PURSUING SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION ENERGY
DON’T GET DISTRACTED
In spite of media attention and coverage to the contrary, liquid fuels still reign supreme.
BY JOHN EICHBERGER
The news is replete withstories about emergingtechnologies that willcompete with traditionaltransportation fuels. Thiscolumn, in fact, has spentmany pages discussing thesecompetitive threats. But let’s
keep everything in perspective: Liquid fuels are, and
will continue to be for the foreseeable future, the
dominant source of transportation energy.
Through November 2015, the U. S. automobile
industry sold 15.82 million light-duty vehicles and
has consistently been on a projected path to more
than 18.05 million units sold for the year—a
remarkable performance by any standard. So the
data can certainly help us understand how quickly
the market might be transitioning away from
Of those nearly 16 million vehicles, 93.3% of them
were classified by Wards Auto as powered by
gasoline. ( Wards Auto does not segment flex fuel
vehicles in this data set.) Despite this over whelming
market share, interestingly, it’s the remaining 6.7%
that gets the lion’s share of attention in the effort to
identify trends. While a legitimate course of analysis,
it should not be viewed as a prediction of the demise
of liquid fuels.
Yes, some emerging trends will ultimately whittle
away at gasoline’s dominant market share, but for
the time being it does not seem like this market is
in any immediate danger. In fact, the U. S. Energy
Information Administration (EIA) forecasts in its
2015 Annual Energy Outlook that in 2035, gasoline
(including flex fuel vehicles) will continue to command 91.1% market share of registered vehicles.
Meanwhile, diesel-powered vehicles are forecasted
to command another 3.8%, leaving just 5.1% market
share available for competing powertrains.
The current market reality and the government’s
market development forecast do not mean that
change is not coming to the market, but they serve as
fair notice that focusing only on a non-liquid
alternative may be short-sighted.
Work continues to be done to identify opportunities
to introduce alternative liquid fuel products, or to
enhance the existing pool of fuel by changing performance characteristics or elevating the renewable
content. The Department of Energy’s Optima Project
is working with the stakeholder community to
identify the ideal combination of engine technology
and fuel formulation; its goal is to deliver the most
desirable product for consumers in terms of performance, emissions and fuel efficiency.
On the table for consideration in that effort is a
high octane fuel that may or may not be generated
by increasing the ethanol content in gasoline to
as much as 25%-30%. The project is solution -
Light-Duty Vehicle Sales
(January to November 2015)
Plug In Hybrid