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IEA technology and policy reports outline paths to halving fuel used for combustion-engined road transport in less than 40 years

IEA fuel economy readiness index status, 2010. Source: Policy package. Click to enlarge.

Two new reports—one on technology, the other on policy—released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) outline pathways to improve the fuel efficiency of combustion-engined road vehicles by 50% by the middle of the century, saving as much as four-fifths of current annual global oil consumption.

One report, Technology Roadmap: Fuel Economy for Road Vehicles, describes the technologies needed (such as high-pressure fuel injection and wast heat recovery systems) to achieve a much more efficient road-vehicle stock by 2030, while the second, Policy Pathway: Improving the Fuel Economy of Road Vehicles, describes the policy packages, made up of fuel economy labeling, standards and fiscal policies, that can help deliver improved fuel economy. New propulsion systems requiring new fuels, such as plug-in electric vehicle systems and fuel cell systems, are beyond the scope of this technology roadmap and are treated in separate roadmaps.

Average fuel economy and new vehicles registrations, 2005 and 2008. Source: Technology roadmap. Click to enlarge.

The policy package includes a new fuel economy readiness index, which measures the extent to which countries have implemented steps that will fully exploit the potential of existing fuel economy technologies and maximise their use in vehicles. The index is built from the four key policies needed to improve fuel economy: fuel tax, CO2-based vehicle tax, fuel economy standards and labeling.

The transport sector currently accounts for a fifth of global final energy consumption, and increased demand from this sector is expected to make up all future growth in oil use worldwide. The two reports show how the world could stabilize demand for oil even if the number of road vehicles (passenger cars, two-wheelers and freight trucks) doubled by 2050.

Tackling road transport energy use is vital to enhancing energy security and reducing carbon dioxide emissions globally. Conventional combustion engine vehicles are set to be around for a long time and without the right policy mixes, like the ones described in these publications, the demand for energy from road vehicles will be unsustainable.

—IEA Deputy Executive Director Richard Jones

But governments need to act quickly, the IEA said. The new IEA “fuel-economy readiness” index measures the extent to which countries have implemented steps that will fully exploit the potential of existing fuel economy technologies and maximize their use in vehicles. It reveals that very few have all the pieces in place to capitalize on the full potential of fuel economy improvements that could be achieved in the coming two decades.

Technology Roadmap. The IEA roadmap on fuel economy of internal combustion engines is part of the IEA series Technology Roadmaps. The roadmap explores the potential improvement of existing technologies to enhance the average fuel economy of motorized vehicles—the vision is to achieve a 30% to 50% reduction in fuel use per kilometer from new road vehicles (including 2-wheelers, LDV s and HDV s) around the world in 2030, and from the stock of all vehicles on the road by 2050.

This achievement would contribute to significant reductions in GHG emissions and oil use, compared to a baseline projection. The report treats different motorized modes separately, with a focus on light-duty vehicles (LDVs), heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) and powered two-wheelers. A section on in-use fuel economy also addresses technical and nontechnical parameters that could allow fuel economy to drastically improve over the next decades.

Among the key findings of this report are:

  • Most technologies for improving the fuel economy of two-wheelers, light-duty vehicles (LDV) and heavy-duty vehicles (HDV) are already commercially available and cost-effective. Compared with 2005 levels, the potential for improving the fuel economy of all vehicle types within the 2030 time frame ranges from 30% to 50%.

  • Although many fuel-saving technologies are already commercially available and cost-effective, particularly when considered over the lifetime of vehicles, their market penetration is often low because of a range of barriers explained in the roadmap. Strong policies are needed to ensure that the full potential of these technologies is achieved over the next 10 to 20 years.

  • Some technologies need additional research to become commercially viable, including waste heat recovery devices, electromechanical valve actuation, low-friction lubricants and some lightweight materials.

  • There is often a gap between the fuel economy measured in vehicle tests and in-use vehicle performance. This gap can be up to 20% and must be reduced to minimize actual fuel use. Strategies to close this gap include better design of fuel economy test cycles, improved traffic flow and better road surface conditions. “Eco-driving”, which includes a suite of technologies and actions to improve driving styles and vehicle operating characteristics, also has significant potential to improve fuel economy.

  • Policies that promote fuel economy technologies and improve tested and in-use fuel economy, including fuel economy standards, fiscal measures and information/ education programs, will play a critical role in maximizing fuel economy improvements in all countries over the coming decades.

  • Fuel economy standards are in place in most OECD member countries and China, and are helping to make important progress in these countries. These can be used as guides for other countries seeking to improve fuel economy. Most major economies should aim to implement fuel economy standards, as part of a comprehensive fuel economy policy package, by 2015, with strong fuel economy improvement targets for 2020 and even out to 2030. Important complementary policies include fuel economy labeling, fuel economy or CO2-adjusted vehicle tax systems (such as “feebates”), and fuel taxes.

  • In countries that already have strong policies, these policies and their targets should be tightened to maintain progress, and by 2015, extended to 2030 and expanded to cover all road vehicle types, particularly heavy-duty vehicles.

The technology roadmap recommends a number of actions:

  • Establish fuel economy and/or CO2 emission targets for light-duty vehicles and trucks, and use a mix of policies that provide a clear framework and balance stakeholder interests. To give automakers and other interested parties a clear view, governments should establish policy frameworks for the period at least to 2025. As far as possible, policies should not favor particular technologies but rather promote improved fuel economy in general, encouraging good practice and performance. Policy goals should be grounded in societal goals such as energy security and low CO2 emissions.

  • Address policy and industry needs at a national level. Governments should work diligently to enact policies that support the necessary technology development and dissemination. The policy recommendations in this document are a good place to start. National roadmaps can be developed that set national targets and help interested parties to set their own appropriate targets, guide market introduction, understand consumer behavior, craft supportive policy and collaborate.

  • Research, development, demonstration and deployment (RDD&D) of advanced fuel economy technologies is still needed. Even though most of the key fuel economy technologies are available today, additional breakthroughs and cost reductions would help, including lighter materials, advanced combustion systems and better lubricants. Internationally co-ordinated programmes involving governments and automobile manufacturers will help trigger a faster development and uptake of new technologies in the 2020 time frame and beyond.

  • Increase international collaboration on fuel economy. Countries should increase collaboration, for example by aligning targets and policy designs, wherever possible – particularly countries in the same region with interconnected markets (e.g. Europe, South Asia, South America, etc.). By providing broadly consistent signals to consumers and automakers, countries can increase the strength of their combined efforts, while helping manufacturers to sell more of their fuel-efficient models, potentially lowering the cost of compliance. Lower costs are ultimately passed on to consumers and reduce the overall cost of achieving energy security and climate change goals.

Policy package. The scope of this policy pathway is on policies to improve the tested fuel efficiency rather than the in-use operation of the new LDV and HDV fleets. Although fuel-efficient technologies are commercially available, they are not yet widely enough deployed. Policies are needed to encourage the deployment of efficient technologies in new vehicles, the IEA says.

This report complements the technology roadmap which outlines the technical options, potentials, and costs to improve fuel economy in the near-, medium- and long-term. The policy pathway describes the implementation steps of the policies needed to deploy the technologies identified there.

Among the findings and recommendations are:

  • Policies to improve road vehicle fuel economy should encourage transformation of the new vehicle market by addressing market failures, information gaps and the higher upfront costs associated with more innovative technologies.

  • The provision of high-quality information on vehicle fuel economy to prospective vehicle purchasers should be central to any strategy to encourage improvements in fleet average fuel economy.

  • Vehicle fuel economy standards are an important policy element to overcome market failures for most countries.

  • Fiscal measures can have a strong influence on vehicle-purchasing behavior.

The publication proposes a policy pathway in four phases to support the development of policies to improve fuel efficiency of road vehicles:

  1. Plan: this is the longest phase in developing fuel economy policies. In this phase, the public authority collects information on the status quo prior to policy making; selects the mix and scope of the fuel economy policies; secures resources; establishes the measurement method, target values and form of the fuel economy standards; and determines the design of the fuel economy labeling and fiscal measures.

  2. Implement: public authority certifies and oversees vehicle fuel economy test values; vehicle manufacturers publish fuel economy results as labels and in other media; the public authority informs the public about fuel economy and the fiscal measures in place.

  3. Monitor: public authority monitors the data from certification and conducts audits to check for compliance with the fuel economy labeling and standards measures. The production vehicles are also checked to ensure the fuel economy matches that of the test vehicles.

  4. Evaluate: public authority analyses and assesses the compliance test data to check whether any enforcement proceedings are required; evaluates the impacts of the fuel economy policies; and if necessary, revises the policies to take account of developing technologies and policy design flaws or gaps.

Policy pathway checklist for fuel efficiency policies. Click to enlarge.




It's a pity they don't have data for 2011 - 2008 is a bit old.
Most of it comes down to taxation policies - Europe and Japan have "got it" and have efficient cars and expensive fuel (and a lot of taxation revenue for their governments).

If you just stop subsidising fuel (as some countries do) and make the prices realistic (i.e. at least $1 / litre) (or even high, > $2 / litre) the market will do the rest.

All the car companies have to do is to copy what is being done in Europe, Japan and Korea, and increasingly in the USA.

Since most car companies are global entities, this shouldn't be a problem.


The intent is certainly good.

But these non-Scientist policy wonks, are over-schooled and under-educated. They have never heard of the the "Law of Diminishing Returns" that every Scientist and Engineer knows very well. By their own admission this discussion is retricted to the ICE engine and does not include discussion of other technologies. Yet they phantasize of 50% reductions in fuel usage.

We have come a long ways toward already achieving the theoretical limits of efficiency to be gained in the past half century of automotive engine technology for the ICE technology.

The theoretical best that an ICE's efficiency can be achieved, is to operate in either:
a) Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition, HCCI, mode and/or
b) Premixed Charge Compression Ignition, PMCI, mode, depending on whether you start on the OTTO cycle end or the Diesel Cycle end.

THe HCCI/PMCI is a combined and composite OTTO/Diesel cycle that Mercedes Benz has dubbed "Dies-OTTO" to more accurately describe the composite Diesel-Otto cycle and ICE that is emerging from the automotive Labs.

Many of the predicates for such an ICE engine have been already added to modern engine families,each accruing efficiency gains, and only a comparatively few more need be added to enable full benefit of such a mode of operation. Lab versions of such engines are being driven on the roads even now.

Improved breathing through multi-valves, variable cam phasing, variable valve lift, direct injection, atmospheric boost, and computer control tailoring of the combustion cycle event are bringing us much closer to the theoretical ideal than ever before possible.

Variable valve lift and continuous phasing along with multiple fuel injections per cycle and Exhaust Gas Recirculation to tailor the fuel charge, is tailoring the combustion cycle ever closer to the ideal theoretical efficiency that can be obtained with the ICE engine, while minimizing waste heat generation.

Already there are mass production OTTO engines that obviate the need for a throttle, instead controlling flow with the valves only and eliminating the major efficiency loss due to pressure drop across the throttle. This has always been the major efficiency difference between the Diesel and Otto cycle efficiency.

We could have actual production HCCI engines appearing for sale in only a few years, or maybe even next year. The theoretical HCCI/PMCI gains are now no more than 10-15% better than the best current offerings. To speak of 50% gains using only ICE technologies is infantile; and indicates a complete oblivion about the laws of nature.

Why not just propose to repeal the "Law of Gravity" to lessen friction and reduce the work needed to move the reduced mass of a car?

To quote a cinematic philosopher:

"Stupid IS as Stupid DOES."


Why not just run the engines on hydrogen? We can use any carbon free source of electricity to electrolyze water and have clean hydrogen. There would be a range penalty, but that seems a small price to pay to keep from destroying the planet.

Bob Wallace

Give us the math. Start with the energy expense of using clean electricity to crack water. Then subtract out the energy used to either compress or liquefy the hydrogen. Subtract some more for getting it to where it will be dispensed. And then subtract away the energy lost in fuel cell inefficiency.

I'll do the electric car end. Loss from starting point to vehicle battery <5% during transmission and ~10% additional in battery charging. (That <5% transmission loss will drop as the grid gets smarter and is likely lower for off-peak transmission already.


On another thread one of the pro-hydrogen people calculated that starting from a fixed amount of clean electricity a hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicle would use about 40% more electricity as an EV per mile.

I'm guessing (based on following the field) that we are less than five years away from EVs with adequate range to allow one to drive all day long (500) miles with only two modest (<20 minute) stops. That's about often people currently stop with fueled vehicles.


I don't think that matters, Bob.  If you can cover 40 miles per day with electricity and the balance by burning fuel, you get on the order of half of all transport driven electrically.  If you increase that to the next 40 miles after every stop of 10-20 minutes or more, that figure jumps again.  The charging demands of PHEVs are much smaller than BEVs, and sales figures suggest we'll see them first.


500 miles = 125 KwH @ 4 miles / KwH
If you stop twice (having charged already at the start), you are putting in 42 KwH / charge (assuming perfect spacing,
lets assume 50 KwH charges
If you have a 50 KW charger, you might do it in 1 hour, each time. If you have a 22 KW charger, more like 2.4 hours each stop.

It really isn't any good.
You'll probably be lucky to find 8Kw chargers in actuality. What you need is a PHEV (as EP says).

@D, it depends on where you start (in terms of efficiency).
They don;t seem to say that - is it 2005, 2008 or 2010 ?
They should state a 2030 mpg target.
If you assume that the next golf diesel will do 88 mpg (UK) you can see that it is doable.
Also, they do not rule out HEV or PHEV vehicles, so with these, and diesel and downsizing etc. I think it can easily be achieved.



You appear to be the only one here, who also comprehends the work of Dr. Frank at UC Davis, which is the basis of all hybridization and PHEVs.

But then you are also similar in that you have worked hard to study and understand Nature and her Laws, and what we humans can do and not do with them, as they are, and not what we wished them to be.

I fear the polemicists and true believers who can do nothing but regurgitate some bologna fed to them without the ability to comprehend.

However they do retain the ability to rage and burn their designated witches and untermenshen at the stake.



You measure efficincy in BSFC, not in some phony biased mileage test, whose results can be comparative figures of merit, but are hardly a measure of "true " or "real" fuel economy.

EPA's Moronic tests, NHTSA's CAFE tests, Europe's NEDC and Japan's fuel economy tests can all be used to measure the fuel economy of the exact same vehicle. The results will deviate from 25 mpg to 80 mpg for that same vehicle.

Which is correct? In a sense they all are, when compared to another vehicle by the same test, thus a Figure of merit for comaprison. In another sense they are all wrong. Since none will replicate every driver's driving and travel geography, none wil ascertain everyone's fuel economy.

There simply is not enough more BSFC efficiency to be gained other than perhaps 15%. That 15% can't become 50%, no matter how you try to change it.

Besdies, the "program" they have outlined does next to nothing to actually achieve any efficiency. It is full of liason, meet, promote, exhortate, govern, regulate yadda yada yadda.

There is precious little of Experiment, Design, Try and Do. In short, it is a recipe for lots of highly paid do-nothing jobs. Perfectly suited to a do-nothing bureaucracy.


Bob, it will be years before a 500-mile BEV will be a big seller. There is the current and near-term battery cost and size, the time to re-charge except at yet-to-be-built charging stations (440V, 3-phase, 15 to 20 amp facilities), and the number of annual 500 mile trips people take in a car. It would be better to use the difference in battery costs between a BEV500 a PHEV40 and use it for public transportation for long trips - more relaxing too - and renting an EV at your destination.

Yes, a BEV100 will become attractive financially in 5 of 10 years but not as attractive as a PHEV40. Both these EVs need lower cost batteries. Yes, PHEVs are getting to the point of providing marginal savings over an ICE but not over an HEV. People are typically reluctant to put up front money for downstream savings - for example, CFLs, home insulation, solar PV in regions of California where tiered rates exceed $0.30 per kWh.

The economics of HEVS, PHEVs and BEVs will just keep getting better as batteries get cheaper, smaller and longer-lasting and oil gets more expensive.

Calvin Brock

the point of providing marginal savings over an ICE but not over an HEV. People are typically reluctant to put up front money for downstream savings - for example, CFLs, home insulation, solar PV in regions of California where tiered rates exceed $0.30 per kWh. home wool insulation

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