The trend toward fuel efficiency isn't going away in 2012, or at any time in the foreseeable future. Because automakers are already on the hook to push their Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) to 35.5mpg by 2016, and 54.5mpg by 2025, they're going to be working hard on any feature that can eliminate even the smallest sip of gasoline. The most effective way to accomplish that is through the introduction of electric cars and hybrids of various types.
The innovation won't stop there, however. In 2012, we'll see the industry pushing the limits on a number of different fronts. Autonomous driving technologies will become more prominent. EV battery sizes will increase. Multicore processors will make a bigger move into the vehicle. And as that happens, engineers will fret about the electronic complexity that's taking over the automobile.
Click the image below to start a slideshow of the top 5 automotive trends to watch for in 2012.
The automotive world's migration to hybrid vehicles won't slow down in 2012. Ford Motor Co. will roll out its C-Max hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, while Toyota unveils its Prius PHV. But the show-stealer could be the "micro-hybrid," or "start-stop" car. The micro-hybrid, which has been quietly waiting in the wings for years, will make its biggest move yet in the coming year. Ford, Chevy, Buick, Kia, and others will roll out the technology in 2012, joining a handful of models from Fiat, Volvo, and Alfa Romeo that already have it. At its most rudimentary level, start-stop will enable vehicles to turn off their engines while waiting at stop lights, stop signs, or in heavy traffic. Soon, however, it will go beyond that level, enabling engines to shut down while a vehicle is coasting, in some cases as fast as 75mph. Experts say that the technology will be employed on every new car by 2025, making it impossible for even the most dedicated gasoline burners to avoid it. Bosch's start-stop starters, shown, can reduce a vehicle's fuel consumption by 5 percent.
(Source: Robert Bosch LLC)
To keep up with our coverage of all things EV, go to Drive for Innovation and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director Brian Fuller. On his trip, sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is driving a Chevy Volt across America to interview engineers.
Great wrap up on what to expect this year in automotive technology advancements. One thing that strikes me with all of this sophisticated processor, wiring, sensor, and vision system additions is that doesn't there now need to be some sort super software management program that will control, report on, and manage all of this data? In many ways, the modern car becomes a big-time, back-room network server, which then opens the door to a host of management requirements. Any thing happening on that front??
The big question with the technologies aimed at gas and hybrid vehicles is whether the U.S. auto industry can reach the holy grail of a 55 MPG CAFE (fleet with 54.5 mpg). It's possible in theory with current technology but the big stumbling block is whether it can be done in a cost-effective manner (both on the production end and creating cars consumers are willing to buy). Tough questions which will get illuminated a little more to some extent in 2012. For more, see "How Do We Engineer Autos for 54.5 MPG?"
I didn't have time to wade through 9+ pages of comments on the blog you referenced, but I don't recall ever seeing anyone look at it this way: the automakers who agreed to meet the 54+MPG target MAY have considered this as a "supply vs. demand" opportunity! Think about it: the giovernment has very little power to repeal the laws of economics, despite their continuing efforts to do so. IF the demand for larger vehicles (e.g. full-size pickup trucks, together with large SUVs) is relatively inelastic (as it would be for those whose egos/incomes allow them to exercise that preference, combined with the large numbers of businesses and individuals who NEED those vehicles to earn their living), then if meeting the target means severely restricting production volume of those vehicles, then there is a HUGE opportunity for greatly-enhanced PROFIT margins. Especially given the recent travails oof the industry, that may indeed represent the (maybe temporary) salvation of the industry! Just a thought.....
I will be watching (and waiting) with great interest to see the implementation of these technologies. I just can't, however, see automakers reaching the 55 mpg mark without an outrageous price tag - not for several years, anyway. For the standard to truly be effective, these autos need to be available to everyone, sooner rather than later.
Nice wrap-up, Chuck. While EVs are getting plenty of coverage, the multicore processors look like they may deliver promising results. We may find that a very smart traditional engine delivers more significant environmental advances than EVs that are essentially powered by coal burning electrical plants.
It is always a fight between what is mandated by those making decisions based on emotions and those making decisions based on marketing and customer demand. Of course, marketing does tend to prmote those choices that deliver the most profit. On the other side, it makes little sense to build products that customers don't want, and will not buy.
There is always a fight between safety, performance, emissions, and economy. We do know that safety does not sell, it never did, except for Volvos. Nobody would buy airbags if they were an extra cost option, nobody bought them when they were. The same for the stability control, the next option being forced on us.
So the result will be very interesting, since the vehicles that got the better mileage were not as big sellers as the larger vehicles that did not get such good mileage.
The best choice would be for our lawmakers to find a way to make the more fuel efficient vehicles more attractive, while not placing penalties on those who buy the big vehicles. One simple change would be to make the yearly license plate fee dependant on vehicle weight, like it was back prior to 1970, instead of taxing them bythe original purchase price, which is how it has been done in Michigan for many years now. That would be a simple change, not needing any technical breakthroughs at all.
The other issue is that there now really is a market hole for a stripped down car which is just a car. (I.e., not an electronics platform that happens to have an engine, transmission, and gas tank thrown in for the heck of it.) However, I suspect that such a vehicle would not pass regulatory muster and so wouldn't be street legal. What a paradox.
Tata Motors in India came out with such a car -- the Nano, which cost $2,100 U.S. Sales have been much lower than they hoped for, however, even in the economically-depressed Indian market. Hopefully, Tata can hang on until 2025. They might find a big market here.
I'd buy a Nano if they were a bit bigger! I'd buy any well built, not-so-expensive, stripped-down car that was, well, a car, and not an infotainment platform. Assuming it was safe enough and somewhat bigger than a sardine-can-sized, sub-compact Geo or Nano, which look just too small to be safe in a crash. If the Nano came in a compact size, like my Nissan Sentra, I'd go for it.
What about th e"switch"? Now That's a poor-girls Wrightspeed! & Fun to drive, but may take a bit more detail than you want to deal with. The Mi-EV are just now hitting the west coast. & women out here have strong brang lyalty and told me they would buy an electric Mitsu w/o hesitation. the prediction I would like to make is US LiFePos battery companies finally releasing early "trial " production batteries to US R&D builders as they start producing fresh batteries for OEMs. It could be seen as a patriotic gesture so US battery money can stop flowing into Chinese coffers!
Is not the size of the car but the safety features that matter. F1 cars are light, and they are safe given the speed they travel at.
The only place where weight comes into play is which party gets hurt more. 4 ton vehicle against a 1 ton, and is simple physics. The person driving a 4 ton car to feel "safe" is really transfering the damage to the other party base on simple mass ratios. In the global picture, you are not making driving safer for everyone.
Is the my safety come at a price to your family attitude. Yes, everyone drives bigger cars so the other family will hurt more than you. Car were getting bigger and bigger until gas price squashed that game.
benmlee2, you said "The only place where weight comes into play is which party gets hurt more." Only? For me, that's the top reason not to have a smaller car. But I wasn't talking about driving a Hummer, I meant more like the Nissan Sentra-sized compact I drive today. OTOH, I was driving one of those years back when a semi driver tried to run me off the road, who knows why. It's happened more than once. That aggressive behavior you describe has been going on for decades, though it does go in cycles.
Ann has an excellent point.I commute every day—approximately 40 miles one way so I average anywhere from 350 to 400 miles per week and its all interstate driving.I have seen several devastating wrecks over the past eight years most occurring in clear weather where drivers seem to be relatively fearless.Small cars don't have a chance and defensive driving seems to be the exception rather than the rule.I see people reading, putting on makeup, eating with both hands, jiving to the music and of course, talking on their cell phones.The seventy mile per hour speed limit means nothing, absolutely nothing.For this reason, I would not buy a small car unless some form of collision avoidance mechanism was installed having "eyes" at critical points around the car.I know that technology is available today and I feel it's every bit as important as 40 MPG.
Good point, bonjengr. About ten years ago, a study showed that SUVs had a surprisingly high rate of accidents. The conclusion was that some SUV drivers felt that sense of fearlessness that you mentioned, and drove over-aggresively. That would seem to support the conclusion by many commenters here that it's not the car, it's the drivers. Bad drivers find myriad ways to drive poorly.
I notice a change in driving attitude of SUV drivers base on events. Mid 2000-2001 when stock market crashed, SUV and truck drivers went berserk. Very aggressive as if to take out their frustration on the road. It was the only time in my driving career that I ever saw a lifted truck purposely try to run a small car off the road several times. Several other SUV did something similar at various times. It was just like in the movies. Up to this point, I have never seen such suicidal behavior on the road.
George Bush won the second term, they were aggressive in a different way. Stay out of their way. And if you merge in front of them too close, they will tail gate you for miles honking. Oct 2008 the second major stock market crash. SUV drivers were again aggressive. Not as much as the first crash of 2000 though.
After Obama won office, SUV drivers since have somewhat calmed down. Now with the high gas price and threat of higher EPA mileage, they have pretty much become normal drivers again. Is rare to see aggressive SUV drivers much now. Sociologist can do a research paper on this. I am probably more aware because I drove a 3 cylinder feather weight Chevy Sprint for a long time.
A few years back, I was in a deli, waiting for my lunch when a very elderly man rode up in his street/dirt motocycle. I asked him how long he had been riding and he estimated that he started before I was born. When asked if he was ever in an accident, he replied, "No - not ever, and do you know why? ...because I ride a very light and highly manueverable bike. I've been able to avoid almost certain accidents because of the bike's agility."
Now, take a look in any newspaper and notice that when teenage drivers are in serious accidents, they are almost always driving big SUVs that tip over very easily. Light cars generally brake in shorter distances, have quicker and more accurate steering, and of course, get better fuel mileage. I recall the commercial in which moms driving their kids to school got to the point where they were driving giant payloaders (to be more protected from the heavier and heavier vehicles being driven). Thankfully because of high gas prices, this is no longer the case. you should no longer feel that buying a large SUV is the only way to go to be protected in the event of an accident with an H2 Hummer.
Good points, Dave. I have a friend who has used motorcycles as his primary mode of transportation for decades. His view is that motorcycles are the safest form of transportation up until the moment of impact. He was able to avoid accidents via the motorcycle's agility.
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Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
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