Stojkovski argued that automakers will need to add a wide variety of new technologies to get to 54.5mpg, including improvements to engines, transmissions, and tires. Engineers will also need to cut vehicle weight and drag, while simultaneously electrifying certain models.
Consumer advocates said the 54.5mpg number is not as daunting as it seems, however. That figure is not the same as the EPA sticker number on every vehicle, since the two are calculated differently, Gillis said. He pointed out that the 54.5mpg number translates to 45mpg on an EPA sticker. "So when you think of the fact that the goal in EPA numbers is 45, it becomes clear that it is very achievable," he said.
Engineering consultants contended that no matter how it's calculated, the new rule still calls for a 70 percent increase in fuel efficiency, which will be costly.
Consultants also worried about the rule's effect on the market for new vehicles. "When you reach 35, 40, and 50 miles per gallon, the cost to achieve it gets too high," David Cole, chairman emeritus of The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) and a former professor of automotive engineering the University of Michigan, said in an interview. "And the value returned to the customer gets to be less and less. The risk is that people will say, 'Why should I buy a new car? I'll just keep the old one. It's a better business decision.' "
Stokovski agreed that the higher initial cost of vehicles will significantly affect the market. The technology's extra cost might make it more difficult for some consumers to get credit in a tight market. "A lot of new technology will be needed," Stojkovski said. "And you don't get a 70 percent increase in fuel economy for free."
You raise a lot of good points, Beth, particularly with regard to the added cost of entertainment centers. The big problem, though, is achieving that last 10 mpg. That's where most of the cost lies. It's worth it to take a hard look at the accompanying graph. It seems counter-intuitive at first, but a consumer saves ten times more in fuel costs by going from 10 to 20 mpg, than by going from 40 to 50 mpg. Going from 40 to 50 pg, a 15,000-mile-a-year driver paying $5 a gallon saves only $375 annually. The point is, we reach a mathematical limit as we go farther out on the curve. Unfortunately, most of the additional vehicle cost is in that last 10 mpg, the experts say.
Most of the upfront costs -- such as product development, engineering, tools and production equipment -- will diminish, Rob. Parts and labor will remain, however. It's particularly problematic in big ticket items, such as the dual powertrains in hybrid vehicles. Two powertrains will always cost more than one.
Nice to hear the voices of both consumer advocates and engineers, Chuck. As for the costs to gain fuel efficiency, are some of the costs one-time costs for innovation and altered design? I would think that many of the improvements would not continue to add cost with each individual car after a certain pay-back period.
I think I have to side with the consumer advocates on this one. Granted, it will take some extra engineering and innovation muscle, but much of this technology should have been (and has been) in the works for years given that it is no surprise that the mandate was coming. As for the added cost, what about the addition of bluetooth, entertainment centers, GPS, automated driving systems--all of those highly complex embedded systems and electronics jack up the cost of the vehicle and consumers buck up and pay extra for the technology. I just see this as a standard that pushes progresss. What's so bad about that?
A half century ago, cars were still built by people, not robots. Even on some of the countryís longest assembly lines, human workers installed windows, doors, hoods, engines, windshields, and batteries, with no robotic aid.
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