Observations on the current happenings in the world of vehicles and the fuels that power them from Fuels Institute Executive Director, John Eichberger.

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There’s Only One Way to Rock

  John Eichberger |  August 2021

National and regional governments continue to announce plans to phase out the internal combustion engine (ICE) and push for battery electric vehicles (BEV) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) powered by hydrogen. Each of these technologies have a lot to offer and will provide great benefits to consumers and the environment, but they may not be applicable to all use cases and, despite government efforts, the market’s transition to these vehicles will take a very long time.

Money (That’s What I Want)

  John Eichberger |  June 2021

While the primary focus of discussion these days is how to decarbonize transportation and the pace of market expansion for electric vehicles, we must not forget that access to reliable and affordable transportation is a key factor for economic opportunity. To that end, one of the hurdles new transportation technologies must overcome is cost – not just of the vehicles, but in comparison to other modes of transportation.  

Hybrid Theory

  John Eichberger |  May 7, 2021

The first hybrid vehicle introduced to the United States debuted 22 years ago - the Honda Insight. The following year, the Toyota Prius entered the market and the hybrid market began to accelerate quickly. By 2007, sales eclipsed 350,000 units from just 13 models, and some were predicting that more than 100 hybrid models would soon be available for sale in the U.S. Those forecasts were never realized and year after year sales hovered at or below 3%, setting a record of 3.2% of sales in 2013 before slipping to less than 2% just three years later. But recent data indicates that automobile manufacturers may not have given up on this technology, and in the first quarter of 2021 hybrids clawed up to 4.5% of sales. What has changed and what can we learn from the experience of hybrid vehicles?

On the Road Again

  John Eichberger |  March 15, 2021

If the global priority with regards to the transportation sector is to reduce carbon emissions, then putting all our eggs in one basket and waiting for electrification to transform the world is already a failed strategy. With nearly 1.5 billion vehicles in the world, and with more than 90 million new vehicles sold annually (*non-pandemic years, of course), it is impossible to envision a transition to relying on only battery electric vehicles (BEV) any time soon, no matter what governments may try to do with regards to sales requirements. So, what should be done with regards to the existing and continuing combustion engine-liquid fuels market?

Life is a Highway

  John Eichberger |  February 3, 2021

On January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order committing the United States to accept the provisions of the Paris Agreement on climate change. This was among his first acts as President and, in my opinion, symbolizes the commitment of his administration to pursuing policies that will reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. With this commitment comes the need to fully understand the options that may be available to policymakers, along with a comparison of their relative effectiveness and costs so that the best combination of policies can be developed and implemented.  

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

  John Eichberger |  December 9, 2020

In general, the developed economies of the world are uniting in their pursuit of a lower carbon/carbon neutral/net zero carbon emissions transportation system. It is a laudable goal and one that deserves careful attention, commitment and coordinated action to reduce carbon emissions throughout the global market. Yet, at the end of 2020 there seemed to be a significant lack of coordination, especially when we consider the flurry of activity with regards to banning the sales of internal combustion engines in the relatively near future.

When It’s Love

  John Eichberger |  November 5, 2020

“The road is calling and I must go.” Those are the words on the framed poster above my desk, hovering above the image of Porsche 911 cruising on a winding mountain road. The open road has been a siren’s call for me my entire life – but that draw, that love affair with cars and driving that has been so strong throughout America’s recent history, seems to be fading away…especially among younger generations who are more drawn to technology than shiny objects on wheels. That, however, could represent an opportunity for the auto industry to regain some of its appeal.

Walking on the Moon

  John Eichberger |  October 5, 2020

Similar to the commercially relevant derivatives of the Apollo program, the investments to develop technology that will enable autonomous vehicles are delivering benefits and enhancing the safety of transportation today through advanced driver assist systems. At a time when drivers are more distracted than ever (nearly 40,000 people were killed in vehicle collisions in 2019), the availability of these systems could not be more timely – and they are becoming much more common. If these systems can reduce accident-caused congestion and mitigate stop-and-start traffic conditions, they not only will yield safety improvements, but they also could significantly contribute to fuel efficiency and energy savings.

Fall Back Down

  John Eichberger |  September 8, 2020

In April 2020, the SAAR dropped to 9.09 million – its lowest level since December 1981!  (The lowest it reached during the Great Recession was 9.22 in February 2009.)  The implications seemed devastating. Fortunately, the industry has rebounded quite a bit since April and in August the SAAR was back to 15.2 million. But again – what vehicles were people buying during the COVID pandemic?

Runnin’ Down a Dream

  John Eichberger |  August 6, 2020

A popular vision for the future of transportation has been assigned a variety of acronyms, but the one I seem to like the best is ACES – it makes me think of Molly Ringwald rolling her eyes in the John Hughes’ classic film, “Sixteen Candles.”  It stands for Autonomous Connected Electric Shared and presents a scenario in which human-driven vehicles become a thing of the past, traffic accidents and congestion are eliminated, and vehicle emissions disappear.