Comments on: 35mpg by 2020: Your Advice? The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 14:39:50 +0000 hourly 1 By: Luther Tue, 25 Dec 2007 05:36:10 +0000 “The Toshiba mini reactor checks out, as authentic vaporware, at least.”

How did you draw this conclusion…Did Toshiba get back to you with this?

“One tech site breathlessly described it as a “fusion” reactor.”

Your claiming it was a Tech Site?

Macca – Please explain to us how hydrocarbon are formed naturally…It would be interesting to know. Even the creation of hydrocarbons in a lab environment from raw elements.

By: Macca Mon, 24 Dec 2007 23:08:10 +0000 Wheatridger, I happen to be a petroleum geologist myself…the average individual’s knowledge (or lack thereof) concerning hydrocarbons and their generation has always amazed and thoroughly frustrated me.

By: Wheatridger Mon, 24 Dec 2007 22:53:10 +0000 Four billion years? Sounds like we agree on at least one thing.

The Toshiba mini reactor checks out, as authentic vaporware, at least. One tech site breathlessly described it as a “fusion” reactor. Really? You ought to make a call to your home insurance company before ordering, and check your liability coverage. My underwriter gets nervous when I mention the words “wood stove.”

I’ve long puzzled over how some folks will reject current fuel-saving technologies like TDIs and hybrids, but they seem happy to accept much more daring high-tech dreams like the ones Luther mentions. Now I realize that the answer isn’t technical- it’s psychological. As long as they’re awaiting some completely transformational technology that promisesr free energy– or guilt-free energy, at least — they feel no pressure to take practical, presently available steps here and now to improve the situation. They’re like smokers who won’t quit, because they just know that the cure for cancer is about to be discovered.

I think the opposite way. I’m using current, proven technologies for renewable energy. I’ve burned biodiesel for years, and my home solar PV system is now in the process of installation. These are modest changes to my household economy, with little impact on my lifestyle. I’m not “shivering in the dark,” not “driving around in a tin can.” It feels good to me to take small steps on the right track, without waiting for some scientific or supernatural savior to arrive at the last minute and save us from our mistakes.

By: Luther Mon, 24 Dec 2007 22:35:43 +0000 Petroleum is basically a hydrocarbon…Hydrogen and Carbon slammed together really hard.

Organic material (Anything containing carbon) + Hydrogen (water) + heat/pressure (Sun Energy) creates natural petroleum.

I have no idea if the process creates more petroleum than we use. More oil will be discovered in the future so to say there is only 3.2T barrels of oil left is wrong. There has not been a year where the oil we all used was not replaced with an even greater discovered supply.

The Earth is at least 4 billion years old.

By: Wheatridger Mon, 24 Dec 2007 21:50:47 +0000 Until today, I had no reason to doubt the standard explanation that it’s the residue of millions of years of algae, plankton, and other flora and fauna, compressed and distilled over geologic time. After all, my wife and I spent a combined total of nine years at the Colorado School of Mines, where they study these things intently, without ever hearing differently.

Your post caused me to do a little research, though. I’d suggest you read this paper, which respectfully rebuts the theory that “abiotic” oil is some magic antidote to peak oil.

As my wife said when I posed your theory, “Well, it’s taken all geologic time for the oil we have today to be created.” How long will it take the reservoirs to be replenished by abiotic oil, if it exists? Whether you believe the world is 4 billion years old, or, as I suspect you might believe, 6,000 years old, we’re using oil much faster than that nowadays.

By: Luther Mon, 24 Dec 2007 20:59:21 +0000 Where does petroleum come from there wheatridge?

Just claimed the article “Interesting” what did you think I meant by that? Please let us know what Toshiba says.

By: Wheatridger Mon, 24 Dec 2007 16:47:02 +0000 BTW, Luther, I’ve contacted Toshiba for confirmation of this nuke reactor product. They’re on holiday until Jan. 6, so we’ll have to trust you that long… if anyone does.

I do find it curious when folks are bold and futuristic enough to bet their future on abiotic magic oil, and welcome nuclear power into their home. Change their global climate? No problem, they’ll adapt. Just don’t mess with their cars! Because that’s the one perfect technology that should never, ever change, should it?

By: Wheatridger Mon, 24 Dec 2007 16:34:44 +0000 “Petroleum oil is created (constantly) from carbonates and water under high pressure and temperature deep in the earths crust. It is not derived from rotting animals and plants…” -Luther

If you believe this kind of Stalinist science/magical/wishful thinking, I have a bunch of Pennsylvania oil fields to sell you. After all, first drilled, first refilled, right? Since you know more about finding oil than all the world’s oil companies, let’s see you bring a gusher from a depleted well…

By: Luther Mon, 24 Dec 2007 12:47:16 +0000 Interesting…..

By: Luther Mon, 24 Dec 2007 11:00:20 +0000 HCCI engines with electro-mech valves combined with lighter/stronger materials like carbon fiber and ceramics. AMT transmissions as well. 35 (combined) mpg from a Chevy Tahoe for $35K by 2020…Not likely at all. The “rich” will just pay the fine or move to a freer country.

The HCCI engines will run on a low octane hydrocarbon fuel and maybe a high-carbon summer-blend…lighter than diesel though.

Alternatives to mining hydrocarbons will become viable after nuclear power. Petroleum oil is created (constantly) from carbonates and water under high pressure and temperature deep in the earths crust. It is not derived from rotting animals and plants…Or Iraq may have been the hot-spot for ageing dinosaurs to retire and die kinda like Florida for humans.

By: Wheatridger Mon, 24 Dec 2007 07:44:33 +0000 Glad you asked. I call it “net” CO2, because I consider the renewable, “bio-” share of my fuel blend to be qualitatively different from conventional petroleum. It’s not a fossil fuel, bringing back old, long-buried carbon from the age of the dinosaurs. Instead, the carbon in the soy-based biofuel came out of the atmosphere last spring. Next year’s crop will help reclaim my current emissions, and so on. Think of it is the difference between spending your earnings, versus your savings. It’s not free energy, since modern agriculture uses petroleum intensively. But I think it’s the best thing going in renewable fuels, and the best science agrees with that.

By: Landcrusher Mon, 24 Dec 2007 07:26:51 +0000 Wheat,

How does running biodiesel lower your carbon emissions? Does it produce less CO2 for the same energy?

By: Wheatridger Mon, 24 Dec 2007 03:56:59 +0000 “The reason you don’t see those diesels in the US is NOBODY BUYS THEM.” -Juniper

And, unfortunately, on one sells them now. But could you kindly direct me to the stocks of unsold ’06 VW TDIs cluttering up dealers’ lots? They’re all gone, and there’s a two-year gap on new TDI availability, so used ones are priced through the roof. Having no spark plugs under the hood of a Golf or Jetta guarantees you around 50% of the new price on today’s resale market. TDIs are sold on the internet to multiple bidders nationwide, at 40% premiums over gas equivalents.

“Tit for tat, diesels will always be dirtier, heavier, and slower than gas.”-ralphSS

Gee, I haven’t weighed my Golf TDI vs the 2.0 model I had before it. Even if it was lighter, the gasser certainly was slower. With no turbo, it ran out of lungpower on the highest stretches of Interstate 70 above 10,000 feet, where it could barely maintain 75 mph. In the TDI, I’m backing off after 85 up there. And “dirtier”? How so? A recent emission test shows my car’s exhaust clarity is eight times better than the state standard. I’m running an avg. of 40% biodiesel, lowering my net CO2 emissions, and with ULSD, there’s no more sulfur smell. The most troublesome diesel pollutant is NOX, but that only cooks into smog in hotter conditions. And diesel has the often-overlooked advantage of almost zero evaporative emissions from the fuel tank.

It sounds like many of these diesel “experts” haven’t driven a modern turbodiesel vehicle. I have, so I don’t really care whether the Olds 88 diesel you bought in ’78 was a good car or not. Time to wake up, guys, and smell the (lack of) sulfur.

By: Landcrusher Mon, 24 Dec 2007 03:49:49 +0000 “Both are questions of regulating individual behaviors for the sake of the common good.”

Right. So shutting down this website to prevent the waste of electricity (and resulting pollution) would be different how? Where does that logic end? Who decides? Why should one work hard if they are going to be constantly penalized for their success? What happened to equality in this country? When did it mean that we all got to have the same things no matter what we earned? Is polluting some how less harmful when done by the poor? How is that moral?

By: kellyeo Mon, 24 Dec 2007 03:29:02 +0000 I don’t believe that CAFÉ standards – as written – will make a significant difference in fuel consumption. Using the Department of Energy’s data, I put it at 5% reduction at best, under the new standard.

If we insist on CAFÉ Standards, rather than consumer incentives, then I’m in favor of a 60 mile per gallon standard by 2020.

Why? Because we might realize 45-50 real-world mpg out it. Consider that auto manufacturers certify to a EPA emissions driving cycle (Urban and HWFET) which produces 20% higher fuel economy numbers than that which we see on window stickers.

Automakers are still allowed nearly-treble fuel economy credits – eventually phased out – for flex fuel vehicles that may never use E-85 fuel, unless it’s widely available. When was the last time you saw an E-85 pump?

The Democrats crowed, and the AP and NPR reported, that the combined effect of the new energy bill would save 4 million barrels a day of oil by 2030 and claimed that this was more than twice the daily imports from the Persian Gulf.

But the numbers say otherwise. According to the DOE, we depend on imports for 60% of our oil, 16% of which comes from the Persian Gulf. IF the new energy bill reaches its reduction target of 4 million barrels a day, and we consume 21 million barrels a day, that’s about 19% reduction in oil consumption, or 3% more than Persian Gulf imports of 16%, nowhere close to twice the daily imports, which would be 32%.

Also, keep in mind that IF it were possible to come up with 36 billion gallons of Ethanol annually, to “replace” gasoline, we’d still have the gasoline equivalent of about 27 billion gallons since Ethanol has about 70% of the energy density of gasoline; and, though Ethanol has a higher octane rating, flex-fuel vehicles can’t take advantage of it, because they have to design for the least common denominator – namely, gasoline.

If we are heading for a climate crisis and if someday we’ll runout of petroleum before we have a serious alternative, then this Energy Bill is too little and maybe too late.

By: jthorner Mon, 24 Dec 2007 03:02:07 +0000 The problem with fuel taxes high enough to discourage consumption is that they fall disproportionately hard on those of modest incomes. To the minimum wage earner or retiree an extra several dollars per gallon may be a big deal, while to the CEOs and entertainers taking home 10s of millions of dollars per year it would be inconsequential.

Imagine if automobile pollution was controlled by taxation instead of decree. Instead of any kind of maximum pollution limits per vehicle you could have a system where at the annual registration each person was required to pay X dollars per hundred pounds of pollutants their vehicle emitted per year. People with lots of money would be driving cars with no pollution controls whatsoever and thus have the privilege of enjoying the even higher power outputs possible without those pesky emissions limits getting in the way. The cost of pollution control option packages for modest cars would likely be rather higher than is the pass through cost when all vehicles are required to be so equipped. All in all taxing automotive pollution would be less fair and less effective than is regulating it. Why is the question of fuel efficiency really any different? Both are questions of regulating individual behaviors for the sake of the common good.

By: Wheatridger Sun, 23 Dec 2007 22:44:03 +0000 No doubt a carbon tax, or even a guaranteed minimum price floor for motor fuels, would set us on a better course more effectively than complex CAFE calculations. But I welcome the new, higher standard, regardless.

I don’t have to tax my imagination to picture a 35mpg vehicle, of course. It’s sitting in my driveway now, a five-year-old VW Golf TDI. Since it’s cursed with an auto transmission, it’s not the 45-mpg car it could be, but still it makes the new CAFE curve, even with some city driving mixed in. It seats all my nuclear family and carries a decent load of cargo. It’s quiet (off idle) and powerful, even on steep grades at high altitudes (I live in Denver, where the most interesting roads lead westward and upward, rapidly). I don’t have any trouble finding diesel pumps, and when I do they’re not the sticky messes described by anti-diesel writers at sources like Car & Driver. Now that I’ve found a few biodiesel pumps, the car really delivers on the promise made by my vanity plate: “LESSCO2.”

So what do we need to do to bring the industry standard up to the level of my cult car? It’s not all engineering, folks. Yes, America has a taste for trucks to do a car’s job, but that’s a learned attitude. Let’s try reversing several decades of mass advertising that struck fear in the hearts of anyone considering less than a two-ton vehicle. Let’s reverse pricing policies that seduce novice buyers with the “more steel for less money” philosophy.

Detroit has its own reasons for preferring to sell us trucks. Body on frame is easier to manufacture, and there’s little engineering progress expected from model to model. Now, with a 35-mpg CAFE, they will have to respond to a contrary incentive. If they do, they will have a chance of surviving in a global marketplace against Asians and European makers who take fuel costs and climate change seriously.

Here’s what I’d like to know- what’s the equivalent average fuel economy of the auto fleet in Europe? I’d be surprised if they don’t average to close to 35 mpg already.

By: Claude Dickson Sun, 23 Dec 2007 16:43:05 +0000 This is an example of playing politics and not sound economics. The solution is simple (but politically unpalatable): increase the gas tax to raise gas prices (maybe by a $1.00 or more). Raise the price of gas to the point where the consumer decides to shift to more fuel efficient vehicles. This wipes out the games auto manufacturers are currently playing with fleet mileage requirements AND raises revenues to address highway infrastructure needs.

By: jthorner Sun, 23 Dec 2007 15:44:38 +0000 I agree with almost everything cjdumm posted so eloquently, expect for the bit about pushrod V-6 and V-8 designs. Overhead cam, four valve engines are not inherently better for fuel efficiency than are similar sized pushrod engines.

Go to and compare the Chevy Silverado fuel economy readings to similarly equipped Toyota Tundras.

Chevy 4.8l V-8, 4-speed automatic: 14/19 city/highway.
Chevy 6.0l, 4-speed: 13/18.
Toyota 4.7l, 5-speed automatic: 14/17.
Toyota 5.7l, 6-speed automatic: 14/18.

In all cases the Chevy engine is pushrod while the Toyota is a high tech double overhead cam design. Toyota’s automatic transmissions also have more gears than the competing GM units. However, the only matchup where Toyota came out ahead was by 1 mpg in city driving for the big engine, and that probably is more due to the 6 speed transmission than anything else. Chevy is the winner for highway economy with it’s small V-8. If Chevy had it’s new 6 speed automatics in those trucks it would probably win all the matchups.

Compare V-6 powered Saturn Auras to similar Honda Accords and you will see Aura at 18/29 and Accord at 19/29. Hardly a big advantage for the much more technically sophisticated Honda engine. GM’s 3.5l V-6 is an iron block, pushrod, 2 valve per cylinder engine with fixed relationship variable vavle timing. Honda’s engine is a DOHC, 4 valve per cylinder design with variable lift, variable intake and exhaust timing, cylinder deactivation and just about every other modern technology available.

Don’t get me wrong, modern full featured V-6 engines are a wonder to behold and sing right up to their high redline while the GM pushrod V-6s are rather retro, but retro doesn’t mean bad fuel economy. Money is an issue as well. I’m sure it costs GM a whole lot less to make it’s 3.5l engine than it costs even a manufacturing powerhouse like Honda to produce it’s V-6 masterpieces.

Now if you want to say that V-6 and V-8 powered cars are likely to disappear from the under $30k price category you might have an argument.

One last comment. Subaru may be forced to give up it’s All Wheel Drive only mission statement. All Wheel Drive has a fuel economy penalty even when not engaged. All that extra weight and rotating mass has a price to be paid. Physics always wins.

By: cjdumm Sat, 22 Dec 2007 22:01:53 +0000 I’m confident that 35 mpg is not as technically difficult as Detroit complains. We won’t need Unobtainium alloy frames or Mr. Fusion powerplants, we just need sensible design compromises.

Every market segment will respond in different ways. Light trucks, SUVs and people-carriers will probably go to smaller diesels, or even diesel-electric hybrids. No more Triton V-10s, that’s for sure.

Small cars will likely avoid serious price hikes by shrinking a little (back to the Civic and Accord sizes of the early 1990s, for example) and keeping their gasoline engines. Sensible design compromises in these smaller cars already yield good mileage without having to resort to exotic powertrains or micro-compact chassis. There are many popular designs that already get 35 combined, and these (Yaris, Fit, Corolla, Versa, etc.) point the way for others.

Performance car makers will probably just pay the penalty and move on. Others will focus on power-to-weight instead of raw BHP, and we might see more cars like the Lotus Elise and fewer Mustang GT500s.

Luxury cars will go to turbodiesel or gas-hybrids like Mercedes, Audi and Lexus. They’ll probably never get 35 mpg in this market segment, but they’ll get to 25 or maybe 30 and they’ll offset the rest by selling other thriftier models.

There’s so much room for improvement in efficiency; the only unavoidable casualties will be makes like Suzuki and Daewoo, which somehow combine small size, low power, and poor mileage. We’ll soon see the end of the Detroit pushrod V6 and V8, and this will be the end of the 3 (or even 4-) speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive will become less common.

I’m optimistic. I hope I can wait to replace my current car until the next generation of higher-efficiency cars comes out in maybe 5 or 10 years. It will be a brave new world, to have such automobiles in it.

By: SVOboy Sat, 22 Dec 2007 20:17:50 +0000 This shouldn’t be so hard to meet. Hell, peugot it putting out cars in europe that’re C-class and shattering this right now.

Personally, I get 55MPG, so I know it’s possible.

Benjamin Jones

By: ihatetrees Sat, 22 Dec 2007 18:14:44 +0000 Engineering question: How long until the entire drive train is replaced by a generator (engine) that powers electric motors at each wheel?
10 years?
15 years?
50 years?

By: Stein X Leikanger Sat, 22 Dec 2007 07:31:59 +0000 Sadly, I think that 35mpHOUR maximum is a just as likely prospect by then. :-)
Spoilsport that I am. But I recently rode an EV three-wheel, low slung, canting open prototype – and have never had as much fun at 30mph in my life. And possibly above that speed, for that matter.

By: jthorner Sat, 22 Dec 2007 07:27:10 +0000 “I want the consumers to use Hybrids and renewable fuels.” Bio-diesel is a superior fuel to ethanol. Bio-diesel has nearly the same energy density as does conventional diesel, and higher energy density than gasoline. Ethanol is a horrible fuel energy density wise by comparison.

Bio-diesel is easier to make than is ethanol and can be derived from plant oils and/or animal fats. It is also easily transported through existing conventional diesel infrastructure because it doesn’t have the water absorption and corrosion problems which prevent ethanol from being pumped through existing pipelines.

I am an engineer and the current US personal transportation fleet is nowhere close to it’s maximum efficiency potential. During the 1970s and 1980s when CAFE regulations were getting tighter on a regular basis the car makers kept up. Once the rules stopped getting tighter, ta da, cars and trucks stopped getting more efficient. Instead that got bigger and faster, faster and bigger year after year after year. Guess what, the human beings buying cars today are by and large just like the ones who bought cars and trucks in 1987. The rules of the game greatly effect the way it is played.

The gosh, we just give people what they want argument is disingenuous. The entire purpose of modern marketing is to shape the wants of the population. If you think that what most people want is primarily a product of their own internal thought processes then you haven’t studied sales and marketing. There is a reason it’s practitioners talk about demand creation.

By: Praxis Sat, 22 Dec 2007 04:17:46 +0000 “Maybe we’ve just reached the limit in what reasonable engineering can do.”

The energy efficiency of cars has increased an average of 5.3% per year for the last 30 years.

Since 1988 this increased efficiency has been used exclusively to increase mass and power.