By on January 21, 2014

2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Charging Plug, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

For automakers worried about meeting the 54.5 mpg CAFE mark by 2025, Johnson Controls — the ones who predicted the end of the steering wheel by 2025 — assured them that the target could be met, and without the need to turn everything into a plug-in or full EV.

Johnson Controls own Brian Kessler, who heads the company’s battery division, claims that a combination of turbocharging, stop-start systems, direct injection and other bleeding-edge fuel economy technology could be leveraged to meet this target. He then added that no automaker necessarily needs to go the route of Tesla, Nissan or Toyota to meet the CAFE target, implicitly endorsing the Environmental Protection Agency’s approach to fuel economy regulations over that of the California Air Resource Board’s mandate of electric batteries or fuel cells for zero-emission vehicles.

While most manufacturers have had mixed results with plug-in hybrids and other EVs, they’ve had better luck upgrading the internal combustion engine to meet the challenge before them. Downsized and turbocharged powertrains, like Ford’s EcoBoost engine lineup, were cited as a cost effective solution. 80 percent of the Blue Oval’s line of vehicles can be optioned with an EcoBoost engine, spreading the cost of development throughout the line. Of course, downsized turbo engines are notorious for delivering big numbers on government fuel economy tests, while falling short of real world fuel economy expectations.

 

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43 Comments on “Expert: 54.5 MPG CAFE Mark Reachable With Few Plug-Ins...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    Not to be a butt, but thanks for stating the obvious, Mr. Kessler

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    He is right. With enough credit for flex fuel, unrealistic EPA cycles, and turbo tomfoolery, the official fleet average will undoubtedly make the cut. The question is how much the real world fleet fuel economy will improve? I’m pretty skeptical.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    I foresee ever larger portions of the vehicle model mix being qualified by the manufacturers as light trucks.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    54.5 can’t be reached in 10 model years unless EVs play a major role.

    EVs already get 80-120 MPGe (although I don’t expect much beyond that in the future), and when you consider the slow progress of ICE fuel economy over the last 10 years, we’ll never make it.

  • avatar
    Joebaldheadedgranny

    Seems reasonable that small cars can reach the hurdle by stretching conventional technologies, but what about tougher applications like SUVs, pickups, and cargo vans where 2K+ of payload needs to be accomodated? We’ve seen very marginal improvements from enhancements cited in the article. For light duty vehicles to make the hurdle we’ll definitely need to see some serious innovations- diesel/gas hybrids and God knows what else.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Trucks aren’t required to meet 54.5, and as their going now will all make the mandate before 2025

      If anything automakers will just start jacking the rest of their cars up and get around the mandate by calling them trucks.

      Hopefully laws will be created to make ladder frames a requirement to be listed as a truck, before lawmakers see that the CUVs are cars through and through.

      • 0 avatar
        Joebaldheadedgranny

        Why did GM just eliminate their half ton cargo van? For want of customers? No, the 1500 now falls in CAFE territory, so it’s going away. GM hopes the City Express can handle the low end of this business. To make meaningful progress here, we’ll need to see more diesel and electrification, or both, in addition to all the transmission, weight, and IC enhancements.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          …or use their lobbying power to fight back.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          You mean Ford ending the E-series?

          I have seen nothing on GM ending the GMT600 platform.

          These vans don’t fall under the 54.5mpg mandate.

          Fords only stated reason for ending the Eseries is to cut down on paperwork, the Eseries is the best selling van in America, meanwhile vans similar to the ford replacement sell next to nothing.

          What if these new vans don’t sell?
          Why would a business owner want a van whose reliability is highly questionable with the only advantage is a supposed negligible increase in fuel economy from a high tech engine?
          The Eseries Has been relatively simple since the start in 1961, parts are cheap as hell, availible at every auto store and contains few problems.

          But now I’m selling a van, so I’ll stop there.

          • 0 avatar
            Joebaldheadedgranny

            As I understand it, the CAFE regs do impact the half ton segments according to the “footprint” in square footage- something along the lines of 35 MPG to a small car’s 54.5. I hate to see the E-Series go away, but I figure the combination of CAFE, looming MVSS (similar to Astro in 2005)and the fact that Euro Transit coming online make the cut necessary. The GM announcement on half ton came out on Friday I think…

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The old CAFE was based upon fleet-wide averages. A gas guzzler could be offset by selling something else that wasn’t a gas guzzler.

            The new CAFE has industry and corporate targets, plus “footprints” for different vehicle sizes. The objective is to force improvements at all size levels; selling PT Cruisers to Avis in order to sell more Ram pickups to Joe Sixpack is no longer going to work.

            When Ford pulls hundreds of pounds out of the F-series, that’s because it has to make improvements to that footprint. Classifying smaller vehicles as trucks for CAFE purposes is no longer going to do much good.

            The traditional vans suffer from a similar problem as compact pickups: volumes and prices are too low to justify any updates. It isn’t worth the R&D investment to develop new models — spending several hundred million dollars to make a US-only vehicle that sells at low prices is a bad investment. Either the world needs to start demanding more of them, or else Americans need to be willing to pay more for them; neither of those things is going to happen.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The manufacturers are doing all those things with SUVs, pickups, and cargo vans. Eight and ten speed transmissions, diesel engines, smaller engines, turbocharging, etc. Ford killed the E-series in favor of the Transit because the new van will get 25% better fuel economy. Also remember that marginal improvements, say 2 MPG, have a much bigger statistical effect on something that gets 17 MPG than something that gets 33 MPG (11% increase in fuel economy vs 6%).

  • avatar
    Hummer

    What if ALL automakers co-developed an EV and each sold it under their own name to spread cost… Would that be “ok” under this regulation?

    Instead of each spending millions to appease a unprofitable mandation.

    Get it to run on CO2 and emit O2 and coal.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      “Get it to run on CO2 and emit O2 and coal.”

      Are you trying to get heads in D.C. to explode?

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        It’s really this simple: if you had a coal-only grid, driving an EV has about the same carbon footprint as driving a Prius.

        If you have a mix with less than 100% coal, EVs are a win.

        Turns out that the USA nationally gets a bit over half of its electricity from coal (numbers are publicly available with a simple web search). But the local generation mix varies quite a bit. If you live in Houston, it’s mostly coal. If you live in Seattle, it’s mostly hydro. If you live in the Midwest, it’s about three quarters coal. You can look up the electric generation mix for most major metro regions of the US, if you’re interested.

        I’ll be happy to run the numbers for a specific, if I remember to check this article later.

        No heads need to explode. I’m a random engineer who lives in the Midwest and who researches this stuff for fun. Anyone who is supposed to learn about this stuff for a living should figure it out fairly quick, if they’re genuinely trying to learn and have an IQ above room temperature. I will, however, leave the question about whether politicians or their staffers have either of those attributes as an exercise for the reader.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    As Micheline Maynard pointed out before, 54.5 is the new 40. This won’t be that difficult to hit.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/michelinemaynard/2012/08/28/new-fuel-economy-standards-arent-as-high-as-you-might-think/

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Yep, the politicians chose an impressive sounding headline number with tests that don’t match the headline. Who didn’t see that one coming?

      On the other hand, it seems like they nailed it: flashy headlines for the politicians, incremental improvements in fuel economy. They totally nailed what they were trying to achieve. As an engineer, I’m appalled at the misuse of commonly understood units of measurement. As a pragmatist who’s made a formal study of the group process, I have to grudgingly respect what they worked out here…

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I think that it’s more a matter of agency administrators trying to create workable details for a plan that would be impossible to implement if taken literally.

        Congress provides the basic framework for law, but then leaves it to the agencies to sort out the details. It’s the agencies that have to figure out ways to turn laws into rules, while dealing with the auto executives who are haggling over the specifics.

  • avatar
    imag

    I much prefer a future with lots of good EVs balancing some remaining V8s. That seems much more entertaining to me than a world in which every car has a turbo I3 or I4.

    EVs are fantastic for appliance vehicles – smooth, quiet, and torquey. If it leaves more room for the fun cars to keep their V8s, all the better.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Agreed on both counts!

      This stuff would be pretty boring if everything is the same under the hood. Hell, I only got interested in cars again after opening the hood on a hybrid. But you’ve got to have the variety to keep this interesting.

      Commuting in an EV is a win every way I can slice it, and it leaves so much room for making a fun car really fun.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    Hopefully we’ll get a change of direction in Washington and these standards will be rolled back or scrapped altogether. The challenge is that car companies actually like these regulations, as it drives up the ASP of new cars and creates barriers to entry, so I’m not optimistic that the party currently out of power will be motivated to change them. Once again, the consumer and taxpayer will be left holding the bag.
    .
    .

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      Not really. Neither party will change it as it makes perfect sense:

      Firstly, cars are cheaper than they have been for 20 years and consumers are benefiting from advances in all areas including fuel economy. No one is holding any bag here.

      Secondly, the drive for economy is also very much driven by consumers. Note that CAFE is nothing new but did nothing to improve anything for 20 years. The the price of gas shot up to $4/gallon and consumers became very aware of gas mileage. In an era of wage stagnation, having a 40MPG highway sticker is a ticket to sell cars.

      Thirdly, lowering oil consumption in conjunction with raising domestic output is actually not a bad energy policy.

      • 0 avatar
        E46M3_333

        You’re arguing in circles. First you say cars have improved and gotten cheaper from new technology, which of course is true, but so have televisions, computers, cell phones, etc; then you say CAFE hasn’t done anything for 20 years. Then you go on to suggest that it’s high fuel prices, not CAFE that has driven higher MPGs of late, which I would not disagree with.

        CAFE isn’t necessary. It merely covers for Congress’ lack of political will to raise the gasoline tax. Car companies don’t mind because it keeps car ASPs high (or, accepting your logic) from eroding as fast as they might otherwise.

        As for cars being cheaper than ever, a simple Google search turned up this:

        “Affordability has been a matter of growing concern for the auto industry in recent years as prices have continued to move upward. Even the most basic of today’s cars are generally loaded with features that were once found on high-line models a few decades back – if they were available at all – such as air conditioning, power windows, airbags and electronic stability control, as well as digital infotainment systems. They also have to meet ever tougher federal safety, emissions and mileage standards that have added thousands to the typical price tag.”

        http://finance.yahoo.com/news/cars-increasingly-reach-many-americans-145957880.html
        .
        .

        • 0 avatar
          Joebaldheadedgranny

          I get your point E46 but I have to respectfully disagree;

          Of all the governmental schemes I like CAFE the best; it doesn’t pick winners, it just sets targets with teeth. The OEMs roll up their sleeves and innovate like crazy to stay up/ahead. It’s simple.

          You are correct, the acquisition costs of all this economy (and safety, another conflicting goal) adds cost, but to a consumer logging beaucoup miles each year the effective cost per mile is actually trending down.

          • 0 avatar
            E46M3_333

            Yeah, we’re seeing some tremendous innovations, like engines that turn off when you stop at a light, and headlights that look like tumors.
            .
            .

          • 0 avatar
            Joebaldheadedgranny

            Love it! Why does Rush’s Red Barchetta keep playing in my head?

          • 0 avatar
            Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

            “Of all the governmental schemes I like CAFE the best; it doesn’t pick winners, it just sets targets with teeth. The OEMs roll up their sleeves and innovate like crazy to stay up/ahead. It’s simple.”

            Higher gas taxes would be better. They would truly let the market decide: those who really need gas pigs for their work or shuttling people around would have them, while those that don’t are properly incented to improve their fuel economy. Price is a better signal than trying to dictate physics.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            How about neither. The vast majority of consumers demand fuel efficient vehicles and I don’t see this ever changing. People will vote with their wallets its that simple.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “Higher gas taxes would be better.”

            For anyone who would like to have or keep a career in politics, CAFE is the better alternative.

            Blame the voters, particularly the conservatives who have seizures and tantrums whenever anyone even thinks of whispering about the possibility of a tax increase. It is simply not possible to have serious discussions about this in the US political system, particularly in even-numbered years (when we have federal elections.)

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Start/stop can’t be accounted for in the current EPA testing protocol. Does Mr. Kessler also predict a change in the way fuel efficiency is measured? If so, then we can be assured the 2025 figures will be met, as the remarkably complex CAFE system will continue to be gamed by all the interested parties.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      In the real world, does start/stop actually save fuel?

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        It depends on your drive cycle. If it’s mostly highway, then no, you won’t see much if any benefit. If you have a heavy city cycle, you will see a fuel economy benefit. They’ve gotten the calibrations smoothed out to a point where start fuel isn’t excessive, so the off time does net some savings.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    How about upping the US standard for diesel to 51 cetane from it’s current 40 cetane standard.

    The manufacturers could then design an efficient easier for the everyday hack.

    Then the US could lead the world in FE.

  • avatar
    George B

    What happens when congress passes a law declaring that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant for purposes of the clean air act? If I understand correctly the 54.5 mpg EPA regulations are based on the EPA having authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the clean air act. Pretty sure that CAFE would revert to the old regulations, but there would be separate state requirements automakers would have to meet.

    I’m somewhat concerned that car manufacturers are gaming the fuel economy tests in a way that costs consumers over the long run. They’re already building cars with small turbocharged engines that do much better on the test than the real world. Engines with direct injection are having intake valve deposit problems. What will it cost to rebuild a 10 speed automatic transmission? Consumers like better fuel economy, but not if total costs go up.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I couldn’t agree more with your second point.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        I second that.
        Congress can repeal any law except the law of unintended consequences.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’ll take a repeal of anything. I’m not someone who routinely pays much attention to the year to year business of Congress, but honestly can you tell me the last time they repealed a law (not repealed and replaced with another)? The removed law could be a spitting on the sidewalk statute from 1792 for all I care. Just show “Hey we looked at this and decided it doesn’t work for us in 2014″ and say adios.


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