This week my cover story in Globe Drive looks at the future of the good, ol’ internal combustion engine as a key part of the “green” drive in personal transportation.
Make no mistake, gasoline and diesel engines will be around for a long, long time into the future.
I spent less time looking at vehicle design as a vital element in squeezing out increased fuel efficiency, as well as lowering vehicle emissions. Design was not the focus of the story.
However, design is a huge part of the green future of the automobile. A story this week in The Wall Street Journal does a nice job of honing in on what General Motors is doing here.
The Journal notes that when GM began working on the 2013 Malibu three years ago, which by the way was shown in April at the New York auto show, the engineers and designers chose to make the back end and tail lamps shaped in ways that increased fuel economy by one tenth of a mile per gallon over the current car. Call it a 21st century green take on form following function.
This Malibu will hit showrooms early next year. Take a close look because what you see in the design is the sort of thing GM’s rival auto makers are doing, too. As I write in Friday’s cover story (watch GlobeDrive.com for the story tomorrow), car companies are scrambling to meet 2016 fleet-wide fuel efficiency standards slated for 6.63 litres/100 or 35.5 miles per gallon U.S.. Design is playing its part, along with power train technology and weight reduction.
“In the case of the Chevrolet Malibu, GM engineers spent three years on changes that eked out at least five miles a gallon, creating a car that will go at least 92 more miles on a tank of gasoline compared to the current model. Slicker aerodynamics were just part of their bag of tricks. Lighter materials, such as an aluminum roof, and computer-controls that shut off the engine when idling and open and close grille vents also were part of the mileage boosters,” notes The Journal.
GM itself points out that lighter materials are at play in the ’13 Malibu. The 2013 Malibu won’t have a spare tire, either. If you get a flat, pull out the portable air compressor and the can of liquid sealant.
On the power train side, a new six-speed transmission and a smaller, direct fuel-injection engine improve fuel economy without sacrificing power.
An “Eco” Malibu will have GM’s eAssist, a standard feature on 2012 versions of the full-size Buick LaCrosse sedan with a four-cylinder engine and it will be an option on the mid-size 2012 Regal. Here, a lithium-ion battery pack and compact electric motor kick in when needed to provide acceleration power and recharge the battery when slowing down.
“We are concentrating on every detail of this car – it takes looking at every single gram and kilogram and every part of the car,” Tim Campbell, the Malibu's engineering manager, told the Journal.
Read about what many auto makers beyond GM are doing to meet fuel economy targets in Friday’s Globe Drive.