Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Are Automotive MPG Regulations Killing Car Innovation for the Consumer

Should lawmakers, and the Obama Administration increase regulations on the miles per gallon that each individual car gets? Some automobile designers are complaining because if the cars have to get really good gas mileage, then there are only a few types of designs that cars can possibly have. A teardrop shaped car would get the best gas mileage above about 55 miles per hour. But if every car looks the same, then no one will have a car with any individuality that the person can stake their claim too.
In other words every BMW, Ford, Mercedes, Toyota, Honda, GM, Chrysler, Tata, or BYD will all basically look the same. The chance for individual differentiation by any one car maker basically goes out the window. There was an interesting article not long ago on WardsAuto Auto Industry Online News Website which asked a tough question; "Are Aerodynamic Requirements Killing Automotive Design" written by Byron Pope and published on June 20, 2011.
After I read this article, I decided to make a comment about it, and as I was preparing my outline to create this article, I noticed that in the news today, June 27, 2011 - the Obama Administration has asked for more regulation, and potential legislation to require that all automobiles by the year 2025 maintain an average of 52.5 miles per gallon.

It seems to me that this is possible, considering in the future we will have carbon nanotube and graphene coated composites. This will mean the vehicles will be more than substantially lighter in weight, because carbon composites can easily be made 20 times lighter than steel. That means the frame, body, and other support structures within the car won't weigh very much at all. Also very thin carbon nanotube construction can be used for the glass, and the glass on an average SUV weighs 600 pounds.
If we start removing 600 pounds of glass, and 1500-2500 pounds worth of steel from an average SUV, it is quite a bit lighter, therefore it will take less fuel, and even a smaller engine to propel it. Likewise, there are several new types of engines being created right now which are up to 30% more efficient. And even tires are becoming more efficient, one trucking company tire manufacture is producing a tire which is 4% more efficient right now.
As you start adding up all these efficiencies, we will have the technologies to make cars which get substantially better fuel mileage. As the price of fuel goes up, less fuel will be used, and the free-market will dictate, along with the buyers and businesses that the vehicles get better mileage. Personally I'm not so sure we need to mandate that, or put forth a regulation, we should let the free market decide.
And yes as the article above pointed out aerodynamics is a significant part of fuel economy and efficiency. Anytime you reduce the coefficient of drag, especially over 55 miles an hour, where it makes a big difference, you reduce the wind resistance, thus requiring less energy to propel the car forward. Just as in a jet airplane.
And let's say a new car design is found to be very efficient, it will not be more than 1 to 2% efficient than a teardrop, and then there will only be two basic body styles; the new design, or a teardrop, take your pick. Not much choice there. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.