We don’t need new technology to save us, just a little ingenuity.
After a few minor tweaks, Ernie Rogers can get up to 76 mpg in his 2003 VW diesel Beetle:
He drove 1375 miles…[on] just 18 gallons of fuel– 1200 miles of which was accomplished on just one tankfull (15.5 gallons). His trip fuel economy was 76 miles per gallon. Rogers’ car included several small refinements that added up to the exceptional mileage: a drag reducing device he designed and built himself (pictures [here]), lower-rolling-resistance tires, low-friction engine oil, and use of a B5 biodiesel blend fuel to increase efficiency and improve emissions.
That’s right, it’s a non-hybrid that puts the Prius to shame. Granted, this test was at 55 mph, but the VW still gets between 57-65 mpg at normal freeway speeds.
What’s Ernie’s great innovation? His VW might not win a beauty pageant, but it gets the job done, and it’s based on a simple concept: reducing drag.
As explained on Ernie’s website, automobile drag occurs mostly at the rear, where the course of smooth-flowing air is disrupted. Think about an airplane wing, which reduces air resistance by by guiding it along the wing’s surface to a thin edge. Although the VW beetle might seem somewhat aerodynamic to the untrained eye, drag is produced as air follows the curve of the frame. To solve this problem and create smoother air flow, Ernie installed a homemade spoiler, improving fuel economy by 5-8%.
Add low-resistance tires, low-friction engine oil, and a lubricious fuel additive (biodiesel), and you’ve got major increases in gas mileage.
If a back-yard mechanic can do this, imagine what auto-manufacturing’s best and brightest (backed by $$$) could do.
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For more information, see the links:
Drive55.org: VW Beetle wins fuel economy prize: 76 mpg