First-ever Fuel Efficiency Standards for Heavy Trucks and Buses

To take effect for 2014-18 model years, rules will help U.S. meet greenhouse gas reduction pledge

1 min read
First-ever Fuel Efficiency Standards for Heavy Trucks and Buses

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency announced yesterday fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, having last year sharply tightened CAFE limits for light vehicles.  Covering new vehicles made between 2014 and 2018, DOT and EPA says the heavy-vehicle measures will "reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 250 million metric tons and save 500 million barrels of oil over the lives of the vehicles produced within the program’s first five years."

According to the New York Times, the standards draw heavily on a National Academy study issued earlier this year, which said that big fuel savings could be achieved by means of current technologies such as low-rolling-resistance tires, improved aerodynamics, better engines, hybrid-electric drive systems, and idling controls. The standards do not seem to owe much, however, to T. Boone Pickens' proposal to switch trucks to natural gas--in his revised "Pickens plan"--or to the long one-on-one conversation he boasted of having with Candidate Obama during the last presidential campaign.

In the new rules, if they take effect largely intact after a public comment period, tractor trailers including 18-wheelers will be required to show improved fuel efficiency of 20 percent, the heavier pickup trucks and vans of 10-15 percent, and specialized vehicles like fire engines and cement mixers of 10 percent. Though heavy vehicles are a relatively small proportion of all vehicles on the road, they account for a relatively large fraction of fuel consumption and emissions in the transportation sector. Enforcement of the new standards thus will go some way toward meeting Obama's 2020 greenhouse gas reduction pledge.

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This New Breed of Generator Can Run on Almost Any Fuel

Mainspring’s linear generator may speed the transition to a zero-carbon electrical grid

12 min read
This New Breed of Generator Can Run on Almost Any Fuel

Technicians work on the frame of a linear generator core.


It’s January 2030 and your electric heat pump is warming the house while your electric car charges in the garage, all powered by solar panels on your roof and by wind and solar generators at your local utility. It doesn’t matter that it’s been raining for two weeks because your utility is tapping into ammonia produced with last summer’s sunshine. It’s consuming that ammonia in a linear generator.

The linear generator can quickly switch between different types of green (and not-so-green, if need be) fuel, including biogas, ammonia, and hydrogen. It has the potential to make the decarbonized power system available, reliable, and resilient against the vagaries of weather and of fuel supplies. And it’s not a fantasy; it’s been developed, tested, and deployed commercially.

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