Report: Micro-hybrids beat all-electric vehicles in reducing CO2 emission

January 12, 2016 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
To reach the emission goals of 95 grams of carbon dioxide (in Europe) or 54.2 mpg in the U.S (which equals a fuel consumption of 4.3 litres on 100 km), carmakers are betting heavily on a handful of recipes, with all-electric powertrains in the first place, as well as the use of lightweight materials for car bodies. Market intelligence company Lux Research has calculated that the highest contribution to low emission does not come from all-electric vehicles.

According to Lux Research, micro-hybrid concepts will provide the most economical route to meeting the emission targets – significantly more than battery electric and fuel cell drives. In a micro-hybrid, the car automatically stops its engine when it would otherwise be idling, using an improved or an additional battery to quickly restart it when it's time to move. Some micro-hybrids also recover the kinetic energy released when braking and store it in the battery. According to Lux Research, nearly half of the improvements required to meet the stiff emission targets will come from improvements in micro-hybrid technology, notably through improved batteries, while lighter structural materials will contribute 39% and improved fuels will add 13%.

“The automotive industry is under intense pressure to lower emissions and increase fuel efficiency. Improved energy storage options will help make micro-hybrids the most cost-effective way to respond, along with ongoing improvements to lightweight materials,” said Anthony Schiavo, Lux Research Associate and the lead author of the report titled, “Building the Car of 2025: How to Cost-Effectively Get to 54.5 MPG Using the Right Mix of Advanced Technologies.”

The analysts built a data-driven model and evaluated the innovations necessary to meet the 2025 fuel efficiency targets, and their impact on automobile prices. Among their findings:

  • Micro-hybrids lead the charge based on energy storage advances. Innovation in micro-hybrid technologies will be the biggest factor in the march towards greater fuel efficiency, contributing 48% of the improvements required to meet 2025 targets. Falling prices of lithium-ion batteries, lighter and better-performing 12V and 48V batteries, and better supercapacitors are among the changes powering energy storage.
  • Lighter materials are key. Lighter structural materials are at the heart of fuel efficiency and would contribute a hefty 39% of the targeted improvements for 2025. Carmakers such as Ford and GM have ongoing partnerships with companies like Alcoa and Nanosteel Company that develop materials to reduce weight; BMW and Volkswagen hold investments in