How Cars Are Becoming More Fuel Efficient

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As technology has improved over the past few years and the government has passed serious laws concerning the impact the automotive industry has on the environment, newer vehicles are much more fuel efficient than similar models that were released just a few years ago.

Despite the rise in fuel efficiency, however, vehicles seem to be getting more affordable each year.

If you’re wondering how this is possible, you’re not the only one. The following are several ways that cars are becoming more fuel efficient.


Fuel Source

A big factor in fuel efficiency is the type of fuel that cars use. While you may be used to premium, regular, and diesel, you may have noticed the sticker at your local gas station that says that 10% of the gasoline you’re purchasing is ethanol.

Ethanol is a type of fuel made from corn that can be burned in a regular combustion engine without producing the harmful pollution that gasoline is known for.

While ethanol may not bring the price of gas down much, it does burn better than gasoline, at least to some extent, and has contributed to better fuel efficiency in modern vehicles.


Electric Motor

Anyone who owns a hybrid car can understand how much gas can be saved by switching to an electric motor.

While vehicles that depend completely on an electric motor aren’t very powerful and need to be recharged regularly, a hybrid vehicle that combines the efficiency of an electric motor with the raw power produced by a combustion engine can save drivers a ton of gas without a significant loss in performance.


Direct Injection

Direct injection is a new type of technology that involves injecting a very precise amount of fuel into a combustion engine at the most ideal time in order to maximize the amount of energy produced by each cycle.

Direct injection has been shown to increase fuel efficiency, make engines more powerful, and even produce less pollution in some circumstances.


Less Weight

Another way that cars are becoming more fuel efficient has to do with how cars are being built.

While older vehicles were made of steel, newer vehicles are made of aluminum, fiber glass, and even ceramic materials.

By reducing the total amount of weight that a combustion engine or hybrid motor has to move, newer vehicles are able to get better gas mileage and tend to have more reliable engines.


Cutting CO2 Emissions

Though cutting C02 emissions don’t have much to do with fuel efficiency, the need to lower CO2 emissions in newer vehicles, with harsh penalties for those who don’t, car manufacturers have had to take a step back and completely re-evaluate how they build cars.

In the process of doing so, they have come up with several ingenious ways to improve fuel efficiency and make cars more affordable while also making those vehicles less hazardous to the environment, including all of the previously mentioned examples.

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6 thoughts on “How Cars Are Becoming More Fuel Efficient”

  1. Why all the lies about corn ethanol fuel. This product is worse for the environment then gasoline according to every environment group.

      • According to EPA gas mileage drops 3 to 4 % when 10% ethanol is added to gasoline, this fuel is know as E10 fuel. Ethanol use doesn’t belong in an article that is discussing improved fuel efficiency.

        • Erocker, these scientists and engineers absolutely disagree with you:

          FROM RICARDO:

          The new federal CAFE standards are calling for a doubling of fuel mileage performance, which, Vint says, is going to send OEM’s looking for high octane numbers to improve efficiency and ethanol is the best source. Ricardo, an engineering firm with over 100 years in the business of engine design, has developed an extreme boosted direct injection engine (EBDI) to optimize ethanol blends. The 3.2 V6 gasoline engine rivals the power and torque of a much larger GMC Sierra 6.6 diesel, he said, and it delivers 3.5 percent better fuel economy than the diesel.


          According to Cummins, it delivers the power (up to 250 hp) and peak torque (up to 450 lb. ft.) of gasoline and diesel engines nearly twice its displacement…

          …Using corn derived E-85, the high thermal efficiency and power-to-weight ratio of this engine results in 50 to 58 percent lower well-to-wheels CO2 emissions compared with the gasoline engine baseline. Using second-generation, lingo-cellulosic derived E-85, the power train’s efficiency features deliver 75 to 80 percent lower well-to-wheels CO2 emissions, depending on the drive cycle.

          FROM SCANIA:

          Scania has a number of products available for running on bioethanol – e.g. buses, trucks and waste collectors. Scania is the only vehicle manufacturer to date that has successfully produced bioethanol applications for heavy transport. Our engines adapted for bioethanol fuel have the same energy efficiency as a standard diesel engine and fulfill the Euro 5/ EEV emission level.

          FROM THE EPA:

          An important step toward increasing alcohol fuel demand, then, may lie in providing economical engine technology options that utilize such fuels more efficiently, to compensate for the lower fuel energy density. The FFVs produced today, however, use fairly typical gasoline engines, which, because they must retain dual-fuel capability, are not able to take full advantage of the favorable combustion characteristics of alcohols. Engines optimized for alcohol fuel use, on the other hand, may yield efficiencies that exceed that of state-of-the-art diesel engines—or, about one third higher than that of FFV engines. In earlier engine research at EPA with neat methanol and ethanol [1], for example, over 40% brake thermal efficiency was achieved over a relatively broad range of loads and speeds, with peak levels reaching over 42%.


          Compared to production gasoline engines:

          Fuel efficiency is ~15 – 20% improved for various drive cycles.

          Full load performance is significantly improved, and comparable to production diesel engines.

          General Motors:

          …the Saab 9-5 flex-fuel engine can give improved fuel consumption under mid to high load conditions. Whilst fuel economy over the official EU city and mixed cycles is unlikely to show an improvement, testing indicates that a useful 15 per cent gain can be expected at higher speeds because fuel enrichment for engine cooling is no longer necessary.

          In its Saab turbo application, the high 104 RON octane rating of E85 fuel, the 85 per cent ethanol/gasoline blend most commonly available at filling stations, also produces a significant 20 per cent increase in maximum engine power, up from 150 to 180 bhp.

          THE INDY 500:

          In 2005, the IRL used 100 percent methanol in their tanks. The fuel worked well and was more efficient than straight gasoline, but IRL officials believed there was room for improvement. In 2006, they moved to a 10 percent blend of ethanol and methanol, which was then changed to 100 percent ethanol for the 2007 season…

          …The switch to ethanol also allowed the racers to carry less fuel and make fewer pit stops, thereby increasing efficiency even more. “When the cars ran on methanol tanks had to hold 30 gallons to accommodate the fuel requirements of the cars,” Vervynckt says. “After getting the engines to perform at their full potential, there was a significant gain in mileage. Indy cars now have 22-gallon tanks. When a driver pulls in to change out his tires, he can fill up. Teams were able to match their tire and fuel stops exactly, instead of stopping for tires only, or fuel only.”s

      • No it does not and I will prove it.

        Oak Ridge National Laboratory measured our current flex fuel fleet measuring fuel economy with power factored in so as to compare apples to apples.

        While being super clean burning compared to gasoline they found that the average fuel economy when power was factored in(called the gasoline equivalent ratio) was 3% better.

        See bottom of page 7 and top of 8:

        That is with low compression gasoline optimized engines.

        With high compression engines you can almost double that efficiency.

  2. With all these supposed increases in fuel efficiency, it’s amazing that the average American vehicle still only gets an EPA rating of 26 MPG combined. I seriously doubt most folks get that on a regular basis.


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