Cars in 2020 will get 35 percent better fuel economy at a five percent increase in cost, according to scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Energy Laboratory, who will share their projections regarding future automotive technologies at the SAE 2001 World Congress next month in Detroit.

Key projections for 2020 vehicles, as compared to today’s cars, include:

Baseline petrol-powered passenger car improvements, which are likely to be driven by market pressures and tightening regulations, are significant: 15 percent reduction in vehicle mass, 35 percent reduction in fuel consumption and 5 percent increase in vehicle price.

More advanced petrol engine cars with improved transmissions, and further reductions in mass and resistances, will decrease vehicle mass another 8 percent and fuel consumption by another 12 percent, with an additional 8 percent cost to consumers.

The direct hydrogen fuel cell hybrid vehicle will be the most efficient and lowest emitting vehicle with nearly 55 percent lower energy consumption than the evolving petrol-powered vehicle, but with a 40 percent price increase.

The MIT scientists, Felix AuYeung, Professor John B. Heywood and Andreas Schafer, also make predictions regarding gasoline hybrids, compressed natural gas hybrids, advanced diesel engines, electric vehicles, and reformer fuel cell vehicles, which process liquid fuels to hydrogen on board.

The research is part of a larger fuel and vehicle technology project at MIT, and the addition of fuel production energy requirements and CO2 emissions is important.

Direct use of natural gas relative to petroleum improves total system CO2 emissions, while production of hydrogen from natural gas or petroleum fuels adds a significant energy and CO2 penalty.