fuel efficiency

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s auto industry figured prominently in President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night.

He started by talking about a hard-working auto worker building fuel-efficient vehicles and helping America wean itself off foreign oil. 

The president then introduced the new CEO of General Motors, who was sitting with the First Lady.  

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Hydrogen fuel cells, compressed natural gas, all-electric… what kind of cars are we going to be driving in a few years?

The LA Auto Show wrapped up… and the next big show is the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall in Detroit in January.

There, of course, is a lot of well-orchestrated hype at these big auto shows. If you’re looking for a clear direction on what we’ll be driving in the future, it’s still a mixed bag. But, new advances are dominated by efficiency improvements in the internal combustion engine.

carhumor.com

The average fuel economy for U.S. built vehicles reached a new high in May, at 24.8 miles per gallon. This is good news for drivers when gas station signs are showing prices near and above $4 a gallon.

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) says consumers are not only being more fuel-efficient savvy, but car companies are listening.

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Stateside: Fuel efficient vehicles pack the Los Angeles Auto Show

Nov 29, 2012
laautoshow

It's not the country's largest, but the Los Angeles Auto Show is the first chance many automakers have to preview their latest concepts and designs.

NPR's Sonari Glinton was at the show and witnessed a high number of fuel-efficient vehicles.

“This is the show right before the luxury car season. It’s also where the automakers put their greenest foot forward,” he said.

Glinton said nearly every company now offers fuel-efficient versions of previously-made models.

Listen to our podcast to hear an intriguing technology concept for cars of the future.

There are two ways you can podcast "Stateside with Cynthia Canty"

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

One-woman jury looks into Bolger and Schmidt allegations

Judge Rosemary Aqualina will be the one-person grand jury to look into whether state House Speaker Jase Bolger and state Representative Roy Schmidt broke any laws when they plotted to rig an election. Schmidt and Bolger plotted the Grand Rapids lawmaker’s switch to the Republican Party, and recruited a fake Democrat to appear on the ballot so Schmidt would avoid a reelection fight. 

54.5 mpg by 2025

The federal government has finalized new rules to require cars and trucks get an average 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025. That's almost double what the fuel efficiency standards are today. However, the target is higher than the real-world average in 2025.  The average new car will get 45 miles per gallon, and the average truck will get 32 mpg.

Ban on adoption by unmarried couples challenge

The state of Michigan is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that challenges a ban on adoption by unmarried couples. The lawsuit is led by two Detroit-area lesbians who are raising three children. State law says that April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse can't adopt them as a couple, an option available only to heterosexual married couples. DeBoer and Rowse say their civil rights are being violated. Detroit federal Judge Bernard Friedman will hear arguments Wednesday.

The 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid.
Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company is taking on Toyota in a market the Japanese automaker once dominated - fuel efficient passenger vehicles. The 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid and Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in Hybrid are going on sale this fall.

Ford announced today that the 2013 Ford C-MAX can go further on a tank of gas than the Toyota Prius v.

  • 570 miles for the C-MAX vs. 450 miles for the Prius v.

The 2013 C-MAX hybrid gas-electric vehicle has an mpg rating that is the same for the city and the highway - 47 mpg. Ford notes that is 7 mpg better than Toyota Prius v on the highway.

Logan Chadde / Michigan Radio

They look like one-person bobsleds. They run on lawnmower engines. And they get incredible mileage.

They’re cars that achieve what’s called supermileage. College engineering students from as far away as Quebec come to compete in the SAE International Supermileage Competition.

It’s held every year at the Eaton Corporation Proving Grounds in Marshall, Michigan.

When we visited last week, a lot of the students were scrambling to finish last-minute improvements to their vehicles before the moment of truth.

Each driver had to complete six laps on a 1.6 mile track. And they had to maintain an average speed of 15 miles per hour. Teams could do as many runs as they wanted.

Laura Pillari is the driver for the University of Michigan team.

"I was a little nervous because there's a lot of stuff to do with my hands, and I'm kind of crammed in there with this little helmet, and it's very, very hot in that car in the sun."

To measure mileage, competition officials gave each team regulation fuel tanks that were weighed before and after each run. These vehicles can get hundreds or even thousands of miles to the gallon.

user BrokenSphere / wikimedia commons

The average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the US reached an all-time high last month.

That's according to a recently-released report from the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.

A U of M press release has more:

Average fuel economy (window-sticker values) of cars, light trucks, minivans and SUVs purchased in March was 24.1 mpg, up from 23.9 in February and 23.6 in January, and now 20 percent (4 mpg) higher than October 2007, the first month of monitoring by UMTRI researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle.

The Detroit News reports that US automakers have also noticed this trend:

General Motors Co. said last week that its 12 vehicles getting 30 mpg or better on the highway had combined U.S. sales of about 100,000 for March — the automaker's highest ever monthly total.

"Three years ago, about 16 percent of the vehicles GM sold achieved at least 30 mpg on the highway. Today, that number is about 40 percent," said GM North America President Mark Reuss.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Environmentalists say significantly raising federal fuel economy standards will benefit Michigan’s auto industry.   

The Obama administration is considering more than doubling the current average fuel economy standard by 2025 to more than 50 miles per gallon. 

Last week, when the government announced the new fuel efficiency standards for 2025, I heard a number of Detroit auto buffs snort that they were unrealistic, utopian, and impossible.

“There’s no way they can get a corporate fuel economy average of fifty-four miles a gallon, no way,” one man told me.

Well, my technical knowledge of cars is limited to knowing where to find the owner’s manual when one of those warning lights comes on. But I do know something about the history of technology, and the general pattern is this:

If the experts say something is going to happen in five years, that usually means it is happening somewhere, right now, and will be widespread within a year and totally triumphant in eighteen months.

If they say that something is technically impossible, that means that the first practical application may not appear for a year or so. There are exceptions, of course.  But just consider this:

Chrysler Group / Flickr

The head of Chrysler and Fiat says the U.S. auto industry can meet tough new fuel efficiency requirements.  The tentative proposal will more than double the miles per gallon average for cars by the year 2025.

Federal officials, automakers, and the UAW agreed to raise the average miles per gallon to 54-and-a-half within the next 14 years. Right now, the average is 25 miles per gallon.  Critics say the new goal may not be technically feasible.  But Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne thinks it is:

"The powertrain guys...  are an incredible resource, an incredible talent.  Let them do their job."

But Marchionne is a skeptic when it comes to the role electric cars will play in meeting the new requirement.  He thinks it will be easier and cheaper to dramatically improve gasoline engines and transmissions.

New fuel efficiency requirements proposed by the federal government will be hard to meet, according to many people who work in the auto industry.

The Obama administration recently announced a tentative proposal to roughly double the miles per gallon average for vehicles by the year 2025. 

Charlie Klein with General Motors says most people don’t understand how hard it is to improve fuel efficiency, without sacrificing affordability.

Scott Ableman / Flickr

The Obama administration says it's close to a deal with automakers to boost fuel economy.

Officials familiar with talks between the White House and automakers say recent changes to make it easier for light trucks to become more fuel efficient have lowered the proposal to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Last month, the administration floated a 56.2 mile-per-gallon target.

Michigan lawmakers in a letter to the president last week called the higher proposal "overly aggressive." Automakers have said they'd work to get vehicles averaging 42.6 to 46.7 miles per gallon.

An administration official not authorized to speak about the negotiations said feedback from many manufacturers is positive and discussions are wrapping up.

In 2009, automakers agreed to raise fuel economy standards to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.

The United Auto Workers is hosting an important, unpublicized meeting about CAFE standards today at Solidarity House in Detroit.  

CAFE governs car fuel efficiency in the U.S.

The meeting could help the government decide how fuel efficient cars must be by the year 2025. 

The UAW, Detroit car companies, the federal government, and environmental groups will likely try to reach a compromise on future CAFE requirements, somewhere between a 47 and 62 miles per gallon average.    

Chevrolet

When it comes to fuel economy, Roger Clark says, "how you drive matters."

Roger is a fuel economy expert with Chevrolet. He has a few tips for getting more miles per gallon without buying a new car. We tested his driving style against Monte Doran’s, also with Chevy. Roger and Monte drove matching Chevy Cruzes and took identical routes. Both did a little highway and a little city driving on a weekday around 5pm. Roger followed his own fuel saving tips and Monte did exactly the opposite.