Automakers are under pressure to meet the demands of the Federal Government’s fuel efficiency standards and the American public’s demand for reasonably priced vehicles. 20 years from now, automakers will no doubt have the technology figured out, but in the meantime both they and consumers may be in for a bumpy ride.
The new fuel efficiency standards are calling for vehicles that can deliver 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. That’s a substantial improvement on the 35.5 mpg standard that’s required by 2016. Automakers will have to do some creative experimentation to keep up with the fuel efficiency demands, and since those aren’t negotiable, the consumer is going to see lots of new developments, but not much standardization.
Two emerging trends are smaller engine size and lower vehicle weight. Ford is working on a 3.5-liter V-6 and GM has the Chevrolet Cruze with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that competes well with larger engines. In some cases, the Chevrolet Cruze performs as well as engines twice its size. That’s great news for fuel efficiency, and customers with an eye on reducing their environmental impact will be pleased. The catch is that drivers will have to pay a bit more to use less gasoline. Vehicles will get more complicated and the technologies that make this new generation of vehicles more fuel efficient are going to be more expensive.
Fuel injectors and water pumps will change drastically. Ford already favors direct injectors over the traditional variety, as do many European automakers. Water pumps will be electric, and much smaller. The new vehicles will require several water pumps, where the older models would have used just one simple pump with a belt feed.
Engine-powered devices decrease fuel efficiency, so automakers are focusing on reducing the number of them on the new vehicles. To compensate, batteries are being utilized to perform many of the functions previously accomplished by auxiliary engine power.
Challenges for R&D
The new standards are tough, but automakers are willing to take some risks to meet the challenge. Their willingness to commit to new technologies will give their suppliers the confidence to spend time and energy in research and development as well, giving the consumer a taste of what’s to come. For example, when GM announced plans to build the battery-powered Chevy Volt, the battery technology they ended up using in the car had not yet been developed. Their suppliers had to work to design a suitable battery for the new vehicle. These batteries are still very expensive, which means the consumer must pay over $40,000 to buy a new Volt.
But, consumers are proving that this type of innovation is worth the added expense in order to drive green. In December of 2011, GM Vice President of U.S. Sales, Don Johnson, said GM would deliver the 10,000th Volt in early 2012. He noted, “We’re not at all disappointed. You have to continue to build awareness.”
The automakers have their work cut out for them. They intend to meet the demands of new fuel efficiency standards by 2016 and again by 2025, educate consumers about the need to spend a bit more for a car that uses less gasoline, and provide a product that is reliable. The environmental benefits, coupled with the advances in technology make this a bumpy ride well worth taking.
About the Author
George Zeed works for Impact Battery. He is an avid outdoorsman and environmentalist. George writes about topics related to all kinds of recreational vehicles and accessories. He is the “go to guy” for information when shopping for a great selection sunlinq products.