By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Design
Engineers have proven that it's possible to drive from coast to coast with only a gallon of gasoline.
Engineers have proven that it's possible, at least technically, to drive from coast to coast on only a gallon of gasoline.
Granted, however, the vehicle they built goes about 10 to 25 miles an hour, can only fit one compact-sized person and more closely resembles a coffin on wheels than anything found on the streets. Designed by students at Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo, the 3,000 mpg "Lamina" was conceived strictly as an entry into this year's Shell Eco Marathon, a worldwide competition where participants attempt to build a vehicle with the highest possible fuel efficiency. Still, much of the techniques used to boost fuel efficiency can also be applied to everyday cars.
For instance, the designers that built the supermileage Lamina say that size and weight are the two most important factors for improving the gas mileage of any particular vehicle. Consisting of an ultra-lightweight carbon fiber frame and other spare parts such as low resistance tires with BMX bike rims, a modified Honda generator and a fuel tank the size of a soda can, the car altogether weighs a mere 100 pounds.
"It's really just sizing an engine properly for your car, we don't need all that extra horsepower that people love," team member Gabriel Mountjoy told Fox News. "That is one way we can increase our efficiency and fuel economy and you don't need to invent anything, just smaller engines for decently sized cars."
While it's feels like a stretch to think how just one aspect of car design can such make such a huge difference, the reasoning is backed up by research. A recent analysis by Christopher Knittel, an economist at MIT, reveals that while improved car technology has lead to gains in fuel economy, much of it has been offset by the fact that cars on the road today have also become bigger and more powerful. From 1980 to 2006, the average curb weight of vehicles increased 26 percent, while their horsepower rose 107 percent. Had that not been the case, a typical vehicle today would boast an average mileage rating of 37 mpg.
[Learn more about Knittel's analysis and wild proposal here.]
The team also installed a 50cc engine that enables them to use a method known as "burn and coast" in which the driver runs the engine for a short time and then turns it off, letting the car coast. In the Fox News TV interview, Mountjoy explains the rationale for using the tactic:
He said: "We use the burn and coast method, so if you have to slam on your brakes when you come to a stop then you probably used too much to get to there, so that's just wasted fuel every time you put on your brakes."
Burn and coast is actually a hyper-miling concept and can also be applied when a driver is idling at a stoplight. A report on Slate.com found that if a car is left idling for more than seconds, the driver ends up using more fuel than had he turned it off and back on again. (I bet you didn't know that). And there are even some newer hybrid models come with technology that does this automatically.
So in a nutshell, lighten the load as well as your lead foot. Let it coast and put your car in neutral if you're waiting at a light.
And oh, if you do decide to drive cross country, it's still probably best to bring enough cash for visits to the pump.
The latest fuel efficiency breakthroughs:
- Breakthrough could lead to 732-mile electric car battery
- Is this 400-mile electric car battery for real?
- New engine radically improves fuel economy, cuts emissions
- Gas-powered diesel engine may double fuel efficiency
- New 9-speed auto transmission is a real gas saver
- ‘Supertruck’ big rig design doubles fuel efficiency
The future of electric cars:
- $20,000, 350-mile-per-charge electric car only a few years away
- Recharge an electric car without plugging in
- Electric car batteries can now power home appliances
- BiPod flying car works like a Chevy Volt
- New electric car may signal the end of the road for gas guzzlers
- Innovative motor lets gas-powered cars go electric
Mar 28, 2012
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"Engineers have proven that its possible, at least technically, to drive from coast to coast on only a gallon of gasoline. Granted, however, the vehicle they built goes about 10 to 25 miles an hour, can only fit one compact-sized person..." Erm... we don't need engineers to prove that it's possible to drive coast to coast at 10 - 25mph on a gallon of gasoline. I can do that on my bicycle on much less than a gallon of gasoline. Anyway, what these engineers have done is to power a faired tricycle with a little gasoline engine. This is hardly a step forward in fuel efficiency. All it does is waste gasoline by replacing pedal power with an internal combustion engine. Essentially, all it accomplishes is to allow the driver to get fat by sitting idle instead of burning the energy he/she must eat.
Remove all the pollution control crap that's installed in a car that gets 22 mpg and watch the mileage go up to 35 mpg +.
Why did those students omit to mention the importance of aerodynamics although incorporated in their design?
The bit about horsepower and weight is OLD news.. Nothing we don't already, or SHOULD already know. One of the problems is that all the safety stuff and perks we are used to and enjoy, is what adds so much to the weight. The more 'power' devices, means more weight, for example. Take the devices used for a roll-down window, and a power-window.. It may not be huge, but it's there.. multiply that times 4, and there's a few, to a few dozen pounds... Then think about similar things throughout the car. Of course, it's those things, and some of the safety items that 'must' be on cars that form a cycle of increasing weight. The heavier the car is, the more (and heavier) safety items need to be installed. which makes the car weigh more, so on and so forth. Add in the devices for the belts, the airbags (especially as many as there are in some cars now) and that adds more. Now, I don't begrudge airbags. They do save lives. However, simply safer driving does that too. (I'll end it here as I am rambling a bit now)
When you get into a sticky situation on the road, I've always preferred that I have the option of powering out of the situation as well as breaking out of it. When it comes to safety, two options are better than one.
It has three wheels and is referred to as a car. If you really want to get technical, the vehicle is similar to a microcar.