Advanced Conventional Technologies

The U.S. car industry’s attitude toward commercializing advanced conventional automotive technologies to improve fuel economy does not appear to be as aggressive as in some other countries, owing principally to differences in market forces. For example, German automakers have taken the lead in developing highly efficient direct injection diesel engines.

Whereas no U.S. manufacturer produces a diesel-powered passenger car for the U.S. market. In OTA’s view, if NOX emissions from these engines can be reduced through the use of improved catalysts, diesel-powered cars could make a comeback in the U.S. market.

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Based on their experience with building small, efficient diesels for passenger cars, European automakers may also be in an excellent position to exploit the use of compact diesel power plants in hybrid electric vehicles. This is a promising option currently being evaluated by the PNGV program.

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26 The lean-bum gasoline engine is another advanced conventional technology that offers fuel efficiency improvements of around 10 percent at relatively low cost. This has been a technology targeted by several Japanese manufacturers in the Japanese market. As with the diesel, commercialization of the lean-bum technology in the United States will require the development of improved catalysts capable of reducing NOX emissions.

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Japanese manufacturers apparently believe they can achieve many of the benefits of leapfrog technologies through evolutionary improvement in conventional technologies (such as lean-bum engines) at much lower cost. To date, no U.S. automaker has announced its intention to market a lean-bum engine vehicle.

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