Race to Meet Fuel Standards

2025 may seem like it’s a long way off. But, for car manufacturers, mandated to meet new fuel economy targets, it is just around the corner.

New federal standards will require automakers to nearly double the average miles per gallon of passenger vehicles, hitting 54.5 mph by 2025. That may mean smaller, lighter cars and trucks, with turbo-charged engines and driving assistance, down the road for Americans.

Some are skeptical about the industry meeting the new requirements. One of those people is Gary W. Rogers, president and CEO of FEV, Inc., which makes things like power trains and auto systems.

“It’s fair to say that the challenge they are facing now will be the toughest challenge they have every faced,” said Rogers in a recent Houston Chronicle article.

Others are open to the challenge.

“I don’t now if we will get to 50 miles a gallon or not, but I think we will incrementally improve the fleet average over time,” said Greg Garland, CEO of refining and petrochemicals at Phillips 66. “You will continue to see technology push the barriers and the frontiers of efficiency.”

The International Energy Agency recently reported that current motor technology could cut the world’s fuel consumption in half by 2030. However, the agency also said the internal combustion engine, fueled by petroleum, will still garner 80% of the car market at that time.

Richard Jones, deputy director for the IEA, told the Houston Chronicle the world cannot wait for electric or hydrogen solutions.

"Without such action, the transport energy demand will reach unsustainable proportions,” said Jones.

Research in the Works

So, how do the auto companies plan to work toward the goal? One way is to turn to the petrochemical industry for solutions.

Already, natural gas liquids are being used to create the lighter-weight plastics on automobiles that have replaced heavier metal components. Industry experts say combining several metal auto parts into one plastic piece can cut the weight by as much as half. Half the weight means less energy to move the vehicle down the road.

Other ideas include smaller, more efficient engines. Three-and-four cylinder engines will be typical, reducing energy-wasting friction under the hood. Nine-speed manual transmissions could also be coming, providing more power efficiency.
Automated driving features – such as the car shutting down at stoplights – could reduce fuel waste from idling.

Personal Responsibility

Drivers can start increasing their fuel efficiency on their own now. Here are tips for stretching out those trips to the gas pump:

Start driving as soon as the engine is started – Modern engines need little warm-up time. Idling can waste gasoline.

Don’t Speed – Mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.

Minimize braking - Be alert for slow-downs and red lights. Letting up on the gas often eliminates the need for braking.

Remove excess weight from trunk – An extra 100 pounds in the trunk can reduce a typical car’s fuel economy by 2%.

And, of course, making sure your engine is tuned, tires are properly inflated and oil has been properly changed, will allow for up 10% more fuel economy.

For other energy saving tips, visit the OERB's Conservation page.