On Thursday I attended a conference held at Consumer Reports headquarters titled “Fuel Economy: Now and in the Future.” The panel discussion proved most interesting, as it featured David Strickland the administrator for NHTSA, Judith Enck of the EPA New York region, Ann Schlenker the Director for Transportation Research Energy Systems Division at Argonne National Laboratory, and Jake Fisher- the lucky guy at Consumer Reports who gets to drive the vehicles around the test track.
Everyone was agreeing that through vehicle technology, high fuel economy estimates do not automatically put you in the vehicle penalty box. Moreover, through some statistical analysis a typical consumer can save $4600 over the lifetime of a new vehicle if they go efficient. According to Consumer Reports “Decreasing oil consumption also creates jobs and helps insulate our economy against global oil price spikes. In place of spending money on gasoline, consumers will have more money to spend on cars and other goods and services. Reducing oil consumption brings economic security benefits as well, reducing out consumption of a product subject to both large price fluctuations and a long-term trajectory of increasing prices. The innovation spurred by CAFE standards will help the US Auto companies stay competitive on a global scale, and will create jobs in manufacturing and other sectors of the US economy.”
This was certainly an interesting conference to attend when one of my own vehicles in my personal fleet lease is coming due. I knew I wanted to get something fuel efficient, but if the math works in our favor we are starting the see the offset of increased MSRP being absorbed by high MPG numbers.
On the tech front, I really enjoyed hearing Ann Schlenker discuss the incredible things coming from dual-fuel engines (Diesel and low RON gasoline). They are getting incredible fuel economy numbers while getting NOx levels low enough to not need a particulate trap or other post-exhaust-valve processing.
The future is bright, but we still do not know what the ‘killer app’ is going to be: Diesel, Gasoline, Hydrogen, Dual Fuel, Variable Compression, Mild Hybrid, Standard Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, Full Electric and the list goes on. It is probably going to be a combination of these ‘apps’ for the years to come unless we have a breakthrough in battery technology.
Side note: It was awesome to see around 100 baby strollers being punished for a durability test at the Consumer Reports HQ. A really cool corporate campus…