Saturday, October 15, 2005

Getting more miles to the gallon.

There's lots of technology available to increase the fuel economy of a vehicle. Unfortunately the traditional U.S. automakers all but ignored improving fuel economy on there vehicles because gas was cheap. Mean while the Korean and Japanese manufacturers quietly improved the fuel economy of there vehicles and worked on hybrids, variable valve timing, and increasing horse power per liter of displacement.

Most of the ideas that are now being implemented on new vehicles existed for years. However, there really wasn't any effort to take on these technologies. For example:

1. Demand on displacement: This technology has been available for years, however GM dropped the idea a long time ago and now it is coming back in a big way. It is even available on high performance vehicles like the new Dodge Charger.

2. Use lighter materials: If you drop the weight of a vehicle by 10% you can improve the mileage by around 5%. One way is by combining body and frame elements into a simplified "unibody." Today we are finally doing this by the introduction of the cross over vehicles which are part SUV, Car, and Minivan.

3. Reducing drag . Did you know that the Honda Pilot SUV has almost the same drag as some cars. Honda was careful in how they laid out their components and was able to reduce the drag on the vehicle. Proper tire inflaction reduces rolling resistance of the vehicle. Now days a lot of vehicles have low tire pressure sensors. This is a great idea because most people do not check there air pressure very often.

4. Using smarter engines, today's engines are very high tech. The key is technology to achieve the horse power vs. raw displacement. European's now buy more diesel engine equipped cars than gas powered. Variable valve timing, allows for increased power and fuel economy.

5. Using the stop start technology called starter generator is also another idea that is coming back. About 15% of gas is wasted when a car's engine idles during stops. GM will be introducing this on this years Saturn View. Basically it is golf cart technology that has been available for years. When you put you foot on the gas the vehicle moves, when your foot is on the brake the engine shuts off. Sounds like a simple idea that could have been implemented a long time ago.

6. Six speed transmissions, did you know that the new six speed transmission will allow vehicles to get better mileage than a manual 4 speed trans.

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