This chapter discusses the technical potential and probable costs of a range of advanced vehicle technologies that may be available for commercialization by 2005 and 2015 (or earlier). As noted, projections of performance and cost can be highly uncertain, especially for technologies that are substantially different from current vehicle technologies and for those that are in a fairly early stage of development.
In addition, although substantial testing of some technologies has occurred- -for example, the Advanced Battery Consortium has undertaken extensive testing of new battery technologies through the Department of Energy’s national laboratories–the results are often confidential, and were unavailable to the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA).
Nevertheless, there is sufficient available data to draw some preliminary conclusions, to identify problem areas, and to obtain a rough idea of what might be in store for the future automobile purchaser, if improving fuel economy were to become a key national goal.
The chapter discusses two groupings of technologies:
- Technologies that reduce the tractive forces that a vehicle must overcome, from inertial forces associated with the mass of the vehicle and its occupants, the resistance of the air flowing by the vehicle, and rolling losses from the tires (and related components); and
- Technologies that improve the efficiency with which the vehicle transforms fuel (or electricity) into motive power, such as by improving engine efficiency, shifting to electric drivetrains, reducing losses in transmissions, and so forth.
Technologies that reduce energy needs for accessories, such as for heating and cooling, can also play a role in overall fuel economy–especially for electric vehicles–but are not examined in depth here. Some important technologies include improved window glass to reduce or control solar heat input and heat rejection; technologies for spot heating and cooling; and improved heat pump air conditioning and heating.
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