Group claims automakers could boost fuel economy dramatically

The Union of Concerned Scientists said Wednesday US automakers could apply existing technologies to increase the average fuel economy of their vehicles from 24 mpg today to more than 40 mpg by 2012 and 55 mpg by 2020.

Jun 21st, 2001


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, June 21 -- The Union of Concerned Scientists said Wednesday US automakers could apply existing technologies to increase the average fuel economy of their vehicles from 24 mpg today to more than 40 mpg by 2012 and 55 mpg by 2020.

UCS is a nonprofit alliance of scientists and citizens that works for a cleaner environment.

UCS, Cambridge, Mass., said, "This improved fuel efficiency would maintain the safety and performance consumers demand, while providing near-term economic and environmental benefits, and readying the way for even greater gains in the future.

"Instead of drilling for new oil in public lands, we should tap Detroit's ingenuity to produce cars and trucks that travel 40 miles on each gallon of gas," said David Friedman, the lead author of the report and an analyst for UCS's Clean Vehicles Program.

Existing technologies could bring the typical family car to more than 45 mpg and halve the cost of fueling a sport utility vehicle, it said. Hybrid technologies could enable a family car to reach nearly 60 mpg and an SUV to break the 50-mpg mark.

UCS said the technologies to meet these goals -- variable valve engines, high strength steel and aluminum, continuously variable transmissions, and low rolling resistance tires -- are available and could be supplemented by advanced technologies like hybrid and fuel cell vehicles.

The report said reducing fuel use would save consumers nearly $10 billion/year by 2010 and $28 billion by 2020, create up to 40,000 jobs in the auto industry by 2010 and 100,000 by 2020, and reduce emissions believed to contribute to global warming 273 million tons/year in 2010 and 888 million in 2020.

"Simply applying existing technologies would yield fuel cost savings of $3,000 to $5,000 over the lifetime of a car or truck," said Friedman. "The advanced technologies beginning to hit the road today promise even greater savings. Unlike diesel, these fuel economy gains do not compromise air quality and public health."

UCS said reliance on diesel would guarantee increases in emissions of toxics, particulates, and nitrogen oxides. It said its proposals could reduce toxic emissions from gasoline refining and distribution 150 million lb/year by 2010 and 481 million by 2020, and smog-forming pollutants 320 million lb/year by 2010 and 1 billion by 2020.

The group said there is no direct relationship between increased fuel economy, partly from lowering the weight of vehicles, and decreased fleet safety. It said measures like stronger roofs, improved seat belts, and crash avoidance systems remain underutilized.

"Fuel efficient cars and trucks can have the dual benefit of reducing both automotive fatalities and oil consumption," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. "Design, not weight, is the key to building a safe vehicle."

He said in the absence of government action, auto designers will continue to build heavier vehicles "rather than use technology to protect drivers, their pocketbooks, and the environment."

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