You Want a Real EcoBoost? Lets Put it in Perspective …

I spent the better part of three days at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit this past week. While I’ve been to NAIAS a number of times over the years, this was the first time I flew home knowing that I need to start doing things differently, ASAP. Although the price of gasoline may have plummeted, there’s still a mission (make that multiple missions) that must be accomplished. Gas will not stay this cheap forever.

Ford kindly flew me in with a crowd of “Digital Influencers” and I lived happily in the big blue snowglobe with my new comrades. Our agenda was non-stop, starting with a Sunday night visit to the historic Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit, where the Model T was designed and built.

1908 Ford Model T at the Piquette Avenue Plant

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New Gas Mileage Standard:
54.5 MPG by 2025

Hold onto your hats. The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have finally pulled the curtain on their proposed rule for the Obama Administration’s new gas mileage standard. An average of 54.5 miles per gallon (MPG) by 2025 may seem like a huge leap in a short time, but the numbers are not what they appear.

The 54.5 MPG figure is the EPA number for passenger vehicles, not what you’ll see on the window sticker. It’s a fudge factory powered by greenhouse gas emissions. The automakers will be able to use a range of technology incentives in one place to offset their numbers in another, including flex fuel, hybrid, and electric power trains. In real world terms, we might expect a sticker average of 40 MPG for cars that run on liquid fuel. That’s not all that extraordinary, considering all the cars with gas mileage ratings around 40 MPG highway that we can buy today.

And they wonder why so many Americans are so skeptical of what goes on in Washington.

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How Does Ethanol Affect Gas Mileage?

You don’t have to go far to hear folks complaining about how the current level of ethanol content in unleaded gasoline has affected the gas mileage in their vehicles. Today’s gasoline contains approximately ten percent ethanol, for the most part, and is referred to as E10. Finding “ethanol-free” gasoline at a common service station has become increasingly rare, at best.

Ethanol contains approximately 33 percent less energy than gasoline. If you were to run 100 percent ethanol (E100) in your vehicle, you’d expect to take a 33% hit to gas mileage.* (Theoretically, since you can’t legally run 100% ethanol.) With E10, it’s a 3.33% penalty. Seeing that you can’t buy E0, there’s not much you can do about it.

At some point, we hope to perform dyno and real-world tests to document the drop in gas mileage. With “pure” pump gas nearly impossible to find nearby, we may need to buy expensive street-legal racing fuel.

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