Global environmental challenges
VW on electric cars: “Please, lower your expectations”
Volkswagen’s U.S. chief ruffled some entrepreneurial feathers on Thursday when he told a group of business school students at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management that it will be 35 years before electric cars make up a significant portion of the world’s auto market.
During his prepared remarks, Volkswagen Group of America CEO Stefan Jacoby outlined the German automaker’s view that fossil fuels and traditional combustion engines will be with us for many years to come. VW, however, is committed to making them vastly more fuel efficient. The company is also investing heavily in so-called clean diesel technology, which reduces tailpipe emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases while still giving cars their “fun-to-drive” pep.
“At Volkswagen we are taking a long-term and a short-term approach, and the short-term approach is not electric vehicles,” Jacoby said. “We can have cars on the road that have fuel consumption of 50, 60, 70 miles per gallon. That can happen in the next ten years.”
For electric cars to make economic sense now, gas prices would have to be about $10 a gallon, Jacoby said, attempting to underscore the high cost of electric vehicle technology.
“May I ask how many of you guys can afford a Tesla?” Jacoby asked, referring to the company behind the $109,000 electric Roadster sports car.
During the Q&A session, Jacoby was taken to task for his position on electric cars by some of the audience members, particularly a man who said he drives an EV that is partially powered by the sun.
Jacoby didn’t back down, but he did encourage the audience to take a longer view.
“I’m not saying that the final solution couldn’t be electric cars,” he said. “What I want to bring over to you guys is please, lower your expecations. There are a lot of improvements we can do with less money than putting all our available investment money into one solution.”
Photo credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser (Jacoby talks at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2008)