I'm doing everything I can to increase my fuel economy but what are the manufacturers doing to help us along the way?
It seems that all the fingers are pointed squarely at the consumer when it comes to conserving resources, which is fine, but I can't help thinking that the car companies should bear some of the responsibilities also.
Good question Don, and good news because the manufacturers are indeed doing something about the quest for fuel economy gains.
According to the engineers at General Motors, there are three ways to improve a vehicle's gas mileage:
1. Reduce its weight,
2. Increase efficiency of the powertrain and
3. Improve the aerodynamics.
With respect to aerodynamics, August is the 30th anniversary of GM's wind tunnel (which happens to be the largest wind tunnel in the world). They have been using it over the years to improve vehicle designs that affect drag coeffients or aerodynamics, improving fuel economy.
GM built the wind tunnel in response to the oil embargo of the 1970s and the introduction of the Federal Fuel Economy Standards.
The fan is powered by a 4,500 horsepower motor, generating speeds up to 138 miles per hour during testing.
Click on the video below to get a sense of how the engineers use the tunnel to test wind resistance. They place a smoke wand near any part of the vehicle to test the laminar and turbulant flow of air as it passes a panel, a rear view mirror, the frontal area and the rear spoiler.
Wind tunnel testing at General Motors:
GM has calculated that they have been able to improve vehicle aerodynamics by 25 per cent by testing vehicles in the wind tunnel. They have also used it to help reduce wind noise, and develop efficient engine cooling and HVAC inlets. This work is most noticeable In the development of the new 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco. By observing smoke dynamics in the wind tunnel, the engineers came up with an "Active Grill Opening." Louvers, located in the lower fascia, open and close in response to vehicle speed and cooling requirements, thereby assisting in the aerodynamic qualities of this new car. The effect is a 10 per cent reduction in the drag coeffient and a resulting increase in fuel economy.
How much does that new car cost?