Automakers have a tough sell reaching fuel economy standards in the US and Europe. Swiss researchers think the solution will have to come from a fusion of the technologies. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have developed a new engine that they say could get the equivalent of 80 miles per gallon. It's a hybrid that gets its power from a diesel engine, natural gas and an electric motor. That combination could achieve fuel economy numbers that are much, much higher than today's popular hybrids like the Toyota Prius.
While hitting the 100,000 EV sales mark in the US improves the CAFE calculations, we're still a long way away from making it to 54.5 miles per gallon for each automaker's fleet of new vehicles sold. That's what's expected in the US by 2025 and just under the European mandate for 2020 (the equivalent of 55 mpg). Given these regulations, we expect consumer interest in an 80-mpg hybrid would be high, especially since the driver wouldn't be dependent on charging stations.
One challenge for a CNG/diesel hybrid could be finding enough stations supplying those fuels. Another, admittedly bigger problem is that the Swiss researchers think their hybrid technology would add about $8,000 to the cost of a conventional gasoline-powered car. For now, that may be competitive – the electric version of the Ford Focus costs around $19,000 more than the gasoline-powered Focus – but it's still a sizable chunk of change.