• Aug 16th 2010 at 6:29PM
  • 75
Last year, when the federal government set Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards at roughly 35 miles per gallon by 2015, automakers squirmed uncomfortably. Though that should be an achievable target, it won't be easy. It means Americans will have to buy several million more small cars a year, they'll have to buy fewer trucks and SUVs, and they'll have to pay thousands of dollars more for the technology needed to meet those standards.
But now it sure looks like the government is getting ready to set a new fuel economy standard of 60 mpg by 2025. According to Ward's, both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will release the new standard next month. Is it at all realistic to think that we can double the fuel economy standard in a decade?

Remember, that 60 mpg target is a fleet average. That means all of the cars and trucks and SUVs and crossovers and vans that an automaker sells will need their fuel economy to average out at 60 mpg. That's not going to be easy. It's not just a matter of building the right kinds of cars, it's about getting people to buy them.

John McElroy is host of the TV program "Autoline Detroit" and daily web video "Autoline Daily". Every week he brings his unique insights as a Detroit insider to Autoblog readers.

No doubt you heard the CEO of Hyundai Motor America, John Krafcik, recently announce that they'll hit a 50-mpg fleet average by 2025. That really impressed a lot of people. But Hyundai doesn't make any full-size trucks or SUVs. So not only will the new regs surpass Hyundai's lofty goal, they'll be especially hard on full-line manufacturers.

The internal combustion engine is proving mighty hard to kill off.
Of course, regulators are famous for rigging the rules to drive the kind of technological outcome they prefer. No doubt we're going to see generous CAFE credits for automakers that build hybrids, plug-ins and electric vehicles. There is a decided bias that wants our future to be electric no matter how clean or efficient the internal combustion engine becomes. So it's entirely possible that the real-world average will be below 60 mpg, at the same time the paperwork the automakers file shows they're hitting the target.

And yet, this 19th-century technology known as the internal combustion engine is proving mighty hard to kill off. In fact there are two new technologies coming along that could easily carry it deep into the 21st century. Eco Motors has developed a new kind of engine that it's calling the opposed piston, opposed cylinder motor. It could potentially boost fuel economy of a car by 50%. Transonic Combustion is a company that's coming out with a new kind of fuel injection system that can boost the fuel economy of the gasoline engine by 25 to 30%.

CAFE... is the slowest and least efficient mechanism for getting this country to reduce its dependence on oil.
You cannot add the 50% number with the 25-30% number and end up with a 75-80% improvement. It doesn't work that way. Yet, these technologies can clearly provide a significant boost in fuel economy to today's cars. And when you couple that with PZEV technology, where gasoline-fueled engines match the emissions of an EV, the case gets pretty compelling. We can make substantial improvements in fuel economy and reductions in emissions with conventional technology that most people can afford.

I'm not against new technology coming to market. But when it requires massive subsidies to be viable, and needs the regulations rigged in its favor, you have to question if it's truly sustainable.

The same goes for CAFE. It has got to be the slowest and least efficient way for getting this country to reduce its dependence on oil. And while most of the country will beam in admiration when the government announces the 60 mpg CAFE standard next month, the rest of us will know better. The benefits will not show up for decades, and we'll pay a hefty price to achieve them.


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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm thinking: Electric Cars would help a lot.

      • 5 Years Ago
      You're still wimping out comrades-- 100MPG or nothing. Dear Leader says it's the only way to enact Change. After all, 'Change' is what you wanted, right?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ouch... thats going to be tough for automakers to accomplish
      • 5 Years Ago
      want to increase fuel economy and maintain a safe roadway? put a damn cap on the vehicle weight. everyone driving 2500 lbs cars at 70 is gonna be much safer than everyone driving 5000 lbs suvs at 60. when everyone's in an arms race on collision safety, people end up driving tanks.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Voted up.

        I think it will happen gradually over time. It is too bad we did not act sooner though.
        Those larger SUVs and trucks will be too expensive to operate, and you'll see less and less of them on the road as the price of gas increases.

        Take 500-1000lb off a car and you've got an amazing power to weight ratio. Then you can downsize the motor a bit and get drastically better MPG.

        Good example of this is the 4 stroke motorized bicycle kits. Given 200lb. total of weight, they can achieve 200-250mpg. This is using motors that aren't built for efficiency at all, and a person sitting on a bike has terrible aerodynamics!

        Smaller, lighter cars are the only solution. But they are only safe to operate when the roads aren't full of 3000-6000lb cars.
      • 5 Years Ago
      60 in 2025 is not enough. I love cars just as much as anyone here. But I strongly believe we need to be off oil by 2025. I know it is just a fantasy but I think it is a necessity.
      • 5 Years Ago
      So they're asking that we get by 2025 what my 2010 Prius gets today. Don't know how the EPA came up with the 51/48 rating they stuck on the Prius. Had mine for 3 months with my worst full tank average being 59 MPG after about 8 tanks. I expect it'll drop off a bit when winter comes.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I know what you mean EPA testing isnt very good. I get 31.7 in the city in my Corolla which is rated at 26.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Driving habits make a big difference.

        In both of my vehicles, I achieve about 1-2mpg more than the EPA figures state. I own an SUV as well as a hatchback, and they achieve quite different mileage. I feel as though I drive fairly conservatively most of the time as well, at least compared to the thousands of cars that pass me each day even though I drive over the limit, about 5mph most times.

      • 5 Years Ago
      How about going down the natural gas road. We have plenty, and I don't see anyone really looking closely at that as a possible answer. Maybe that industry should be subsidized and then all the idiots at the epa and nhtsa could jump on the bandwagon. As to the limiting of humanity, it is closer than you think. The "main" cause of global warming is most of what we breathe out. How do we then reduce the "carbon footprint" of a man. You guessed it. Kill him.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That movie was the most egregious example of a propaganda piece I can remember seeing. The director made a bunch of wild-eyed allegations like "corporations are intentionally pumping poisonous chemicals straight into drinking water supplies!!!1"

        He then went for the sympathy jugular by showing a bunch of people whose land was being developed by energy companies. Nevermind the fact they didn't own the mineral rights and knew that when the bought the land this was possible, they're just bitter.

        And if you think wind energy is the least intrusive form of energy you should ask anyone who lives next to them. I bet they'd gladly take a natural gas well. Better yet, ask the estate of Ted Kennedy why he didn't want a wind farm in front of his house?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Increase gasoline taxes to decrease consumption and use that money to build more roads. That will reduce congestion and pollution while greatly increasing actual fuel economy.

      But that's just common sense. We can't expect any of that from either political party these days.
        • 5 Years Ago
        While I agree with your thinking, it would NEVER happen.

        You can blame the politicians all you want, but when it comes right down to it, they would still need to get re-elected and with a fickle electorate it will never go through.

        The blame can, and should be put squarely on the shoulders of the general public... a public that has been bamboozled into thinking that any and all talk of tax hikes are EVIL1!! no matter how beneficial they might be to the greater good and the nation as a whole.

        After all, we live in a nation where the EVIL1!! Estate Tax is portrayed as being oppressive to farmer Brown and poor Nana Smith, but the reality is that it doesn't even kick in for the vast, vast majority of people and only if the estate is worth over a million dollars.... thus as usual, the rich portray a tax that only effects them as being oppressive to poor folk that are too ignorant to know better.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Middle Way:
        Public transportation isn't actually more efficient outside of highly dense urban areas. If everyone relies on mass transit, it has to run ALL THE TIME. That means you need to run a train at 11pm for the people who don't get off of work until after 10pm, which means you've got this nearly empty train, using roughly the same amount of energy as the jam-packed train at 5pm. The capacity factor outside of Manhattan and LA is awful for mass transit, and it kills the energy savings.

        We could go a long way by encouraging car pooling and efficient vehicle purchases, staggering work hours, and getting people to live closer to where they work. The one thing that can accomplish this is a GAS TAX. I don't want to pay through the nose for gas, but I also want to have gas to drive with in 40 years. It'd be a shame to give up the wonderful advantages that liquid petroleum has for transportation just because we were too stupid to ration it wisely.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ Sgt Beavis

        Again, I am sorry, but you are passing off the blame on WAY too easy of a target.

        It is because of the fickle nature of the voter that politicians can't make strong decisions. ANY tough choice will be twisted around against them come next election cycle in some 5-second sound-bite with menacing music and then some image of a kid crying.

        Americans don't want to hear the truth. They don't want some deep discussion about the facts. They want to hear that everything is fine, everything is great in some 2 minute speech. They don't want to be told that YEAH, we are in deep doo-doo and that their fast-and-loose ways the last quarter century needs to end and that the time has come to pay for that over indulgence and that their taxes do in fact need to be raised.

        No, instead they cling to this BS that everything is wasted. This is wasted, that is wasted. Everything that the gob'ment touches is supposed wasted... wasted, of course, unless that particular program effects them, then of course it's the great program ever.

        I am definitely NOT saying that there is no waste - far from it actually - but Americans have such a twisted idea of how the world actually works that it's scary that anything gets done. That new bridge is perfectly good use of funds to you, but a waste of money to someone else. That new school is a great idea for him, but a waste to some other person. That military weapons program is a waste to Bob, but means it's a good paying job for Fred.
        • 5 Years Ago
        i say put it towards the development of public transportation and/or green energy. More roads = more road maintenance down the line.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I know about the downsides of public transportation. I'm not saying deploy it everywhere.
        But yes, people living in rural areas are in for a shock. Gas price effects them more than anyone else..

        • 5 Years Ago

        I think it is more of a case that people hate paying taxes when they see them being wasted.

        Roads on the other hand are a solid investment. Besides the benefits I already mentioned, they carry commerce which keeps people working.

        Of course I know it won't happen but it would be nice if our politicians could actually show some intelligence. Stop throwing our money at corporate and public welfare. Stop military programs we just don't need (and I'm very pro military). Stop making us pay ridiculous subsidies for corn based ethanol. yadda yadda yadda.. you've already heard it all before so I'll stop..

        Common sense in America is dead. Bring on the idiocracy.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The EPA was already all but outlawed but the past administration along with a dozen other regulatory agencies including the Minerals Management Service, the FDA, the SEC and the FCC - and we see how well that has gone.

      Time and time again, here on Autoblog as well as on other sites, I read words similar to... "the new model will get 10/15/20% better fuel efficiency due to the need of the manufacturer to meet federal CAFE standards." Strange, huh? Never saw that before.

      Ah, Capital will regulate itself... when pigs fly. Not when marketing is a better short term investment than compliance/responsibility.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Why this makes sense to the U.S. government: Some of the cost of American energy independence will burdened onto foreign auto makers.
      • 5 Years Ago
      A lot of knee-jerk responses, but, no solutions.

      A lot of Denial about world problems, like
      US and World Drought,
      Russian wildfires: 600
      Pakistan: 20% flooded
      Peak Oil already here.

      If you've got a better plan, then to just shoot off your mouths with responses that solve nothing, then start to speak up.

      Southern Farms are being burned up as we speak.
      So, do we ignore and deny problems or do we Solve Them.

      This used to be America, the Land of Innovation.

      • 5 Years Ago

      Why aren't these on the road TODAY?!?

      Why does the US Not Innovate!
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