When one wishes to reduce a vehicle’s fuel consumption, the first place to look is often the engine.
Hybrid technology, diesel engines, and electric motors all offer impressive fuel efficiency while run-of-the-mill gas engines are continually becoming more and more efficient as well.
That being said, the engine does a play a major role in improving a particular car’s fuel efficiency, but there are other factors as well. Different technologies can be applied to the motor itself, or to other components of the car, and can also contribute in their own way to saving you some gas money, while also benefiting our poor old Earth.
We have decided to compile a list of these different technologies that make a car consume less fuel. The goal of this list is to show the prospective buyer certain features and items to be on the lookout for when shopping around. If you are about to buy a new or used car, then use this list to compare different vehicles. All else equal, a car’s performance in everything below can either improve or impede its fuel efficiency.
In other words, there is more to a car’s mileage prowess than just the engine!
Wind resistance in an important factor to improving or diminishing fuel economy. Manufacturers are constantly striving to lower a car’s wind resistance and reduce friction. It is fairly easy to understand why as wind can act as a barrier, forcing your engine to work harder to break through. Engineers have toyed with almost all exterior components including headlights, bumpers, windshield angle, and the hood just to name a few, in order to make them smoother. Some manufacturers go even further in their quest for limited wind resistance. Such is the case of Chevrolet, which has installed on its Cruze Eco model a system of motorized flaps that automatically close when needed in order to reduce air entry into the radiator, an important cause of wind resistance.
Number of Speeds
The number of speeds available on both automatic and manual transmissions has been steadily increasing in recent years. Not so long ago, a 6-speed automatic transmission was reserved exclusively for high-end luxury cars while a 6-speed manual was standard fare only on high-performance exotics. Now, many luxury cars offer 8 speeds on their automatic transmissions while the all new Porsche 911 offers a whopping 7 speeds to choose from on its manual transmission. As a rule of thumb, the more gears your transmission has, the less energetic demand is imposed on your engine, all other things equal. Also, keep in mind that when comparing different final drive ratios, the lowest one will reduce a given vehicle’s fuel consumption.
Weight is a car’s worst enemy. Colin Chapman knew this, and so should you. Not only will weight reduce a vehicle’s performance, it will also reduce fuel efficiency. Manufacturers have spent a lot of money and a lot of hours studying various materials and design ideas in order to lower the overall weight of their cars, while keeping the rigidity and the safety of the car intact. We all know about carbon fiber, the king of the weight/rigidity ratio, but unfortunately it is still too expensive for use on mass production vehicles. Aluminium however is appearing in more and more new cars. Firstly, it is less expensive than carbon fiber, and secondly, it significantly reduces the overall weight of a car without any compromises on the performance or safety side of things.
Of course, engineers are also looking inside the cockpit for components that could use a diet, along with the plastic that cover the headlights, the windshield, the windows, and anywhere else they can reduce weight. So, when shopping around, always check the weight of the cars you are considering because all other things equal, a heavier will require more fuel.
This technology is relatively new, and allows the engine to “shut down” part of the cylinders in an engine that are not required under certain given road conditions. For example, Hemi engines found in Dodge and Chrysler products, which have 8 cylinders, can in some instances use only 4 cylinders if the full 8 are not required, like on the highway. So, what you get is 4-cylinder fuel efficiency, with the extra 4 cylinders still available if you need them.
Stop&Go or Stop&Start braking systems will cut the engine whenever you reach a red light, or any other situation where you will be stopped for at least a few seconds. When it is time to move forward again, the engine starts up again. The main advantage of thest types of systems, that are mostly found on electric or hybrid vehicles, is that whenever you do not need your engine, it is not sitting idly buy, burning fuel for no reason.
Low Rolling Resistance Tires
We talked about this in the aerodynamics section, the more resistance that your car encounters, the lower your fuel efficiency will be. Tires can also contribute to increase resistance by losing their shape and elasticity because of your car’s weight. When this occurs, energy is lost as the tire begins to heat up. Luckily, many tire manufacturers and their engineers have created low rolling resistance tires, that keep their shape, thus reducing friction and energy loss, and improving fuel efficiency.
Of course, the best indicator of a vehicle’s fuel efficiency will always be the amount of liters of fuel in requires per 100 kilometers driven (L/100km). That being said, there are other factors such as the ones stated above that you can look at as well. By combining some or all of the factors listed in this article, you will definitely be contributing to reducing your car’s fuel consumption, and lessening its impact on the environment.