A Generalized Model for Comparing Automobile Design Approaches to Improved Fuel Economy

by T. F. Kirkwood, Allen D. Lee

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Describes an automobile design model that assesses the effects of design changes on fuel economy, lifetime energy required, sticker price, and annual cost of ownership of automobiles having specified acceleration capabilities, passenger and trunk compartment dimensions, and unrefueled range. The results indicate that large savings (as much as one-half) in automobile energy consumption are possible through technical improvements such as the use of a continuously variable transmission, improvements to the internal combustion engine, and the use of lighter weight structural materials. Important savings can also be realized by reducing the spaciousness of the auto. The use of methanol or hydrogen as automotive fuels does not result in an overall conservation of energy, but could result in a conservation of petroleum if the energy required to produce these fuels is obtained from nonpetroleum sources.

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