Der Mann der über Wasser läuft

They say he is the Messiah, people have eagerly been waiting for, who will bring progress towards the better, towards the definitively good world: Elon Musk, CEO of the new world empire Tesla. It was him, who reinvented the wheel. Therefore, the greatest inventors of all times such as Gottlieb Daimler, Carl Benz, and Rudolf Diesel in particular, fade in human history in light of the Californian’s ingenuity. Like any other savior, he has a strong and committed fan community. As Journalist Sascha Maier writes in the Stuttgarter Zeitung: “If we can regard technic on the same level as religion, then there is no doubt whose disciples the fans of the automotive brand Tesla are.”

On July 30, Tesla delivered the new Tesla model 3 to the first 30 customers in the U.S. Even though no details about technic and design were given by the manufacturer, Tesla fans joined the queue of 400,000 people in total in order to be permitted to “blindly” order the new dream car making a payment of € 1,000. “If it were not for him [Elon Musk],” spokeswoman of Electrify BW Association says, “we would drive around in diesel cars until we all drop down dead.” When hearing this, we who already enjoyed driving in the sixties and seventies all of a sudden realize how much luck we had when our diesel vehicles as well as our gasoline engines were releasing their fumes into air without the slightest emission reduction. Okay, it was not health-promoting, but at least no one dropped down dead when standing at the roadside. Maybe this was due to the iron immune system of the post-war generation.

But even if there will now be a sudden rise in sales of Tesla vehicles, the environmental balance will not change for the time being because the electric cars, as the name suggests, require electric power.  And electricity from the socket also has to be produced – Elon Musk in due honor. This power has to be produced mainly in fossil fuel-fired power plants for the time being. Producing batteries is a further issue since they harm the environment to a not considerable extent. However, with all the good will in the world and changing to electric cars, we still have to worry about “suddenly dropping down dead.”

There is nothing to argue about the fact that automotive industry has made terrible mistakes benefiting from a slack governmental control – by no excuse. Branding the diesel engine as the biggest environmental hazard at the time of his 125th anniversary and demanding the quickest possible funeral, does not equal an objective analysis, but rather an almost hysterical fundamentalism, which has never been a positive signal. The new diesel generation such as the new Mercedes-Benz E-class (2016) shows an excellent exhaust emission and complies with international exhaust emission standards in terms of test bench, but rather above all in terms of extensive practical tests, which have been neglected until now.

When comparing two components sharing the same use, one should consider it under the aspects of “holistic balancing.” In this sense, expenses and charges, which come to the surface when using the respective technology, are supposed to be calculated objectively. If we consider a holistic balancing of a similar diesel or electric car “from the cradle to the grave” (from fabrication until scrapping), the optimized diesel engine of newest emission technology runs as well as the electric drive.

There is nothing to sugar-coat or to relativize. The German automobile manufacturers did themselves, but all the more their customers, no favor. It remains to be seen how this loss of trust can be undone. Nevertheless, it would be wise to maintain proportionality as regards the measures against the automotive industry, which are requested now. This being said, since the automobile manufacturers, including the suppliers, have been the most important economic factors for decades due to international success. They are responsible for the foundation for economic prosperity in Germany.

It would prove to be a fatal error to scrap the diesel technic or generally all combustion engines since it will take quite long time to replace the combustion engine with the electric drive. With all due respect for Mister Musk, there are still quite a lot of problems to solve. One of the biggest problems is the eco-friendly production of electric power for the running of currently 45 million motor vehicles in Germany. However, no one talks about this issue right now.

 

August 18, 2017

Claus-Henning Guthard