Fuel-efficiency formula needs cars wired with better brainpower, less vroom

August 31, 2010

A University of Michigan researcher says it's possible to triple fuel economy in gasoline-powered cars by 2035, but it'll mean getting our automotive kicks from smart electronic technology and other forms of virtual performance rather than horsepower.

As federal regulators are poised to propose the next round of mandates, John DeCicco, a senior lecturer at the School of Natural Resources and Environment and faculty fellow with the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute, says the most cost-effective answer is steady progress in advanced combustion engines and hybrid drive---but stopping short of plugging in and requiring super batteries or gaseous fuels.

He finds that the solution is in our garages if Americans shift gears in terms of priorities. What DeCicco calls a "revolution by evolution" avoids politically trendy breakthrough technologies that will remain too expensive for most consumers.

"If we really prioritize efficiency, we can get just as far with less sticker shock," he said. "Evolutionary change can be of profound consequence for cutting oil use and , and do so with manageable costs and minimal risks for automakers."

DeCicco has completed a study for The Energy Foundation examining how far fuel economy can be taken if it becomes a top priority in product planning.

His analysis shows that optimizing internal combustion engines plus rising adoption of grid-free hybrids will enable new fleet efficiency to reach 52 mpg by 2025 and 74 mpg by 2035.

Reaching such a horizon would entail cultural change in a gearhead world attuned to nuances of power performance. DeCicco identifies emerging trends for what he dubs "efficiency compatible" design strategies, enticing buyers away from brute force and toward , intelligent safety features and svelte styling. Amenities like Bluetooth hookups, communication bandwidth and other information technology enhance customer value with minimal demands on power.

The report develops new interpretations of technology cost estimates that better depict the benefits of ongoing innovation while acknowledging the limits of how much consumers can spend. The analysis reflects the three-way trade-off among efficiency, performance and cost that the car market is likely to face in the years ahead.

"The fleet I've modeled for 2025 does not give up any of the performance and creature comforts consumers already enjoy," he said. "You don't have to go back to being Fred Flintstone, but you will see lower fuel costs instead of ever more mass and muscle."

Explore further: Fuel efficiency of vehicles on the road: Little progress since the 1920s

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not rated yet Aug 31, 2010
the name is DeCicco, i am from france
1 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2010
the name is DeCicco, i am from france

Interesting article. What about the possibility of gasoline fuel cell technology?
not rated yet Aug 31, 2010
Forget it. I like to go fast. Just stop making giant V8 engines and switch to more economical turbocharged 4-cylinders. Those at least get good mileage when you're NOT flooring it.
not rated yet Aug 31, 2010
how is it explainable that cars today weigh so much less than say, a carin 1955, being of all metal construction and yet fuel efficiency has not seemed to increase proportionally
not rated yet Sep 01, 2010
A friend of mine just got bought an SUV - it gets 24mpg. My 1984 Toyota Tercel deathtrap got 24mpg. And it couldn't accelerate up hills. I think we are progressing.
not rated yet Sep 02, 2010
how is it explainable that cars today weigh so much less than say, a carin 1955, being of all metal construction and yet fuel efficiency has not seemed to increase proportionally

Thtas simple. Cars and oild go hand in hand. Fuel vaporization has been working in backyards for generations and a new reformer tech also works rather nicely. if you can gasify gasoline you get 150% more mileage and use the heat instead of throwing it out the system. I made one. It works. Anyone even slightly meachanically inclined can make one.
not rated yet Sep 06, 2010

Using hybrids is not increasing engine eff, just using EV drive less eff. FaR BETTER TO USE A 55% EFF POWERPLANT TO CHARGE BAtteries. sUCH An ev WILL GO 4-6X'S AS FAR ON THE SAME ENERGY INPUT.

The real way to eff transport is EV drive, batteries in a very much lighter body/chassis like composites, better aerodynamics. The only ICE needed is a very small, 5hp/1000lbs gas generator maybe.

I drive my Harley size EV trike that costs $2/week for all costs, batteries, electricity and tag gets 600mpge. A cabin 2 seat version would only cost $8k with a 80 mile range and 80mph top speed and get 500mpg + equivalent.

By 2035 gasoline, diesel will be too expensive, $20/gal in today's $, to use in vehicles and batteries will be cheap and made from common materials we already have. The best point is one will make one's own power from wind, solar, etc both for home and transport.

The problem isn't technical as I use 40-100 yr old tech, it's political.

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