CAFE Regs Are Prompting EV Development

Looking at slower than hoped for EV sales, companies (like A123 Systems) on the rocks, or going out of business, or saying they’re not ready for prime time (like Toyota), there have been some observers ready to write the obituary on the only recently revived electric car.

But as Mark Twain, who was credited with once saying “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” such is the gist of a piece on EVs by Automotive News after speaking with industry executives about the future of EVs at the LA Auto Show.

The reason? Increasingly stringent requirements for fleet-wide miles per gallon and emissions mandated for 2017-2025 by the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules.

CAFE calls for year over year upticks in the average mpg performance for a given automaker’s entire fleet, and pure EVs such as the Nissan Leaf burn no gas and spew no tailpipe emissions. Similarly, extended-range EVs and plug-in hybrids stand to drastically cut their gas consumption and emissions.

Such powertrains are seen as needed to hit a “54.4 mpg” target equating to low 40 mpg range on the window sticker on average by 2025.

“No carmaker makes 54.5 miles per gallon without alternative-fuel vehicles,” Automotive News quoted Nissan Division General Manager Al Castignetti as saying. “Direct-injection engines are not going to get you there.”

While others in the industry are only guardly optimistic, several spoken to generally consented to an alternate strain of sentiment within the collective unconsciousness in saying things like electric vehicles are “inevitable,” as Chrysler U.S. sales chief Reid Bigland said.

Fiat, which owns a controlling stake in Chrysler had on display in LA its 500e electric car. It was immediately panned as a mere compliance car in California by some, but Bigland’s statement reveals Fiat-Chrysler, while late to the EV game, has bigger plans ahead.

“The way the CAFE and regulatory environment is, in order to be compliant, most if not all OEMs will need some form of electrification in their product portfolio,” Bigland said.

Others were cited as well, but a consensus is while EVs are indeed off to a slow start with some winners and losers – and the politicized accusation by critics of the government “picking winners and losers” also muddying the waters, we’ll add – EVs are still being said to be on their way.

More often than not, executives indicated their EV development efforts are still, to mix metaphors, full steam ahead.

Perhaps rather than referring to a historical saying about a premature death for EVs, another ancient saying would be more apropos to describe what still looks like the infancy of a new kind of car – “Do not despise these small beginnings.”

Automotive News

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  • Van

    Whether we will have affordable EV’s with 120 miles plus of EV range before 2025 is debatable, but we all hope so. What is not debatable is that hybrids and plug in hybrids will provide the major advance in near term mileage.

    The new Honda with its large motor, like the Volt, appears to be the way forward, but the price remains too high. Perhaps the next generation battery will lower the cost by several thousand. Time will tell.