Cars are getting more efficient - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Cars are getting more efficient

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The Honda Clarity.  A concept car, it runs on hydrogen. The Honda Clarity. A concept car, it runs on hydrogen.
The sign at Woodall's gas station in Albany. The sign at Woodall's gas station in Albany.
The manufacturers sticker on a Honda Civic shows the highway fuel efficiency.  Civics are one of the leanest cars on gas on the market. The manufacturers sticker on a Honda Civic shows the highway fuel efficiency. Civics are one of the leanest cars on gas on the market.
The engine on the Honda Civic.  It cuts the number of cylinders that it uses when it's cruising in town. The engine on the Honda Civic. It cuts the number of cylinders that it uses when it's cruising in town.
Cars make their way down U.S. 19 in Lee County.  Thousands of cars make the trip into Dougherty County from Lee County each day. Cars make their way down U.S. 19 in Lee County. Thousands of cars make the trip into Dougherty County from Lee County each day.

Cars are about to get much more fuel efficient.

The federal government is announcing new fuel standards.

Beginning with the 2025 model year, cars must get an average of 54 and a half miles per gallon.

That's an increase of nearly 20 miles per gallon over the standard for the 2016 models.

To achieve that goal, the technology that car manufacturers are coming up with ranges from the commonplace to something that seems like it's right out of science fiction.

Cars come in all shapes and sizes, just like the people who drive them.  And no matter what shape or size those people are, they all agree on one thing.

Flossie Riley is from Albany.  She said, "they're a little high - but I guess we're going to pay for it."

She's talking about gas prices.  While the market dictates the price of gas, the government can help drivers by making the cars more efficient.  Some companies haven't needed the help.

"Honda has long been the leader in fuel efficiency. They came out with one of the first hybrids with the Honda Insight," said Brian Willian, the Sales Manager at Albany Honda.

Hybrids are the most common type of fuel efficient cars.  When the car is in idle, a battery takes over, allowing the engine to run less often.  There's another way to save gas and that's to use the engine more efficiently.  Like the six cylinder Honda Accord.

Willian said, "when you're just cruising around town, it will actually operate off of three cylinders instead of all six. So you get much better fuel economy."

With this new technology, manufacturers say they'll be able to meet the 2016 goal of 35.5 miles per gallon.  But the numbers for 2025 are much higher and to get there, the technology will have to continue to advance quickly.

Fuel efficiency numbers like the ones that you see today were unheard of only a generation ago.  But these numbers are low compared to what we're going to see in the years ahead.

The Honda Clarity is one of those cars of the future.  Right now there are only about 200 of them on the road - all of those in California.  It's a revolution in the way that cars go.

"It's a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, which doesn't even use gasoline at all and only emits water," said Willian.

But like any new technology, cars like this one have one serious drawback - the cost.

Willian tells us why it's so expensive: "they use palladium to make that which is a very expensive element to purchase and to use for manufacture."

The price will come down eventually just like it has with other new technologies.  And that's good because Americans aren't going to stop driving, even if the price of gas stays at a lofty level.

Flossie Riley said, "I still go where I want to go."

So if the cars can be more efficient, then at least drivers won't have to spend as much money when they go to the pump. And one day they might be able to avoid the pump altogether.

Currently, there are two electric cars on the market - the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf.  Those cars won't make their way to our area until sometime in 2012.

And both of those cars are highly rated.  The Chevy Volt was named the 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year.

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