New CAFE rules: Many unhappy…except the customers?

by / Tuesday, 04 September 2012 / Published in Smartgrid-CI Blog

The new CAFE rules are making some unhappy but the technologies to comply already exist, and we not just electric or hybrid.

Announced last week  the new CAFE rules imposes the ambitious goal of an average 54.5MPG to car manufacturers by 2025. It is in line with US consumer expectations for which energy efficiency is becoming the most important buying factor when choosing a new car, as we learned from a recent Consumer Reports’ survey
Not surprisingly, these new rules are not making everyone happy    
Some do not like a new regulation to be imposed on the entire industry. Others consider it incomplete as it provides credit for hybrid pick-ups and natural gas vehicles but not for hybrid cars and diesel cars.
Are they right to worry? Not necessarily. 2025 is far away and today conventional cars offer much better fuel efficiency than before. Six “conventional”cars available on the US market already offer more than 38MPG and two of them come from US manufacturers. 
Most notably, the industry has made tremendous progress compared to what it was offering four years ago where no model could go more than 32MPG.
True, reaching the 2025 goal will require to rely on various technologies but hybrid, electric, and Diesel are not the only answers. Natural gas could be one and other options are possible. A few years ago, European manufacturers made the strategic decision to “downsize” their engines. As defined by Renault: “Downsizing is a technique which involves reducing the cubic capacity of an engine in order to reduce fuel consumption, while maintaining performance, thanks to turbocharging.” As a result, many models in Europe already reach more than 50MPG.
The “turbocharging” revolution may not be so far away for the US consumers. Some European models that are available in the US already come in a turbocharged version  in Europe. The Fiat 500 is one of them.  For those who like bigger cars, the VW Passat could be another option. Volkswagen is about to combine turbocharge with Hybrid to reach a nice 42MPG efficiency with this model. 
But the biggest surprise could come from Ford. Did you know that the most efficient gas car in the world can go 79 MPG (some sources say 86MPG) and is made by Ford?

Too bad this version of the Ford Fiesta is available in Europe only because it is propelled by a Diesel engine. Diesel is usually 20% to 30% more efficient than regular fuel but the turbo charged technology behind this Ford Fiesta is “fuel independent” and can work with either Diesel or regular gas. Even in a regular gas version, this For Fiesta could comply with the new CAFE quite easily.   
The new CAFE rules could speed up the manufacturers decision to introduce turbocharged cars in the US but the most difficult part of the challenge may be to convince the American consumers that a small engine can be powerful and safe.

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