Friday, May 23, 2008

My car gets 44 MPG. It's nothing special. A 4 door sedan with a 1.9 liter engine and a 5 speed manual. It was dirt cheap, all the more so because i bought it used.

But it could get 20% more, or 53 MPG if i put a turbocharger on it the engine it has. It could get 5% more than that, or 55 MPG (rounding) if i add a cruise control. It could get 5% more than that, or 58 MPG, if the bottom was smooth, rather than set up to induce turbulence. Bottom turbulence helps keep the car on the road at high speed, so put in a governor that caps speed to 90 MPH - which is more than fair. Then, replace the gas engine with a diesel, and get 15% more, or 67 MPG. And none of this is high tech, expensive or new. I'm with Carl Sagan, who in his 1981 Cosmos series asked why we don't have cars that get 70 MPG.

Then there's tech we don't use. The differential consumes 7-15% of your power just to let your car go around corners. An electric transmission (generator at the engine, electric motors near the wheels, should have a total loss of 6%. But, there'd be no engine drag (which is alot like braking - a waste), you'd get automatic like non-shifting - except that there'd really be no shifting - no jerks, and you'd get 4 wheel drive with zero economy penalty. You could also have two independent engines. Why is that good? Well, it only takes about 15 HP to cruise down the highway. A 300 HP engine is really poor at delivering 15 HP. So you put in a small engine for highway cruise, and a larger engine for pulling your boat. If an engine dies, the other will still get you home (remember, the little one will let you cruise down the highway). What's all this going to get you? More than 100 MPG. Oh, and since you've got electric, you can add batteries for regenerative braking, and put solar cells on top for another 10% boost when it's sunny - and it charges your batteries when you're parked. Some people might never have to fire up the diesels. We might even have to 'remove gas from our tanks' - in the form of electric energy transfer from the parked car. Your house could probably use it.

In the 70's, most of the problem was solved through improved economy, and much of that was the 55 MPH speed limit, which got us some 10 - 15%. Bush has said "There's no instant fix", but we could have new signs on our highways today.

While we're there, what about home heating? Houses get really poor gas mileage. Insulation already pays for itself in the near term. That's only going to increase. Why don't we have businesses that insulate your house, and get pay back from the improved economy?

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