Global environmental challenges
Solar power magnate’s bold bid for ailing carmaker
Here was a small 10-year-old company specialising in producing photovoltaic systems with 2,000 employees and annual sales of 700 million euros preparing the stage for a seemingly audacious takeover of a legendary 146-year-old German company with 25,000 employees and more than 60 million cars sold since the first vehicle was made in 1899.
What does solar power have to do with the car industry? Not much at this point.
Yet after the initial laughter finally died down, Asbeck explained the vision linking renewable energies to the car industry. The 49-year-old solar power baron told Reuters that he wanted to make Opel the first “green” car company in Europe.
“Opel has truly modern policies on car models,” said Asbeck, a maverick in Germany who started the fast-growing company only a decade ago. “It’s got the potential to become a truly ‘green’
carmaker, switching over from the ‘automotive’ sector to the ‘sun-motive’ or ‘electro-motive’.
“The public and the markets are demanding new products,” he said. “No one will be able to negate a 25-percent decline in sales with green, electro cars or hybrids overnight. But the development is extremely interesting. There will be a new cliental and new green market demands that have to be met.”
There have been rapid advances in energy storage technologies in recent years. Some believe that millions of battery-driven cars could be a major breakthrough for renewable energies — a vast depot for storing wind and solar power.
While the supply of the wind and sun far exceeds humanity’s needs it doesn’t necessarily match the time when people need it: the sun may not be shining nor the wind blowing when we need to cook dinner or have a shower — or drive cars. Soaring production of solar panel and wind turbines has been now spurring a race to develop the winning energy storage technologies which will drive the electric cars and appliances of the future.
Asbeck’s idea to meld cars and solar together sounds crazy, but his audacious gamble for Opel has put the idea in the spotlight. Let’s see where it goes from here.