Why Do Cars Use So Much Fuel?

The new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are going to raise fuel efficiency requirements to 35 mpg for all cars and SUVs. Car companies have until 2020 to comply, and many believe it will be a difficult task. This begs the question, why on Earth is this a problem?

Cars that do 35mpg aren't difficult; they’ve been available for decades. Fuel efficiency isn't any better today than it has ever been in the car industry. Gadgets and comfort per car (GCPC) have risen considerably, but miles per gallon (MPG) stands still. I'm not talking about advanced experimental cars, but the average, standard, boring cars that the majority of people drive.

Most cars now have air conditioning, CD players, GPS, seat warmers, car heaters and hundreds of other power-sapping accessories. They are all powered by gasoline, which is something that people don't always consider. We're used to gadgets being electric, plugged into the wall. In your car it's the gas you buy at the pump that fuels your air conditioning - turn it on and use more fuel.

Considering that and rising gas prices it seems strange to me that people haven't been more proactive in demanding fuel efficiency. Even the Prius, touted as the ultimate green machine, virtually running on air, gets less to the gallon than my first car. A 1980s Ford Fiesta could get 50mpg and comfortably seat 5 adults, but a Prius can’t do that nearly 30 years later.Popular Mechanics has a list of four things that the car industry can do easily, right now, to improve fuel efficiency. Reducing weight, installing more efficient drive trains, fuel efficient tires and more gears is their solution, but I think it can go much further than that. Here are my four suggestions.

Efficient Styling – Design cars as the most efficient aerodynamic shape that will cover the components, not what appeals aesthetically.

Cut the Gadgets – Cars are methods of transport; they don’t need DVD players, electrically heated seats, GPS systems. Listen to the stereo if you’re bored, and read a map if you’re lost.

Computer Control – Engines are already computer controlled, so they could be programmed to force drivers to be economical; to slowly provide power, and not allow fast acceleration.

New Technologies as standard – Regenerative braking should be fitted to all cars. Yes, it’s expensive, but it makes perfect sense and cuts emissions radically.

Sure, cars wouldn’t be as comfortable, if you define comfort by the amount of electrical wizardry crammed into its interior, and yes, they would be less fun to drive, but that’s the price you pay for more efficiency. I realise that cars like this wouldn't appeal to the market at all, which is why they aren't being made, but what I can't understand is why the latest Ford Fiesta is less fuel efficient than my 1980s version.

We should have seen a slow and steady increase in fuel efficiency in the last hundred years, but that just hasn't happened, and I don't understand it. ::Popular Mechanics

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