By 2025, every automaker will need to boost its corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) to 54.5mpg. That's not an easy task, so most manufacturers are already working with suppliers on products to help squeeze the most out of every gallon of gas. The obvious way to do that is to use electrified powertrains. But not all vehicles can do that, so automakers are building new engines, and vendors are dreaming up fuel-stingy components.
From fuel injectors and air conditioning compressors to tires and power steering systems, we offer a potpourri of technologies aimed at boosting CAFE to 54.5mpg.
Click the image below for a slideshow of 19 lesser-known mileage boosters.
Low-rolling resistance tires, like those on the Chevy Cruze Eco, use a silica compound and a revised tread design to provide a solid road feel and improved fuel efficiency. (Source: GM)
In reality a higher battery voltage will mean a larger alternator and a greater alternator load. The reason for the higher voltage is to provide enough electrical power for all of the loads. The higher voltage was never to reduce the weight of the wires. The first suggestion s for the 36 volt system, (42 volts) was to power the electrically heated catalytic converter. The concept was to delay the start while bringing the catalyst up to operating temperature using electrical heat. The power consumed was about the same as for cranking the engine for several minutes. The good news is that the idea was so very stupid that it was never released. What could be useful for the stop-start driving method would be a 24 volt alternator/starter unit, such as the Continental one pictured in the slideshow.
What stands in the way of the effective impplementation of the ultimate stop-start system is engine driven power steering, and air conditioning demands. Right now, I can shift my car into neutral and coast to a light, but it will not drop below 1500RPM until the vehicle is stopped. That is to assure power steering bost while still moving.
With most cars now being much lighter than when power steering first became popular, it seems that we should go back to the non-powered type of steering systems. They were not that hard to turn, and they were both less expensive and more reliable. And if we got rid of some drivers, so much the better. Fewer drivers, les crowded roads.
Referring to slide #7, aluminum wiring. That's a very bad idea. While aluminum may be lighter than copper, aluminum oxidizes far more easily than copper, causing faulty electrical connections. It was used in houses for a while, but caused many fires and has since been discontinued. Now add to that, the temperature and humidity of an automotive application, I predict that the reliability will be extremely low. Bad idea!
A big problem with a high battery voltage like 36 or 42 volts is that the various incandescent lamps in the vehicle will have longer, thinner, more fragile filaments. This would greatly reduce their reliability. While everything is moving toward LEDs, switch-mode power converters will be needed to adapt LEDs to such a high voltage. This would cause weight, cost and reliability issues. Of course, even at 12 volts, higher powered LEDs would require switch-mode power converters to avoid energy loss. The size and cost of the components in a switch-mode power converter are affected by the wattage, not the battery voltage.
The military uses 28 volts on aircraft. I know because I spent most of my career designing automatic test tquipment for aircraft and missile electronics. I imagine the military uses 24 volts in vehicles. I have no experience with that.
An even "better" idea for lightweight wiring is Sodium. High conductivity, light weight. Amazingly, it is trying to make a comeback (www.sodiumwire.com). Just remember, don't let it get wet, and never, ever, feed it after midnight.
A recently released government report has raised the hopes of automakers looking for a break on future fuel economy regulations, despite the warnings of an Environmental Protection Agency official who said the agency is unlikely to back down on its goal of 54.5 mpg by 2025.
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