Author: Yogi Schulz
Each time I pass a gasoline station, it feels like the posted price is higher than it was the day before. As an important energy producing region, Albertans are benefiting more from rising energy prices than the consuming parts of Canada. This fact is small comfort to families and businesses whose finances are being strained under the impact of higher costs for gasoline to operate their automobiles.
What technologies can we exploit to cut gasoline consumption and thereby cut the energy cost of our automobiles?
Hybrid automobiles are high-tech automobiles that reduce gasoline consumption. Hybrids use a combination of a gasoline engine and an electric motor to power the wheels. Hence the name.
Surprisingly, this added complexity does save gasoline. For example, the Toyota Highlander lists better mileage in the city than on the highway; the opposite of what conventional automobiles achieve. The reason for this unexpected result is that, for a hybrid, the energy consumption to overcome wind resistance at higher highway speeds exceeds the energy consumption of stop and go city traffic. This occurs in part because hybrids shut down the engine when the automobile is stopped. Conventional automobiles continue to consume gasoline at idle while stopped.
The superior efficiency of hybrids is attributable to a number of factors. First, in a hybrid, the gasoline motor operates within the narrow engine speed range that is the most efficient for the engine. Conversely, in conventional automobiles, the constant increases and decreases in engine speed significantly reduce engine efficiency.
Second, a hybrid captures kinetic energy to charge the battery when braking. A conventional automobile just generates useless heat energy in the braking system.
Thirdly, because the hybrid can use both the gasoline and the electric motor for quick acceleration and to maintain highway speeds, the hybrid can use a smaller gasoline engine than a conventional automobile to achieve similar performance. This factor contributes to lower gasoline consumption compared to a conventional automobile.
“Our hybrid customers appreciate both the reduced gasoline cost and the reduced environmental impact”, indicates Brian Heninger, the President of Heninger Toyota.
For an excellent graphic description of hybrid technology, environmental benefits and economics click on Hybrids at www.toyota.com or Google Mercury Mariner Hybrid.
Expect to save about 40% of the gasoline you consume at present with a hybrid automobile. The incremental cost to acquire a Ford Escape Hybrid or a Toyota Highlander Hybrid over its conventional cousin is about $8,000. Depending on the number of kilometers driven per year, the break-even point will be from 2 to 4 years. If you drive more than the average owner or if the price of gasoline climbs to $1.00 per liter again, the break-even point will be reduced.
Improvements in automotive engineering are occurring regularly. For example, smaller high-tech headlamps have led to more aerodynamic designs that save gasoline. Lighter materials such as high-tech plastics and composites reduce automobile weight to save energy without reducing structural robustness.
Turbo-charging or supercharging can save about 7% of gasoline consumption. Direct Fuel Injection, when used with turbo-charging or supercharging, offers a reduction of up to 12%.
A Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) can save about 6% while a slightly different approach called Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) can save a similar amount.
More sophisticated engine designs that incorporate Variable Valve Timing & Lift (VVT&L), Cylinder Deactivation or Integrated Starter/Generator (ISG) can save another 6% per feature.
If your car uses a carburetor instead of fuel injection, it’s time to buy a new car. Fuel Injection (FI) offers reduced gasoline consumption and reduced air pollutants over carburetion. The reduction benefit is about 10%.
Whenever gasoline prices increase markedly, there is a corresponding increase in advertisements for gasoline saving gadgets and gizmos. Fraudulent is not too strong a word to describe many of these devices because they do not deliver on their promised savings. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests we be wary while the tests of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reveal no benefit for many of the devices. To read the full FTC article, Google Gas-Saving Products.
Low-tech ideas to reduce gasoline consumption for automobiles include performing regular maintenance, checking the tire pressure regularly and avoiding Indy 500 style starts when the traffic light turns green. Each of these ideas is good for about a 5% reduction in energy consumption.
More radical ideas for reducing gasoline consumption include using public transportation and riding a bicycle more often.
As gasoline prices at the pump continue to rise, achieving the benefits of these gasoline saving ideas becomes more urgent.
To explore your automobile options before you head to a dealer, use the excellent vehicle comparison feature atdriving.canada.com. Click on “Research”.
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Compare Hybrid Cars – USA
Compare Hybrid Cars – Canada
Cost and Benefits of the Gasoline Direct Injection Engine
Direct Injection (DI) System
Energy Efficient Technologies
“Gas-Saving” Products: Fact or Fuelishness?
How We Green-Tuned an ’04 Prius into a PRIUS+ Plug-In Hybrid!
Honda Accord Hybrid
Honda Civic Hybrid
CVT (City/Highway) 49/51 Honda Insight
Ford Escape Hybrid
EPA estimated 36 city/31 hwy mpg FWD
Lexus RX 400h
Mazda Tribute Hybrid
Mercury Mariner Hybrid
Chevy Silverado Hybrid/GMC Sierra Hybrid
Non-Automobile Hybrid Web Sites
Hybrid Technologies Inc.