With fuel prices at a national average of $3.65 per gallon, many drivers will be happy to know that a new federal government regulation will require all auto manufacturers to increase emissions standards.
However, this regulation could offer other concerns for consumers.
Essentially the new emissions standard begins in 2012 and requires the current national average of just over 25.5 miles per gallon in cars and light trucks to be increased to 35.5 mpg by 2016.
The way this works is auto manufacturers will have to meet an average between all car models of 35.5 mpg. In other words, every vehicle won’t have to produce 35 mpg, but where one vehicle might produce less, another model would have to produce a higher mpg rating to raise the average back to 35.5.
The first smog regulations that were introduced in the mid-‘70s led to one of poorest eras in vehicle quality and to the coining of the term “smog dog” referring to the horrible performance of vehicles during that time.
The problem then was auto manufacturers didn’t have sufficient technology to meet smog regulations while maintaining performance because emissions equipment on vehicles zaps power.
With advances in technology, lack of power is virtually non existent. Generally, increasing performance decreases fuel efficiency because producing more power means more fuel needs to be burned to produce it.
One major problem for consumers is that there are correct ways to maintain performance, but there are a lot of shortcuts that are much cheaper for manufacturers.
BMW refuses to sacrifice performance for the new regulation, so they are doing it the right way by reducing engine sizes and fitting turbo chargers to the engines in order to boost the performance back to or beyond what it was originally.
That’s a great way to do it, but turbo-charged engines are very expensive to produce and, typically, BMW customers are willing to pay premium prices for the product.
GM, Ford and Chrysler have also introduced plans to use similar technology on some models.
One issue with these models will be maintenance costs. I know firsthand from my days as a mechanic that turbo-charged vehicles require special attention in terms of maintenance. When these types of vehicles are not properly maintained, expensive problems can develop very quickly.
One of my main concerns is that affordable vehicles will remain affordable because manufacturers will simply decrease engine sizes and use cheaper materials that save weight.
There is nothing wrong with a lighter vehicle, but most auto makers aren’t going to use expensive materials like carbon fiber, which drastically decreases weight while maintaining strength. They will most likely use plastic where there used to be metal, and where metal is used it will be thinner.
With so many changes coming, consumers need to be well educated before purchasing a vehicle. Judging from everything that is being talked about, major long-term change is coming to the automotive industry.