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It's debatable whether or not now is the right time to make changes in the way our cars are made, with some believing that Detroit should follow the path it's already on and others claiming there couldn't be a better time to make major sweeping changes. Count DuPont head Chad Holliday among the latter. Holliday's so-called "Detroit Project" would challenge American automakers to introduce a new "Car of the Future" that would achieve 75 miles per gallon and run on butanol – an alcohol fuel that DuPont just so happens to market itself.

Regardless of whether DuPont stands to benefit from this project, there are a few major hurdles to overcome, not the least of which is an initial $5 billion investment at a time when the Detroit 3 are asking for many times that from the government just to stay in business. We also see problems getting proposed collaborators such as Intel, Microsoft, Dell, Boeing and Google all working on the same page. Schools such as MIT, the Georgia Tech, and the University of Michigan could also be involved, according to Holliday. No problem, right?

Getting an automobile to run on butanol isn't a problem, it's been done over and over again. Yes, it is a cleaner fuel that may be a better choice overall than ethanol, but coming from the head of a company with a vested interest comes off as a bit disingenuous. It also reminds us of something we heard the other day...

[Source: Detroit News]


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  • 17 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      This is what you do, open up plants in 15 Republican states (if there are any). Hire unionized workforce.

      Unions will lobby Democrats, execs will lobby Republicans. That way Congress will mandate your fuel to be fuel of the future.


      Hey, the strategy works, look at D3, they got 59 Billion dollars (34bil+25bil)
        • 6 Years Ago
        Highly delusional take.

        Here is what you do: pay more money and hire more lobbyists than the Farm industry and get the Ethanol subsidies and other farm-pork diverted your way.

        Pay to play, regardless of red or blue.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Are Autoblog authors getting paid per each lame caption on the photographs lately? Enough already!

      • 6 Years Ago
      Jeremy,

      While Holliday clearly has a vested interest in butanol as a fuel, he's hardly an armchair quarterback. DuPont is one of the largest tier 1 suppliers to the global auto industry as well as a major supplier to tier 2 suppliers. DuPont had controlling ownership of GM from about 1918 to 1961 and the two companies are still very close. When Ford sold off its steel, glass and paint divisions, DuPont bought the paint plant (and some very good paint engineers) and started selling Ford a lot of Ford's paint. I don't know what market share is today but DuPont may sell a majority of topcoats used in US assembly plant paint shops, as well as a lot of primer, some electrodip, and a whole lot of plastics to the automotive supply chain. Sure, GE Plastics, Dow, and Monsanto have their own proprietary polymers that are used in cars, but one way or another, almost every major component of most cars, foreign or domestic, uses some kind of DuPont product. Virtually ever automaker in the world buys both directly and indirectly from DuPont.

      DuPont's involvement with both suppliers and the automakers is pretty close in terms of technology, and DuPont personnel are often involved at the design level of components, and in the case of paint exterior design and color selections.

      Few companies have a more intimate relationship with the auto companies, particularly the domestics, and know more about their strengths and weaknesses than DuPont. For the past 90 years, any time a CEO of DuPont has spoken about the auto industry, financially interested party and well informed on the subject.

      If the Detroit automakers go bankrupt, DuPont will take a huge hit, both in lost sales and as a creditor. At any one time, DuPont is owed many millions of dollars by the OEMs and many millions more by the supply chain.
      • 6 Years Ago
      OMG! A profit motive? Heresy! Heresy, I say!!!!11!!one!1
      • 6 Years Ago
      Good grief, one guy says something about a type of alcohol, and all the ignorant, collectivist, conspiracy theorists dive in to push nonsense? It is sort of awkward that the statistically significant cohort studies of servicemen in Vietnam (anecdotal stories don't count) who practically drank Agent Orange didn't have a higher risk of cancer, sorry Adm. Zumwalt, it was horrible that your son got sick, but random illness happens- Bob Novak and Teddy Kennedy didn't catch their brain tumors having cocktails at Sans Souci either) .

      Doesn't anyone- including the autoblog guy who put up the original post- know anything about either alcohol or about market economics?

      OK, time to go to school. 1) Butanol is a generic alcohol. DuPont may have a nice production process for it, but anyone out there can brew the stuff. It is not somehting patented, like DuPont's CFC134 (that they did lobby for to replace the original cheap freon on which the patent had expired). Butanol is very close to gasoline in its interaction with water, so it is compatible with the existing pipeline infrastructure and mixes well in gasoline blends. Hey, all of you, you hate Exxon, build a butanol plant, I'll buy the stuff. The more suppliers the merrier, all US workers.

      2) Using today's technology, all ordinary flex-fuel cars can run on gasoline, ethanol, methanol, or butanol, or any combination thereof. There is an upgraded sensor that replaces the tailpipe emission control sensor, and different software programmed into the emission control microprocessor, and voila, you can burn anything. You can buy cheap industrial sugar and make ethanol in your garage, burn it in your flex fuel car. There is a bill in Congress for "Open Fuel Standards" that pushes the auto mfrs to convert to flex fuel ASAP (it costs maybe $100 a car in volume). Then OPEC is competing with DuPont, ADM, or anyone else who wants to ferment volatile compounds.

      The real evil here is that some Southern senators are trying to block open fuel standards because Nissan and Toyota don't like it, it gives an advantage to the American auto companies (Ford is the world leader in this technology).

      You go, DuPont. Louder, push butanol and 100% flex fuel capability for the US auto market. The key is not this fuel or that one, it is fuel choice for all consumers. See http://www.setamericafree.org/

      For the record, I work for a public university, I have no conflict of interest whatever. Just the facts.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The technology should be evaluated on its merits, and be allowed to succeed or fail in an undistorted marketplace. Our biggest enemy is the idea that there has to be ONE answer that is all things to all people. Here in the real world, that has almost never been the case. There is zero reason we can't have vehicles that run on compressed air, various alcohols, electricity, gasoline, and various fuel oils such as diesel all at the same time.
      • 6 Years Ago
      How dare a CEO recommend something his company produces as a solution to a problem. If he wanted to be taken seriously, he would recommend only solutions that would bankrupt his company and send all his employees to the soup lines.

      I hear that Jackson and del Toro want people to go see The Hobbit when it comes out. How dare they promote a movie they have a vested interest in...

      Sheesh.
      • 6 Years Ago
      wtf, butanol? correct me if i am wrong, but butanol cannot be made as easily as ethanol, so its less overall fuel efficient, not that ethanol was efficient to make. alcohols are not the answer! they are NOT environmentally friendly!
        • 6 Years Ago
        I vow to you all, I will rid the world of as much alcohol as I can; one bottle, can, or frosty mug at a time!

        Anybody with me?
      • 6 Years Ago
      great...du pont trying to get everything their way again... Du pont is the single biggest reason marijuana was outlawed (they didnt want competition with their synthetic fibres from hemp)

      Dupont, why cant we let you go extinct?
        • 6 Years Ago
        The development of tetraethyl lead was shared by GM & DuPont. Standard Oil developed a process for commercial production, which was made safer by DuPont. They were just trying to make cars work better, not poison people.

        As for nylon and hemp, DuPont didn't need to create a market for its new fiber. There were near riots when nylon stockings were introduced. Also, nylon was used extensively by the US and Allied Forces during World War II. Hemp has its limitations.

        I worked for DuPont for a long time, including on environmental stuff. The company has introduced so many products that make modern life better that it's not far from the truth that without the products DuPont has developed, life as we know it would be far different and most likely worse. The company acts pretty responsibly for a big chemical company and as far as environmental matters are concerned, the policy of the company since the early 1990s is that their ultimate goal is to produce no waste or waste streams.

        DuPont has a lot of very smart and talented people. It has issues like all big corporations, but the people who work there try very hard to make a lot of very cool stuff.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Yeah, hemp is much better at filtering. The material is pretty good at resisting bacteria too.

        DuPont just want to be the next OPEC. Greedy...

        @ronnie schreiber
        Like teflon with their hallmark feature of giving cancer eh? I don't remember any more skeletons up in their closet there. But I'm sure there are quite a few nasty ones. Please don't reply with more DuPont is god's gift for mankind to make the world a safer place. I'm not into one sided happy facts post.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Mr. Schreiber:
        When the inventor of Tetralethyl Lead takes a Florida vacation to recover from lead poisoning and the workers at the manufacturing start hallucinating large butterflies attacking them, the conceit that DuPont was innocent and ignorant of significant, fatal side effects is ludicrous. The whole debacle surrounding "Agent Orange" only reinforces Dupont's lack of ethical behavior. Dupont has a long history of making money off of lethal products.
      • 6 Years Ago
      If they can get the fuel/car to be a serious competitor, I would consider it!

      Another fuel option would be a plus.
      It might reduce demand for gas/diesel.
      It might burn cleaner (not the I would give a damn)

      This could be great, and if it isn't, the free market will beat their ass with a stick-

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