Neuer Europäischer Fahrzyklus

“New European Driving Cycle.” Contains the rules that define how auto manufacturers must test how many miles/kilometers their vehicles drive per gallon/liter of gasoline consumed. The N.E.F.Z. came into effect in the 1970’s and its mileage testing rules are scheduled to be replaced by the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedures (W.L.T.P.) in 2016, though the European auto manufacturers’ lobby A.C.E.A. is lobbying to delay the new rules until 2020.

Spiegel.de said the Financial Times (paywall) reported on the A.C.E.A.’s attempt to delay stricter mileage tests for four more years. Under the current rules, auto manufacturers can legally reduce gas consumption by hacking the mileage testing of their own products by using “light tires, special lubricants, taping off gaps on the hood or headlights for better aerodynamics. Some unclamp the battery to keep it from being charged, and they test at ideal environmental temperatures.”

The new mileage testing rules would require “more realistic” conditions, including faster accelerations, higher speeds and less idling time for the engines.

Meanwhile, two Spanish hackers who presented about a $26 tool they said they created that let them remotely access steering, speed controls, brakes and heating/cooling, in both a test car from a U.S. manufacturer and a test car from a Japanese manufacturer, said these mini-computers under the hood can improve mileage just by changing a few numbers.

“Would you like to spend less money on gas? Did you know that the difference between 100 horsepower and 130 horsepower version of your car is just some changes in the engine control unit firmware?”

Update on 30 Apr 2014: ZDF heute journal compared car owners’ reported mileage with the considerably better N.E.F.Z. mileage asserted in the manufacturer’s print and video ads for one model, then asked its manufacturer for an explanation. Ford drew their attention to a line in the fine print that said the mileage numbers printed in the offer were not part of the offer.

Then ZDF accompanied an automobile magazine’s consumer product testing of the mileage of several cars, driven along the same varied route during normal working hours by the same driver who is an expert in reducing gas consumption. “No one can get higher mileage out of a car than this guy.” In their test, the Ford model in question used 13% more gas than was advertized as its normal consumption, a Citroen deviated by 0%, a VW beat the value at -1%, an Opel beat the value at almost -2% and a Peugeot used >35% more gas than advertized.

(NOY ah   oy roe PÆ ish ah   FAH tsee clues.)

Die „Sonne“

The Sun, a new climate-change and deep-sea research vessel that left its construction shipyard this week for a year of testing. In 2015, she’s scheduled to replace an eponymous predecessor built in 1969. The newest Sonne is praised for her high mileage and low pollutant emissions.

(Dee   ZONN ah.)

Energiewende-Bremse protestieren

Protesting a brake decelerating the Energiewende, Germany’s switch to renewable energy sources and more energy independence.

Tens of thousands of people protested creatively in several German cities on 22 Mar 2014 because they are afraid the new oppositionless grosse Koalition government wants to slow down Germany’s switch to solar and wind power, and delay the shutdowns of coal and nuclear power plants. Protesters interviewed said governments should speed up the switch to renewables, not slow it down.

The first draft of the new coalition’s Energiewende reform is supposed to be ready in early April 2014.

(En nog EE venned ah   bremz ah   pro tess TEA ren.)

Verbrennungsmotor

Combustion engine.

Auto experts at the recent Geneva Auto Salon said German car manufacturers will be making cars with combustion engines for the next fifteen years or so. They went on to list every conceivable reason for why there aren’t more electric cars in Germany except the one that was the subject of a credible critical anecdotal article recently about trying to test-drive BMW’s new electric car and being unable to find places to recharge it around Hamburg, a city so large it’s also a state.

The author and his family used phone apps to find car recharging sites provided by several major German utility companies only to discover the rechargers weren’t there, weren’t connected up yet, didn’t recharge on weekends, only accepted payment from cards it took fifteen days to acquire, didn’t recognize the code on a payment card the utility expressed to the author, were on a 20-cm concrete pedestal which meant you could only drive close enough to use them on days the business next door was open.

(Fair BRENN oongz moe TOR.)

Grosse Kohlelition

Grand “coal”-alition.

Since the 22 Sep 2013 Bundestag election, Germany’s second-largest political party, the socialist S.P.D., has had a new boss: Sigmar Gabriel. He managed to get his party to agree to form a grosse Koalition with Chancellor Merkel’s largest political party, the conservative C.D.U. (and its Bavarian state branch, the C.S.U.), even though this effectively eliminated opposition from the Bundestag and usually causes the S.P.D. to lose voters after unethical compromises of its core principles. After delivering the S.P.D., via much talk, singing rousing songs and an up-or-down vote on whether to rule, Mr. Gabriel became the deputy chancellor of Germany and took on two cabinet ministries: Economics and Energy. He announced he would “reform” Germany’s switch to renewable energy sources, the awesome Energiewende, to cap government support of solar and wind power because he wanted to reduce electricity prices for consumers. The reporting indicated Mr. Gabriel has no plans to significantly reduce the C.D.U.’s exemptions, “industry privileges,” granted to high-volume electricity-consuming companies, which goes up by about 1000 companies/year and which the E.U. competition authority has said if not stopped or at least better organized may be reason for that authority to kill the Energiewende entirely. In fact, ZDF heute journal correspondent Stefan Leifert said, the new minister has refused to specify which important industries will get which rebates to their contributions to the Energiewende.

Mr. Gabriel’s hand-picked successor as head of the S.P.D. is a representative of coal workers, from the Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau, Chemie, Energie (IG BCE, “industrial union for mining, chemistry, power”).

Because Bavaria has been investing in biofuel systems, the C.S.U. was not 100% behind kneecapping the Energiewende when Mr. Gabriel submitted his reform proposals on 30 Jan 2014. Bavaria’s Economy & Energy minister Ilse Aigner (C.S.U.) explained that biomass electricity generation is a reasonable alternative for times when there are low quantities of sun or wind.

(GROSS ah   COAL a lee tsee OWN.)

Aufs falsche Pferd gesetzt

Some insight into why left-leaning governments along the very densely populated Ruhr river, even under an S.P.D. + Green party state coalition government such as that of governor Hannelore Kraft (S.P.D.), might persist in doubling down on the “losing bet” on coal-fired power plants: financially-strapped town governments, such as the city of Essen where the huge utility RWE is headquartered, are heavily invested in private utilities’ stock. Essen bought almost 19 million shares of RWE stock in 2007 at ~75 euros and was still listing the stock in its books as worth 75 euros though they were trading at 27 euros when ZDF heute journal reported on this last month. Update on 01 Apr 2014: Essen adjusted its books to reflect its RWE stock’s current trading price, because new rules required the city to do so, and consequently lost 680 million euros on paper. Essen’s capital has now shrunk to ~15 million euros. The city estimates it will have debts of 18 million euros at the end of 2014 and >50 million at the end of 2015 and 2016 (2015 and 2016?). FAZ.net said other Ruhrgebiet cities invested in RWE stock as well.

The city utilities of the towns of Essen, Dortmund, Oberhausen, Bochum, Dinslaken and Duisburg along the Rhine and Ruhr rivers formed an entity called the Stadtwerke Konsortium Rhein-Ruhr which in 2011 bought 51% of STEAG (“the Anthracite Electricity Co.”), a company that operates coal-fired power plants, for a total of 1.2 billion euros in borrowed money.

Academics interviewed on ZDF heute journal said Germany’s energy future is in decentralized renewables, especially solar power and wind. They worried that the utilities stock the financially imperiled Ruhrgebiet cities have borrowed money to invest in wasn’t just tempting city and state governments to make questionable environmental policy but that they would acquire so much debt throwing good money after bad to subvention the old coal power plants that the towns might never recover financially.

Update on 21 Nov 2013: An expert opinion report found that ex-governor of Baden-Württemberg Stefan Mappus (C.D.U.) overpaid by ~780 million euros when he bought into private energy utility company EnBW in 2010, negotiating a shares purchase package for 4.7 billion euros. The report was commissioned by the Stuttgart prosecutors’ office. N.B.: Mr. Mappus was succeeded in office by Winfried Kretschmann, Germany’s first Green party governor, as a result of the fierce protests against the Stuttgart 21 train station expansion project (C.D.U.).

Update on 28 Feb 2014: RWE lost 2.8 billion euros in 2013. This is its first loss year in sixty years. The majority of the losses are from write-downs on gas and coal-fired power plants. It had calculated that its conventional large coal-burning power plants would be selling electricity at 50 euros/megawatt hour in 2014/2015 that it’s selling for 35 euros because of Germany’s investments in decentralized renewable energy sources. RWE’s stock price was almost 29 euros though because shareholders were expecting the news, a trader said.

Update on 04 Mar 2014: RWE’s C.E.O. Peter Terium said at a press conference that the utility “made mistakes too” and was late to invest in renewable energy sources, “perhaps too late.”

Perhaps one-third of their large coal-burning power plants is not earning enough from electricity sales to cover operating costs. The company is 30 billion euros in debt. They said they will have to make cuts, including cutting 10% of jobs by the end of 2016 which is a clear dog whistle to the S.P.D, and asked the German government to help them out of their dead end. The chair of the Mining, Chemistry, Energy union where the new general secretary of the S.P.D. used to work, who is also the new general secretary of the S.P.D.’s life partner, called for the government to support RWE’s request for more government support. Payment for maintaining offlined unprofitable coal-burning power plants would not be a subsidy, said RWE’s C.E.O.

Update on 12 Apr 2014: Spiegel.de reported that Wirtschaftswoche reported that Handelsblatt Online reported that the just top twenty municipal governments owning the most RWE stock lost 2.5 billion euros on paper in the recent write-down to the stock’s current trading price. Essen lost 680 million euros. Mülheim an der Ruhr lost 480 million. “The stock price adjustment is bringing some of them to the verge of bankruptcy.” Also, RWE’s C.E.O. Peter Terium recently confirmed that the utility might issue new stock to get fresh capital, further pushing down the price of its old stock. Wirtschaftswoche and/or Handelsblatt said the affected North Rhine-Westphalian “counties” [Kreis] include Hochsauerland, Rhein-Sieg and Rheinisch-Bergische and the affected North Rhine-Westphalian regional authorities [Landschaftsverband] include Westfalen-Lippe and Rheinland.

No one has explained yet how RWE could be so massively in debt yet 2013 was its first loss year since World War II, unless they’re saying the utility did it by hiding losses on paper while hoping for government support. A 03 Mar 2014 article headlined “Complaining as a Strategy,” in which Spiegel.de said C.E.O. Peter Terium still lacked a plan for bringing the utility giant forward into greatness, cited an RWE presentation dated February 2014 that said the company had debts of ~19 billion in 2008 which increased to ~30 billion euros in 2013. It said it appears the management has cut costs and already budgeted in government aid it expects to receive by explaining how poorly the company is doing, but it still lacks a plan for getting out of the “vale of tears.” Laudable investments in decentralized renewable energy sources such as “Blockheizkraftwerke [decentralized combined heat and power station units], Solarspeicher [storage units for solar energy] and smart home concepts” cannot offset the huge losses from investments in giant dirty power plants.

(Ow! fss   FALL shah   FEAHD   geh ZETTS t)

Auto-Abgasgrenzen

Car exhaust limits.

Update on 29 Nov 2013: The E.U. resolved a dispute about tightening car exhaust pollution standards in which Germany was trying to get laxer standards to appease its large large-car manufacturers. The E.U. ministers compromised on delaying the stricter standards by one year until 2021, when max. 95 g carbon dioxide per kilometer will be permitted for new cars.

The one-year delay will make the 95 g/km rule apply for 95% of new cars in 2020 and 100% in 2021. ZDF heute journal financial correspondent Valerie Haller said German manufacturers sell heavier cars than French and Italian manufacturers, so they will benefit well from the extra year to develop compensating technology. Also, the new rules say only 4 L/100 km of gasoline can be consumed, which small light cars manage but heavier cars will need electric motors to accomplish. Car manufacturers’ supplier Bosch said that practically means the end of purely-gasoline or purely-diesel “grosse Klasse” cars, meaning I think the big expensive German automobiles. Road traffic is one of the top three air polluters, Ms. Haller said, and the E.U. has promised to reduce its air pollution to try to mitigate the disasters that will be caused by climate change.

A similar fight happened in 2013 over E.U.-mandated use of a more environmentally-friendly fluid in new cars, with France filing a complaint stating that German car manufacturers were out-of-compliance and German car manufacturers responding that their in-house tests had found the new fluid spontaneously combusts sometimes.

(OW! toe   OB gauze gren tsen.)

“Wenn das Angebot erst einmal in dieser Breite vorhanden ist, dann wird die Nachfrage sich einstellen”

“When supply is available in this [amplitude/latitude], then the demand will adjust,” transport minister Peter Ramsauer (C.S.U.) said at the May 2013 electromobility summit in Berlin, explaining how supply was going to drive demand for electric cars in Germany. Though his government certainly wanted more electric cars on German roads, they said they would continue not giving individual consumers subventions or tax rebates for purchasing the expensive but environmentally friendly vehicles. Only ~7000 electric cars were registered in Germany (pop. ~80 million). Electric car prices in Germany were considered high by consumers and everyone—government, car makers and consumers—agreed there weren’t many models to choose from. Auto manufacturers at the government-hosted electromobility conference said on 27 May 2013 they hoped to increase the electric car models for sale in Germany to ~15 by 2015.

Update on 26 Nov 2013: Norway is promoting electric cars more than any other country in the world, with free downtown parking, free downtown recharging, no taxes on purchases of new electric automobiles (omitting 25% V.A.T., import fees and tariffs, import customs charges), no highway tolls and permission to drive in bus lanes. Rich in oil and water, Norway has been selling the oil internationally and using the water to create free electricity for electric cars at home, to meet the country’s 2017 carbon emissions reduction goals. The ~5 million Norwegians own about 14,000 electric cars, which have become the most popular vehicles people are applying to register there, unseating the Volkswagen Golf.

(Ven   doss   ON geh boat   eahst   moll   inn   dee zah   BR-R-R-IGHT ah   foah hond en   issed,   don   vee ahd   dee   NOCHH fr-r-rog ah   zichh   eye n shtell en.)

Staubsaugen

“Dust sucking.” Starting September 2014, no household appliances can be sold in the E.U. that use >1600 W. In September 2017 that limit will be lowered to 900 W.

This is aimed at vacuum cleaners.

Effective Sept. 1, 2014, household appliances will also have to be labeled with simple symbols showing their power consumption, ranging from a green A for low electricity use to a red G for egregious.

The “Ecodesign Regulation” created exceptions for the following types of industrial-type vacuum cleaners, which sound funnier in German than in English:

Nasssauger, Saugroboter, akkubetriebene Staubsauger, Industriestaubsauger und Bohnermaschinen.”

“Wet suckers, sucking robots, battery-driven dust suckers, industrial dust suckers and Bohner machines.”

E.U. officials said vacuum cleaner manufacturers were consulted in advance, most models >1600 W have been sorted out already, and it’s not the size of their Watts, it’s how well they suck dust that counts.

(Sht OW! bzz OW! g en.)

Luftbrücke

Air bridge.

On 12 Nov 2013 German news reported that military and civilian aid is starting to get to the stricken Philippines islands of Leyte and Samar by flying in to the western island of Cebu and then ferrying goods and people back and forth by air in a Luftbrücke, like what was used to supply West Berlin during the Cold War.

Arriving donations and doctors are bottlenecked in Manila by the typhoon’s destruction of the eastern islands’ transport infrastructure complicated by post-superstorm monsoon rains.

(LOOFT br-r-rick ah.)

Überflutungsflächen

“Overflow areas,” deliberately designed flood zones along a river, in wilderness or agricultural regions outside towns. Post-Enlightenment romantic poetry’s rivers of plashing brooks, bosky dapple, und so weiter, were dredged and dug in the nineteenth century into straight deep channels that could be used for peacetime and wartime shipping. In the late twentieth century, amid concerns about global climate change and drowning poor Holland, they started rewilding sections of German rivers by bulldozer into broad serpentine environments with polders that are intended to flood after heavy rains and will hold more water than the old Wilhelmine channels. The ecological results should be interesting, as species move through the new riparian habitat amid lands that have been Feld-Wald-und-Wiesen, fields forests and meadows, for a very long time, possibly centuries in some places.

Jerome K. Jerome’s pre-WWI descriptions of the channelization might be based on actual observation:

“Your German is not averse even to wild scenery, provided it be not too wild. But if he consider it too savage, he sets to work to tame it. I remember, in the neighbourhood of Dresden, discovering a picturesque and narrow valley leading down towards the Elbe. The winding roadway ran beside a mountain torrent, which for a mile or so fretted and foamed over rocks and boulders between wood-covered banks. I followed it enchanted until, turning a corner, I suddenly came across a gang of eighty or a hundred workmen. They were busy tidying up that valley, and making that stream respectable. All the stones that were impeding the course of the water they were carefully picking out and carting away. The bank on either side they were bricking up and cementing. The overhanging trees and bushes, the tangled vines and creepers they were rooting up and trimming down. A little further I came upon the finished work—the mountain valley as it ought to be, according to German ideas. The water, now a broad, sluggish stream, flowed over a level, gravelly bed, between two walls crowned with stone coping. At every hundred yards it gently descended down three shallow wooden platforms. For a space on either side the ground had been cleared, and at regular intervals young poplars planted. Each sapling was protected by a shield of wickerwork and bossed by an iron rod. In the course of a couple of years it is the hope of the local council to have “finished” that valley throughout its entire length, and made it fit for a tidy-minded lover of German nature to walk in. There will be a seat every fifty yards, a police notice every hundred, and a restaurant every half-mile.

“They are doing the same from the Memel to the Rhine. They are just tidying up the country. I remember well the Wehrthal. It was once the most romantic ravine to be found in the Black Forest. The last time I walked down it some hundreds of Italian workmen were encamped there hard at work, training the wild little Wehr the way it should go, bricking the banks for it here, blasting the rocks for it there, making cement steps for it down which it can travel soberly and without fuss.” —From Three Men on the Bummel (1900)

(Ü bah FLEW toongs flechh hen.)

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