Giant leaps of vehicle technology are the stuff of dreams: flying cars, sunmobiles that run solely on solar power or two-wheeled helicars held in balance by gyroscopes. But the path toward cleaner cars will be walked in tiny steps. There’s a place for all-electric and even semi-autonomous vehicles, but tweaks to designs that burn gasoline will deliver much of the fuel-economy gains expected in the coming decades.
Guzzlers are on their way out. This spring, the average fuel economy of all newly purchased cars climbed as high as it’s ever been, to 24.6 miles per gallon, according to an analysis from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). Fuel economy will surely climb even higher: By 2025, national standards demand that automakers achieve a fleet average of at least 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks.