A US federal government report forecasts that the overwhelming majority of cars on American roads will still be powered by gasoline for some time to come.
The US Energy Information Administration Annual Energy Outlook report for 2014 isn’t all bad news. Though it forecasts that only 1% of all new cars sold will be of the plug-in electric variety, other fuel efficient or alternatively powered vehicles will become progressively more popular in coming years.
Chief among these will be hybrid vehicles that combine a small petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor to cut emissions and optimize fuel economy — cars such as the Volkswagen XL1, the only car currently capable of traveling 100km on 0.9 liters of fuel, launched earlier this year. Hybrids could account for 5% of all new cars on the road by 2040 and already have a 3% market share.
Thanks to the kudos associated with Audi, Mercedes and BMW, US consumers are also starting to change their opinion about diesel engines. They’re no longer the noisy, dirty and slow motors they once were and this image rehabilitation will help to drive sales. In 2012, only 2% of new cars sold in the US were diesels but they are expected to account for 4% of all new vehicle sales by 2040.
Currently, 18% of all new cars on US roads are powered by something other than gasoline and by 2040 they are predicted to represent 22% of all new cars. However, that means that even two and a half decades into the future, 78% of cars will be powered solely by fossil fuels.
Still, the nature of traditionally powered cars is also changing, even in the US. Car makers are slowly moving away from big-block V8s to smaller four-cylinder engines and companies such as Ford are using turbochargers to squeeze both power and efficiency out of low-capacity engines. The report also estimates that 42% of gasoline-fueled cars will use some form of battery-powered stop start or energy regeneration technology to boost power further while continuing to cut emission and increase fuel efficiency.