Vehicle Technology

Green Vehicle Market

The high cost of advanced technology, fuel-efficient vehicles is a key barrier to their entry into the market place. Financial incentives have proven to be one of the more effective ways to encourage consumers to purchase these vehicles and enable their complete penetration into the U.S.vehicle market.

To quicken the integration of efficient vehicles in the U.S. market, the federal government introduced tax credits for hybrid, electric and alternative fuel light- and heavy duty vehicles in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. While tax credits for hybrid and diesel vehicles were phased out at then end of 2010, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf are still eligible for a $7,500 tax credit. ACEEE supports these credits and other policies to encourage the purchase of environmentally-friendly vehicles, including feebates that align consumer incentives with manufacturer requirements to increase fuel economy.

For details about plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle tax credits, click here.

Vehicle Fleets

Efforts to minimize tailpipe pollution and reduce oil consumption target fleets because they represent a concentration and level of planning that are missing for personal vehicles. Fleets are often centrally purchased, fueled, maintained, and managed, and they may have fixed or predictable routes; and they have business reasons for making transportation choices that the public may not yet regard as in its interest. Fleets also represent coordinated buying power, either individually, in the case of large fleets, or in associations.

Fleets are potentially significant in such efforts due to the sheer number of vehicles belonging to them and to their role as a laboratory and showcase for new approaches to the selection and use of automobiles. The value of fleet-oriented strategies depends both on the fraction of fleet vehicles they affect and their transferability to non-fleet vehicles.

Given the necessity of coming to grips with on oil and production of greenhouse gases, it is important to understand how fleets could further advance the goal of reducing passenger vehicles’ energy use. Energy efficiency strategies include reducing fleet size, training drivers to drive more efficiently, improving tire or lubricant quality, and reducing miles traveled by the fleet. All of these can be important elements of making fleets greener. Perhaps the most important influence that fleets can exert on the energy efficiency of the U.S.vehicle stock as a whole, though, is through strengthening the market for high fuel economy vehicles.

Vehicle Technologies

Meeting the challenges of oil dependence and global warming calls for big changes in the way our cars are powered. Today automotive technology is blossoming, and dramatically different vehicle options are making their way into the marketplace. Plug-in hybrids and battery electrics will hit the market this year. Interest in natural gas vehicles is picking up again due to increased optimism regarding domestic supplies of natural gas. Both technical and policy issues need to be addressed to take best advantage of advanced technologies and to ensure that their arrival supports environmental and economic goals.

In parallel with the appearance of these new technologies, the internal combustion engine Is evolving, cleaning up the vehicles already on offer and presenting a real challenge to advanced technologies as the best bet for cost-effective energy savings. Several “clean diesels” are manufactured today, with superior fuel economy. Direct injection, turbocharging, and variable valve timing, among other refinements, are allowing gasoline engines to become steadily more fuel-efficient as well.  Beyond the engine, lightweight materials, better transmissions, and component electrification are reducing fuel consumption substantially, Hybrid-electrics are now available in most market segments. Recent increases in fuel economy standards and recurring run-ups in the price of gasoline mean manufacturers and consumers are more focused on fuel economy today than they have been for decades.

ACEEE assesses the potential for new vehicle efficiency technologies to meet environmental and economic goals. We help to develop and analyze policies that will help bring promising technologies into the marketplace and help them to thrive there.

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