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Americans go for smaller cars to save fuel

May 22, 2008 13:51 IST
Feeling the pinch because of the rising costs of fuel, Americans long used to gas guzzling vehicles with power and speed are steadily moving to smaller and energy efficient cars, says an Indian professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

In India, with their new found affluence people in large numbers are buying vehicles with powerful engines- not required for the purpose the vehicles are used, says Anup Bandivadekar.

Even as buyers universally are going in for bigger more powerful automobiles with faster zoom, a study by Bandivadekar suggests consumers to invest in advanced vehicle technologies like hybrids and trade features like greater speed and size for higher fuel efficiency.

The study by MIT focussing on the US market says by 2035 the US can drastically slash petroleum use and pollution by combining improved technology standards, enforcing a set of stringent policies for manufacturers as well as providing users various incentives to reduce consumption of fuel back to levels existing in the 90s.

Left unchecked, US vehicle fuel use is expected to rise to about 765 billion liters of gasoline equivalent per year by 2035, up 35 per cent from 2005, according to the researchers.

Their analysis shows, however, that hybrids, plug-in hybrids and other advanced vehicle systems could be incorporated into America's vehicle fleet rapidly enough to make a significant dent in total fuel use by 2035.

Reductions would come faster if Americans were to start to use technology improvements to make mainstream gasoline vehicles more fuel efficient, and to adopt measures to slow the growth in demand for vehicles and the distance they travel.

Bandivadekar, an analyst at the International Council on clean Transportation says, "Due to increased competition in the markets, manufacturers are looking in greater detail at newer technologies like hybrid battery operated engines and plug in hybrids that contribute a lot to bringing down green house emissions. However, they are expensive and not many people can afford them."

"Worldwide and especially in India the vehicle growth is just seen to increase because of tremendous amount of pent up demand. Whenever the annual income of people exceeds the cost of a car the sales is seen to shoot up. The trend is hard to fight," says the researcher who was a postdoctoral associate in the MIT Energy Initiative.

"We want the potential of new technologies to reduce the petroleum consumption in vehicles thus cutting down on emissions thereby reducing carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases that affect climate change. Typically 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," says Bandivadekar.

Bandivadekar working in collaboration with John B Heywood, the Sun Jae Professor of Mechanical Engineering compared fuel use for different scenarios would meet projected demand for light duty vehicles between now and 2035. For each, they assumed that half of all technology improvements would be used directly to increase fuel economy, a variable they call "emphasis on reducing fuel consumption," or ERFC, according to news from MIT.

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