The car of the future is the car of today
To reach the 2025 fuel-economy standards of 55 mpg 40 mpg, automakers will have to deploy new technology, but consumers are unlikely to notice, NRDC's Hwang said.
The path-breaking Prius was a status symbol for eco-conscious consumers, but increasingly hybrid engines are being built and marketed for the average car buyer. (Case in point: the Lexus CT 200h "darker side of green" marketing campaign.) And, Hwang said, the hybrid engine Toyota pioneered is getting a significant upgrade in some new models made by other carmakers, like Hyundai, VW and Nissan, that will utilize "parallel two-clutch systems." (The 2011 Hyundai Sonata hybrid, pictured here, uses P2 technology, as it's called.)
You have no idea what that means. Exactly the point. It means the transmissions will be "less complex, and therefore cheaper," in Hwang's words. Repeat: Cheaper.
"You won't think about it being a hybrid, I-want-to-be-super-cool car," Hwang said. "I'm just thinking, I'm buying a 55-mpg car and it just so happens it has electric batteries."
Who knows what advances in pure electric vehicles we'll see by 2025; the first hybrids hit the road about 10 years ago, and the first EVs will be about 15 years old in 2025. But whatever the changes in the engine, the consumer should see relatively minor changes to the exterior and driving experience, according to Edmunds.com's O'Dell.
"They may get more futuristic and styly. When you don't have a big huge transmission to deal with you can do things with the body shape that you can't do today," O'Dell said. "But we're not going to have hover crafts. We're probably not going to have big glass bubbles that float on maglev tracks."
The SUVs of the future isn't quite the SUV of today
Gas engines, too, can be made far more efficient with existing technology, Hwang said. Recent improvements include:
- Lightweight materials and more aerodynamic designs.
- Direct-injection turbo-chargers, like Ford's EcoBoost, which allow vehicles (like the F150 pictured here) to produce as much power with fewer cylinders, less friction and less fuel demand.
- Start-stop systems that automatically switch idling engines off, and restart them instantly.
- Cool-boosted exhaust gas recirculation, which helps deliver more oxygen-rich fuel by lowering its temperature before fuel-injection.
"I don't really expect that when you go to the showroom that you're going to be faced with vehicles that are any different looking," NRDC's Hwang said. "You'll still see SUVS, minivans, pickups, cars. But the drivetrains will be better... Unless you're a real gearhead you're not really going to notice the difference."
The EPA predicts hybrids will account for as little as 25% of the market in 2025, or as much as 65%, depending on how aggressively car manufacturers take advantage of credits and incentives, and how much consumer demand there is. Electric vehicles will hold no more than 10% of the market, leaving a healthy slice for traditional gas engines with more advanced features.
Hwang's prediction differs slightly. In 2025, he expects about one-third of vehicles for sale will be hybrids and 10-15% electric, leaving more than half the cars on the average lot powered by gas engines.
Standard will outpace stick
One interesting switch consumers will notice, if they haven't already, is that the days when manual transmission cars achieved better fuel economy than automatic transmissions are quickly coming to an end.
That has been the case of the history of the automobile," Edmunds.com's O'Dell said. "That is changing."
Computer-controlled electronic shifting has become so refined, and manufacturing processes so precise, that automatic transmissions will get significantly better fuel economy than standard transmissions.
"We're going to see a huge step up in the complexity of transmissions," O'Dell added, predicting that automatic transmissions will soon have as many as 15 gears to improve fuel economy.
Cars will cost more, but cost less
All those technological improvements will drive up the sticker prices. The EPA estimates that the average vehicle in 2025 will cost $2,400 more than today. Over it's lifetime, though, the same vehicle will save consumers $8,200 in fuel expenses.
"You'll more than make up for the extra cost of the car," Sinnamon, of Environmental Defense Fund, said.
As the technology becomes commonplace, prices should come down. The new generation of hybrids are cheaper than the current generation, due to design innovations (that P2 system), NRDC's Hwang said. The same type of innovation in future engines is hard to predict specifically, but easy to expect.
And maintenance, too, could cost consumers less, Edmunds.com's O'Dell said. All the maintenance electric cars need, for instance, is "is to rotate tires and change window wipers," in O'Dell's words, and the more-precise and computer-controlled engineering in cars should require less maintenance overall. Though, of course, the chance of a defective part prompting a recall will always be there.
At today's gasoline prices, fueling the average new vehicle costs nearly $1,700 annually. In 2025, the fueling the average new vehicle will cost closer to $900 — 45% less. And that's assuming the price of gas stays the same. The latest Energy Information Administration Annual Energy Outlook predicts that gas prices will be 25% higher in 2025 than in 2011 — making each gallon saved that much more valuable. (It also predicted prices in 2011 would be $2.80, not $3.70, so take that prediction with a grain or two of salt.)
"This is great for consumers. They're going to benefit more than anybody," Sinnamon said. "They'll still have a broad range of vehicle size, use and style choices, but they'll have even more high-mpg options."
Content provided by The Daily Green.
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Electric my butt,
go plug yourself in the wall and see if you live longer............
the Green mongers have yet to figure what to do with all those batteries.........
it will pollute like Nuke Waste...........................
the only guy who will have all electric would be Al Gore, he will be hiding his gaz toys behind his polluting house............
switch to algea based biodiesel and we could have SUVs that get 40-50 mpg
BMW 640d and the Audi have a V6 3.0L 313 hp twin turbo diesel that is rated at 5.7L/100KM which is 42 mpg US
The Landrover with the new 4.4L turbo diesel has a combined 25.1 mpg US the current US gasoline version is 14 mpg combined.
The. Peugot 3008 hydrid4 is a diesel hydrid small SUV and gets 61 mpg US
Wake up america and embrace the new Diesel tech
Continued improvements over the years and taking some of the suggestions above may get the average mileage of the overall U.S. fleet of passenger cars and trucks closer to 40 mpg, but I think that 55 is just wishful thinking. Too much driving in this country is commuting and for local business causing a lot of slow speeds and idling which detracts from the goal.
I have a 2001 Toyota Corolla that still runs like a top that gives me the acceleration, speed, and the economy I desire. I loved the BIG old land boats with V-8's with their abysmal mileage and heaters that drove you out of the car once they finally warmed up. Except for the hobbyist and collectors, such cars are impractical today. I say let the market decide and keep the government out of it. I am happy with my small sedan, but many people desire to use pickups and SUV's, which are essentially a type of truck.
Electric cars and hybrids are much too expensive and then there is the little problem of battery disposal and reclamation of toxic metals. Perhaps some way can be found to utilize hydrogen, the most abundant element and develop a practical engine using it.
President 0bama accomplished almost NOTHING with the new CAFE rules. It was another opportunity to score political points with that sliver of society that badly thinks more government is the answer to everything, when the polar opposite is closer to the truth.
Thankfully your article disclosed the loopholes and ethanol credits giving the bulk of the new vehicle fleet a pass. Think about it; a car that actually gets an EPA registered 30 mpg on conventional gasoline (and 18 or less mpg on E85) will get credit for 60 mpg (!). With a tiny bit more smoke, mirrors and force-pleasing, 0bama can make it look like he actually accomplished something.
Would you like to see the economy improve? Do you not yet realize the government is central to the ailments in our economy today? Do you appreciate the real origin of oil versus the myth? How 'bout an article championing individual freedom, liberty, a right to choose your mode of of transport, unabrogated by the belligerence of socialist do-gooders?