Tougher fuel standards may shape future cars


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While you've been driving, the researchers have been thinking. And after Tuesday's proposal for improved /*Environmental Protection Agency*/ automotive standards, they say that internal combustion as we know it, has entered the end times.

"Is this good for American car companies or bad news?" asked ABC7's Wayne Freedman.

"I think it's good in that it gives them a goal to strive for," says Dahlia Garas of U.C. Davis.

It's a new goal where efficiency trumps power. Garas envisions future cars running on hydrogen, biofuels, and electricity. Garas's program studies the use of plug-in /*hybrids*/.

"I am saying there is no silver bullet to solve our emissions or energy issues," says Garas.

That future car might look like an SUV. Dr. Andy Frank Ph.D. developed the plug-in concept decades ago. Now, he has formed a company selling the benefits of that research to automakers.

"We could have done it 10 years ago, but the motivation was perhaps not there," says Dr. Frank.

In theory, plug-in technology can work on all kinds of vehicles. One rig can replace a large V-8 in a 10,000-pound delivery truck with a small, four-cylinder diesel engine and an electric motor -- doubling the mileage.

Dr. Frank notes that the new EPA standards apply only to gasoline engines, not plug-ins. If this one travels less than 40 miles a day, it burns no gasoline at all and has no emissions.

"Then we can talk about 50 miles per gallon for an SUV, and some people talk about 100 miles for a sedan," says Dr. Frank.

Or put another way, even after today, the EPA has some caching up to do.

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