Affordability as the watchword Tuesday as automotive engineers at the SAE World Congress discussed how to meet the new 2016 corporate average fuel economy standards. Automakers will have to get their fleets to an average of 34.1 miles per gallon (35.5 equivalent with other factors for the EPA CO2 limits). Most automakers are already well on their way to this level with their next-generation designs. However, to do it they will have to make improvements to virtually every model in the entire fleet. They can't just add hybrid technology to a couple of models.

In order to get the mileage they need without pricing themselves out of the market, the focus will be on five major areas. Most important will be engine downsizing through the use of direct injection, variable valve timing and turbocharging. Since Americans have a preference for automatic transmissions, traditional torque converter automatics will see improved lockup clutches, reduced internal friction and going from four and five ratios to six to eight speeds.

Dry dual clutch transmissions will start appearing on the Ford Fiesta in the coming weeks and spread quickly to other vehicles. Honda has even installed a dual clutch transmission in the new VFR1200F motorcycle. Automatic start stop systems will also proliferate from a number of automakers. Currently, the EPA sticker value doesn't really reflect the real world benefits of start-stop in urban driving. However, the EPA's CO2 standard includes vaguely defined adjustment factors for improvements to systems like air conditioning. Because it would be difficult to change the test cycle to include more stops, EPA is more likely to apply such an adjustment factor for cars with start-stop.

Finally, weight reduction is on everyone's agenda right now. Several recent introductions have been lighter than the predecessors, including the 2011 Hyundai Sonata (200 pounds less) and Volkswagen Touareg (over 400 pounds less). Ford is targeting up to 750 pounds in savings by 2016 on some vehicles.


Share This Photo X