Category Archives: fuel economy

Euro Carmakers Build ‘Microhybrids’

European automakers don’t have time to wait for new batteries or complete engine redesigns to help them meet upcoming emissions standards. Instead, they are developing “microhybrid” systems that boost fuel efficiency by fine-tuning engines’ electrical systems.

“The beauty of this approach is that you don’t need to wait for a (major) battery breakthrough,” said Thomas Keim, assistant director of MIT’s Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems.

For Ford, that’s where John Kessels of Eindhoven University in the Netherlands came in. He developed a software tweak that reduced fuel consumption by 2.6 percent when tested on a Ford Mondeo with a 2-liter gas engine and a five-speed manual transmission (“a normal car for the EU,” Kessels said).  That doesn’t sound like much, but company bosses say such modifications are possible without passing a high cost to customers and without sacrificing performance. It’s a small step that can add up over time, kind of like switching to diet soda.

The algorithm improves fuel efficiency by monitoring the vehicle’s fuel map and other data to strategically switch the generator off and on, thereby using less energy to charge the battery. Standard internal combustion engines use the generator continuously.

BMW is also using some foundational hybrid technologies — like stop-start and electricity regeneration — to boost the fuel efficiency of its gasoline-powered cars.


Bill proposed to raise fuel economy standards 4% a year through 2018

U.S. Representative Ed Markey, D-Mass., is introducing a bill today that will require automakers to raise their fuel economy standards by 4% a year starting in late 2009 for cars and late 2011 for trucks. The key word here is “require,” as President Bush proposed a similar plan that was more of a really strong suggestion with a few loopholes than an actual law with penalties for not being followed.

On the brightside, Markey’s plan is reportedly less severe than previous ones he’s proposed, though it is estimated that raising fuel economy standards 4% a year will cost the auto industry a grand total of $114 billion between 2010 and 2017. U.S. automakers would likely shoulder about $85 billion of that expense. Markey’s plan would even require that fuel economy standards continue to rise 4% a year in 2018 and beyond, that is, if it’s technologically feasible. Talk about a big if.


Radical new Boeing aircraft takes flight (w/ major fuel savings)

It would be a dream come true for the airline industry: A plane that uses up to 30 percent less gas to reach its destination, compared with today’s jets.

That’s the promise of the blended-wing, a radically new kind of aircraft set to take to the skies for the first time this month. Originally conceived by McDonnell Douglas and developed by NASA, the blended-wing merges fuselage and wings and eliminates the tail, reducing drag. That makes it vastly more fuel-efficient than regular “tube-and-wing” jets, according to Boeing engineer Norm Princen.

For now Boeing is focused on making a military version of the plane by 2022. But by 2030 blended-wing aircraft could be carrying commercial passengers. Last November a team from MIT and Cambridge University unveiled the SAX-40, a blended-wing design that promises to be more fuel-efficient than a Toyota Prius – and thanks in part to the engine placement, just as quiet (at 63 decibels).


Study: Under-inflated Tires in the EU Waste 8.1 Billion Liters of Fuel Each Year

An estimated 93.5% of motorists in the EU are driving on under-inflated tires and causing an additional 18.4 million tons of carbon dioxide to be released into the environment, according to a recent analysis by Bridgestone Europe. That works out to an extra 6.9 g CO2/km for every car on Europe’s roads.

Based on the data collected in 2006, Bridgestone also estimates that 40% of vehicles consume an additional 2.8% in fuel due to their under-inflated tires, wasting 8.1 billion liters (2.14 billion gallons US) of fuel every year.

To collect data for the study, Bridgestone conducted free safety checks on 20,300 passenger cars in 19 EU countries during 2006. Only 6.5% of motorists had all tires correctly inflated, 54% had some degree of low inflation and 39.5% had at least one tire significantly under inflated (<1.5 bar or 21.8 psi). 12.0% of cars (1 in 8) were in danger of tire failure.


Bosch introduces new start-stop system

At the Geneva Motor Show this week a number of car-makers, including BMW, Daihatsu, Lotus and others, either showed or talked about cars equipped with start-stop systems to help improve fuel economy and emissions. Basically, the idea of start-stop is give some of the benefit of a hybrid at minimal cost, by shutting off the internal combustion engine whenever the vehicle comes to a stop, and then re-starting as soon as the brake is released. The manufacturers of the systems that were displayed were Valeo and Bosch.

The Bosch system goes into production this month and will be installed on the updated BMW 1-series. The Bosch system basically consists of a beefed up starter motor, along with some electronic control that monitors, the accelerator, brake and clutch positions and the battery voltage. If the battery voltage is too low, the system disables, but otherwise functions to improve mileage up to eight percent in urban driving. Obviously highway driving will be unaffected, but that’s not a bad improvement for a system that requires no other changes to the drive-train.


New BMW 1-Series Features New Gasoline and Diesel Engines; Start-Stop and Regenerative Braking Standard 

Econobrowser sounds off on CAFE standards

“CAFE standards are based on the premise that auto manufacturers and consumers are making inappropriate decisions about the kind of vehicles that get produced. The clearest way to motivate this from an economic perspective would be to suggest that there are costs to using gasoline beyond those paid directly by consumers, such as a geopolitical cost when the U.S. relies on imported oil or possible consequences for the world climate. But if that is the motivation, an economically more efficient way to accomplish the objective would be to tax the gasoline use itself so that the after-tax price paid by consumers completely reflects whatever these true costs are deemed to be. This has the benefits of providing an incentive not just to purchase more fuel-efficient cars, but also to encourage more fuel conservation in the use of the existing fleet through such measures as driving slower, driving less, or getting more of the existing mileage from the more fuel-efficient vehicles. And it allows consumers and firms the maximum flexibility to figure out how to do this in the least disruptive way.”

more at Econobrowser

[Ed. note: But,what about the inherent regressive nature of a gasoline tax? Surely gas is underpriced in this country, but is a gas tax really preferential to increased CAFE standards? Well, that probably depends on whether or not you’re poor – or a car company. The truth is, the two are probably needed in conjunction with one another…]

EU seeks mandatory car emissions curbs, Automakers fight back

The European Commission unveiled a broad strategy to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from cars on Wednesday, proposing binding limits that automakers say will threaten jobs and lead to big price increases for consumers.

It wants to increase the fuel efficiency of new cars by 18% by 2012 and ensure that new vehicles emit no more than 130g of CO2 per kilometre, compared with 162g/km in 2005.

European car makers have described plans to force them to cut back on harmful exhaust emissions as “unbalanced” and “damaging”. But environmentalists say the proposal does not go far enough.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the rules were essential to meet the bloc’s Kyoto commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent by 2012 from 1990 levels.

[BBC News & WashingtonPost]

“What the President Got Right”

It “fell far short” (Washington Post editorial) and offers only “marginal” gains (New York Times editorial) and is “nonsense” (Charles Krauthammer) and “isn’t much” (Thomas Friedman). All these are descriptions of the energy policy proposal in George W. Bush’s State of the Union address last week. They don’t match the plan itself.

Last week Bush proposed something environmentalists, energy analysts, greenhouse-effect researchers, and national-security experts have spent 20 years pleading for: a major strengthening of federal mileage standards for cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks. The number-one failing of U.S. energy policy is that vehicle mile-per-gallon standards have not been made stricter in two decades.

Nothing the United States can do in energy policy is more important than an mpg increase. Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton, and, until last week, George W. Bush had all refused to face the issue of America’s low-mpg vehicles, which are the root of U.S. dependency on Persian Gulf oil and a prime factor in rising U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions. But now Bush favors a radical strengthening of federal mileage rules, and last week to boot became the first Republican president since Gerald Ford to embrace the basic concept of federal mileage regulation (called the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard).


Fuzzy Math

Max Shulz, “Addicted to Big Government” [article from the New Review]:

The White House is touting two ways to achieve that 20 percent reduction in 10 years. The first calls for raising Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. But raising CAFE standards has it backwards. Making vehicles more efficient actually will increase gasoline consumption. By lowering the price per mile of driving, Americans will drive more, not less, and overall consumption will rise. That, after all, is the history of our experiment with CAFE standards. Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards were introduced in the mid-1970s. Since then, motor gasoline consumption has gone up. Americans now consume one-third more motor gasoline each year than in 1975, the year Congress introduced CAFE standards.

Is he serious? Americans use more gasoline now because such a large percentage of the population drives SUVs, which are subject to lower CAFE standards because they are classified as ‘light trucks’! (In 2005, 55% of all new vehicles sold were light trucks – In 1975 that figure was 25%) Suburban sprawl might have something to do with it as well.  Perhaps Shulz, and the New Review, advance such dubious statistics because they have a problem with government regulation in general – just a hunch…