[FOUNTAIN]Let's win the real auto raceVehicles powered by gasoline engines first appeared in 1886. Gottlieb Daimler, a German, developed the first automobile by installing a gasoline engine in a four-wheeled wagon, and Karl Benz developed a three-wheeled car, also powered by gasoline, the same year. Daimler's first automobile boasted only 1.1 horsepower and its maximum speed was just 16 kilometers per hour, which was slower than a horse-drawn coach.
In the 20th century, as the number of auto manufacturers increased, the competition to develop faster vehicles intensified. Since the fastest car was considered the best car, the speed race led to technological competition. The Formula One race is made up of vehicles that can reach speeds as high as 360 kilometers per hour.
But the speed race has become meaningless. Few cars can reach 250 kilometers per hour even on the autobahns, the freeways in Germany, which have no speed limit. Most powerful vehicles are equipped with engines that cannot push the speed above 250 kilometers per hour.
Instead, auto firms concentrate on developing luxury automobiles. DaimlerChrysler unveiled the super luxury Maybach, costing 440 million won ($338,000), with a 12-cylinder engine and 550 horsepower. Volkswagen said it would announce a 1-million-euro ($890,000) Bugatti model with 1,001 horsepower. BMW, which will acquire the Rolls-Royce brand next year, plans to roll out luxury vehicles with similar features. One million euros can buy a mansion in Germany.
In addition to the race to develop high-speed and luxury cars, global automakers are also struggling to develop highly fuel-efficient mini cars. The competition for fuel-efficient cars gained momentum after the oil shock in the 1970s, leading to the development of a car by Volkswagen that can travel 100 kilometers on 3 liters of fuel. Volkswagen began marketing a model of this car, Lupo TDI, in 1998.
The same firm unveiled an even more fuel-efficient car on Monday, which can travel 100 kilometers on 1 liter of diesel fuel. Such a car had existed only in our dreams. This car can travel from Seoul to Busan seven times, consuming only about 30 liters of fuel. This car seems to move on diesel vapors.
Korea, now the No. 5 auto producer in the world, always trails other countries. Korean automakers should push the development of highly fuel-efficient cars to meet the emission requirements of the many countries that are strengthening air pollution regulations.
The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yoo Jae-sik