Cambridge, Massachusetts – Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have released a new report that suggests that slashing fuel use in vehicles on U.S. roads within a few decades is feasible, although the methods to achieve it will be challenging and will require immediate action on several fronts.
Based on vehicle fleet model studies, the researchers found that advanced vehicle systems such as hybrids and plug-in hybrids could be incorporated into the U.S. fleet rapidly enough to make a significant dent in total fuel use by 2035, but that reductions in total petroleum consumption will not begin for one or two decades. Reductions will come sooner if automakers start to use technology improvements to make mainstream gasoline vehicles more fuel efficient, rather than bigger and faster, and if measures are adopted to slow the growth in demand for vehicles and the distance they travel. If all of these approaches are combined, total fuel use in 2035 could be less than half what it would be if no action were taken, with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduced by almost as much.
“The magnitude of the changes required to achieve these reductions is daunting, especially as current trends all run counter to those changes,” said Anup Bandivadeker, associate in the study. He said that among the biggest challenge is changing consumer expectations, with new vehicles getting better mileage, rather than growing in size or performance. “There’s all this fascination with vehicle technology: more hybrids, more diesels, and so on. But this result shows that you can achieve a greater reduction in fuel use at a potentially lower cost just by focusing on reducing fuel consumption, rather than increasing performance and size.”
U.S. cars and light trucks consume about 44 per cent of all petroleum used in the U.S., and 10 per cent of that used worldwide, while generating about 22 per cent of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.