Have things changed?

I recently got a question about fuel economy. I am engrossed by this topic. People keep telling me, new cars are more fuel efficient than old cars. I agree, but that’s not the issue. How much more efficient are these new engines and cars than older ones? I’m not a scientist, I am not a researcher, heck I’m pretty poor and dumb. However, it’s my observation that gasoline itself, can’t burn much more efficiently than it currently does. Long ago we dealt with back fires from unburnt fuel, poorly working fueling system, low quality fitment tolerances, sticky bearings, and inconsistent fuel quality. Power production was low to the displacement, and the fuel burnt was a much smaller percentage than it is now. That was nearly 100 years ago. Today, each generation of motor barely makes the opportunity to burn the fuel provided quite completely. We’ve never been able to burn gasoline at a 100% rate. There is still a certain percentage burnt off along the exhaust system. Missing it’s opportunity to deliver power to the wheels.

The general public is still sold on gasoline engines, I suspect simply due to the fact they’re still the most convenient option. Auto manufacturers still continue to work developing new variations and versions. The public still demanding better fuel economy rather than switching fuel sources altogether. This seems quite miss calculated. What happens when we are able to burn 100% of the gasoline in our car? This would not mean an infinite fuel economy, this would mean we’ve maximized the power available from the fuel. We could still end up with only 50 or 60mpg. That’s still not an acceptable cost to operation ratio. Gasoline will still be consumed at a vast rate and the price will continue to rise. Though environmentally this is the most beneficial scenario from the use of gas, it still will have burnt emissions, even at a 100% burn. Now what?!

We now need to get better fuel economy still, even with our 100% burn. The motor, now, no longer matters. Let’s get to the actual root of good fuel economy: Low resistance. Resistance is the actual devil of fuel consumption. Resistance is thirsty for gas. What are our main areas of concern when it comes to resistance? Bearings-check, rolling resistance-check,  aerodynamic drag-check and weight-check. These are the true pathways to reduced fuel consumption. The motor can only provide so much, and to be honest, it’s very little.

It’s nice to know that the attitudes of manufacturers are changing, though it’s best to know, they only reflect the profitability of the attitudes of the customers. You request it, they will build it. Long ago, Volkswagen tackled the idea of reduced resistance, openly, but also mawkingly.

The formula for this joke? reduced weight, reduced rolling resistance, reduced aerodynamic drag and reduced weight. All the real factors of fuel economy. What’s kinda peculiar about this video is volkswagens open attitude. I want you now to watch the next video, pay close attention to the attitude of the vehicle, but also the perimeters. The weight, the rolling resistance (check tire width!), the aerodynamic drag, and the build quality (bearing resistance etc.).

What a lovely and exotic Volkswagen with a great leap forwar…..wait a minute. Are these the same tricks from nearly 30 years ago? Low weight, low rolling resistance, low air friction? You got it. Their customers attitudes may have changed, but it’s really the same old concepts, wrapped in a much newer appearing and sleeker packaged. What percentage of the fuel economy improvement is really attributed to the engine, and what percentage to the actual interaction of the car to the road. I feel the engine makes up far less than the average viewer can comprehend.

What does this mean for you and I? Do we need to rush to the nearest dealer to purchase the next best vehicle in fuel economy? No, sadly, today’s modern cars really are not much more fuel efficient than older ones. Much of it to do with their far greater weights. Can we adjust our older vehicles at an affordable cost to be far more fuel efficient? Yes.


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