsMarks. Which at that time was equal to an average family's yearly income. Which meant that every family could afford one, some maybe even two. Eventually over 360,000 customers actually signed up for their initial offering. And we might have all been driving Volkswagens had the Germans not been unlucky enough to lose the second world war.

Sound familiar. The Tata Nano, is really supposed to be the Indian people's car. And though it isn't promoted by some strong arm tactician, or ignoble dictator, it is still one of the least advertised cars in the market today. This car spells the end for almost all other types of low cost transport there might exist in the world. And with typical Tata flair, this car is available for nearly double the price in Europe. Now, this is something they have tried before with their Indica range. And it has backfired spectacularly. The English aren't dumb, despite outward appearances, and demand to know why they pay double for a car which is half of what they are used to.

The highest revenue earning car making company Toyota, continues to make prototypes of fuel cell cars. However, it must surely be kicking itself for not coming up with an idea akin to the Nano. A 200 billion dollars in revenue makes Toyota a bigwig in the car producer arena, however, what with the Prius cornering the hybrid market completely.

However, we have still to see something concrete by way of the environmentally sound policies that such companies are so quick to publicize. It's still a long route ahead for the zero emissions car to become a commercial reality. And given the perishability of such giants as GM, most car making companies would decide to reuse, rather than recycle.

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