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Business

September 30, 2012

Experts: Fuel-economy advances won't come from electric cars

Auto companies must pursue a long list of incremental technological improvement

s to meet the U.S. government’s new Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements by 2025, industry leaders said at a recent Pew Clean Energy Program panel discussion in Dearborn, Mich.

But the experts said electric vehicles won’t play a big role in the helping the industry meet the standards.

Against a historical backdrop of the Automotive Hall of Fame, industry leaders said the future of the vehicle is predicated on advancements in many different areas, such as lightweighting and engine efficiency.

The U.S. government is requiring the industry to hit average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, although various credits and loopholes have created some exceptions.

Jay Baron, president of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Center for Automotive Research, which recently formed the Coalition for Automotive Lightweighting Materials, said vehicles are primed to get an influx of new materials.

Baron said the biggest opportunity to reduce weight is in the vehicle body. One example of an automaker that’s considering weight-reduction actions is Ford, which may integrate more aluminum into the F-150 Series pickup truck.

“The car is not going to be aluminum-intensive, steel-

intensive or composite-intensive. It will have all these materials in it,” Baron said.

Baron predicted that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles won’t be advanced enough to play a key role in helping the industry meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards.

“But I certainly think hybrids” will be important, he said.

United Auto Workers international representative Brad Markell agreed: “Electrification is not super-important to meeting this standard,” he said.

Andrew Smart, director of industrial relations and business development and director of the Society of Automotive Engineers International’s automotive headquarters, said basic engine efficiency is a key opportunity for fuel economy improvements. He said only about 20 percent of the “energy in fuel goes into driving the wheels.”

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