Okay, first of all, most of the World sells gasolene in liters, not gallons or Imperial gallons. The MPG figures from most European test cycles are converted to MPG from Liters per kM.
The Europeans get better fuel milage for many reasons, mostly, as suggested, lighter average weight of vehicles, different emission controls and the cost of fuel mandated driving styles. Also, of note, is the greater % of diesel vehicles using fuel that closer reflects the lower cost of manufacture when compared to no-lead regular.
The reason for the US higher diesel fuel costs is because mostly high milage commercial vehicles use diesel and the fuel tax is skewed to tax these vehicles fuel to pay for road systems, since these vehicles cause more wear to the roads and this is the way to make them pay their fair share. Is it fair to tax diesel vehicles into the relatively small proportion they hold? Probably not, but if you drive diesel cars (I had 3 VW diesels in the past) you know that even at the higher fuel cost, you are saving over the identical vehicle with a gas engine.
Are hybreds and plug-ins an answer? The higher cost and weight of battery packs make them less desireable. The limited range of pure plug-ins make another family vehicle necessary if long distance travel is in your plans. Also, even an average commute of 35 miles each way becomes questionable During winter with the dark requiring lights and heat or the summer requiring A/C.
The ability to meet the requirement of 55 mpg is not a hard goal to achieve, engineers did it in the 50's and 60's with carburetors. One of these carburetors is actually under glass at General Motors in Flint Michigan. Big V-8's were capable of 75+ mpg using this setup, so a small engine should easily be able to achieve mileage in excess of 100 mpg. It uses a rather simple method of pre-heating fuel in order to use it in a gaseous state, rather than a liquid state. The ideal air:fuel ratio changes from 14.7:1 to a much lower 6-7:1, which is where a big part of the efficiency comes from. Another important factor is the increased longivity of internal comonents due to better lubrication, or lack of cylinder wash caused by gasoline in a liquid state. This is why propane powered engines last so long, they are made with the same internal components, they just benefit from the gaseous state of the fuel.
We pay the amount for gas that we are FORCED to pay, which is driven by the partnerships between the government and the oil companies. Collectively, they set the parameters that we live by. The technology to get 100 mpg was bought off and put away to prevent loss of income, as far back as the 1960's. The same goes for battery technology, endless patents locked away until certain parties have exhausted their need for oil.
The use of lighter materials, better tires, etc..., all have a part in achieving these figures, but the core technology hasn't been revisited since it was locked away 60 years ago. With today's technology, computer controlled engines and transmissions, coupled with the ability to use gasoline in it's most efficient form should easily satisfy consumers and CAFE standards. In the end, we will get mediocre fuel mileage, and pay a premium at the pump. Mark my words, if the average vehicle is getting 50 mpg, then the average price of a gallon of gas will be nearly $10 a gallon.... Wait and see.
I agree. I traveled to England last year and their cars consistantly get 50 plus MPG, gas or Diesel. The problem here stems from the legalities of tampering with the EPA mandated pollution control system. This goal can be attained simply by loosening the EPA requirements above, say, 40 MPG. The greater efficiency will still reduce overall emissions.
When the Smart Car entered the US, the MPG went from 60+ MPG in Italy to 38 MPG average, and in my humble opinion, it was because of the EPA mandated Ford OBDII polution control system.
Modern jetliners are fly by wire. The famous airbus crash at the 1988 Paris Air Show can be laid firmly at the feet of the computer controls. We still fly in these aircraft.
Most cars today have power steering. Some have "power assisted" steering, while others are fully powered. Those that are not power-assisted have a disconnected feel (no feedback). Such cars are still popluar.
I do not think giving up control to a computer will be an issue. In many cases, we already have.
The Smart for two was mentioned above, but the figures were for the gasoline version available in the USA. The diesel vesion available in Europe gets 71.3m/US gal combined cycle. If you insist on four seats the Volkswagon Bluemotion Polo does 67.2 m/US gal combined cycle and that is gasolene.
Note these are converted to US gallons, The difference in milage is real
You don't need engineering, you need the political will to raise fuel prices to European levels ($8.39 /US gal here in the UK) and the already existing solutions to the problem will be imported into the US.
My friend had a three cylinger Dodge gizmo that he claimed got 55 to 60 mpg on the highway. The Diesel Rabbit was reported to regularly get 60 mpg on the highway. Winning vehicles in the Shell Eco Challenge regularly get thousands of miles per gallon (http://www.shell.com/home/content/ecomarathon/results/). Volkswvagon made a tandem diesel demonstrator vehicle around 2000 that got more than 250 miles per gallon. This has morphed into the current demonstrator (http://www.thedetroitbureau.com/2011/01/vw-tops-250-mpg-with-xl1-concept/) which still gets 250 mpg. A modified 1959 Opel won the Eco Challeng with more than 350 mpg. There were times on the freway in my old stock Chevy diesel Suburban that I exceeded 29 mpg at 55mph. I regularly got 25 to 27 mpg on the highway.
The engines in our vehicles are most efficient at a particular rpm and horsepower output. Having your 300 hp engine running at 10 to 20 hp most of the time is inherently inefficient (particularly running a Carnot cycle). Having a small accumulator (electric, hydraulic, or pneumatic) to run off of for 15 to 20 minutes at a stretch and to allow for regenerative braking could be recharged by running the engine only at it's most efficient output to drastically improve efficiency. The engine would cut in only to recharge the accumulator or when high output (climbing a long hill) is needed. Diesel, turbocharging, and water injection are all proven technologies for improved fuel economy.
The major problem with regenerative braking is "smoothness" Toyota in particular and other companies have been looking at this. When the driver steps on the brake, regenerative braking kicks in, adding a particular level of drag to the wheel, which is supplemented by the standard brake pads to achieve slow down. (test drivers have reported a sensation of "loss of control" A sophisticated computer program is required to dicipher the amount of braking the driver wants by the pressure on the brake pedal, and also calculate the amound of drag produced by the regenerative breaking system. The result is a pedal "feel" that is "odd". Also the pressure on the caliper will need to be controlled by the computer. Calculations will need to be made to adjust the caliper pressure to 1. make the car slow at the rate the driver wants. 2. calculate the drag imposed on the wheel by the regenerative breaking system. and 3. do all this while looking at vehicle speed, and traction. I think the hardest part will be giving up the braking to a computer.
The transformative nature of designing and making things was the overarching, common theme at separate conferences held in Boston by two giants in the PLM space: Autodesk, with its Accelerate 2015, and Siemens’s Industry Analyst Conference 2015.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.