in a binding matrix, such as fiberglass). To make these materials affordable and durable, research is intensifying on vehicle manufacturing methods, structural concepts, design analysis tools, sheet-manufacturing processes, improved material strength, and recyclability.
Since 1975, the weight of a typical family sedan has dropped from 4,000 pounds to 3,300 pounds. To achieve the Partnership's up-to-80 mpg goal, researchers are working to reduce overall vehicle weight by yet another 40 percent to 2,000 pounds. To achieve this, researchers must reduce the mass of both the outer body and chassis by half, trim powertrain weight by 10 percent, and reduce the weight of interior components.
The Partnership's long-term goal is the development of technologies for new generation, midsize family sedans that get up to 80 mpg; carry up to six passengers and 200 pounds of luggage; meet or exceed safety and emissions requirements; provide ample acceleration; are at least 80 percent recyclable; and provide range; comfort and utility similar to today's models.
The Partnership expects American consumers will buy these vehicles only if they cost no more to own and operate than today's models. Because U.S. gasoline prices are among the lowest in the world, few consumers are willing to pay more for advanced technologies even if they provide greatly increased fuel economy.
While the new concepts recently unveiled in Detroit are impressive, significant additional technology breakthroughs and advancements will be required to achieve the ambitious PNGV goals. Chrysler, Ford and GM are all working on high-mileage concept vehicles to debut in 2000, to be followed by production prototypes in 2004. The government partners and their laboratories will continue to participate in high risk, cooperative research and development with the auto industry to advance critical enabling technologies for possible use in these vehicles. The research and commercial applications resulting from the ambitious PNGV timeframe are stepping stones to the next technological breakthroughs that could yield even greater benefits for the nation's energy security, environment, and economic well-being.
For more information about the PNGV, call John Sargent, U.S. Department of Commerce, 202-482-6185; or Ron Beeber, USCAR, 248-223-9011. Also, check out two sites on the World Wide Web: www.uscar.org and www.ta.doc.gov/pngv.