Never in the history of the automobile have engineers worked so hard to use so little fuel. With a 54.5mpg corporate average fuel economy mandate looming in the next 12 years, all have begun development of new technologies that will help cut gasoline consumption. Many new engines now employ direct injection fuel delivery, cylinder deactivation, and variable cam timing. Some use turbochargers to provide a boost only when it's needed, thereby minimizing engine displacement. Many companies are also building transmissions with eight or more speeds as a means of wasting as little energy as possible.
Here, we offer a collection of some of the engine and transmission technologies shown at the recent 2013 North American International Auto Show. From tiny three-cylinder engines to massive V-8s, it demonstrates that fuel efficiency is the biggest motivator for automakers going forward.
Click on the image below to start the slideshow.
GM's 6.2L V-8 delivers 450 HP and 450 lb-ft of torque to the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette. It employs a direct injection fuel system, active fuel management, and variable valve timing. GM engineers used computational fluid dynamics to optimize the combustion system and ensure a more complete burn. (Source: Chevrolet)
Charles, I'm not sure it's taxes ... they tend to be not a significant factor, even with a bias to try and balance road repair based on typical vehicle axle weights between the two fuels. I think it's more the strong environmentalist dislike for "dirty diesel" because of visible exhaust particulates on smell differences.
Cost of fuel is a small factor, in that we have gone thru several reductions of sulfur, that have caused higher diesel prices as forumations changed. But in general, fuel economy differences, mitigate most of that higher per gallon sticker shock.
My ex-wife got upset when the sulfur content was dropped 15 years ago, and diesel prices spiked for a while. She asked that her 1982 2WD 6.2L suburban (averaging 20mpg) be replaced with a gas 1994 350 model (averaging 15mpg) ... and was suprised when her weekly fuel costs jumped 20% because of relatively poor fuel economy.
Take for example this 1985 S15 2WD diesel truck (http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/noframes/1488.shtml) at 27mpg combined, with it's gas equiv at 19mpg combined (http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/noframes/1492.shtml)
Being rural, we stack up quite a few more miles per year, in the 30-50K/yr range, so diesels tend to save about $3k/yr in fuel costs. We also tend to run our trucks to 500K miles over their lifetime (one of two new engines), so that savings in fuel cost exceeds the purchase price of the truck.
So far we have taken a 1963 corvair, a 1982 6.2L Suburban, a 1985 C3500 6.2L dually, a 1985 1/2ton stepside pickup over 500K miles ... and a couple others well over 300K miles. The 2001 TDI Beetle is now over 300K with a new enginee. My 1997 K2500 6.5L Suburban is my shop at 300K now, for a new engine and trans, and is likely to be the next to go over 500K inside the next 10 years.
Diesel is just cheaper to operate ... both in fuel cost, and repairs. That adds up significantly, to cover the entire purchase cost of a car/truck if operated over 300K miles.
Those who do not study history... Back in the early 1930's the German railways compared four different power transmission methods in four locomotives powered by identical diesel engines. The diesel mechanical was poor. The diesel hydraulic didn't turn them on. Diesel electric worked well. The best, clearly, was a diesel-pneumatic locomotive, more fuel-efficient and faster. What worked well then would work well now, especially as a hybrid, storing energy in compressed air tanks (simple ferrous metal or composite technology) instead of expensive batteries. (see US patent 5,832,728) The diesel engine drives an air pump, which could be interal with the engine, and the air supplies a "steam engine" (the drive motor). (the Germans converted a steam locomotive) There are two tricks which make it practical:
(1) Cool the pump by injecting water, so the output is a mixture of air and steam. As the air expands, doing work, the steam condenses, and the latent heat reheats the air. It thermodynamically efficient: cool air and water in, cool air and water out, little wasted heat. (Filter out the water droplets and you can drink them or recycle them)
(2) Use waste heat from the diesel exhaust to heat the pump output, getting "something for nothing."
In the modern context, add some storage tanks. (At 30 bar, 300C, you can store about a kilowatt-hour per cubic foot) For regenerative braking, use "engine braking" where the pump is driven by the vehicle momentum and puts the output into a tank instead of the drive motor.
There are no scarce or toxic materials involved, and the technology is simple and mature. Hitler wanted the fuel for tanks and planes, so the German railroads scrapped their diesels, but what they could do in 1932 should be easy 80 years later and applicable to automobiles. If I had the money, I'd convert a diesel truck, putting enough scuba tanks in or under the bed to have a pollution-free range of 100 miles on stored air. With the tanks full, I could drag race Corvettes.
Volkswagen AG is developing a lithium-air battery that could triple the range of its electric cars, but industry experts believe it could be a long time before that chemistry is ready for production vehicles.
Californiaís plan to mandate an electric vehicle market isnít the first such undertaking and certainly wonít be the last. But as the Golden State ratchets up for its next big step toward zero-emission vehicle status in 2018, it might be wise to consider a bit of history.
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