Posted by: engineguy | August 26, 2007

Who Is Axel Friedrich, and Is He An Idiot?

Axel Friedrich and people like him are going to kill our enjoyment of our cars and the open road. Not because they are mean. But because of their blundering policy-making and their mistaken ideas to “help” the environment.

Axel Friedrich is one of Europe’s top environmental regulators and unfortunately for Germany, he’s also head of the transport department at Germany’s Federal Environmental Agency. And no, he’s not an idiot. He only seems like one because he supports making lighter-weight, smaller and, therefore, more dangerous cars with under-powered engines to reduce emissions and save fuel. But, mind you, only until better technologies emerge. Which may be at least twenty years away.

I’m writing about him here because he recently spoke at a hearing of the European Union regulators last month. And there is the suspicion (read fear) among many of us that “as goes Europe, so goes the U.S.” In the same way we always say, “as goes California, so goes the nation.” But now with the environmental movement’s top political radicals carrying on as if everyone but them wants dirty air, dirty water and “global warming,” we’d better be paying attention. This is serious stuff, folks.

Or we’ll find ourselves driving cars that we DO NOT want to drive. And sadly, not because we don’t have a real ability available to us right now for cutting emission drastically. But because these radical elements will beat us to the punch with their solutions — totally impractical, overbearing regulations and very discomforting to us. You know what I mean.

Do you want to live with those kinds of laws?

Of course not. So listen-up. This is important. I’ll show you there is already some strong medicine on the market that will cut emissions, increase mpg and horsepower. But first let me show you the dangers of quietly waiting for Friedrich.

Herr Friedrich hired a group of university engineers to find ways to cut carbon-dioxide emissions from Volkswagen AG’s best selling Golf. And further, to do this without undermining safety or performance. Well, what a great idea. But it’s been done. (And I’ll show you how and where.)

The “team” reported back that they had cut emissions by 25% while keeping Golf’s horsepower intact. But are we ready for the means they used to perform this feat? Volkswagen wasn’t pleased.

You see, the “team’s” trick was to reduce the car’s weight by substituting a variety of things, such as installing lightweight front seats similar to those used in race cars. Volkswagen complained that this would make it harder to get into the car, and thus, less appealing to consumers. Other alterations the “team” and Friedrich came up with would make the car too expensive for most buyers. Again,Volkswagen wasn’t amused or pleased, at all.

Herr Friedrich, with all the hautiness of a French waiter, said, “We all know what to do. It’s nothing magic.”

No, mein herr, apparently we ALL don’t know what to do, least of all you! I am so sick and tired of the idea that to save fuel and reduce emissions we have to make smaller, lighter cars with smaller under-powered engines. That’s wrong and it shows a nearly complete lack of imagination and creativity.

But since when have most car-makers been imaginative and creative? I can’t believe it. They really don’t even have to “think outside the box” as the mavens of innovation tell us to do. The problem is so simple anyone can understand it and devise the answer in a moment’s thought.

The problem is friction. The answer is to reduce friction.

That’s it. That’s all of it. And it can be done easily.

Why is this so hard for them to understand?

The single thing that causes lower fuel efficiency, also causes lower horsepower and higher exhaust emissions. And this single thing is friction within the internal combustion engine and the moving parts that run the vehicle — transmission, differential, wheels and so on. Including the drag we’ve all felt when we turn on our car’s or truck’s air-conditioner.

Sure, it’s big. And it’s very real. A Department of Energy study shows that friction alone — just friction — causes losses of up to 85% of a vehicle’s power between the engine and where the tires meet the pavement. That’s a hard study finding to swallow. But the DOE stands behind it. Of course, much depends on driving conditions, the driver and other factors. Personally, I usually take most study findings and cut them in half. But here, that means we still have a 70% loss of power from friction. That’s not acceptable either.

But with the politically-driven push by government and environmentalists on the auto industry to reduce emissions right this moment — right now! — especially Carbon Dioxide, is going to result in just what we will fear most. Flimsily built, lightweight cars with small engines that few people will want to buy. And few of us will want to drive.

Why? Because that’s the quick answer. Not the best answer nor the right answer. But it sure beats having to actually think and solve the real problem: friction. This calls for a complete reversal in the car-makers mind-set in an unrealistically short time. We will get trash. Does anyone remember the Seventies? And the cars that Detroit scrambled to make to please the CAFE standards? Junk, most of them, anyway.

How to boost fuel economy and reduce emissions is a very emotional topic in Germany. The German automotive industry makes some of the world’s greatest cars. And one out of seven German jobs depends on the auto industry. Needless to say, German auto-makers are worried. And German auto-workers are worried, too. As well they both should be.

“This is a business war in Europe,” says Porsche AG CEO Wendelin Wiedeking. The potential of battery-powered cars and other hybrids that are being developed to run on Hydrogen fuel cells are years from mass production and practical use. We’d need hydrogen fuel cell filling stations. How likely is that to happen with only a few Hydrogen fuel cell cars on the road?

But all this turmoil and political-economic war to reduce emissions by 25% and increase fuel efficiency is totally unnecessary. It’s a problem that’s already solved. But you haven’t heard about it, right? So let’s take a look at it.

Yes. The problem is already solved.

Yes, the problem in solved. But some important testing done by Porsche-Volkswagen AG has apparently been lost in the shuffle of big companies, big government agencies, and gadfly’s like Herr Friedrich out to save us from ourselves. The test results clearly showed that Microlon, a metal treatment technology that came out of the aircraft industry, substantially reduced emissions — particularly Carbon-Dioxide by a whole lot more than 25%.

How about a 62.6% reduction in Carbon Dioxide? Yep. That’s what the test results show. And it gets better. Volkswagen-Porsche AG’s own tests showed that the Microlon treatment of their Porsche 928’s engine resulted in a 40% decrease in Hydro-Carbons, a 20% decrease in noxious particles per millimeter and the gas mileage was increased by nearly 10%. And the biggest outcome again, it reduced Carbon Dioxide emissions by nearly 63%! That’s a lot more than 25%. And the big deal is, we can drive any car we want to and get that kind of emission reduction!

These test results were freely shared with Microlon corporation and the public. They were released by Kurt Meier’s California office, Volkswagen-Porsche AG, Western District. Although other data of the test results are proprietary to Volkswagen Porsche AG, anyone can see these emissions and gas mileage results.

And what is it that Microlon engine treatment does to get these almost magical results? It reduces friction in the engine by a permanent — yes, permanent — dry lubricant coating of all metal engine parts. It’s the only compound in the world that does this, but it does it none-the-less.

Now what has happened that Herr Friedrich and Volkswagen AG don’t remember those study findings? Who knows? Possibly big companies, big government agencies, and gadfly’s like Herr Friedrich aren’t all they’re cracked-up to be.

But I would say that this is a much more effective way of handling our emissions problems and our fuel problems. And doing so without Detroit and others turning automobiles into junk. And without us having to drive around in toy cars.

These little things (cars) are dangerous. You know, you only have one wreck in these kinds of cars. And if you’re lucky enough to survive, the car won’t. And we all know how well we come out on an insurance claim of a totaled car.

Well, one thing leads to another and pretty soon we’re all screwed, including the environmental crowd, because no one takes the time or trouble to solve the problems correctly. But worse. In this case the problem is already solved. So we need to tell them about it. Get the word out somehow.

Maybe we should all open our windows, stick our heads out and yell, “It’s friction you dummies! And I’m not going to take it anymore!”

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Responses

  1. Aloha engineguy,

    “He supports making lighter-weight, smaller and, therefore, more dangerous cars with under-powered engines..”

    Why do you think under-powered engines are “more dangerous?”

    Making smaller and lighter-weight,cars is a basic principle in building racing cars. Where do you get this “more dangerous,” assertion from?

    Less inertia to start, move, and stop. Fewer forces to pull you off line.

    I agree with you that we do not want politicians designing our cars. But we also don’t need people who have no scientific outlook telling us what is safe and what is not without some kind of evidence to back it up.

    No question about friction or Porsche for that matter. VW needs all the help they can get.

    Coating internal engine parts, including power steering, transmissions, differentials, transfer cases, wheel bearing grease, chassis grease and fuel systems, with friction-reducing treatments should help any car.

    It looks to me like you suggest that a bunch of big heavy over-powered cars crashing into each other is safer than a bunch of small light underpowered cars running into each other. Where the proof?

    It does not make any sense. When you crash in a 3,000 lb car the car stops, the passengers have to absorb 3,000 lbs. In a 500 lb car only 500lbs. Why to you think the heaver car is safer?

    It seems to me the unsafest vehicles on the road are the big heavy adequately powered SUVs?

  2. Thanks for your input, goldtrader.

    You bring up a very good question. But, dang, I thought my post was already too long, or I’d have addressed your concern, too.

    Basically, there’s nothing wrong with small cars. I like them. I drive a Z4 and my wife drives a Mini-Cooper. But we do so cautiously. Having driven sports cars and motorcycles, I know that we are more vulnerable in a wreck with an SUV, for example, than is the SUV. So it’s not just a matter of SUVs crashing into each other.
    Small cars simply don’t have the strength and weight of the larger car surrounding the passengers.

    Your comment on the amount of kinetic energy the heavy over the light weight must absorb is not due only to the weight or mass, if you will, but rather to the momentum. One doesn’t absorb less momentum because the car weighs less. I’m talking about the momentum of the mass of our fragile bodies.

    I’ve demonstrated this to all my friends by having a wreck on a motorcycle years ago. I discovered that momentum alone, at 40mph, can cause the 175 lb. human body to fly through the air like superman, then land and roll for several hundred feet. Truly an amazing experience. And I have no idea what the motorcycle weighed or the car that pulled out in front of me.

    Absolutely, racing cars are built light to have less resistance to acceleration — Newton’s law of physics says that objects at rest, tend to stay at rest. So overcoming inertia is the reason for less weight. You are absolutely right. But I wouldn’t take my family for a drive on the freeway in a race car. Only the driver’s cage is a protected area. The rest of the car flies apart upon impact with walls, other cars and when flipping through the air.

    But I must differ with you on the danger of underpowered engines. There are many times on the highway when a small engine cannot provide the power to move quickly enough to avoid a collision. I’ve proved that to my satisfaction, as well. It was a simple demonstration of the immediate need for a more powerful engine. I was stopped behind two other cars on a two lane highway, waiting for a car at the front to make a left turn. Some zoned-out driver from behind me was arriving awfully fast to be able to stop behind me, I thought, as I viewed him in my rear-view mirror. So I turned my wheel and gunned the engine to get out of his way when it became obvious he didn’t even see us stopped. I almost made it. I was able to get over far enough, quickly enough that he only clipped my rear right bumper. With a stronger engine, I could have made it, completely avoiding his zombie driving skills.

    No I can’t say that I want a bunch of big heavy over-powered cars crashing into each other. But I really don’t want a big heavy car smashing into a small, lightweight car. And that’s what we’ll always have. If it’s not SUVs, then it’s trucks. There are heavy vehicles on the road all the time.

    My idea is this. Let’s simply reject the easy way out for both the environmental worriers and the corporate bottom-liners who will simple solve one problem and produce another problem which will likely be worse.

    I’m old enough to remember the Seventies quite well. So my concern is that we are headed in the same direction as then, when the car makers’ lack of imagination linked with the political atmosphere and hair-brained laws that created market-driven gas shortages (which were blamed on the oil companies, of course). The cars during that period, and into the eighties, were vastly inferior in craftsmanship, design and power. And it was because the car manufacturer find it impossible to think outside the box. Up until a few years ago, with advent of on-board computers to manage the engine, and some better safety precautions in tires, and body construction, the last real innovation in the automobile was the automatic transmission. Maybe the torsion bar suspension that Chrysler developed in the fifties.

    My point is exactly what you said in your fifth paragraph. “We do not want politicians designing our cars.” And I’ll add, that we do not want Detroit to design cars simply to use less fuel with no other consideration made. Their lack of imagination and scramble to make money in a declining market will mean that they will take the easy way out–light weight cars and little aluminum engines that wear out much sooner because aluminum is much softer than steel.

    The next few years are going to be full of chicanery by the politicians and the car-makers, and the fuel industries. The horrifying product, Ethanol, is only one of the first examples of what we are going to be subject to. When we began our quest for lowering fuel use, etc., the first thing that came out of it was a political sop to the corn growers. The huge corporations that grow and process most of our corn is now being subsidized by the government. What else do we expect from politicians. Real solutions? Ha!

    We must be very circumspect and suspicious of so-called “help” from the government or the corporate world in solving these new problems.


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