If higher mileage vehicles were so easy to make, the automakers would be producing these vehicles to satisfy the current mandates. The cost estimates given to meet the mandate are a joke ($2000 is all it would cost to double current mileage!?). What's truly galling is hearing the Government Motors execs approach the platonic ideal of sycophant.
O.K., let's talk reality here... Since the 1970's there have been demonstration vehicles that have gotten well over 50 mpg. The NAHBE (Naval Academy Heat Balanced Engine) of the mid '70s achieved nearly 100 mpg running on peanut oil. The problem today is two-fold:
1. The manufacturers and oil companies are in bed together and U.S car designs rarely truely consider fuel efficiency except where and when forced to. Even the hybrid vehicles made here are sub-40 mpg (I had a Saturn SL 1994 that got 40 mpg, and a Dodge/Mitsubishi Colt 1977 that got just over 40 mpg). Instead the "standard" vehicle of today would have been a hot rod even a few years ago. We don't need teenagers dying in crashes because their parents can't even buy a high mileage low performance car for them made in the U.S. (I got my son a Honda Civic.)
2. The emissions requirements are based on total emissions rather than per-passenger emissions, and a fair amount (10%-ish) of gas mileage is being sacrificed to meet NOx requirements. This is not as large as the car/petroleum companies would like you to believe, however, or our catalytic converters would glow red with the heat they would have to reject to consume the leftover un-burned fuel.
Of course the 54.5 mpg number did not come from a purely technical basis. It is an amalgam of what is technically feasible today and the environmental goals of those running the federal government today. That's all - it's a political statement/goal, more than a technical one. I'm certain that a lot of things will change between now and 2025. So I expect this number will change frequently between now and then.
I would expect better comments from an engineering community than some of those here that agree with the government's approach.
First, off where did the 54.5 mpg come from and why not, say 1 million mpg? It appears that the 54.5 mpg was a number Obama pulled out of a hat (or somewhere else). As the Iowa Trader tweeted to Obama, while you are at it, can you also do something about the gravitational constant?
Second, raising the mpg standards will inevitably lead to electric and hybrid cars. This will raise CO2 emissions, not lower them. Do the math--the energy losses in generating electrical energy, transmitting across power lines, converting to DC, storing as chemical energy, re-converting electrical energy, converting that to mechanical energy, will make cars less efficient than if the energy is directly converted locally from chemical energy to mechanical. Not to mention the energy used to create the batteries or to dispose of these when they inevitably fail. The only energy advantage electric cars have over combustion engines is regenerative braking which recovers a very small fraction of mechanical energy.
I haven't seen any comments that are particularly relevant to the US auto industry's record on this.
They've gotten themselves into this mess by crying wolf too often.
Look at emission controls and safety requirements.
Every past regulation was met with much roaring, screaming, lobbying and dire predictions of impossibility and death for the auto industry.
Every time, the new demand has been met and exceeded; usually by foriegn competitors who were mostly mute during the discussion and in fact, seemed to have solutions already in the pipeline.
Does anyone remember the times some unknown inventor has come forward with a new carburetor extolling the improvement of doubling gas mileage? If the inventor was on target, where did the carburetor go? I suspect the former and current conglomerate CEO is merrily skipping and smiling all the way to an off shore bank
The idea that market forces will achieve outcomes seems to me to be a little simplistic. Unfortunately, as others have alluded to (lobbyist & special interest group pressure) the real market forces are not always apparent, or become skewed from what was their intended aim. Most analysts might agree that a hybrid car is a good thing and achieves fuel savings & contributes to the well being of the worlds eco system. But what of the real cost of producing the batteries? Could it possibly be that the reason most batteries are manufactured in China has more to do with the lack of environmental laws in that state rather than the cost of manufacturing? In other words, the "real" cost (of damage & then repair to the environment & cost of enforcement) is not actually passed on to the enduser? See what I mean by market forces directly skewing the desired original aim?
See, market forces do indeed work, the real cost of fuel is "hidden" because consumers just don't want to know.
The real cost of fuel needs to be reflected in the price consumers pay but unless that happens and the resultant market forces (outcry on the cost of fuel) pressure manufacturers to improves efficiency, then mandating may be the only way.
See market forces forces do indeed work, the real cost of fuel is "hidden"
There will be a huge social cost, whatever the solution, and whether its market forces or mandating to improve efficiency.
I do like bcarso's analogy of the assailant in the alley as a good example of market forces being skewed.
We haven't had untrammeled market forces for many years. And the difficulty is determining what the real costs of things are. It is clearly unacceptable to foul the commons --- but what is the real degree of that? For example, how much of the apparent global warming is indeed anthropogenic?
In some ways I see the situation with regard to poluution and oil dependency a bit like the arguments for our far-flung globocop activities, which are busily bankrupting us. But I know people who draw an analogy to the hypothetical of the figure coming at you in a alley with a gun or knife or... Do you run like hell, pull out a weapon of your own, or get the guitar out and suggest the likely assailant huddle with you and sing Kumbaya? I tend to favor a policy of local neutralization, but some would argue that not only should you kill the assailant immediately, but that you should embark on a campaign to purge all alleys of any suspicious people.
Similarly, there are those who will take any possibility that certain activities are deleterious to the environment and attempt to mandate, to coerce via physical force or the threat of it, all manner of policies. But if the real costs were what we paid the market would work. It's the determination of those, or the true threats posed by our assailants, that are so difficult. And we are, nearly all of us, very short-range in our thinking.
There's nothing sanctimonious about observing what works and what doesn't work. Market forces have not increased efficiency despite the hidden costs of wasted fuel. Car companies crow about 30 MPG, the same MPG as my 1960 Ford Falcon Bondo Buggy.
Be careful of what you wish for. You might acutally get it. Don't intermingle "social costs" with economic costs. Social costs are code words for loss of liberty and freedom. When I speak of a right choice, I refer to the right choice for the user. That is, I own a Chevrolet Suburban and a Volkswagen Jetta. I can easily make the right choice when it comes to transportation regarding the economic cost of operating either vehicle in conjunction with my requirements for transportation. Let's face it, I can't take my wife and four kids anywhere legally with my Jetta. So you will get my hackles up with "social costs" when YOU don't have a clue as to my requirements. People like you are EXTREMELY dangerous with your sanctimonious and pious B.S. statements.