Description: Motor vehicles contribute to climate change and petroleum dependence. Improving their fuel economy by making them lighter need not compromise safety. The cars and trucks plying America's roads and highways generate roughly 20 percent of the nation's total emissions of carbon dioxide, a pollutant that is, of course, of increasing concern because of its influence on climate. Motor vehicles also account for most of our country's dependence on imported petroleum, the price of which has recently skyrocketed to near-record levels. So policymakers would welcome the many benefits that would accrue from lessening the amount of fuel consumed in this way. Yet lawmakers have not significantly tightened new vehicle fuel-economy standards since they were first enacted three decades ago. Since then, manufacturers have, for the most part, used advances in automotive technology, ones that could have diminished fuel consumption, to boost performance and increase vehicle weight. In addition, the growth in popularity of pickups, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and minivans--and the large amounts of gas they typically guzzle--has resulted in the average vehicle using the same amount of fuel per mile as it did 20 years ago. One of the historical impediments to imposing tougher fuel-economy standards has been the long-standing worry that reducing the mass of a car or truck to help meet these requirements would make it more dangerous to its occupants in a crash. People often justify this concern in terms of 'simple physics', noting, for example, that, all else being equal, in a head-on collision, the lighter vehicle is the more strongly decelerated, an argument that continues to sway regulators, legislators and many in the general public. We have spent the past several years examining the research underlying this position--and some recent work challenging it. We have also conducted our own analyses and come to the conclusion ...
Date: March 1, 2008
Creator: Wenzel, Thomas P; Wenzel, Thomas P & Ross, Marc
Item Type: Refine your search to only Article
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department