Conventional Models Expected to Represent Less Than Half of Vehicles Sold by 2017

Due mainly to automakers' need to build more fuel-efficient vehicles, conventional gasoline-powered models are expected to make up less than half of new vehicles sold worldwide by 2017, according to a new report from Navigant Research.

The report says multiple factors, including increasingly strict global standards to limit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, are driving manufacturers to produce more efficient vehicles. With rising liquid fuel costs, consumer demand also supports the need for better fuel economy.

Although the use of alternative fuels and electric power is expected to continue growing, the report says gasoline is anticipated to remain the leading fuel in the coming years, albeit in unconventional vehicles that employ a range of fuel-efficiency technologies, such as smaller engines and turbocharging.

“There is no single technology that will dominate fuel-efficiency improvements over the forecast period through 2025,” says David Alexander, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “The focus, instead, will be on incremental improvements in engines and transmissions, along with weight reduction in as many places as possible.”

Perhaps the most important innovation, according to the report, is the wide adoption of stop-start vehicles (SSVs), which eliminate idling when the vehicle is stopped and restart the engine when the driver moves from brake to accelerator. Over time, the SSV is likely to add functionality to become more of a mild hybrid, with the ability to capture and reuse kinetic energy without the expense of a large battery. Navigant Research expects sales of gasoline and diesel SSVs to reach 63 million annually by 2025, representing 58% of all vehicles sold in that year.

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