U.S. Could Halve Fuel Consumption by 2035: Report

U.S. Could Halve Fuel Consumption by 2035: Report

The U.S. could feasibly halve its gasoline consumption if the country switched to hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles by 2035, according to a new MIT report.

For too long, automakers have focused on improving performance at the expense of efficiency, said the report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A large part of the challenge will involve convincing consumers that they don't need fast, gas-guzzling cars.

"Over the past few years, transportation fuel prices in the United States have increased sharply," the report said. "Yet, until the recent increases in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, there has been little action in the United States to develop strategies and implement policies that would decrease the petroleum consumption and GHG emissions from the in-use, light-duty vehicle fleet."

The authors of "On the Road in 2035: Reducing Transportation's Petroleum Consumption and GHG Emissions" spent five years studying various ways to cut fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, including propulsion technologies, new fuels and potential policy measures.

They suggest reducing vehicle weights as much as 20 percent weight and size of new cars and work to improve light duty vehicle engines and transmissions with an eye toward fuel efficiency.

From then through the next 30 years, the authors recommend increasing work on advanced technologies, such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells. Advanced powertrains must move to take the majority of the market.

In a related development, the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC), acting with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, awarded Johnson Controls-Saft an $8.2 million, two-year contract to develop lithium-ion battery systems for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), with a goal of achieving commercial feasibility of lithium-ion technology for mass market PHEVs.

The joint venture will work to develop a complete PHEV system that will include high energy capacity cells, battery management electronics, control software and an efficient thermal management system, said Mary Ann Wright, who heads the Johnson Controls-Saft joint venture and is also vice president and general manager for Johnson Controls’ hybrid battery business.

The team’s goal is to optimize cell and battery system design for 10-mile and 40-mile electric range vehicles, she said.

Johnson Controls, based in Milwaukee, is the leading supplier of automotive batteries and has extensive experience in integrated automotive solutions. Saft, which is based in France, is known for its work as a provider of advanced energy storage solutions and its expertise with Li-ion batteries.

As the contract award was announced on Tuesday, Wright and others called for more support from the government to spur development of high tech solutions that will help the struggling U.S. auto industry regain a position as a competitor in the global market. Wright and her colleagues made their comments at seminar in Traverse City, Mich.