Auto Manifesto

May 16, 2008

SAE Government/Industry Meeting Notes

SAE Government/Industry Meeting Notes

John German from Honda made some excellent points during his presentation in a session about fuel economy, CO2, and CAFE. Since 1987 advances have been used to improve attributes other than fuel economy (http://www.epa.gov/oms/fetrends.htm). If the benefits had been directed entirely toward fuel economy we would be averaging 38 mpg today.

The reason it hasn't been so is because the market wants other benefits more than pure fuel economy (according to their surveys fuel econ has been low on the list of top considerations by consumers). And when/if the price of fuel stops rising a lot of current behavior changes. People will revert to the way they behaved before.

There are currently far too many technical options, requiring manufacturers to hedge their bets. What's needed is a clear path, not technology du jour. This is because there's a limited number of engineers. If there are multiple standards, their efforts would be diluted and thus progress would be slowed in order to comply with the differing standards.

The Internal combustion engine (ICE) continues to be the benchmark by which alternative technologies are compared. However, it is a moving target as it too continues to improve.

Later in that same session, Keith Cole from GM made an informative presentation with regard to three things. One is the so-called 3 legged stool for reducing greenhouse gases which consists of improving vehicle efficiency, reducing the carbon content of fuel, and reducing vehicle miles traveled/reducing congestion/improving infrastructure.

The second item consists of next generation ethanol, and why GM invested in Coskata and Mascoma (sounds like a disease). According to him, Coskata's feedstocks for ethanol can come from multiple non-food sources, and resulted in an 84% reduction in greenhouse gases (GHG) compared with regular gasoline on a well-to-wheel basis. He further claimed that the energy produced is 7.7 times as much as the energy it takes to make it, and that it costs producers less than $1 per gallon to make it (didn't specify if that was with or without the tax credit).

Finally, he made an excellent point that CARB's proposal to regulate CO2 of vehicles sold in California would not be effective for national fuel economy. This is because increasing the average fuel economy of vehicles in that state would enable a manufacturer to have a lower average elsewhere in the nation if the CAFE (Federal) standard was lower than the California standard. In the end, the national average would still be dictated by the national standard.

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