54.5 does not seem like an amazing number. But in the auto industry, it is a number that is changing everything – the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) have mandated 54.5 MPG (Miles per Gallon) as the fuel efficiency standard by the year 2025 for cars and light-duty trucks. It is a dramatic move to increase fuel efficiency – promising consumers to save millions of dollars, increasing energy independence, and reducing the nation’s carbon footprint. It is also a huge technological challenge.
The 13 major auto manufacturers in America are eagerly backing these standards. It is an important step for the country. But that does not mean it will be easy. Technological advances must be made in many areas – from how engines run to the very materials cars are made of. All of these changes must then be thoroughly analyzed to ensure maximum efficiency. This can be done through big data analytics.
The Importance of Greater Efficiency
Between 1980 and 1985, the US EPA and NHTSA standards rose from 20.5 to 27.5 MPG for passenger cars and light-duty vehicles. They stayed there till 2009 and then started to increase to where they are now, at 35.5 MPG. Over the next 10 years, they are estimated to increase another 20 MPG. The administration estimates that this change will save over $1.7 trillion at gas pumps every year and reduce oil consumption by 12 billion barrels annually. This would have an enormous impact on the economy and the environment. The EPA will be far more stringent about making sure that cars can pass all the coast-down tests that determine their fleet ranking.
There has also been a slew of new regulations for heavier vehicles, with fuel efficiency standards being raised across the board. The first standards went into effect in 2011, and the next phase, which will take us from now to 2027, is estimated to cut greenhouse emissions by 1.1 billion metric tons, reduce oil consumption by 2 billion barrels, and lower fuel costs by $170 billion. All of this is very important to fleet owners, who spend approximately 70% of their expenses on gasoline.
In short, everyone will be saving money, and OEMs can be at the forefront of this welcome change. But to get to that point, we need cars and trucks that can handle the increased standards. This means more technology and better analysis of that technology.
Big Data Analysis and New Fuel Efficiency
Technology driven by big data analytics is already improving fuel efficiency. Connected cars with increasing autonomous levels promise smarter driving and less wastage of fuel. But even the most efficiently driven car (whether the driver is a human or an algorithm) is only as effective as its engine and build allow.
At this point, it is still uncertain which technological breakthroughs will enable the next leap forward. The best minds in the industry are experimenting with new ideas, and there have already been some incredible developments. Toyota recently announced a hybrid engine that may be able to reach an astonishing 78 MPG. Innovations like the unique ‘Intake Port’ and the ‘Exhaust Gas Recirculation System’ lead to potential engine innovations – such as using clean diesel, a variable displacement cylinder system, or variable valve timing.
These experiments extend to the materials used to make the car. The Department of Energy estimates that transitioning to lightweight materials for both the body and engine of the car could reduce the weight of the chassis by 50%, leading to improvements in efficiency. Magnesium, carbon composites, glass fiber composites, and titanium are just a few of the possibilities. Other industry analysts’ think lightweight steel is the way to go, possibly resulting in a 6-8% more fuel-efficient car.
Of course, all of these possibilities become tricky once implemented. A more efficient engine, for instance, might require combustion strategies that ultimately prove to be damaging. We cannot just decide that “Tin is light, let us make a tin car.” Everything needs to be rigorously tested first.
This is where big data comes in. Every new engine and every slightly modified chassis has to work together perfectly, each new advancement should cooperate with every pre-existing part. To ensure this, an enormous amount of data must be generated, then sorted and properly analyzed.
There already exists a wealth of experience in big data analytics from the advancement of connected cars, with companies using graph databases to explore the myriad connections between millions of ECUs. This is a precedent for using an enormous amount of data to create a clearer picture of how new automotive technology operates in real-world conditions. This is the kind of thought process that the auto industry needs to embrace over the next decade to explore technology and to meet the regulatory standards. Everything that happens inside and outside a car must be understood and fine-tuned.
It is an exciting future – it will be faster, less expensive, and greener. It is a tall order and will be a great leap forward. But it can be done with the innovation that has driven this industry for more than a century, and tech-oriented data analytics that is already powering America’s next great innovations. The fuel efficiency of 54.5 MPG soon will be a reality.
As the auto industry is changed by technological and economic currents, OEMs and Tier-1 manufacturers will need to partner with technological specialists to thrive in the era of the software defined car. Movimento’s expertise is rooted in our background as an automotive company. This has allowed us to create the technological platform that underpins the future of the software driven and self-driven car. Connect with us today to learn more about how we can work together.