• Mar 23rd 2010 at 9:01AM
  • 31
2010 Volkswagen Golf - Click above for high-res image gallery

New CAFE standards set to take affect in 2015 have automakers in a hurried frenzy. Meeting target CAFE numbers of 35.5 miles per gallon within the short five-year time frame is no easy feat. Current standards, set at a fleet average of 27.5 mpg, will quickly become a thing of the past. As automakers push to meet the new requirements, decisions must be made. These decisions could best be regarded as risky bets that could impact an automakers success in the years ahead.

New rules within the CAFE guidelines will require many compact vehicles to achieve even higher numbers than the 35.5 mpg listed above. It's a bit technical, but put simply, the more compact vehicles a company sells, the higher its fleet average must be. This may sound simple, but compact cars may be hard to sell if the technology required to meet the goals adds a significant amount to the vehicle's bottom line.

Automakers are at a crossroads where they must decide which approach will prove to be most beneficial. Should the diesel engine be employed to meet CAFE requirements? Should hybrid powertrains be widely adopted? Automakers must answer these questions and many more. The wrong answer could spell disaster for market share and profits, and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that new CAFE requirements will increase a vehicle's price by an average of $1,300. Others predict numbers far exceeding these claims, but no matter the numbers, cost is a major concern in the compact class of cars.

Here's a breakdown of some choices automakers should consider; improve gasoline engines to extract up to 20 percent more fuel efficiency, more widespread adoption of diesel engines, aerodynamically design vehicles for improved efficiency, add start/stop features, add more mild hybrids and consider weight saving measures or electrify vehicles. Each option has an associated risk versus cost versus reward factor that must be weighed out precisely for automotive success.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req.]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      maybe they should try to "save the environment" where money can be spend 10 times more useful and efficient. Example for the US:

      Make it mandatory to isolate new houses properly - windows in europe have now up to 4 layers of glass...

      just think about it: in europe a liter of (heating-)diesel cost you nearly 60 cent (euro) now, just to heat your well isolated home...and still you will easily spend well over 3000 euro...

      • 5 Years Ago
      Can anyone shed a little light on the below quote.

      "It's a bit technical, but put simply, the more compact vehicles a company sells, the higher its fleet average must be."

      Granted I've only read a little about the CAFE standards, but it was my understanding that the requirements applied to the company as a whole. So if they are selling so many vehicles that say, get 40mpg, they can also sell x number of vehicles getting 20, just so that in the end the fleet average comes out to be 35.5 or whatever.

      Are they now setting requirements for individual car classes?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Fleet fuel economy is calculated using a harmonic mean, not a simple arithmetic mean (average) – namely, the reciprocal of the average of the reciprocal values. For a fleet composed of four different kinds of vehicle A, B, C and D, produced in numbers nA, nB, nC and nD, with fuel economies fA, fB, fC and fD, the CAFE would be:


        For example, a fleet of 4 vehicles getting 15, 13, 17, and 100 mpg has a CAFE of slightly less than 19 mpg:


        While the arithmetic mean fuel economy of the fleet is just over 36 mpg:


        The interesting part is when E85 gasoline is applied, a gallon of alternative fuel is deemed to contain 15% fuel which skews the calculation considerably as does the use of diesel. From the examples above, you can see that there is only a minimal compensation for electric or hybrid models (100 mpg which will probably not affect a manufacturer's CAFE score equitably enough). As far as I can see, there is no provision for individual car classes as even trucks have been integrated into the fleet calculations since 1996.
      • 5 Years Ago
      its all making sense now...when they dont meet the new standards, we fine them and get our tax dollars back!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Different levels and departments of government do that all the time. And they don't just fine themselves, they take themselves to court.

        Regardless of who wins the taxpayers lose.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The ultimate irony here would be if they were still owned by the government at that time, fining yourself, awesome.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Maybe if Reagen didn't reverse President Carter's 27.5 mpg by 1985 they wouldn't have been so panic stricken....

        • 5 Years Ago
        Somehow I doubt that lowering it from 27.5 to 26.0 for three years, 25 years ago, is the root of the problem.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Diesel. PZEV. Affordable.

      Pick two.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Obama should mandate everyone to have a household average vehicle MPG rating of 35+mpg's. Also mandate everyone own a car and since they own a car they must own insurance too. Might as well throw in a mandate for everyone to have health care too. And for the people that are too fat to drive their car to get health care we should mandate that everyone own a bus pass. And since everyone will have no idea what is going on without TV and Internet we should mandate AT&T's TV, Internet and home phone service bundle to keep everyone informed. We should also mandate high paid lawyers for everyone because if you get hurt with one of the mandates you will be equally able to sue anyone. I guess a mandate on health care will only make sense if everyone has LA Fitness passes because we have to make sure everyone is healthy. Might as well mandate time off work 5 days a week to allow people to use their LA Fitness passes and maybe throw in mandated Nike running shoes so people don't hurt themselves when they work out. In that case we should mandate Nike make all their shoes in America too...........
      • 5 Years Ago
      Whoops. I meant diesel fan.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Whatever they do, taking weight out is paramount. Here in the rust belt, this will mean vehicles that don't last as long when the salt works on them all year. Think you have rust? Within the first month, did your brake rotors start to turn brown? Calipers? Fasteners? Hose fittings? No? This is what we experience starting in the snow belt east of Lake Michigan all the way into New England. Oceanside salt does its damage, but it doesn't compare.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes, weight is the largest enemy of both performance and fuel economy.

        And at the same time they are demanding higher mileage the federal government is also demanding ever heavier front and side crash frames, pedestrian friendly crumple zones in the hood, rollover friendly pillars, and all sorts of safety electronics that don't weigh anything but use up much of the budget that could otherwise be used for lighter materials.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I guess the Government is scared of gas taxes since it would be political suicide.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I am a diesel. It's more fuel efficient than gas engines without the much heavier cost of a battery and electric engine.
      • 5 Years Ago
      You don't need 300 bhp to crawl through rush hour. Utilizing current tech I see no reason you can't get a 45 mpg compact if you're willing to cope with a 12 second zero-to-sixty time which I suspect all those Camry drivers will tolerate. It may not be the car so and so wants to build, but someone will.

      While I'm here, bring the 1.2l "Nissan Aprio" to the USA so that I may buy one.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The best idea would be to incrementally raise gas taxes so that price hikes are not so huge when they happen. This would encourage more efficient cars by hitting people where it hurts the most - no not there ! in the wallet !

      The money raised could be put into repairing the roads for which $40 billion has already been allocated so it is coming out of taxes anyway ! Any balance could go into incentive schemes to buying hybrids and diesels etc.

      the comments some people make about government ownership versus the free market are a bit strange to me. Surely the government was forced to step in to shore up the free market economy which almost totally failed !

      I drive a diesel Honda in the UK and think that the most efficient engine is probably a diesel electric but it is also the most expensive though still much cheaper then electrics are at the moment. The latest BMW 320d efficient dynamics does 0-60 in about 8 secs and well over 130 mph top speed but averages 55 mpg US in the euro cycle or only 3 mpg less then a Prius and offers a six speed manual. And for those who dont know it has RWD !It cost the same as the standard 320d loses 20 hp but gains about 6 mpg. It has regen brakes and stop start so I guess is a mild hybrid (mybrid ? )
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