The other day Ford and Toyota announced a partnership to develop hybrid drive train technology for light trucks and SUV's. That nice announcement filled my mind with images of contractors, construction workers and farmers driving around hybrid F-150's or F-250's starting in 2020ish. But then a couple brain cells clicked together bringing back memories of two recent announcements. In the most recent the White House Announced First Ever Oil Savings Standards for Heavy Duty Trucks, Buses, which effectively created a program like the CAFE standard to big trucks. A couple weeks earlier they announced the first significant upgrade to the CAFE standards in three decades, which would require 54.5 miles/gallon average fuel efficiency across the U.S. fleet by 2025 (see President Obama Announces Historic 54.5 mpg Fuel Efficiency Standard).
Since the 1970's the CAFE standards have been in place attempting to rein in fuel usage because of the oil crises of the 1970's. It was later misdirected into greenhouse gas reduction when people forgot about the 1970's oil crises. However light trucks (and SUV's), medium duty trucks, big trucks, etc were never restricted by fuel efficiency requirements, so the new efficiency standards for trucks was a big deal. While the big truck standard does not apply to the light trucks and SUV's targeted by the Ford/Toyota announcement, the 54.5 MPG standard does. And it seems, Ford and Toyota are smart enough to recognize this, and to work together to make sure they're ready to meet those standards.
The connection? The new CAFE standard ramps up fuel efficiency requirements until in 2025 the F-150 average efficiency must be 23MPG (on the EPA window sticker). When do Ford and Toyota expect to begin selling vehicles based on the new drive train design? By the end of this decade, meaning the 2018-19 time frame.
Under the deal Ford and Toyota engineers will jointly develop drive train components for a rear wheel drive hybrid drive train. They'll be targeting light trucks and SUV's explicitly.
It seems to me that the Obama Administration is being beaten up for not acting strongly enough on environmental issues. But this is actually a big deal, and one that has outright cooperation by the trucking and automobile industry. The first major jump in CAFE standards in thirty years would be significant enough on its own, because it stands to save the American economy trillions of dollars and adjust the energy usage curve downward. But reaching an agreement for fuel efficiency standards for big trucks is an even bigger deal.
The Ford/Toyota agreement should be seen as a sign of how important this is. Would they have decided to hook up without the increased fuel efficiency requirements?
Ford, Toyota Team Up on Hybrid Pickups: "...The partnership comes as federal regulators finalize plans to increase corporate average fuel economy standards to 54.5 mpg by the 2025 model year....The Ford F-150 has long been the best-selling truck in the United States, and Toyota dominates the hybrid market. But neither company sells a full-size rear-wheel-drive hybrid truck, and the companies that have — most notably General Motors — saw little success..." The article goes on to note that GM's hybrid's add megabucks to the pricetag, and come with limitations like limited towing capacity.
The Ford/Toyota press release went to great length to say their design won't force customers to compromise on performance.
“The EPA fuel standards are a big challenge for us automakers,” Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s executive vice president for research and development, said through a translator at a press conference in Detroit. “Trucks and SUVs are vehicles that the American society cannot do without. This collaboration we are forming with Ford is not only about lowering carbon dioxide but making light-duty trucks and SUVs more affordable.”
Why Ford and Toyota will jointly develop hybrid truck technology: "... The need to double fuel efficiency by 2025 drove Ford and Toyota to work jointly on development of a new hybrid drivetrain for SUVs and light trucks. ... In the U.S., the auto industry must deliver a corporate average fuel economy of 54.5 mpg by the 2025 model. Owing to unusual ways of calculating CAFE, it’s equal to about 40 mpg to 45 mpg in real-world driving. Either way, fuel economy must roughly double in 15 years. If a pickup truck or big honking SUV can’t deliver 40 real-world mpg, then a smaller vehicle in the automaker’s line has to reach 55 mpg to counterbalance Shamu’s 25 mpg. Or 50 and 30."