Hooniverse Asks- What Do You Think the 62-MPG Cars Will Be Like?

The Feds are proposing that auto makers maintain a corporate fleet fuel economy average of 62-miles per gallon by 2025. That’s less than 15 years away, a pretty short time fro such an aggressive goal. The standards are driven by a joint Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency proposal to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 6% each year from 2017 through 2025. Using some sort of mumbo jumbo called math they estimate that such a drop in car farts would require the 62 MPG fleet average.

As a point of contrast, currently the 5,700-lb Bentley Mulsanne gets 16.7 mpg highway.
The government’s position on fuel economy and emissions has always been a carrot and a stick approach – if whacking the car makers with a stick wasn’t effective then maybe jabbing a carrot in their eye would be. Truth be told, when the Federal Government first enacted emissions requirements, the car makers bellyached about the technology not being ready, and the costs of developing it being passed on to customers. And they were right, those cars from the seventies sucked dead hobo butt for the most part, and the car makers did pass the cost of improving the technology on to the buyers, but slowly and surely (don’t call me Shirley) the cars got better, and the technology to meet the standards got cheaper and more reliable.
And today we have demonstrably cleaner air to thank for that. But what about this 62-mpg fleet average talk, is that too far a goal, a crazy it’ll never happen pie in the sky mcguffin that’s intended to scare car makers into accepting a lower standard (DOT and EPA are also floating a 4% annual reduction) in relief? And even at that not quite so bat guano crazy pants high number, there’s got to be some significant changes underhood and in the performance numbers. What do you think would be the result? Hyper-hybrid Priuses? Electric cars for all? What would these 62-mpg average fleets look like?
Image source: [Autoblog Green]

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50 responses to “Hooniverse Asks- What Do You Think the 62-MPG Cars Will Be Like?”

  1. P161911 Avatar

    Somehow I think they will end up making some exemptions to the safety regulations.
    <img src="http://www.carbuyersnotebook.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/tatanano.jpg"width=500&gt;

    1. Thrashy Avatar

      <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c9/HondaInsight.jpg/310px-HondaInsight.jpg"&gt; This one wasn't so bad either, and it might even pass crash tests!

      1. Thrashy Avatar


      2. clunkerlove Avatar

        That's my Insight! 1st year only "Citron" color. I recently averaged 70.1mpg on a trip from Austin to San Francisco and back. 60mpg is so last Thursday …

        1. Jim-Bob Avatar

          Those figures make the whole hybrid think seem kind of pointless…

  2. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    Hasn't VW already answered this question?
    <img src="http://images.gizmag.com/hero/volkswagen-l1.jpg&quot; width="500">
    I for one welcome our tandem-seat overlords.

  3. OA5599 Avatar

    I imagine a lot of people will opt to keep their current rides going forever, Cuba-style, rather than drive a turd.
    <img src="http://wanderlustandlipstick.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/classic-havana-car.jpg"&gt;

    1. ZomBee Racer Avatar

      Cuba-style… I believe you have just coined my new favorite meme.

  4. SSurfer321 Avatar

    I suspect America is going to have to overcome her fear of diesels in cars. And start looking at diesel-electric hybrids.

    1. facelvega Avatar

      Exactly. Europe ALREADY has about twenty cars that get an average 57 mpg or better. These include versions of the Prius, Smart, Mini, and Fiesta, but also the Golf, Volvo C30, S40/V50, and Audi A3, not too shabby. You can get a BMW 320d that is rated at the equivalent of 57.4 mpg and it still gets to 60mph in under 8 seconds. Apart from the Prius they are ALL diesels.

    2. joshuman Avatar

      I agree. Of course the manufacturers have to offer them to us before we can buy them.

      1. ptschett Avatar

        The trouble for diesels is our PM and NOx regulations. A new US-market diesel car effectively has to meet Tier 2 Bin 5, which requires the exhaust to be cleaner than even the Euro 6 standard that doesn't take effect till 2014. (Of course that's ignoring test cycle differences, which I'm not familiar with anyway; my area of knowledge is off-highway machines, where US and EU emissions standards and test procedures are basically the same.)
        Once European new cars are at the Euro 6 level I expect to see a lot more diesels come here, because at that point the emissions management won't be much different. What remains to be seen is how US consumers will react; the diesels will cost more than gas engines, and our fuel prices aren't as inclined towards diesel's favor as they are in Europe.

  5. Thrashy Avatar

    Honda's first gen Insight pulled down 66 combined MPG on the old EPA cycle, so it make sense to use it as a benchmark. If they could do that with an aluminum two seater ten years ago, why can't automakers can't get close to that number in a small sedan with today's improved hybrid tech and materials science? That's not a rhetorical question, I'm actually curious why hybrid fuel efficiency seems to have gone down rather han up since the Insight first hit the market.

    1. Thrashy Avatar

      I'm thinking along the same lines. The kSight you mentioned above, and comparison with the similarly weighted and powered CRX HF, seem to suggest that the electric motors aren't the magic bullets we've been led to think they are, and the real improvements come from light weight and good aero. I think a series-only hybrid might put up better numbers, though, since in that configuration one could ruthlessly optimize the gas or diesel motor for a very narrow RPM range that just wouldn't work in a traditional drivetrain.

      1. Paul_y Avatar

        There's a reason locomotives went series-hybrid decades ago — all of the torque of electric motors plus maximized efficiency from an engine optimized to run at a constant rpm.

      2. adem Avatar

        The issue is that the original Insight was a no-holds-barred, bare-bones little commuter – two seats, no sound deadening, no luxury features, expensive aluminum structure, kinda-funky styling for aerodynamics sake, etc – and as it turned out, most people don't want a two-seater, and they like their luxury features.
        While I would drive an original Insight (or K-sight) until the wheels fell off, readers of this blog are not average car consumers…

  6. muthalovin Avatar

    They will look slippery.
    They will be powered by sunshine and 'lectricity and maybe some combustible .
    They will piloted by robots to maximize economy.

  7. facelvega Avatar

    Hybrids are a stop-gap technology to hold us over until batteries are good enough that electric cars no longer need training wheels– they are absolutely not the future. Efficient combustion engines already exist that can get huge mpg ratings, they are all diesels and Europe is packed with them.

    1. Thrashy Avatar

      I agree in principle, but in practice batteries have a tremendous power density gap to close, and need drastically better quick-charge capabilities before they can completely supplant ICEs. Fully electric cars are the future, but outside of specialized short-range commuter vehicles they are a future that's still a decade or two away.

      1. facelvega Avatar

        I think you're right, but since the post is asking as far forward as 2025, I'm willing to wager hybrids are history by then.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          We'll eventually figure out how to make decent batteries. It's a tricky problem, but by 2025 a children's Speak & Spell could crack it.

          1. facelvega Avatar

            carbon nanotubes. Extremely efficient as batteries or capacitors, lightweight, and strong enough that they could also be the frame of the car itself at the same time. Nanotubes can also be the moving-image display, the stereo speakers, and a single nanotube so small you'd need a microscope to see it could be the radio antenna. Also as body panels would lower weight and have the positive side effect of being bulletproof.

          2. Thrashy Avatar

            Just as soon as we figure out how to make them economically in centimeter-scale lengths. CNTs are hella cool, but aren't quite ready to leave the lab. They'll get there eventually, though.

      2. dragon951 Avatar

        The last figure I read on energy density of Li batteries had them at roughly 1/30 the energy density of gasoline, but improvements to them were going to make them roughly 3 times their current figure by 2015. The Leaf currently has a range of 100 miles, and using DC fast charging @ 125A can be charged 80% in 30 minutes. I don't imagine Li batteries will get much beyond 1/10 of gasoline energy density, but already you will have a 300 mile range, and as the infrastructure for electric charging improves, the charging times will also decrease. Even a cross country trip would be doable with a car that goes 300mi then stops for 30 minutes (you have to eat some time).
        The other important factor is the decrease in cost of manufacture of the batteries (again I read something or other and it said by like 3% a year or something). The Leaf currently sells in the US for $32,780, and if you do all the incentives, it drops to like $25k. I imagine at some point, people will notice the cost to own an electric car is less than that of whatever they are driving, and since roughly 80% of the US population commutes 40 or less miles to work (some figure from Chevy Volt stuff), I would say that would be a lot of 99MPGe cars out there before the end of this decade.
        This of course means all their gasoline are belong to me.

      3. Maymar Avatar

        Nissan keeps talking about how a Level 3 charger will charge the Leaf to 80% within a half hour. It's still a fair bit longer than the few minutes it takes to gas up, but the infrastructure could be adapted to make that work. Imagine going grocery shopping, or to the mall, or something, and coming out to find your vehicle fully charged. Or, because people want to throw out the road trip example, grabbing lunch or coffee or going for a bio break, or whatever (to say nothing of renting a car).
        I agree it needs work, but our collective mindset needs work too.

        1. facelvega Avatar

          The question is whether the charging stations will have fancy snobby bio-friendly coffee or they will just be a way for starbucks to stay in business ten years from now. Knowing us in the US, it'll be B.

          1. Thrashy Avatar

            It'll be B, but they'll have special, earth-friendly biodegradeable paper cups! You know they're better for the environment than regular paper cups because they're brown.

    2. skitter Avatar

      And even with today's battery technology, the plug in aspect will be critical for a real-world 62mpg figure.

    1. BlackIce_GTS Avatar

      [youtube BQ1nEwQnOS0 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQ1nEwQnOS0 youtube]
      (skip to :48)

      1. SSurfer321 Avatar

        Hey I know those guys! That's the old Fuelslut gang down in Orlando. Other notable adventures include "street skiing" behind a 4th gen Trans Am with nobody at the wheel.
        [youtube j72KYQcTFzg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j72KYQcTFzg youtube]

  8. Maymar Avatar

    For a while, they'll suck hobo ass again (except for the small cars, they don't have as far to fall), and then they'll be as good as they are today (well, better probably), with 62mpg (or something near that).

  9. mdharrell Avatar

    <img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3550/5733681301_89a874e566_b.jpg&quot; width="450">
    They will blend so seamlessly into our automotive environment that we'll hardly notice they're among us.

  10. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    I predict many more kammbacks and an average price hovering around $90K. Let's be sure to come back and check to see if I was right!

    1. Thrashy Avatar

      Once the US government defaults on its debt and the Chinese real estate bubble collapses, runaway inflation will make 90k practicaly nothing by 2025, so that sounds good to me.

      1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

        Good points, but I'm a sunny optimist today. My car needs gas though, so ask me after my evening commute.

  11. scroggzilla Avatar

    Diesels….and diesel hybrids.

  12. Jim-Bob Avatar

    <img src="http://www.ridelust.com/wp-content/uploads/geo-metro-xfi.jpg"&gt; I can only hope… The Metro XFi was rated at 58 MPG highway back in 1990 and I see no reason why we can't sell another sexy little 3 banger car here in the near future.

    1. ZomBee Racer Avatar

      I really can't understand why the 3-pot smart only gets 38mpg.
      It's got a Mitsubishi motor… which, actually probably answers my own question.

      1. Paul_y Avatar

        The fortwo is an aerodynamic nightmare coupled with the worst gearbox on earth. I like the fortwo, but it's form factor just sucks as far as efficiency goes.
        On the other hand, I have literally never been in a car with more legroom.

    2. tonyola Avatar

      Don't forget that the old EPA mileage ratings could be hopelessly optimistic and manufacturers knew how to get great "lab" numbers where the real-world mileage would be substantially worse.

      1. Paul_y Avatar

        This is true. With old EPA numbers, I could beat them pretty handily with my last several vehicles (a 95 GMC Sonoma, a 2005 nonturbo Impreza, and my current 2004 xB) with serious hypermiling. With the updated numbers, get slightly better than what the EPA claims (moving to CA also screwed up my mileage- I'd regularly get close to 40mpg highway in the xB when I could keep it to 65mph in rural upstate NY; now I settle for low-30s all the time).

      2. Jim-Bob Avatar

        I own 2 regular Metros and easily beat the "new" EPA estimates with them all the time. I have averaged 45 mpg in city driving for the 6 months that I have been driving my 1991 Metro base 4 door with a 3 cyl and 5 speed. The EPA estimate for my car is 37 city. I have even seen a 49 MPG tank in city driving once by using rather extreme hypermiling techniques. I don't know what the highway is just yet but I can't see it being less than 52-55 mpg if driven no faster than the optimal 55 mph. (Much faster sustained speed on a base or LSI Metro and you run the risk of a burnt exhaust valve.)
        What differentiates a Metro XFi from a normal Metro is the final drive ratio and some internal engine differences. The base Metro has a 4.09:1 final drive while the XFi has a 3.70:1 (if memory serves). It also uses a 2 ring piston with gapless compression rings and a special cam grind (less horsepower (49 vs 55) but a much broader torque band at the low end). The XFi was also not available from the factory with A/C or a passenger's side mirror, although some were retrofitted at the dealer with these pieces.
        It is also important to note that the old EPA numbers for these cars are from the era before MTBE oxygenating additives or ethanol being mixed in with regular gas. This has tended to reduce fuel economy by about 10% due to the lower BTU level inherent in ethanol vs gasoline. For example, when I first bought my truck (new) in 1998 I regularly got 24 mpg in city driving. When MTBEs or ethanol became mandated my mileage slumped to 21 mpg. The newer figures are measured with these additives in the fuel as well as a change in the way the cycle is measured. As the redone figures on older models are mathematically extrapolated from the old data rather than observed, it is impossible to have an accurate yardstick to compare newer and older vehicles.
        As for me, I am building a 1992 2 door base Metro with a modified engine using a 3 Tech economy head/cam package (better than the XFI grind and with a ported and shaved head. It is said to be worth 5-7 mpg over a stock Metro base head), a 3.70 geared transmission and taller 155 80 13 tires to replace the stock 145 R12's. My goal is 55 city and 65-70 highway with some aerodynamic mods ( air dam, grille block and kamm tail). It's not as much fun as the SR20DET powered Datsun PL 510 I wanted to build but I feel it will be more practical during the economic crisis we are in.

  13. lilwillie Avatar

    Gut all the federally mandated crap and they'll be a blast to drive. low weight+power+less to go wrong=better mileage and a smile.

  14. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

    It will be without V8 engines in it. (I'll doubt V6 too).

    1. Paul_y Avatar

      True, but lighter, more slippery cars won't need giant engines.

      1. njhoon Avatar

        Needed? No. Wanted? Yes. Oh Hell Yes.

  15. Colorado Springs Dentists Avatar

    Very fantastic visual appeal on this site, I’d rate it 10.