Like Hollywood Studios, Automakers to Mix It Up to Meet Federal 54.5 mpg Standard

By Matthew Askari | August 03, 2011
Big Hollywood studios don't invest in films to lose money, but every year they'll green-light a few films guaranteed to do just that. It could be a big expensive period piece, or maybe a musical they hope will either garner some critical recognition or satisfy a niche market. The idea is to balance lucrative explosion-laden summer blockbusters with less profitable fare that wins some golden statuettes, all with a focus on the bottom line.
Automakers might want to take a look at this loss-leader strategy as they keep up with the newly agreed upon Corporate Average Fuel Economy's (CAFE) 54.5 mpg average by 2025. By having a fleet of largely efficient cars, like the big Hollywood studios with money-making films, they can afford to splurge on crowd-pleasing supercars, sports cars and trucks.
Nissan has brought the all-electric Leaf to North America, Chevy has introduced the highly successful Volt, GMC is even putting light-hybrid systems on its trucks and SUVs to boost overall fleet fuel efficiency. Early innovators in alternatively powered vehicles, such as Toyota, are developing newer more efficient vehicles such as the Prius hybrid plug-in. Newcomers that have been offering traditionally powered cars are taking their first stabs at what will increasingly be a grander focus.
Alexander Wolfe, content director at Design News, said the 54.5 mpg average that has been pushed by the Obama administration is "a gas station too far," but adds, "if we attack the challenge on multiple fronts we can get close." Wolfe believes that materials used in construction need to be lighter. Package-delivery company UPS is currently experimenting with this now. On a prototype truck fitted with plastic panels instead of aluminum sheeting, the truck used 40 percent less fuel, in addition to being significantly cheaper.
Automakers must look to mix it up and experiment with different technologies. Several measures are likely to be explored, a multi-faceted approach to improving mileage. Advancements in gasoline and diesel engines will help. All-electric and hybrid technology needs to become more prevalent, complex and expensive lithium-ion batteries need to be improved to give a greater range and become more cost-effective. Materials should also be considered if automakers are to step into the next generation of driving. Source: GreenBiz