Doubling the fuel efficiency of cars with today’s technology

Wired’s autopia discusses current technology that can be used to double the fuel efficiency of cars We can do far better than this with better technology and better design choices. 300 mpg cars will be available October, 2008 from Aptera for under $30,000. They are basically safer and more fuel efficiency tricycles.

Advocates of the higher standard say the auto industry is full of it, and no less an authority on automobiles than Tom and Ray Magliozzi (both of whom, coincidentally, graduated from MIT), hosts of National Public Radio’s “Car Talk,” say Detroit can reach 35 mpg in five years using existing technology.

(1) Emphasis on reducing fuel consumption – dedicating future vehicle efficiency improvements to reducing fuel consumption, as opposed to improving vehicle performance.

MIT researchers indicate a wide range of technology exists to improve the efficiency of gasoline engines, including direct injection, cylinder deactivation and variable valve lift and timing. Each of these technologies has the potential to improve fuel efficiency by 3 to 10 percent and they are being used in many vehicles – but more often to improve performance, not fuel economy. Further development of dual clutch and continuously variable transmissions, lower-resistance tires and improved aerodynamics could further boost fuel economy, the authors note.

(2) Use of alternative powertrains – increasing market penetration of more efficient turbocharged gasoline engines, diesel engines, and hybrid electric-gasoline drives.

Currently, just 5 percent of vehicles sold in the United States have such alternative powertrains. The study assumes their maximum compounded growth rate in the U.S. market is about 10 percent per year. If turbocharged gasoline engines, diesels and hybrids are aggressively promoted, only 15 percent of new vehicles introduced onto the roads in 2035 will remain powered by conventional engines.

(3) Vehicle weight and size reduction – additional weight and size reduction for further fuel efficiency gains.

“Aggressive” use of aluminum, high-strength steel and plastic in automobile construction could bring a 20 percent reduction in vehicle weight, the report states.

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