Promising Progress in Detroit
The Natural Resources Defense Council has been unabashed in its criticism of the auto industry, long advocating that engineers could wring much more efficiency from its products, often using 'off-the-shelf' technology, even without resorting to expensive and, for some, exotic electric and hybrid drives. The lead critic at NRDC is Roland Hwang, who this year found himself 'in the lion's den' at the 2012 North American International Auto Show.
Turns out, he and NRDC were right. As he explains in this remote telephone interview conducted the first day of the show in Detroit, the industry is rolling out evermore efficient vehicles like the new 2013 Dodge Dart, boasting 40 mpg fuel economy, without resorting to hybridization.
That being said, however, he still sees electrification of the automobile as inevitable, though it won't take large fleets of them for the industry to reach its 54.5 mpg goal by 2025. He explains that the U.S. fleet only needs to see 3% of its fleet electric cars, 15% standard hybrids, and the rest made up of smaller turbocharged internal combustion engines in order to meet its EPA fleet average. And it appears, from his initial appraisal of the show floor, that the industry is on track to achieve it, as long as it's provided with clear and stable government policy.
That being said, given the current tone of political criticism and U.S. Presidential candidate on-the-stump comments, if there is a change in the White House or further conservative victories in Congress, it could send mixed singles, destabilizing long-term industry plans and investments.
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