Federal Report Says Fuel Efficiency Technology Boosts New Vehicle Costs

A new U.S. government study indicates that new automotive technologies may boost mileage by as much as 50%, but could also add up to $9,000 to the cost of the new vehicles.

The study was expected to be published in 2008, but the National Academies of Science took longer than expected to complete it, as new legislation crafted by the U.S. Congress, the Obama administration and California state officials set new standards for fuel efficiency.

The target for fuel efficiency set by the government is 34.1 mpg fleet-wide for each automaker by 2016. Additional restrictions on carbon emissions raised the requirement to 35.5 mpg. This represents about a 40% hike over current requirements, and has automakers looking aggressively at hybrid and all electric power supplies and state of the art engineering in an effort to meet those standards in time.

Those working on the study found that, on a 2007 model, today’s technology can raise the fuel-efficiency of a typical gas powered engine 29% at a cost of $2,200. A switch to diesel would mean a 37% hike in efficiency at a cost of $5,900 per car. Hybrid technology can offer a 50% boost in efficiency at a cost of $9,000.

The technologies and ideas in the report are not new; many automakers are already using many of them in 2011 model vehicles that are being rolled out now. Many companies have completed or are close to completing new engineering work through the year 2013.

There were some rather exotic ideas included in the National Academies of Science report, such as plug-in hybrids and homogenous charge compression ignition. With the latter, gasoline engines use compression like a diesel engine rather than a spark like a traditional gas powered engine. The report did say, however, that forecasting farther than five years into the future is too difficult to do when considering technology and what works best for the least cost increase.

One recommendation made by the report is that new vehicle window stickers be reworked to include fuel consumption facts (such as gallons of gasoline burned per 100 miles) in addition to traditional fuel efficiency numbers.

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