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September 30, 2012

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


Smart said there are many different opportunities for small but meani

ngful advancements, including reducing friction in bearings, reducing the number of piston rings in an internal combustion engine, and improving variable valve performance.

“The devil is in the details,” he said. “That’s where the mechanical engineers are really working very hard at the moment.”

Doug Baker, CEO of TECAT Engineering, said the industry will “have to leverage today’s technologies in the best way we can” to reach CAFE standards. But he cautioned that some technologies won’t help much. For example, he said direct fuel injection is “starting to reach a limit.”

Phyllis Cuttino, director of clean energy program of the Pew Environment Group, said fuel economy standards can create jobs for the U.S.

“We have got to be at the forefront of capturing that economic opportunity, manufacturing the very kind of technologies that we innovate here in the United States and exporting them throughout the world,” Cuttino said.

Markell said corporations are maneuvering to capitalize on the CAFE standards.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for companies to look forward and see what the components are going to be,” he said.

Baron said one industry set to take advantage of the new CAFE standards is the materials and composites manufacturing sector. He said adhesives would be “an enabler” in allowing manufacturers to integrate lighter materials into the vehicle.

But composite-material makers are still learning about the auto industry, he said.

“Quite frankly,

the auto industry is a little bit of an enigma to them,” he said. “This is all new, foreign language to the chemical guys. For them to break into the auto industry, they have an uphill battle.”

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