Non-IC Propulsion Systems


As a mature, widely diffused technology, internal combustion (IC) engines for automobiles and other light vehicles have achieved relatively high levels of energy efficiency subject to the constraints of variable loads and emission control requirements


Non-IC vehicle propulsion systems are in earlier stages of development but hold promise of both increased energy efficiency and reduced levels of pollution. Energy storage and generation technologies for non-IC vehicles, such as electric batteries and fuel cells, are treated elsewhere in this report. However, the vehicle propulsion systems using these technologies require new design or redesign of many other components and subsystems including transmissions or drivetrains, starters, brakes, and such amenities as heating and air conditioning.


Automobiles are the largest single source of urban air pollution. If non-IC-powered cars had comparable performance to cars which run on internal combustion engines and were sold at comparable price, they could provide dramatically improved urban air quality, greatly mitigate the compliance costs for other sectors of the economy, and save billions of dollars in imported oil.


In addition, U.S. automakers are beginning to pull even with Japanese automakers in adopting the "lean production" manufacturing techniques, so the product differentiation inherent in gaining a first mover advantage in a "clean car" could provide a significant comparative advantage to a sector currently comprising one- seventh of the U.S. economy. Advanced non-IC propulsion systems are essential to the success of the Partnership for the New Generation of Vehicles, an effort to build an advanced automobile for the next century.