Currently, corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for new LDVs are targeted to reach 35 miles per gallon by 2020, which would equate to a 40 percent improvement in average new-vehicle fuel efficiency (and a 30 percent reduction in average fuel consumption).7 Achieving this goal, and further improving fuel efficiency after 2020, will require that the historic emphasis on ever-increasing vehicle power and size be reversed in favor of fuel economy.

Gasoline hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) currently offer vehicle fuel-consumption savings of as much as 30 percent over SI engines. Thus it is likely that meeting the new CAFE standards by 2020 will require a large fraction of new vehicles to be HEVs or smaller, less powerful vehicles. PHEVs and BEVs could begin to make a large impact beyond 2020; however, the success of these technologies is crucially dependent on the development of batteries with much higher performance capabilities than today’s batteries, and with lower costs. Research and development on battery technology continues to be a high priority.

If they could be equipped with batteries that powered the vehicle for 40–60 miles, gasoline PHEVs could reduce gasoline/diesel consumption by 75 percent. While HEVs mainly improve performance or fuel economy, PHEVs actually get most of their energy from the electric grid.

Improvements in battery and fuel-cell technologies are expected to pave the way for possible large-scale deployments of BEVs and HFCVs in the 2020–2035 period. Because BEVs and HFCVs could reduce and ultimately eliminate the need for petroleum in transportation, they could also reduce and possibly even eliminate LDV tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Freight transportation. Future technologies for heavy-duty trucks include continuously variable transmissions and hybrid-electric systems to modulate auxiliaries (such as air-conditioning and power steering) and reduce idling. Significant reductions in aerodynamic drag are also possible. Reductions in fuel consumption of 10–20 percent in heavy-and medium-duty vehicles appear feasible over the next decade or so.


As noted in Chapters 1 and 2, the Obama administration recently announced new policies that will accelerate the implementation of these fuel economy standards.

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