The Risk of Fuel Efficiency
Improved gas mileage in cars may not necessarily be helping the environment
President Obama recently announced new, stricter fuel economy standards. These new standards will cover cars and light trucks for Model Years 2017-2025, requiring performance equivalent to 54.5 mpg in 2025 while reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 163 grams per mile. One method which car manufactures are using to improve their fuel efficiency numbers is by reducing the overall weight of the vehicle. This is accomplished by switching to a higher strength, lower weight steel material for components which are manufactured through a stamping process. However, in order to stamp these ultra-high strength steel parts, the manufacturers need to switch from a cold stamping process done at room temperature to a hot stamping process. Hot stamping involves longer cycle times and takes more energy to make parts than cold stamping.
Cars may be more fuel efficient than ever before but the net effect on the environment may be worse overall. We're just transferring the energy usage from one location to another, a place out of view, not seen or heard by the public. Car companies will be able to report great fuel economy numbers and everyone will feel good about helping the environment when in reality we could be doing just as much damage. This is something that will have to be studied very closely. That's not to say the manufacturing plants won't see a breakthrough in technology as well but it is something everyone needs to be aware of.