Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Auto industry's green push challenged by low gas prices
Detroit (AFP) Jan 12, 2016

Beneath the hoods of the cars showing in Detroit this week lie engines that are as powerful as ever, but are smaller and, helped by direct injection, guzzle less gas.

Automakers have subbed out stainless steel for aluminum and other lighter-weight materials, and added more gears to let engines run in "sweet spot" mode more often, so that their cars and trucks can save money on fuel and emit less climate-harming pollutants.

But with gasoline prices now nearly half of what they were just two years ago, the question is, do consumers care?

Or will a surge in sales of higher fuel-consuming cars and trucks, especially sport utility vehicles, erase recent efficiency gains on US roads?

The improvements to gasoline-based internal combustion engines that automakers have made show how greater efficiency has been mainstreamed throughout the industry, and not just on the electric and hybrid cars that steal most of the glory.

Under pressure from government regulation, fuel economy in US cars has risen 26 percent since 2004, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

- Signs progress is flagging -

Yet there are signs of flagging progress. Fuel economy for the fleet overall was unchanged at 24.3 miles per gallon in 2014, the last year with full data, according to the EPA report.

Data from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute suggest fuel economy fell in 2015, with a significant drop in the last months of the year.

With gasoline prices so low, customers appear less pressured to buy more fuel-efficient cars, not to mention electrics and hybrids.

Of the 17.5 million cars US automakers sold in 2015, less efficient pickup trucks and SUVs dominated the market and grew much faster in sales than other types.

"You hear a lot of noise about demand for hybrids not being so big," Honda executive vice president John Mendel said at a launch Monday of its Ridgeline pickup truck.

"When (gasoline) was four or five bucks a gallon, everybody was clamoring for anything -- a hybrid, ... something to take the sting out."

- Focus shifts to SUVs, pickups -

To boot, Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager at Toyota, said his company has lowered production of some fuel-efficient models, while taking steps to lift output of SUVs and pickups.

Government pressure since the late 2000s to improve fuel consumption has spurred the gains. President Barack Obama has set the goal of cars getting 54.5 miles per gallon (4.36 liters per 100 km) in 2025, compared to about 29 miles per gallon in 2014.

Compliance is determined on gains of individual models and also whether the average efficiency of an automaker's overall fleet is improving enough.

Trucks and SUVs are not expected to get the same mileage as sedans and subcompacts, only to improve their mileage each year.

The result has been not only an unprecedented number of hyper-efficient electric and hybrid vehicles in the US fleet, but also the significant improvements in gas-powered cars.

But with trucks and SUVS now dominating sales, automakers have to keep improving the performance of those vehicles.

Some industry officials gripe that many of the easiest and cheapest changes have already been made, and meeting the 2025 targets will be hard.

Achieving gains has become more difficult now that the easiest changes -- the "low-hanging fruit" -- have been implemented, said Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

"You need more and more advanced technology to meet ever-increasing fuel economy standards," Newton said.

Others say there is still lots of potential.

"There's lots of room to get efficiency from these engines before we get rid of the internal-combustion engine," said General Motors executive vice president Mark Reuss Tuesday at a launch of the new GMC Acadia SUV Tuesday, which weighs 700 pounds (318 kg) less than the version it replaces.

Still, automakers say they are not counting on the government to walk back the fuel targets.

"It's a poor bet to base your business case on somebody changing the rules at the last minute," noted Honda executive vice president John Mendel.

Toyota, which has enjoyed the profitable surge in truck and SUV sales, has also unveiled a revamped Prius and in October launched the Mirai, a fuel cell vehicle.

"We're starting to get ready for a world that doesn't have any more gas engines by 2050," Fay told AFP. "Long way away ... but investing in that today."

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Car Technology at

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
VW chief hopes to shift gears in Detroit
Washington (AFP) Jan 8, 2016
When the world's leading carmakers unveil glitzy new models at the Detroit auto show next week, Volkswagen's chief executive Matthias Mueller will be in town on a less glamorous mission. In his first US visit since American regulators said VW cheated pollution tests, Mueller will apologize over a scandal that plunged the German auto giant into the deepest crisis of its history and could cost ... read more

South Korea to launch lunar exploration in 2016, land by 2020

Death rumors of Russian lunar program 'greatly exaggerated' - Deputy PM

Russia Postpones Plans on Extensive Moon Exploration Until 2025

Rare full moon on Christmas Day

Boulders on a Martian Landslide

NASA suspends March launch of InSight mission to Mars

University researchers test prototype spacesuits at Kennedy

Marshall: Advancing the technology for NASA's Journey to Mars

Gadgets get smarter, friendlier at CES show

Congress to NASA: Hurry up on that 'habitation augmentation module'

NASA Reaches New Heights

Astronauts Tour Future White Room, Crew Access Tower

China launches HD earth observation satellite

Chinese rover analyzes moon rocks: First new 'ground truth' in 40 years

Agreement with Chinese Space Tech Lab Will Advance Exploration Goals

China launches new communication satellite

British astronaut's first spacewalk set for Jan 15

NASA Delivers New Video Experience On ISS

British astronaut dials wrong number on Xmas call from space

Space Station Receives New Space Tool to Help Locate Ammonia Leaks

Arianespace starts year with record order backlog

Russian Space Forces launched 21 spacecraft in 2015

Russian Proton-M Carrier Rocket With Express-AMU1 Satellite Launched

45th Space Wing launches ORBCOMM; historically lands first stage booster

Nearby star hosts closest alien planet in the 'habitable zone'

ALMA reveals planetary construction sites

Monster planet is 'dancing with the stars'

Exoplanets Water Mystery Solved

Tech tethers dog lovers remotely to their pets

Self-adaptive material heals itself, stays tough

China chemical giant to acquire Germany's KraussMaffei

How seashells get their strength

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement