Federal rules mean higher technology standards in cars

Even subcompacts will benefit from new technology under federal ruling

With the federal government ruling that 2015 fleets of cars must meet a 35.5 mpg average, automakers will have to embrace new technology at a much higher level, making innovative or luxury options standard in most new vehicles.  While some experts say that current gasoline-powered engines could be improved to achieve up to 20% better fuel economy, these modifications would not be enough to raise many cars’ mpg ratings.

Cars achieving fuel economy close to the new average could see things like turbochargers, variable valve timing, and dual-clutch transmissions become standard technologies.  These items would boost the fuel efficiency of a conventional engine enough to help bolster the averages of certain fleets.

The new ruling may also fuel a dramatic increase in electric engine adoption in several lines of vehicles.  This could range from many cars receiving stop-start electric engines, possibly turning hybrid vehicles into the dominate vehicle type, to fully electric cars.  The biggest issue with electric technology is cost.  While they greatly improve efficiency, they are also more costly than the small gains made to conventional engines.

A last area where new technology could be implemented because of the new federal ruling is car design itself.  Instead of focusing strictly on style or aerodynamics, car designers must now also take into consideration the possible limitations of certain technologies.  Weight will also become a more notable design element, though weight-cutting materials like carbon fiber come with increased production costs.

New federal rules could increase 2015 car costs

Prepare to see prices increase in 2015

The latest federal rules issued for the 2015 automobile fleets are likely to drive the cost of cars up by at least $1,000, experts say.  The newest ruling ups the average from 27.5 mpg for cars and 23.1 mpg for light trucks to a fleet average of 35.5 mpg.  The ruling also requires automakers to implement new technology packages in every vehicle segment.  This challenges automakers to see who is best at curbing costs while integrating higher costing technology.

The federal rules force automakers out of utilizing generic technology for all of their vehicles.  Instead, each car category, or “footprint,” will receive their own unique technology set that will allow them to gain higher mileage while staying as close to their current price level as possible.

For the more inexpensive footprints, like subcompacts, the new rulings mean technologies like electric power steering, dual clutch transmissions, and variable valve timing will mostly likely become standard.  For big pickup trucks, this means more diesel engine vehicles, which can keep up with the increased mpg standard while delivering the same payload and hauling capabilities.

Experts from both the automobile industry and environmental groups agree that the new rulings will increase the cost of vehicles.  For lower priced cars, the increase will most likely be between $1,000-2,000.  For trucks requiring diesel engines, this could mean an $8,000-9,000 increase.