With the continued threat of rising gasoline prices at the pump, buying a fuel efficient vehicle is a way to save money while helping the environment too. From a consumer's standpoint, the technologies used in today's cars to separate a gas guzzler from a fuel efficient car are nothing short of amazing. Let’s take a look at some of the more important and popular features being introduced on new models.
1. Variable Displacement / Active Cylinder Deactivation:
An effective way to help improve fuel economy is to shut off unnecessary cylinders.
The displacement of a car’s engine is the volume of one cylinder multiplied by the number of cylinders that there are. Cars that are equipped with variable displacement are able to change the number of cylinders they are running on. This prevents fuel from flowing into the inactive cylinders. A car’s fuel efficiency improves once it has fewer cylinders to fill.
2. Direct Injection:
Direct injection has been used in diesel engines for many years but has more recently found its way to gasoline engines. Rather than the standard fuel injection, these engines inject fuel directly into the air-filled cylinders. Not only does this process improve fuel efficiency, but it also yields more power. The system can regulate how much fuel it needs at all times better with direct injection, and it can make adjustments based on differences among the cylinders, and as a result fewer emissions.
3. Smart Alternator:
Hyundai has been boasting its smart alternator technology, which is in all of its U.S. Models. The major function of this alternator is that it chooses the best time to recharge the car’s battery. For example, when you’re decelerating, the system will kick in to charge the battery, as opposed to when you’re accelerating, and likely want all of the cars available power. “It allows us to cut the alternator drag,” said Derek Joyce from Hyundai Public Relations. “It basically recoups energy that would probably be wasted anyways.” Joyce also said that the technology helps improve fuel economy by around 1.5 to 2 per cent.
4. Turbocharging and Supercharging:
Superchargers and turbochargers are fans that force air into an engine's cylinders. Superchargers are powered by the engine itself, while turbochargers are powered by the car's exhaust.
Turbochargers and superchargers increase fuel efficiency because the air forced into the car's cylinders produce a more powerful ignition of fuel and air.
5. Variable Valve Timing and Lift:
Also known as variable valve actuation, variable cam timing, and variable timing and lift electronic control.
Most car engines use valves to let air and fuel into cylinders and release exhaust fumes. Some valve timings produce better fuel efficiency. Meanwhile, other timings produce more power. This means that cars equipped with variable valve timing can be more efficient because they operate at low rpm and can boost power when really necessary.
6. Start-Stop systems:
You might think that an idling car isn’t too big of a deal, especially when it’s just for a stop-light, but all those seconds add up. After making a big splash with hybrid vehicles, idle start-stop systems are starting to show up everywhere.
There are a few different kinds of start-stop systems, and for different kinds of vehicles. In mild hybrids, start-stop systems consist of a gas engine, an electric starter/generator and a beefy battery.
7. Electric Power Steering:
Furthermore, many companies are switching to electric power steering instead of conventional hydraulic steering systems. Rather than powering a hydraulic pump and keeping up system pressure at all times, the electric system only needs to engage when steering is required. Not only does the system save fuel by not being a drag on the engine at all times, it also helps cut weight by removing all the hydraulic components. The new Chevrolet Malibu Eco features this electric power steering and Chevy says it can help improve fuel economy by up to 2.5%.
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(Credit to: www.autoguide.com - Sami Haj-Assaad, www.firsttimedriver.com )