Most new car shoppers have heard about Hybrid vehicles which use both gas and electric motors to boost fuel economy. But hybrids are not the choice for everyone. Even without electric motors, technology advances in today’s drive trains offer significant gas savings and efficiencies that can rival hybrid technology.
Look for these features the next time you shop for a fuel efficient vehicle, and you won’t need to limit your choice to the few hybrid models available.
1. Variable Value Timing & Lift
These features improve engine efficiency by optimizing the flow of fuel and air into the engine at various engine speeds. Gas savings can be as much as 5%.
2. Cylinder Deactivation
With your car cruising at highway speeds, you really don’t need all those cylinders running to maintain your speed. By selectively turning off unneeded cylinders, you can gain as much as 7.5% in fuel efficiency.
3. Turbocharging and Superchargers
Popular with the speed set, turbochargers and superchargers are simply fans that force more (compressed) air into an engine’s cylinders. A turbocharger fan is powered by exhaust from the engine, while a supercharger fan is powered by the engine itself by a belt or other method. With more air to mix with the fuel being injected into the cylinders, you gain extra power from each cylinder firing. Turbocharged and supercharged engines tend to be smaller and lighter, while offering the performance of larger engines. Using these technologies, you can gain as much as 7.5% fuel efficiency when compared to most gas engines.
4. Direct Fuel Injection (with Turbocharging/Supercharging)
Also known as fuel stratified injection or direct injection stratified charge, this technology controls how fuel is fed into a cylinder. In conventional fuel injection systems, fuel is injected into the port and mixed with air before the air-fuel mixture is pumped into the cylinder. In direct injection systems, the fuel is injected directly into the cylinder so that the timing and shape of the fuel mist can be precisely controlled. This allows higher compression ratios and more efficient fuel intake, which delivers higher performance with lower fuel consumption. Using this technology, your fuel savings can be as much as 12%.
5. Diesel Engines
Diesel engines achieve roughly 50% better fuel economy than gasoline engines. Not only does diesel fuel contains more energy than gasoline, diesel engines use that energy more efficiently thanks to compression ratios and combustion temperatures that are higher than in gasoline engines. In Europe, where gasoline is even more expensive than in the United States, diesel powered vehicles now account for nearly half of all new vehicle sales. With improved design that allows diesel engines to meet the clean air standards of all 50 states, manufacturers anticipate offering more diesel models in the years to come.
6. Integrated Starter/Generator (ISG) Systems
The idea behind this technology is that you are consuming the least amount of fuel when the engine is turned off. These systems automatically turn the engine off when the vehicle comes to a stop and restart it instantaneously when the accelerator is pressed so that fuel isn't wasted for idling. These systems are most commonly found on hybrid vehicles, but may soon be widely available on conventional models. Look for an 8% boost in fuel efficiency using this technology.
7. Continuously Variable Transmissions
A continuously varibable transmission (CVT) has an infinite number of “gears,” providing seamless acceleration and improved fuel economy vs. conventional transmissions.
8. Low-resistance tires
Most tire choices offered on new cars tend to be a design compromise intended to satisfy a range of consumer preferences. Low-resistance tires, those with resistance ratings 20% or lower than standard tires, can improve gas mileage by 5%.
9. Automated Manual Transmissions
Few consumers really want to drive a stick-shift, despite the fuel savings. Automated Manual Transmissions (AMTs) combine the efficiency of manual transmissions with the convenience of an automatic (gears shift automatically). Using an AMT can means a fuel efficiency boost of 6%.
Estimates for fuel efficiency improvement: Energy and Environmental Analysis, Inc. Automotive Technology Cost and Benefit Estimates. Arlington, Virginia, March 2005