fuel efficiency


New Federal Fuel Rules Expected Soon, California Poised to Benefit

Stricter fuel standards for cars and light trucks could bring tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the Golden State, one report says.

In July, when the Obama Administration announced a plan for strict new fuel efficiency standards that would require a fleet-wide average for cars and light trucks of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, the sustainable business non-profit CERES reported the move would create nearly 500,000 new jobs nationwide.

“The new jobs will be related directly to the auto industry, and there will be additional jobs because consumers will have more money to spend because they will be saving on fuel,” said Carol Lee Rawn, director of the transportation program at CERES. Continue reading

Brown Praises Tougher Federal Fuel Standards

Fifteen years from now, the average car in the United States must get nearly 55 miles to the gallon,  according to new fuel-efficiency standards proposed Friday by the Obama Administration.  That’s a sharp increase from the current requirement that vehicles average 34.5 miles per gallon by 2016.

California officials, environmental groups, and automakers are praising the new rules, which would require  a fleet-wide average for cars and light trucks of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

On a call with reporters today, Governor Jerry Brown called the new regulations, “probably the brightest light I’ve seen in Washington in many a month, if not years.” Continue reading

Feds Float Future Fuel Efficiency Plan

Photo: Craig Miller

If, fifteen years from now, new cars across the country are getting twice the miles per gallon that they do today, California can rightly claim some of the credit.

On Friday the Obama Administration released plans for improving fuel efficiency in cars and light trucks for model years 2017 through 2025, with a final standard somewhere between 47 and 62 miles per gallon. The move builds on the new federal fuel standard, based on California’s, for model years 2012 through 2016.

California is scheduled to adopt its own fuel efficiency standards for 2017-2025 vehicles in January, said California Air Resources Board (CARB) member Dan Sperling, which is well before federal agencies expect to set a national standard.   CARB staff will release the proposed state standard later this year, he said.

“Presumably what California does will have a strong impact on what the U.S. EPA decides,” said Sperling, adding that there is a “a lot” of communication between the state and federal agencies. Continue reading

Reducing Emissions with Inflated Tires

The state Air Resources Board passed a new regulation this week designed to increase fuel efficiency and reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.  It requires auto shops to check the tires on their customers’ vehicles and to inflate them to proper levels whenever they are doing an oil change or providing any other service.

CARB estimates that if every car in California had properly inflated tires, the state could save 75 million gallons of fuel and reduce emissions by 900 metric tons. Continue reading

New Federal Fuel Standards Follow CA’s Lead

87809815California has spent years battling to set its own rules on greenhouse gas emissions, and today, the federal Department of Transportation and the EPA announced the first-ever national greenhouse gas emissions standards, based on California’s rules.  The new federal standards improve the current ones by nearly 10 mpg by the 2016 model year. According to a government statement, drivers could save up to $3,000 per year due to improved fuel efficiency, and nearly 1.8 billion barrels of oil and a billion tons of CO2 will be conserved over the lives of the vehicles covered by the new rules.

NPR has a complete story on the announcement.

The new federal rules, which mandate that the U.S. car and light-truck fleet reach an average fuel efficiency of between 35.5 mpg by 2016, are modeled after the standards outlined in California’s AB 1493, which was signed into law in 2002.  The state was not granted permission from the U.S. EPA to implement the law until June 2009, however.

In a written statement Thursday, state Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols said,  “For eight long years California and the thirteen other states that adopted our tough standards led the way. This action by the White House now means consumers in all fifty states can benefit from cleaner, more efficient cars.”

The New Streamliners: Big Rigs Save Fuel, CO2

A big rig in the wind tunnel at NASA Ames Research Center. Photo: Gretchen Weber

Not exactly the Space Shuttle: A big rig in the wind tunnel at NASA Ames Research Center. Photo: Gretchen Weber

A companion radio piece to this post aired on The California Report.

The wind tunnel at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View is the largest in the world. According to Ames deputy director Lou Braxton, at various times it has housed a Boeing 747 and an America’s Cup racing yacht. But parked inside this week was a relatively diminutive semi-truck with a 53-foot trailer. The truck is called the ProStar, and according to its manufacturer, Navistar, it’s the most aerodynamic truck on the road.

The wind tunnel was open to the media because Ames, Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL), Navistar, and the Air Force (which manages the tunnel) were showcasing their ongoing project designed to identify, develop, and test devices that reduce the aerodynamic drag of “big rigs.” The wind tunnel wasn’t activated for the press event but the media gathered inside the cavernous space could envision how the tests might work.

At highway speeds, more than 50 percent of the energy produced by a truck’s engine is used to overcome aerodynamic drag. Therefore, reducing that drag can produce significant fuel savings. In fact, testing thus far has determined that existing aerodynamic design adjustments and attachments can increase fuel efficiency by 12 percent, which, when applied to the US trucking fleet, could save more than three billion gallons of diesel fuel per year, a cost savings of more than $10 billion at current prices. This savings in diesel translates to a reduction of 36 million metric tons of CO2 per year.

Inside the wind tunnel, the truck’s trailer was outfitted with various attachments designed to reduce drag at critical points such as the trailer base, the under body, and the gap between the tractor and trailer. Some, such as the TrailerTail, are already commercially available, while others are still in development. For the next three weeks, scientists will test various devices and combinations. The best ones will be track tested and then road tested over the next year.

Currently, semi-trucks make up about 12 percent of US petroleum consumption; about 21 million barrels a day, according to LLNL.

The TrailerTail (Photo: Gretchen Weber)

The TrailerTail (Photo: Gretchen Weber)

Outside the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC) at Ames, where the wind tunnel is located (Photo: Gretchen Weber)

Outside the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC) at Ames, where the wind tunnel is located (Photo: Gretchen Weber)