Car makers pressured to build more fuel efficient vehicles
As gas prices rise, the increase in demand for fuel-efficient vehicles by consumers have grown with them.
The United States has the worst fuel economy performance compared to other car-manufacturing countries, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) in August.
The council reported the United States to have a combined – passenger and light-commercial vehicles – rating of 28.3 miles per gallon. This pales in comparison to Europe and Japan, whose fuel-effeciencies are 45.1 and 43.7 miles per gallon respectively.
The proposed miles per gallon standard and the figures calculated does not mean that a single vehicle should have this efficiency. Rather, it would reflect the average fuel-efficiency in all the cars in a manufacturer’s fleet
Dr. Larry Caretto, CSUN mechanical engineering professor, sees the compromise that needs to be made when automobile manufacturers are building more fuel-efficient cars.
“There’s always a tradeoff. There’s fuel economy and then there’s cost,” he said. “You get more fuel economy because of all this new technology and the new vehicle cost becomes higher. Although if gasoline keeps staying around $4 a gallon, maybe it will be worth the investment.”
Consumers are expected to save $4,400 during a vehicle’s lifetime with the new fuel-economy standard, according to a report written by the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Most vehicle manufacturers have been supportive and accepting of the new proposed regulation, but one company has taken a strong stance against it.
Volkswagen wrote a press release back in July stating that though they are in favor of producing fuel-efficient vehicles, the company does not support the 54.5 miles per gallon target, Tony Cervone, Volkswagen executive vice president of group communications, said in a press release.
The new standard “places an unfairly high burden on passenger cars, while allowing special compliance flexibility for heavier light trucks,” Cervone added.
A trend that has been taking off lately in the automotive world has manufacturers building forced-induced engines, which use either a turbocharger or supercharger, instead of using V-8 engines. Although using forced induction may be more efficient, it would cost more to build.
“It’s going to cost the driver more up front, but you’ll save money on gasoline,” Caretto said. “Building a V-6 versus a V-8, it’s basically very simple. But turbos are really an advanced technology compared to a piston engine. They’re probably expensive to get them to really run well and to have the control, so when the driver puts his foot on the throttle the turbo kicks in right now.”
Other technology that is currently in use by manufacturers are automatic cylinder shutoffs and the now-conventional hybrid technology, which is used by almost every company, Caretto said.