A quick glance around this week’s Washington Auto Show might make you wonder if you’ve stepped into the past, with large trucks, SUVs, and sports cars getting all the attention. But look under the hood and you can see the auto industry’s more climate-friendly future.
The cars and trucks of 2014 are lighter, more aerodynamic, and powered by increasingly efficient engines. A key impetus for these improvements is tougher federal fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards. The auto show provides evidence that the industry is working to meet these ambitious standards, and that we can significantly reduce emissions without compromising consumer choice.
One way to improve fuel economy is to make the vehicle lighter. That’s exactly what Ford Motor Company did to the best-selling vehicle in the United States: the F-150. All 2015 Ford F-150s will have an aluminum body and truck bed – shedding 700 pounds while still being able to tow and haul more than the previous generation. That could boost its gas mileage from 20 mpg on the highway for the 2014 model to 30 mpg.
Automakers have increasingly substituted strong, lightweight aluminum for steel in hoods, wheels and other components. The F-150 and Tesla’s aluminum-body Model S show they’re going beyond that.
Another way to increase gas mileage is to improve an engine’s ability to convert fuel (potential energy) to work (kinetic energy). General Motors is making the Corvette Sting Ray for the first time 1976, and the new version is beautiful and efficient. The 2015 Sting Ray is the quickest, most powerful, and most efficient Corvette ever made. The 7-speed V-8 Sting Ray gets up to 29 mpg on the highway. That’s about twice the fuel economy of the ’67 Sting Ray my dad drove when I was a kid.
A Primer on Federal Surface Transportation Reauthorization and the Highway Trust Fund
by Nick Nigro and Cindy Burbank
A recent "60 Minutes" story highlighted the demise of a few high-profile clean-tech companies that received federal funding. The story neglected to report why clean technology is vital to the future of our economy and environment in the first place, and therefore why it makes sense for the government to promote the development of wind and solar energy, electric vehicles, and other clean tech. Simply put, the goal is to transform our economy from one based on fossil fuels that emit heat-trapping gases to one based on clean energy that won't contribute to global climate change.
Private finance is playing a critical role in accelerating the deployment of clean energy technologies that will reduce the impacts of our energy use on the global climate. Can some of these innovative financing tools – or new tools – also help spur alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) and fueling infrastructure?
That’s a question we have set out to answer in a new initiative with the National Association of State Energy Officials. As a first step, we’ve explored some of the key barriers in the AFV market that private investment could help address.
Eight states have given a big boost to zero emission vehicles by agreeing to support putting 3.3 million on the road by 2025. California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont together account for about a quarter of the auto market, so their commitment is significant.
To reach their goal, these states will need to learn what policies and actions are most effective at driving sales of zero emission vehicles (ZEVs), starting with electric cars.
Two early lessons are evident from our ongoing work in this area: Stakeholder coordination is critical, and creative policy solutions are needed. The memorandum of understanding the governors signed last week will foster an environment for both.
This map contains state laws and regulations that affect electric vehicles. The policies include the following:
- Vehicle Acquisition: Mandates for state or other types of fleets to acquire electric vehicles. This primarily affects state fleets.
- Preferred Access: State requirements to provide access to High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes or designated parking for electric vehicles.
- Financial Incentives: Tax credits, rebates, grants, inspection exemption, and vehicle-to-grid energy credits.
- Infrastructure Requirement: State requirements to provide electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Note that the policies highlighted here target electric vehicles. C2ES has a number of additional maps on policies and activities to promote electric vehicles as part of its PEV Dialogue Initiative available here.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center. The website contains a database for federal and state incentives and laws.
C2ES’s interactive map series for electric vehicles provides information on the status of implementing the PEV Dialogue Group’s Action Plan and the state of the electric vehicle market.
Implementing the Action Plan Maps
- PEV Electricity Pricing by Time-Of-Use (TOU): Electricity pricing rates offered by electric utilities that are attractive to electric vehicles.
- Who Can Own/Operate a Charging Station: State regulations about the ownership and operation of electric vehicle charging stations.
Other Electric Vehicle Market Maps
- Plug-in Electric Vehicle Policies: From C2ES's U.S. Climate Policy Maps, state laws and regulations that affect plug-in electric passenger vehicles, including incentives, mandates, and other policies.
- Zero Emission Vehicle Program: From C2ES's U.S. Climate Policy Maps, states that have adopted the California Zero Emission Vehicle Program, setting attainment goals based on vehicle production for delivery and sale within the state.