When the U.S. White House first proposed 56.2 mpg by 2025, the auto industry was up in arms, including the unions. So, now the White House reduces the standard by less than 2 mpg and the entire attitude of rejection gives way; at least according to Automotive News (AN).
Reuters, on the other hand, wrote yesterday that automakers declined to confirm the lowered target. Reuters also admitted the Wall Street Journal first reported the new target for CAFE standards per its team in Detroit.
For the record, this reporter believes the entire argument is merely a game of political posturing on both sides. That’s why I wrote, Why Obama's proposed CAFE standards to 56.2 mpg IS feasible. If AN is right, and the auto industry is no longer balking at a mere 1.7 mpg difference, that kind of makes the point.
Fact is, under the proposed plan, automakers would still have to bump their average fuel economy from 34.1 mpg by 2016 (currently mandated by law) to 54.5 mpg by 2025 (proposed). For the record, the auto industry is in line to meet the 2016 mandate.
Question is, why cry foul over 56.2 but not over the 54.5 mpg figure?
According to the 7/27 Automotive News A.M. Newscast, the industry will be allowed to gradually make improvements for trucks at slightly different rate than cars, at least until 2020 or 2021. So, that seems to be the sticking point, perhaps more than the figure itself.
As I have written in the past, the auto industry cannot meet 56.2 mpg with present technology; neither can it meet the 54.5 mpg figure. However, not all available technologies are out in production either. General Motors Company (NYSE: GM), for example, still has its HCCI technology in the lab. It uses gasoline but runs like a diesel using compression ignition. And Ford is still researching with Liverpool University on introducing lasers to replace spark plugs.
Electrification of the automobile certainly does contribute immensely to the industry’s average mileage capabilities. The industry just needs to make it cheaper for the masses; and they are working on that.
However, there are technologies that the general public is unaware, from fuel options to engine redesigns.
Nonetheless, I still strongly believe we need full-bore efficiency, not incremental tweaks; meaning, we need it now, not in 2017 or 2020 or 2025. My justification for this viewpoint is, technology advancements thus far for the internal combustion engine have yet to run their full course; and there are companies out there right now with the solutions while the industry plays the old game of rejection because it wasn‘t designed in their back yards.
That is why I say the mindset of releasing technology in measure is not helping the discussion at this point. It was amazing to me that many so-called insiders at the Detroit 2.011 Autobeat Insider Conference last month were not aware of tech capabilities already out there. Read: Detroit 2.011 Autobeat Insider Conference addresses auto industry's new best practices
Forget using our food supply like corn to generate energy. Natural gas needs to be the fuel of choice for the internal combustion engine. It’s cleaner than gasoline, burning more efficiently and completely. Furthermore, the supply is American made which takes the load off of the military having to defend and protect Middle East supplies.
Bio-fuels have their source and place, but not the food chain, in my opinion. Think drought for a moment; you get the idea.
Engine Technologies on the Horizon
It’s time to go to the next level with the IC engine. It’s time to split the cycle.
Scuderi Engine and Tour Engine are two companies with viable prototypes, testing results and patents. While the Scuderi has a common crank, the Tour has a common head. Still, each takes advantage of the thermodynamic efficiencies by splitting the four cycle in half: one cold, one hot.
The steam engine isn’t dead either. Consider the enclosed external combustion engine of Cyclone Power. Fact is, one military supplier, Raytheon (NYSE: RTN), is considering it; and says, “it is a game changer.” It's even making a run in August for a land speed record.
I know there is yet another engine out there that is based on the two cycle and uses compression ignition, but I have yet to confirm sufficient prototype evaluation to seriously consider it at this point. That does not mean I reject it, though. I’ll report later as info from the company’s PR team will be at the 2011 CAR Seminars in Traverse City next week, of which I will be attending.
Final TN Assessment
Some believe, unless you know exactly what the market will look like in 2025, trying to set emissions standards in stone right now makes no sense at all. Actually it does when you realize the technologies that about to be placed on the table.
Realize that all automakers, bar none, are at the same level of technology release to the public right now. All are using turbos; all are using direct fuel injection, variable valve timing, variable cam timing, cylinder shutoffs, etc. So, it is now obvious the automakers have no choice but to consider the next level, as the IC engine is not going away anytime soon.
While light electrification as used in the Buick eAssist™ can surely help the lower end mileage performance as in city driving, so can adding an air hybrid component to the split cycle engine configuration; and at a much reduced cost.
And aside from the split cycle engine, that laser replacing the spark plug surely makes sense even now.
[Split cycle engine with air-hybrid tank photo source: Scuderi Engine]
About the Reporter: After 39 years in the auto industry as a design engineer, Frank Sherosky now trades stocks, futures and writes articles, books and ebooks like, "Perfecting Corporate Character," "Awaken Your Speculator Mind", and "Millennial World Order" via authorfrank.com. He may be contacted here by email: [email protected]
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