Improving Automotive Efficiency; December 1994; Scientific American Magazine; by DeCicco, Ross; 6 Page(s)
Public concerns about health and safety, the environment and petroleum dependence create pressure to build a better car. Although congestion and accidents result from driving itself rather than from fuel use, much of urban air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and the economic burden of oil imports can all be tied directly to fuel consumption. Automobile use continues to grow in the U.S. and worldwide. Fuel efficiency must increase at least as fast just to prevent fuel-related problems from worsening. Efficiency must improve even more rapidly to begin to solve these problems.
In September 1993 the U.S. auto industry and the Clinton administration announced a historic partnership to develop vehicles having three times the fuel economy of today's fleet while providing the same comfort, safety and performance. Prominent options include electric vehicles powered by batteries or fuel cells and hybrid vehicles combining an electric drivetrain with a combustion engine that might use a variety of fuels. While such alternatives are being studied and tested, however, gasoline and diesel cars and trucks will most likely dominate the roads for decades to come. They offer remarkable reliability, comfort and utility at an affordable cost. Moreover, they are sustained by an enormous economic infrastructure: factories, petroleum refineries, service stations and all the people, from auto workers to garage mechanics, trained to make the system work.