This is the much-delayed response to the article I posted a week or more ago written by the former GM exec who said that raised CAFE standard (i.e. industry-wide increases in MPG) takes too much money, technology and time. Here are several options the automakers can do to raise fuel efficiency without major R&D:
Lose weight, drag, RPMs and running time.
"We need solutions for the next 20 years, not just dreams," [Axel] Friedrich told the Journal. And to prove his point he hired a group of university engineers who managed to reduce the carbon emissions (and therefore improve gas mileage) of a regular VW Golf (aka Rabbit) by 25 percent using existing materials and technologies. Most of the changes made by Friedrich's engineers are straight out of Auto Engineering 101: reducing weight (lighter seats and carbon fiber hood) aerodynamic drag (substituting tiny cameras for side mirrors) and mechanical drag (fitting low rolling resistance tires). The team also installed longer ratios in the transmission to reduce engine revs at cruising speed, and put a gearshift indicator in the cabin to show the most efficient time to shift gears.The highest-tech change made by the team was to modify the Golf's engine so it stopped when the car was halted, and started when the driver depressed the gas pedal to move off. But even this is hardly cutting edge technology -- I can remember driving a prototype Golf fitted with a similar system developed by VW's own engineers at least 15 years ago.
Reduce friction and resistance; increase aerodynamics, gearing and induction.
Called the [Volvo] C30 Efficiency, this special car will sip diesel fuel at the rate of 4.5L per every 100 kilometers. That's 52.26 mpg to us Yanks. It achieves these numbers using a variety of techniques. For the engine, efficiency was increased by using low-friction transmission oil and optimizing the engine management software. An age old trick for good gas mileage, higher gearing, was used on 3rd, 4th and 5th gears to eek out a few more kilometers, as well. Low rolling resistance tires, another common strategy for higher mileage, were also used. Finally, Volvo made the C30 slipperier through the air by reducing its ride height, adding a special rear roof spoiler, new rear bumper, and even adding underbody panels to smooth out the car's belly. Even the new 16-inch rims are aero-optimized! The C30 Efficiency's engine is a 1.6L turbodiesel producing 105 hp. Not only does it achieve 52.26 mpg, but it also emits less than 120g of CO2 per kilometer.
Optimize navigation software for fuel consumption, teach people how to drive and assist the alternator (which, in turn, lowers engine loads) with electricity care of a mild hybrid regen system.
"the driver himself retains a major responsibility for a driving style that contributes to reduced fuel consumption. Individual driving style can reduce fuel consumption, and with it emissions, by up to 30 percent — without compromising on speed and dynamism." ...Audi's new nav system is said to incorporate "consumption-relevant data" and give route recommendations based on that information. "The necessary information about road conditions or traffic lights will be available with the next generation of digital road maps," Audi said. "Here, many Audi TDI and TSFI engines are equipped with an innovative energy management system, which uses the coasting and braking phases to generate and store electrical energy," it said. "At a standstill and when accelerating, this energy can be used to relieve the load on the alternator and the vehicle electrical system. Moreover, a new generation of start/stop systems is being developed."
Like Spaulding said, it isn't rocket science