Carmakers now focus on raising efficiency of internal combustion engines, not EVs

Article by Christian Andrei, on June 5, 2012

Amid the declining interest in electric vehicles within the auto industry during the past year, the focus is now on raising efficiency of internal combustion engines. There are many factors cited for the drop in enthusiasm. The Obama administration is being criticized during this election year for its support for EVs, with its high prices, limited range, and glitches associated with using new technology. In addition, the stricter federal fuel economy regulations haven’t helped at all. It was expected that EVs would get a boost by the raising of the U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard to 54.5 mpg in the 2025 model year, doubling it in 14 years. It turns out that automakers are directing their resources into improving internal combustion engines instead.

This is because the industry tends to look for ways to utilize existing technology instead of taking on a costly, difficult change. There’s also still a big room for the improvement of internal combustion powertrains. The Department of Energy said that petrol-powered vehicles convert just 14 to 26% of the energy in their fuels into power that would drive the vehicle. This would explain why technologies like direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and turbocharging are so popular. They increase the efficiency of combustion. However, the industry is turning its attention back to internal combustion because of the pressure of the CAFE standards to achieve steady improvements every year.

Since automakers develop powertrains at least 10 years before they’re released, this means that the plans now have to be in place so that they could meet the CAFE standards. In the short-term, automakers won’t be able to rely on consumers to buy the new, high-priced electrified drivetrains. This is why even if automakers consider EVs and plug-in hybrids as long-term solutions, the tough fuel economy standards is making them go back to internal combustion because this is where they see fast and sure improvements in fuel efficiency. [source: Autonews]

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