CAFE 2025 means new technology, higher vehicle prices

  • 03-Apr-2013 11:51 EDT
2500 Ram CNG .jpg

The Ram 2500 CNG is the only OEM-built compressed natural gas powered pick-up truck in North America. Production takes place at the automaker's Heavy Duty truck plant in Saltillo, Mexico.

Meeting the U.S. government’s 2025 CAFE standards for light-duty cars and trucks will add $5112 per vehicle to the bottom line, according to a consulting company’s analysis of NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and EPA data from 2010.

Even though NHTSA/EPA values from 2012 equate to a per-vehicle increase of $1540, the president of an automotive strategy and consulting firm said the $5112 figure is more realistic.

“The 2010 estimated values align with several other peer-reviewed sources, such as the findings of the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Center Report and real-world industry experience,” said Sandy Stojkovski, President of Scenaria Inc., an AVL Group company. She was one of the speakers at the "Future Fuels and Powertrains: A Reality Check" forum on March 28 at Federal-Mogul’s Southfield, MI, headquarters. The event was sponsored by the Society of Automotive Analysts.

Another facet regarding U.S. fleet fuel efficiency for cars—rolling from the current 27.5 mpg to 35.5 mpg, then to 54.5 mpg in 2025—is how the mpg formula is computed.

Rather than a single car and a single truck standard, automakers need to meet "footprint" curve standards. “That means compliance is measured not against a single value, like 23.5 mpg for truck CAFE in 2010, but instead against the manufacturer’s volume-weighted footprint fuel economy,” Stojkovski explained to SAE Magazines.

In simple terms, large-footprint vehicles will have a lower fuel economy target than small-footprint vehicles. “The CAFE targets get lower the bigger the vehicle is,” said Stojkovski, adding “with the change from the flat single standard to the footprint standard, there is no CAFE incentive to sell small vehicles anymore.”

Stricter CAFE regulations are likely to spur a reduction in America’s consumption of oil and that in turn could influence alternative-fuels usage in the next decade.

John Viera, Global Director of Sustainability & Vehicle Environmental Matters at Ford, said the automaker is “not necessarily wed to one fuel vs. another fuel. If there’s a carbon atom, we’re going to figure out how to run our vehicles on that type of fuel. But we do want to understand the projections of a particular fuel’s availability so we can get our vehicles aligned with that energy source.”

The approximately 200,000 gasoline stations in the U.S. greatly outnumber the 1200 compressed natural gas (CNG) public fueling stations. But CNG is making inroads.

Gregg Black, Advanced Engine Systems for Chrysler Group LLC, pointed out that the automaker “only intended to do fleet sales of the Ram 2500 CNG truck.” Now, dealerships also offer the vehicle for retail sales.

The heavy-duty pick-up truck uses CNG as its primary fuel but automatically switches to gasoline when the CNG tanks are empty. Engineers for the bi-fuel Ram 2500 added various CNG-specific systems, including tanks, shutoff valve, pressure reducer, engine management controls, and an intake manifold with a CNG fuel rail and injectors. There are also engine-specific changes, including new spark plugs and different materials for valves and valve seats.

“To do a CNG application—which in this case is actually a dual-fuel system—is a little bit less than what it costs to do a diesel application,” said Black.

Electrified vehicles represent another avenue for automakers to meet future governmental standards.

Just as the number of EV options for U.S. consumers continues to grow, companion technologies are advancing at a quick pace. For example, when the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV reaches the market, it is expected to be the first EV in North America to offer optional SAE Combo Fast Charging capability. That will enable the mini car’s more than 20k-W·h lithium-ion battery pack to reach an 80% charge in about 20 min.

Daniel Frakes, General Motor’s Manager of Vehicle Fuels and Advanced Technology Policy, said that GM engineers and researchers have been busy working on various advanced technologies, including those aimed at reducing a vehicle’s CO2 emissions: “For the past two years, GM has had more clean energy patents than any other company in any industry. It shows that we’re working extremely hard on technologies to meet these extremely aggressive standards.”

In the 2015 time frame, Toyota intends to bring a fuel-cell vehicle to market in Japan and the U.S. According to Justin Ward, General Manager for Powertrain System Control at the Toyota Technical Center, continual cost reduction, increased vehicle range, and improved durability and efficiency via technical advancements are the key enablers. “For example, a conventional high-pressure hydrogen storage tank wrapping process takes three to four hours, but that’s not fast enough when cars are rolling off the line every few minutes,” he said.

But a new Toyota-developed process is more favorable to vehicle assembly line time. “It is six times faster than the state-of-the-art wrapping machine, and the variance batch-to-batch is much better than the conventional method," said Ward. "This is still a first effort, so we anticipate even more improvements with the process."

Variety will define the 2017-2025 product portfolios at Chrysler, Ford, GM, Toyota, and other automakers. “As we move forward, it will be a combination of technologies that will allow us to march toward a sustainable transportation system,” Ward said.

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