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3 Innovations That Improve Fuel Efficiency in Cars

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The air quality in the U.S. is declining dramatically. This claim is backed by numerous studies, including the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report. Millions of Americans are breathing unhealthy air. 

Falling ozone levels affect air quality, but particle pollution is still a significant issue for Americans. Besides coal- and natural gas-fired power plants, cars are a source of particle pollution. 

Vehicle pollutants harm human health in many ways. But what’s more concerning is that they cause climate change. 

While zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles improve air quality, they aren’t mainstream yet. The rising concern about the worsening air quality has resulted in several innovations that keep the car from burning too much gas. A few of them are discussed below. 

#1 Start/Stop System

Though relatively new to cars in the U.S., the start/stop system debuted in the 1980s. However, it wasn’t fairly accepted back then. Nearly three decades later, this technology has made a comeback. 

Quite simply, the start/stop system automatically switches off a car’s engine if it comes to a halt or is in neutral with the clutch released. As the foot is placed on the clutch, the engine restarts automatically. 

Besides the operating mode of the driver, cars with the start/stop system are outfitted with sensors that detect if the vehicle is moving or is stationary. These include crankshaft sensor, wheel speed sensor, and neutral gear sensor. 

The idea behind this technology is simple: minimizing the pollution caused by vehicles when stuck in slow-moving traffic. Whenever the system detects a lack of motion, it shuts the engine off, thereby saving fuel. 

Nevertheless, many drivers dread the noise this technology creates to turn the engine on or off. That is why they turn it off. But that mainly happens with economy cars. Drivers of high-end luxury cars haven’t reported any such issue. One possible explanation is that luxury cars are equipped with more refined systems, as well as noise-canceling insulation. 

Ford (F-150), Toyota (Sienna), Honda (Odyssey), Chevrolet (Cruze, Malibu), and BMW are manufacturers who have incorporated the start/stop system in their cars. 

#2 Dual-Clutch Transmission

Adolphe Kégresse, a French engineer, devised the concept of the dual-clutch transmission in 1939. The driving force behind this was the requirement for an alternative to the manual gear change of that time. Back in the 1900s, gears used to be very rigid and inefficient. Tremendous strength and near-perfect timing were required to change gears. 

However, a fully functional car model with dual-clutch transmission (DCT) wasn’t developed until the 80s. DCT made a triumphant entrance into the automotive world through racing cars. 

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Vehicles with DCT feature two separate clutches that connect the axles to the engine that house various gears. One clutch controls odd gears, while the other one manages even gears. 

While cars with high-rpm gearboxes have the mechanical guts of a manual transmission, the clutch operation and the gear changes are automatic. Due to this, less power is lost between the wheels and the engine. This improves fuel economy. 

The first pedestrian car manufacturer to generalize the usage of DCT was Volkswagen. Another automobile manufacturer, Ford, replaced the four- and five-speed automatic transmissions in small cars with six-speed dual-clutch gearboxes. It did so because high-rpm gearboxes offer better fuel efficiency and increased performance. 

Cotta remarks that these gearboxes are also used in electric axle driveline test systems, high-speed electric motor test systems, and electric accessory testing. 

#3 Low-Rolling Resistance Tires

A wheel’s rolling resistance has a great impact on the fuel consumption of a vehicle. Reduced rolling resistance minimizes the consumption of mechanical energy. This decreases the amount of fuel being supplied to the engine. That is where low-rolling resistance tires come into the picture. 

Low-rolling resistance tires are intended to reduce a vehicle’s rolling effort. As these tires minimize friction and deformation while rolling on the road, they reduce energy loss. This, in turn, improves fuel efficiency, as the engine doesn’t have to work that hard to overcome the rolling resistance. 

Besides, these tires are made of high-quality material and have improved tractions, which means they last longer than synthetic and natural rubber tires. These fuel-saving tires are marketed by Goodyear, Firestone, Bridgestone, and Michelin. 

In 2023, the global low-rolling resistance tire market is anticipated to reach $18.4 billion. It’s expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.3% and get $54 billion by 2033. The rising use of these tires in LCVs (light commercial vehicles) is predicted to drive significant growth. 

To wrap things up, these three cutting-edge innovations have helped improve fuel efficiency in recent years. However, this list isn’t an exhaustive one. There are other technologies that are improving gas mileage. Direct injection engines, hybrid/plug-in technology, and continuously variable transmissions are other notable innovations that are steering the automotive industry towards sustainability. 

As technology advances, rest assured that the automotive industry will witness more innovations that will make cars more energy-efficient. 

 

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