Research paper reguarding our "addicition to oil" + a little history...
All you grammer Nazis need to get on this task and pick this apart as you please. Tell me what you think!
The reign of the Sport Utility Vehicle might come to an abrupt halt. Fuel prices in recent months have been almost too much for middle-class workers to handle. For years, the U.S. auto industry relied on these vehicles to keep profits. Makers such as GM and Ford produced these vehicles without the concern for Fuel Economy. These vehicles grew in size and weight with every model change. In 1975 a program was started because of the Arab Oil Embargo. This program was called Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) and its goal was to double the fuel efficiency of all motor vehicles by 1985. The first set goal was to have every car maker achieve 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) for their fleet. However; the standard for light trucks and S.U.V.’s was not up to par with other passenger vehicles. What steps are automakers and the government doing to help the average consumer?
Early Concerns with Oil Dependency
After the Arab Oil Embargo in 1974, the United States government realized the need to set standards for every passenger vehicle produced and sold in the United States. This program was started to help reduce the consumption of oil.
“Corporate Average Fuel Economy, the “Energy Policy Conservation Act,” was enacted into law by Congress in 1975, added Title V, “Improving Automotive Efficiency,” to the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act and established CAFE standards for passenger cars and light trucks. The Act was passed in response to the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo. The near-term goal was to double new car fuel economy by model year 1985.” ...CAFÉ
Naturally, consumers wanted more fuel efficient vehicles after they found there was not enough gas for everyone. CAFÉ was set up to limit vehicles thirst for gasoline. This standard helped bring cars into the next era of efficiency and dependability with the introduction of the catalytic converter and further improvements in the field of electronics. Vehicles could now be modeled on computers, assembled by robots, and controlled by onboard electronic control units.
Customers benefit from Engineering Efforts in 1980’s
In the years from 1974-1983, consumers got exactly what they wanted. Automakers were able to nearly double the fuel economy of all their vehicles and meet the (CAFÉ) standard of 27.5 mpg for their entire fleets. For certain manufactures this trend of better gas mileage continued, especially with the Asian produced vehicles coming into the market.
Engineers achieved this by lowering the vehicle weight substantially. By removing weight, cars are able to perform better and be more fuel efficient. Another benefit of designing a vehicle to be light was that they could use a smaller engine to motivate the vehicle. Engineers also explored other ways to improve fuel efficiency. They explored various ways of improving aerodynamics, (the ability of the car to move through air) power train improvements, and technology increases. ...stated by Horton (1984)
The first step to reduce vehicle weight is to downsize a vehicle when it is being designed. Engineers took a critical look at the various systems of the vehicle. First of all, they identified that the vehicle’s chassis would need to be minimized. Once the chassis is minimized, automakers could then build the engine, transmission, braking and cooling systems to suit the lighter chassis. Many parts were projected to be produced with aluminum, plastic, and low-alloy (yet high strength) steel in the future
Aerodynamics is an aspect of vehicles that was put on the backburner for many years, just before the muscle car era, vehicles were very streamlined. Many took cues from the airplane industry for example. Automakers such as Studebaker resembled an airplane very closely. Now engineers realized that they could easily gain fuel economy by lowering drag. Aerodynamics is expressed as a drag factor (Cd) that describes the “shape efficiency” of a body moving through air. In a few years, they were able to lower the drag from 0.4 to 0.3. This is significant because now the motor has less drag to overcome at the same speed.
When the engineers decided on a weight and aerodynamic package, the next thing they would consider is how fast they wanted the vehicle to move. Technology allowed engineers to make the motor for a certain vehicle use less amounts of fuel by safely leaning out the mixture of fuel and air. They were able to make these engines very powerful and consistent.
Power train improvements followed with the introduction of automatic transmissions with overdrive capabilities. Vehicles also came with more gears then before, allowing the gears to be shorter to for better acceleration and allowing the fuel economy to be better at the same time. Manual transmissions came with five gears at this time.
What went wrong in the 90’s?
Throughout this time, gasoline prices were very cheap. It remained near only a dollar per gallon of gas. People began to want more out of their vehicles. They were tired of being cramped up into a small car. Consumers wanted their vehicles to tow a boat, carry a large number of people, and go off-roading. What was the solution? It was the Sport Utility Vehicle. Ford had the best answer for the public which was called the Ford Explorer. It had a typical truck frame to tow heavy belongings, those rugged looks nearly everybody liked, and comfortable seating for the entire family. The sale of these SUV’s when through the roof. Best thing of all for Ford is that they were highly profitable. Many other automakers followed suit and produced their own sport utility vehicles. This was a time of great success for American Auto Manufactures. People began to care more about performance rather than fuel economy. The cars that Detroit put out surely showed that. Nobody seemed to care because of the low fuel costs of the time. All is well in Detroit at this time. The SUV’s kept getting larger and faster even though most drivers rarely had the chance to go on a dirt road. During the 90’s vehicles gained a substantial amount of weight. Their fuel economy was nothing to be proud of however, yet the government continued to let them sell.
Fuel Economy in the new Millennium
“In the turn of the century certain SUV’s became so large that they exceeded the CAFÉ standards set. Light trucks that exceed 8,500 lbs gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) do not have to comply with CAFE standards. These vehicles include pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and large vans.” Models such as the Hummer H2, Ford Excursion, and Chevy Suburban have found a loophole and do not have to meet any fuel economy standard! ... (Hakim)
Too add insult to injury certain H2 owners can say their vehicle is used for business and get up to a $10,000 tax credit. Automakers have definitely gone in the wrong direction. They have spent their money on making cars much faster rather than more efficient. Engines have managed to have two times the horsepower compared to what they had in the 80’s and vehicle weight has also risen to an average of two tons. Across the industry, cars grew in size and weight because of safety mandates and luxury items placed into every car...The Arab oil embargo was forgotten by many.
Everything was peachy even with a steady rise of fuel prices until 2005 when the United States got its first taste of “fuel shortages” caused by Katrina. Gas prices went to record highs. Since then, gas prices fell, but not to the price that they were before Katrina. Now, domestic companies are facing a more daunting challenge than ever before: To keep the quality the same, offer the same standard features, enhance safety, and improve gas mileage significantly. In the transition from the muscle car era to compact cars, automakers met this by simply shaving the weight off of the vehicle.
“On March 30th, 2006 the fuel economy standard for “light trucks” (8500-10,000 (GVWR) will be mandated for vehicles produced in 2008. They will need to meet a goal of 21.6 mpg under the new EPA testing procedures. However, this still leaves out all heavy pickup trucks like the F-250, which is used mostly for agriculture and business...This is viewed as a tiny step forward, but it will save over 10 billon gallons of gasoline over the lifetime of the vehicles.” ...New York Times (Wald)
What can the Automakers do for the NEAR future?
To decrease the amount of fuel every car uses, people need to take care of their vehicles, the government made a quick list of things every person can do to improve their own mileage. These guidelines include but are not limited to: checking tire pressure, getting a tune up, and removing unnecessary weight from the vehicle. Weight has always been the enemy of fuel economy. Automakers will be forced to lighten their vehicles by using more aluminum in the manufacturing process as well as using lighter weight composites. These ideas are not new however, in the 70’s it was known to try these measures, but the consumers did not demand it. They wanted to have more performance rather than fuel economy. In the coming years, expect more automakers to use cylinder management to optimize fuel economy in all conditions. For the first time, automakers might need to decrease the power of their vehicles to meet standards.
A technology that has came into consumers minds’ are the hybrid vehicles. These rides promise higher fuel economy and vastly reduced emissions. Toyota for example has built one vehicle for fuel economy. However, in recent months they have introduced a number of larger cars that also use hybrid technology. Toyota touts that its cars are quicker than comparable vehicles in the same class with more cylinders because of that technology. However, these vehicles have received much criticism. They do not recoup the costs of the hybrid power train compared to the saving in fuel. So consumers are forced to make the decision to buy these vehicles with other factors such as being environmentally friendly.
A technology that will see a re-birth in the American market is the diesel engine. This new generation of diesels boasts an increased fuel economy of 25% compared to a gasoline engine of the same output. These cars are very popular in Europe with their higher fuel prices. Americans have always thought of diesel engines to be “dirty” but this has changed with advancing technology. Expect many more automakers to enter the diesel market with many desirable cars for a minimal price increase compared to gasoline.
Vehicle aerodynamics has been largely ignored in one area. Cd values today range from .25 (Honda Insight, best) to .57 (Hummer H2, one of the worst). The under tray has been overlooked by many consumers and has not been implemented by the automakers. The possibility to see many more aerodynamic designs and smoother flowing vehicles in the future is likely to increase significantly.
It is safe to say that estimates in today’s fuel economy from the 80’s have failed miserably. If the trend continued like it did from 1974-1983, we would be driving many more cars like the Honda Insight...or better! We would have an average of over 35 mpg for every vehicle on the road. But in the 1990’s American’s thirst for oil couldn’t be stopped. It is hard to say what kinds of super efficient cars that would be around today if we had built vehicles to try and reduce our dependency ever since the first oil scare in the 1970’s.
References (used EBSCO Host)
Technical Trends in Automobiles (1984) – Emmett J. Horton and W. Dale Compton
New Energy Conservation Technologies and their commercialization (1981) – E.J. Horton, J.P. Millhone
Conflicting Objectives in Regulating the Automobile (1981) – Lester B. Lave
U.S. Fuel Economy Plan seen omitting Rule for Big SUV’s – Danny Hakim, New York Times. (September 16, 2005)
U.S. Raises Standards on Mileage (March 30, 2006) – Matthew L. Wald, New York Times
Senator Lugar of Indiana applauds President Bush’s statement of “U.S. is addicted to oil”
See his speech on www.brookings.edu from March 13
__________________ Current Stable
GasSaver: 2000 Honda Insight Silverstone w/AC 65+mpg
Track Terror: 2002 Honda S2000 Gran Prix White- lots of mods - 28mpg
Beater: 1988 Honda Civic DX Hatback - Stripped - 30mpg
RIP: 1996 Honda Civic LX 42mpg - you will be missed