By Kevin Hughes
The environmental challenges and opportunities
It is becoming clearer that humans are affecting the climate on our planet, specifically with the emission of green house gases (GHG), Carbon Dioxide (CO2) produced from fossil fuels is coming under particular scrutiny as a potential cause of global warming. The switch to renewable Bio-diesel outlined in this policy paper reduces net CO2 emissions from the transportation sector by some 700 million tons per year over the 13 year implementation period, and puts net CO2 production on a more sustainable trajectory in subsequent years.
The mechanical engineering challenges
Whilst at first blush the CAFÉ requirements seem very aggressive, in fact the systems are already available and being adopted in small measure to achieve the first 6-8 years of incremental improvements required. Increased adoption of hybrid and variable displacement technology has the potential to improve fuel economy in the amounts required, and development of pluggable hybrid technology could potentially meet all of the improvements required over the timeline of the policy.
Economics in the auto industry are highly geared to scale production, and from this perspective, there is a requirement for large scale design and tooling investment. This investment can be aligned with model changes over time, it is this feature which prompts the evolving escalation of CAFÉ requirements. If the model replacement cycle is on average 7-10years, and the design cycle an additional 3-4 years, work needs to commence on adopting existing proven technologies, for example adding hybrid across the range of cars and trucks etc.
To drive the massive investment required in the automotive industry, 50% of the revenue gained from the MPG related taxation should be used to fund the development and implementation of technologies to be licensed to the industry, rather than them being proprietary to a specific manufacturer.
The bio-engineering challenges
The development of a bio-diesel led economy relies heavily on the potential to improve the yield from organically grown crops. Initially using soy-bean and probably moving in the direction of algae, crops can transition towards efficient yields over time. Several research studies have seen progress on these challenges and could undoubtedly accelerate in a better funding environment, 25% of MPG related taxation would be invested in solving the bio-engineering challenges.
The scientific challenges
The scientific community has been significantly under funded in terms of basic research around the areas of energy usage efficiency, energy storage and utilization and new energy sources. This policy will fund these activities to 25% of incremental tax revenues, operating in the way that NASA did during the 1960’s to put a man on the moon, a National Energy Agency (NEA) will carry out primary research and control investment spend of third parties, then license subsequent developments to the industry.
The business challenges
There is significant re-tooling to be completed to ramp production of existing and new technologies, however given the legislative creation of demand, the business community will look to take advantage of the opportunities created.
There is bound to be significant angst in the automotive sector as the demands on it outlined in this policy take effect, however, all of the major manufacturers who sell significant volumes of cars and trucks in the US, already have mainstream technology they are distributing in high petro-taxation countries globally which are capable of meeting the demands outlined in this paper. In fact, in some cases, there are models available internationally and here from the US big 3, where the most efficient variant is not available in the US, and if it were, the model range would be significantly more efficient.