Could Hybrids Hit 74 MPG Efficiency?

Sure, we all know that electric vehicles can help to curtail smog and carbon emissions. But is there still meaningful environmental progress that can be made with the good old fashioned internal combustion engine? One University of Michigan (U of M) researcher says ‘yes,’–and that, at present, could very well be our most cost-effective solution.

According to a recent news release, John DeCicco, a senior lecturer at the School of Natural Resources and Environment at U of M and faculty fellow with the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute, says it’s possible to actually triple our current fuel economy in gasoline-powered automobiles by 2035–provided we get our “kicks” from smart electronic technology and other forms of virtual performance rather than traditional horsepower.

Prius

image via Toyota

As federal regulators are poised to propose the next round of fuel efficiency mandates, DeCicco claims that the “evolution solution” is the most cost-effective answer, focusing on steady progress in advanced combustion engines and hybrid drive. While plug-in cars may comprise the latest buzz in transportation–and hydrogen fuel cells continue to be developed by a variety of auto manufacturers, with an eye toward the future–this researcher proposes that we avoid “politically trendy breakthrough technologies that will remain too expensive for most consumers” and focus on the solution that’s “in our garages,” provided Americans are willing to shift gears in terms of priorities.

DeCicco recently completed a study for The Energy Foundation examining how far fuel economy could be taken if it becomes a top priority in existing product planning for automakers.His analysis shows that optimizing internal combustion engines plus a gradually scaled-up adoption of grid-free hybrids could enable new fleet efficiency to reach 52 mpg by 2025 and 74 mpg by 2035.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.