Engineering-Economic Analyses of Automotive Fuel Economy Potential in the United States

Collaborative Report


D.L. Greene, J. DeCicco


This report was prepared by the Department of Energy, Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and co-authored by J. DeCicco of ACEEE. 

Over the past 25 years more than 20 major studies have examined the technological potential to improve the fuel economy of passenger cars and light trucks in the United States. The majority has used technology/cost analysis, a combination of analytical methods from the disciplines of economics and automotive engineering. In this paper we describe the key elements of this methodology, discuss critical issues responsible for the often widely divergent estimates produced by different studies, review the history of its use, and present results from six recent assessments. Whereas early studies tended to confine their scope to the potential of proven technology over a 10-year time period, more recent studies have focused on advanced technologies, raising questions about how best to include the likelihood of technological change. The paper concludes with recommendations for further research.

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