Pssst . . . Want To Double Your MPG?

At the White House President Obama said, “It’s possible in the next 20 years for vehicles to use half the fuel and produce half the pollution that they do today,” as he signed a presidential memorandum on this issue.

Is this possible ?

What will we be driving ?


Possible, yes. Practical, maybe not. As a goal I’m ok with it. There will more pure electric cars on the road, perhaps some hydrogen cars, and more hybrids with better mpg’s than current models. Just downsizing to smaller cars would make a significant dent in mpg.

If we’d started this process in earnest 20 years ago we’d be close the goal now. The “Don’t worry there is all the oil out there we’ll ever need, just let us drill more wells, pump more out of the earth and build more refineries” which was the energy policy of the Bush administration didn’t help. Bush’s energy programs killed off innovation and research in new technologies by killing funding for vertually all the programs that were looking at alternative energy sources. I was in the business and I know what that administration did. Bush and his policies set us back way more than 20 years.

This is why I never listen to politics speech - and it doesn’t matter whose it is. A statement like that is so ambiguous that it can’t be evaluated in terms of its “truth valve.”

Its possible today if people drove half as much, and its possible today with existing technologies. Its probably not possible today with existing technologies + existing alignment & interests of transport and energy industries.

Get used to the idea of driving a 1.x liter diesel hybrid, whether you want to or not.

Maybe… the point is mute cause gas will be so expensive that we will be using our vehicles half as much, with stay at home and public transportation taking a bigger roll. Yep, I can see me at 80 riding my bike instead of using my car.

There certainly is a tremendous amount of energy wasted by the gasoline powere ICE so it is not like the statement has no grounds at all BUT going on past accomplishments I say “it will never be reality” How likely is it I will still be driving my 2005 F-150 in 20 years, that is the plan? Why should a plan to be driving the same vehicle that I do now 20 years from now be doomed? My needs will be the same or less.

I think what we would need to achieve this is a quantum leap in technology and efficiency. And these kinds of leaps are achievable with the proper funding and research. (Think electric car charged from solar panels on the roof of your house.) The reason it won’t work is because lobbyists / special interests don’t want that to happen. Think of the social upheaval of all the jobs lost in the oil and automotive industries, all the pension fund money invested in oil company stocks etc.

As a brief example, it’s been mentioned on these boards, how many mechanics would lose their jobs if electric cars became the norm?

On the other hand, think of the social upheaval when we run out of oil. Whether you believe in global warming or not, the fact remains that there is a finite supply of oil, so we really need to be trying to use less until we can find the ‘next thing’.

Doubling the fleet mileage without severe downsizing the vehicles is just a pipe dream. The average car in England, France and Spain gets about twice the mileage, but there are virtually no pickup trucks and SUVs and nearly all, engines a re 4 cyl of an average 1.4 liters.

On my street, the neighbors across from us have a V6 Taurus, a 5.7 liter V8 Subrban, and a Toyota Corolla. This is very typical, so to get double the mileage, the following has to happen:

  1. Obama has to restrict the production numbers of thirsty vehicles or

  2. Put a prohibitive purchase tax on low mileage vehicles or

  3. Squeeze the manufacturers to at least partially approach the mileage through better engineering.

  4. Put a prohibitive European style tax on gasoline or

  5. Persuade the states to levy a graduated license fee on the plates, rising steeply with horsepower, weight, and displacement.

Many developed countries do ALL of the above. The Swiss have higher income than Americans, as do Norwegians. In both countries you don’t see trucks and large SUVs for the above reasons. I spent 4 weeks in the United Kingdom last year and saw ony 3 privately owned pickup trucks, and they had small engines.

If Obama thinks he can achieve a doubling in actual on the road mileage without doing any of the above (or doing only (1) and (3)), he is DREAMING IN TECHNIOCOLOR!

Mr. Cheap, you are barking up the wrong tree! To double the thermal efficiency of today’s enigines is possible but astronmically expensive.

In 1990 under the PNGV (Partnershipfor New Generation Vehicles) each manufacurer produced with goverment aid, a vehicle the SIZE of a Taurus that got 3 times the mileage. All were hybrids, Ford’s used a tiny 3 cyl. diesel hybrid, body of Titanium and Carbon Fiber and very little steel. The prototype cost several million dollars. Production models would probaly cost way over $100,000 like NASCAR vehicles. Performance was nothing to write home about.

Since most European countries’ car fleets already meet this figure, without any fancy technology, simple downsizing will go a long ways.

One reason for that is that they use liters instead of gallons to measure fuel. Also, their gallon has more volume than the American gallon. 3.8L is the American gallon, 4.5L is the European gallon.
I doubt we’ll see ANY big increases in taxes on gasoline or a road tax like England(you pay a certain amount of money based on the size of your car’s engine). No politician would sign such a bill as it would be suicide politically(who would reelect the senator/congressman who voted to pass that?), and maybe even personally(lynch mob anyone?).
And where would that put the semi truck driver or the RVer? Imagine having to pay based on the displacement of a semi-truck’s engine, and how much cost of everything else would go up because of it. Can you say $10 loaf of bread?

Sure it is possible, it could be a problem if you have 4 kids, a boat a trailer or any of the potential future gas guzzler taxed options.

Good post bscar. The OP asked if it was possible, and the answer is YES! What will we be driving? And I tried to give a picture as to what has to happen to the US car fleet. A Jetsons style technical miracle that has a full size pickup getting 40 mpg is not around the corner in the next 30 years or so. Some improvement wil take place, such as moe hybrids, lighter materials, etc.

You are right that the conditions I posted will not be enacted anytime soon. It is political suicide. So you are confirming that Obama is dreaming or scheming to keep the emvironmentalists on his side.

The average European does not have an RV, big block truck, or overpowered SUV. They do have diesel powered, 5 speed minivans that get 50 mpg and hold 4 kids and 2 adults.

P.S. Taxing vehicles and gasoline does not increase the cost of living. Fuel taxes will be use to lower income taxes, and industrial & business trucks get a year end refund on their taxes. When I lived on the farm, I prepared these forms at the end of each year to get the fuel taxes refunded.

Poor people will get some form of blanket fuel tax break.

To get Obama’s program to work, $2 per liter gas in necessary. That’s $7.60 per US gallon.

Ask yourself how different a 2010 is from a 1990, not a lot of difference in my mind. What I am getting at is 20 years seems like it should have produced a vastly different vehicle.

Old School,

What about the changes from 1970 to 1990?

In 1970, the average economy car had a 1.6L engine produced under 100hp, and weighed about 3K#. What shhould have happened is that the engines should have gotten smaller with the same power output. If that had happened, we’d have 1.0L engines.

Instead we have a market driven result that consumes more fuel, but accelerates faster and is more comfortable. I think it’s really easy to cut the fuel consumption in half - and the first step would be to reduce the amount of SUV’s and Pickups being used as passemger cars.

Theoretically, the technology is here today. Given the geometric progression of technology in general, even cheaper means are just around the corner. Look how much automotive tech has changed in the last 20 years compared to the prior twenty. The deciding factor then, IMO will not be capability, but like now, the political and economic will. Getting off an oil diet before so much entrenched wealth is still left to be extracted is a tougher sell.
You can buy a lot of legislation or lack of with the entrenched corporate money making status quo .

I am all for the government setting these challenging goals and creating a rich environment to inspire universities and companies to pull together and reach them.

While these discussions often get dragged down by political jabs, look at the advances in our everyday life that would not exist without challenges like this.

Any electric vehicle that gets power from the grid will see a huge increase in MPG versus a comparable internal combustion engine.

Unfortunately, electric commuter vehicles won’t be practical for long trips, so many of us will keep our gas burners for touring and vacationing.

It’s only impossible if you don’t try.

Personally I think energy (if not now then within the next 50 years) is national problem.

I believe there are other technologies that have yet to be explored. When gas prices get high enough it’ll then be cost effective to explore these alternatives.

Is it achievable??? I have no idea. What I do know is that we should try.

Is this possible? Yes. The larger question is. Do our political leaders have the leadership ability and guts to standup to the large companies that don’t want this change to start takeing place? But, it does seem that BP is trying to do its share in promoting this change. I suspect this spill in the gulf will encourage the change that will give our politicans the nerve to pass laws and fund the studies that is needed, and the citizens to accept the fact the hugh RV’s and SUV’s are not really required. I don’t know what we will be driveing, but, it won’t be what some of us are driveing today.

It MAY lower income taxes, but you never know when they’ll try to double dip. I’ve also heard about them wanting to do a value added tax on our consumer items, similar to many EU countries, to help lower the debt(or something like that).
Until we get someone who knows how to handle money, rather than throw it at the problem(s) until it goes away, we’ll probably see this kind of stuff. I’d love to see some stodgy old man get elected into office, those people really know how to pinch pennies. Tell Americans they can’t get loans anymore because we need to learn how to save money and pay cash for everything. Lower taxes, free medications for the elderly, get rid of the waiting around at the doctors’ offices(seriously, why are 5~10 other people scheduled for the same time you are when there’s only 2 people attending patients?), lower prices on consumer goods, maybe even raise wages for the working class