There are people who see the rising corporate average fuel economy as bad news. They bemoan the death of the big engines, the V-8s that delivered lots of power and sucked up a lot of gas. They say that driving won’t be fun anymore, that we’ll all be forced to buy dull cars with high fuel economy scores.
Then there are others who have known the CAFE standards would have to rise. They saw the higher fuel economy requirements as a challenge, and they began to work on new technologies that would be good for the planet, good for our wallets and still cool. These people are called engineers.
Here are five engine technologies available today or in the very near future, at a variety of price points. These examples promise that the future of driving will still be fun, whether it’s in a tiny city car with a direct-injected engine or a supercar with a “push to pass” hybrid booster button.
- Cylinders on Demand
This type of engine only uses the cylinders it needs, when it needs them. But when it reaches cruising speed a few seconds later, it no longer has that heavy workload to maintain. Four of those eight cylinders cut out completely, so the engine acts like a four-cylinder. If you need to pass, the other four cylinders kick in again, and then cut out when the car’s speed is steady again. This technology improves fuel efficiency by about 10 percent when cruising along at speed.
- EV Power Boost
Over the past decade and more, electric-gasoline hybrid systems have become commonplace. The technology works, the batteries last and the gas mileage is some of the best in the world. It’s powered by a supercharged 3-liter V-6 gasoline engine and an electric motor, just as most hybrids are.
- Flex Fuel
This technology, which allows a driver to choose between regular gasoline and an ethanol blend, has been around for a while. Ethanol blends are designated by the letter E followed by a number; E85 means the fuel is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. The Flex Fuel badge usually means the vehicle can use up to E85, as well as lower-percentage blends like E10.
- Direct Injection
In a direct-injected engine, highly pressurized fuel is squirted directly into the combustion chamber at the top of the piston’s stroke, near the spark plug. Since this creates quite a bit of pressure in the combustion chamber, direct injection can cause knocking, too, just like higher compression ratios. Ford Motor Company has solved this problem by combining direct injection with turbo charging, which uses exhaust gases to boost performance. By bringing these two proven technologies together, Ford has built engines that are more powerful than their predecessors, even though they’re smaller and use less fuel.
- Higher Compression Ratios
One way to improve performance and fuel economy is to increase the compression ratio inside the engine. The compression ratio refers to the amount of fuel and air squeezed into the combustion chamber. When this ratio is higher, it uses fuel more efficiently.
All this engine technology as well as weight-saving materials and a new transmission mean 15 percent lower fuel consumption and emissions and 15 percent more torque. And increased torque translates into more driving fun. Are you guys excited?