PASADENA, Calif.—What's being touted as a first-ever industry survey of major automotive suppliers found that they see national fuel economy standards as important for long-term planning and investment and don't want to see them altered by policymakers.
The report was commissioned by Calstart Inc., an automotive technology industry group that represents 160 member companies “dedicated to expanding and supporting a clean transportation industry that cleans the air, creates jobs and economic opportunities, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and secures our transportation energy future.”
“This survey underscores the degree to which deploying new fuel-efficient technology is already baked into companies' businesses plans,” said John Boesel, Calstart president and CEO. “Companies are clearly ready to innovate and see the upside in the standards.”
To conduct the survey over the summer, Calstart commissioned Ricardo Energy & Environment, a global environmental consultancy—and operating division of Ricardo P.L.C.—that specializes in the development and implementation of sustainable policy and technology across the automotive industry. The firm polled and interviewed 23 suppliers, most of them global Tier 1 suppliers that sell parts directly to auto makers.
According to the survey:
- 70 percent of suppliers said policy makers should not adjust the program's goals;
- 65 percent agreed with the decision to set new miles-per-gallon standards for 2025, with 30 percent saying they strongly agreed with the decision;
- Among those who agreed, all but one named regulatory certainty as critical for the industry and half said the standards spark innovation;
- 59 percent said that fuel-economy standards help spur job growth;
- Suppliers identified a wide range of conventional and electric technology that could be used to meet the standards; and
- Three quarters agreed that setting targets beyond 2025 is also important for long-term planning.
Mihai Dorobantu, director of technology planning and government affairs at Eaton Vehicle Group, a major automotive supplier that participated in the survey, told Calstart he appreciated the group seeking insights from advanced technology suppliers.
“Eaton has cost-effective technologies today that help manufacturers improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” Dorobantu said. “We're actively developing other fuel saving and electrification technologies for internal combustion engines and electrified propulsion that will further improve vehicle performance today and into the future.
“Regulatory standards that are aimed at achieving real fuel savings are helpful for Eaton and for the industry as a whole. They create a clear path that allows for long-term investments in advanced technologies.”
When presented with a list of technologies that might be used to meet fuel-efficiency standards, suppliers picked turbocharging and engine downsizing, along with higher-speed automatic transmissions, as the most critical. Hybrid technology also was viewed as important, according to Calstart, along with variable valve timing, gasoline direct injection and mass reduction.
Suppliers were split on whether or not meeting the standards would ultimately require more electric vehicles than are already slated to hit the roads under state zero-emissions vehicle requirements.
Earlier this summer, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation and California Air Resources Board issued a technical analysis of Corporate Average Fuel Economy and greenhouse gas standards for light-duty cars and trucks, focusing on mileage requirements for model years 2022 to 2025. Calstart said the agencies will take public comments on the analysis until Sept. 26, and will formally propose new requirements next year.
Starting in 2008, agencies reformed fuel-economy requirements to make them footprint-based—meaning smaller vehicles have higher miles-per-gallon requirements while larger vehicles have lower ones, according to Calstart. Suppliers emphasized that even as all vehicle types become more efficient, consumers are expected to buy more large cars, trucks and SUVs if gas prices continue to remain low.
Overall, federal agencies project a fleet-wide fuel economy average of between 50 and 52.6 miles per gallon under test conditions for the 2025 model year. That translates to an average of 36 miles per gallon in actual on-road performance, which is about what the current gasoline-powered Honda Fit already achieves.
Calstart said its member companies represent a broad range of clean transportation technologies and the fleets that use them, including fuel providers, truck, bus and car makers and Fortune 500 companies.
Ricardo Energy has a team of more than 450 staffers that helps clients respond to environmental challenges and opportunities.