Race is on for the cheapest way to hit 54.5 mpg
Photo credit: JOE WILSSENS
DETROIT -- Finding low-cost technology solutions will be the key to meeting the federal 54.5 mpg fuel economy standard in 2025, said a panel of speakers from suppliers at the Automotive News World Congress.
Though it remains uncertain how automakers will achieve the standard, the panelists deemed it likely -- though not guaranteed -- that the industry will do so without devastating U.S. auto sales.
That assessment came with some caveats.
"As long as California doesn't screw it up," said Mary Ann Wright, 50, vice president of technology and innovation for Johnson Controls Inc.'s power solutions unit.
Ted Robertson, chief technical officer of the Americas for Magna International Inc., was more uncertain. "There's doubt whether we'll get there," said Robertson, 63.
Don Runkle, CEO of EcoMotors International, cheered on the coming standard.
"It's terrific," said Runkle, 67, the former General Motors and Delphi Corp. executive. "I think they ought to raise it."
Robertson, Wright and Runkle all talked about technologies that could provide answers for meeting the new standard.
They also warned that many hurdles remain.
Cost is a particular challenge, they said, citing studies that show car buyers' unwillingness to pay a big premium for increased fuel efficiency.
Robertson urged industry players to converge on cost-effective common technology strategies. "Technically, there are solutions. But the big question is: Is there a solution set that satisfies the cost versus price the marketplace can tolerate?"
Wright said cost pressure from vehicle buyers will increase, predicting that at some point "they're going to expect that this is going to come without incremental costs."
That, said Runkle, implies tough times ahead for the expensive solutions.
"There is going to be a disruptive technology -- hopefully, it's ours -- that will come along and provide more for less," said Runkle, who was promoting his company's opposed piston-opposed cylinder, lightweight engine.
He said the new technology is still being tested for its durability, adding: "Those technologies that prevail are those that save more than they cost."
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