Auto show focuses on fuel efficiency

January 24, 2012 7:13:11 PM PST
The latest in advanced fuel technology is on display in Silicon Valley. Car manufacturers are making big investments to improve fuel efficiency and make the cars better for the environment.

The one-day event at Club Auto Sport is called "Future Cars, Future Technology." On Tuesday, there was a panel discussion going on, but the real stars of the show were on the lot.

The buzz at this auto show is not how fast a car can go, but how far, on a single charge or tank. Right now there is no one technology winning the race for fuel efficiency.

"Automobile manufactures like Toyota are exploring any number of alternative propulsion systems including hybrid fuel cell and electric cars," said Michael Dobrin from Toyota.

The advanced technologies are now becoming more familiar -- there's all electric, hybrid and even a natural gas vehicle by Honda. It uses a domestic fuel source and burns 25 percent cleaner than gas. Mercedes is offering up a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. You can only get it in Los Angeles where there are fueling stations and it's only for lease, not sale.

"The price for this vehicle is $849 a month and that includes your maintenance, it includes unlimited fueling and it also includes insurance," said Diedra Wylie from Mercedes Benz.

Every manufacturer will tell you they are using cutting-edge ideas to improve gas efficiency, such as reducing the weight of a car, but many consumers doubt if the cars of the future will meet much talked about federal standards of 54.5 miles a gallon by 2025.

"I think they're dreaming... No, defiantly not realistic," said Armand Labrucherie of Morgan Hill.

Those inside the auto industry say the goal might be possible, but it will be a push.

"We have simulations going today that show we can get there, but it's really optimizing everything within a vehicle," said Chris Cowland from Chrysler.

Car makers say without a clear winner in fuel efficiency, the race now is to perfect a number of different technologies.

"In the end, the customers will win out because they will get a lot of choice, better fuel economy and in the end it will benefit the environment," said Jessica Fini from Honda.

The research of course does add to the cost of a vehicle, but whether it's lithium ion batteries, or hydrogen fuel cells, the more this technology is adopted, the less expensive it becomes.