Thursday, June 4, 2015

If Energy Self-Sufficiently Is A Good Thing, Why Are We So Slow In Developing More Fuel Efficient Vehicles

Yesterday while celebrating my B-day with my cousin with the same B-day the topic of gas prices came up. The consensus seemed to be that this country needs to be energy self-sufficient. Later after I got home I got to thinking about that and the thing that came to mind is that nobody seems to be working very hard at making more fuel efficient vehicles, more horsepower, Yes, more mpg, Not So Much!! All they are doing is tinkering around the edges!!

While on average the vehicles these days get better mileage than before, it's not that much better individually. Personally I can come up with several examples of how cars haven't improved much if at all. I had a '94 Escort that got better mileage than The Old Lady's 2009 Focus. In 15 years you'd think there would have been a huge improvement in similar cars, but no!! As a matter of fact, The Kid had a '87 Olds 88 with a 3.8L V-6 that got around 35mpg on the highway or about what the Focus gets now.(Focus has a 2.0L four-banger.) Whenever gas mileage comes up The Old Lady usually mentions Wendy. Wendy was a 1982 Datsun 200SX. It had a 2.2L engine with a 5 speed and got 32-36mpg. (It was named Wendy because it would nag you, a voice would say; Door is ajar, Fuel level is low, Lights are on, etc.......)

I remember my uncle having an early 60s Falcon that got 30mpg. There were other cars back then like the Ramblers that got good mileage, but people wanted more horsepower not good gas mileage. The question I have is if they could make cars with that kind of mileage 20-30-50-60 years ago, why don't we have cars today that get 50-60mpg?????????? Could all those old conspiracy theories of long ago about all the high mileage carburetors and other improvements being suppressed by the oil companies have some truth to them???????????

I remember reading articles when I was in high school (this year is my 50th reunion) about cars that were made to get better mileage. One was a 1950 Plymouth with a flat head 6. Texaco converted the engine to overhead valve with direct fuel injection. The fuel was injected into the cylinder in a swirling pattern that made combustion more complete.  It got 50mpg on any combustible liquid that you could pump thru the injectors. They used gas, kerosene, peanut oil and fuel oil, it didn't matter what it was, it ran and ran good. This was before there was electronic fuel injection.

Another one I remember was a class project. A high school shop class made a car that got 110mpg using off-the-self parts. They took a MGB and used a Kubota 3 cylinder diesel engine with a 5 speed transmission and a two speed overdrive. (They managed to make a British car halfway reliable!!) Granted it probably wasn't a very speedy car to drive, but there should be something that got good mileage and was drivable!!

The above articles were in magazines like Mechanix Illustrated, Popular Science, or Popular Mechanics. At the time about all I read were magazines that were car related, other than magazines like Playboy.

I tried doing some google searches looking for these examples, but didn't have any luck. The articles are probably somewhere in cyber-space, but I wasn't using the right "magic words"!! I did find a blogpost about a 1970 Morris Minor that got 40mpg. This is using technology that is at least 60 years old!! (They probably first created that drive train in the 50s.)


  1. You may want to also search for the inverse numbers - the fuel efficiency figures are also (currently) presented as litres per 100 km (l/100km). (I don't know how they used to be presented.) In Europe, I think the 4 l/100 km is pretty much impossible in practice and 5 l/100km is difficult with any larger load, on an average vehicle, though I could be wrong. There's always development. (converter and inverse converter)

    One of the reasons why there isn't as much development even in Europe, where these things are a priority, is the safety aspect: Cars need to have stiffer bodies at places and, thus, are heavier. If you compare the weight of an old Mini and the new Mini, for example, you'll see the new Mini is almost twice the weight. That's some 600 kg of additional dead weight to lug around. Just imagine the gas mileage you could get using modern technology without it when the fuel consumption has already fallen about a third with it.
    I suppose you could do a lot of things using lighter materials, but I wonder how much more would the cars cost. The production might be pushed there with tightening emissions standards, though.

    Did you look at this?

  2. Motors in Europe are much smaller than in NA. They burn high octane fuel that you can't even buy. Our 2008 Kia Cairns had a 1.6 litre engine and we burned 95 octane. the high performance cars burned either 98 or 100. You could not buy that in small towns. No idea what our mileage would be on a good highway - we don't have any withing a couple hundred km

  3. Most monkeys also like to drive fast, that doesn't help fuel mileage. And I need enough power to pull my camper around.

  4. Thank you, blind sniper. I did not know that about Octane. I am much smarter now than I was. Basically our 95 is somewhere between 89 and 91.


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