In 2025, when the auto industry would be required to meet a 54.5-mile-per-gallon fuel economy target that the Obama administration is about to announce, the vehicles Americans will drive may not look very different than those on the road today, industry and environmental experts say.
But what will be under the hood is another story.
From pick-up trucks and SUVs to hybrids and subcompact cars, almost every vehicle sold in the United States is likely to boast the advanced technology now confined to only the most fuel-efficient.
While the new standard will be a big numerical step beyond the 34 mpg average mandated for 2012, experts say the secret to achieving it is not some huge breakthrough such as inventing a super battery. Rather, the key will be applying what’s already known or on the drawing boards to almost every vehicle, not just a relative handful of super-efficient cars and trucks.
"You have to look at a vehicle not just as one thing that will put you over the goal line but all sorts [of] different things that will help you," said Richard Truett, a Ford Motor Co. spokesman. "We have a head start on that. But everyone has to do it."