Many government policies aim to reduce energy-use and CO2 emissions of transportation, which is now the highest emitting sector of CO2 in the United States. These policies influence the engineering design tradeoffs that vehicle manufacturers face, often in surprising and significant ways. This talk will describe methods of optimizing the design of vehicle systems in the presence of policy and market forces, so that manufacturers and policymakers can anticipate strategic design responses to regulations. These methods draw on engineering design optimization, game theory, and econometric data analytics.
As a case-in-point, Professor Whitefoot will discuss a recent analysis of the influence of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations on automotive manufacturers’ optimal powertrain and product-line designs. By combining powertrain design optimization simulations with oligopolistic economic-equilibrium models, the analysis examines automakers’ technological tradeoffs considering the behavior of consumers and competing automakers. Results indicate that manufacturers have an incentive to tune the powertrains of many of their vehicles to tradeoff acceleration performance with fuel economy in response to the recently reformed regulations. These “acceleration tradeoffs” can be important in two ways: (1) they reduce the compliance costs of the regulations, and (2) they can reduce emissions by mitigating incentives to shift production toward larger vehicles and light trucks relative to passenger cars.
Kate S. Whitefoot is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. Her research bridges engineering design with industrial organizational economics to inform the design and manufacture of products and processes for improved adoption in the marketplace. Professor Whitefoot’s current interests include sustainable transportation and manufacturing systems, the influence of innovation and technology policies on engineering design and production, product lifecycle systems optimization, and product-line design.
Professor Whitefoot has gained recognition nationally and internationally for her research and teaching. Her work is featured in the Washington Post, Popular Mechanics, Bloomberg Business, and Business Insider, and referenced in the 2017-2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy rulemaking. She has worked with many industrial partners and has been invited to present briefings at the White House, Capitol Hill, the Department of Commerce, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Prior to her current position, she served as a Senior Program Officer and the Robert A. Pritzker fellow at the National Academy of Engineering where she directed the Academy’s Manufacturing, Design, and Innovation program.