StuffDreams

2005-11-09

Reduce automobile fuel consumption by 25%.

The government should mandate that all new motor vehicles sold after a certain date have continuously visible fuel consumption gauges in the same way that they have speedometers and odometers. That is, an indicator of the following would always be visible in the dash:
  • instantaneous fuel consumption (right now.)
  • fuel consumption tied to the trip counter (what´s my mileage since I hit reset.)
  • overall fuel consumption tied to the odometer (life of the car.)
  • tire pressure warnings about low or high pressure in the dash.
It is estimated that improper tire inflation pressure make you use between 3 and 5% more fuel. Jacques Duval, a car expert in Québec, recently performed a media demonstration of instantaneous fuel consumption as a way of making people sensitive to how their driving habits can cost an additional 20% to 30% in fuel consumption. If drivers always see their mileage in real-time, it will train them to adjust their habits. Just saying it is not enough, folks need the continuous re-enforcement that comes from data visible in real-time.

All modern automobiles use fuel injection under computer control. It is trivial to extract fuel consumption from any such system. Correlation with the odometer information to derive fuel consumption is equally trivial. The hard part is the ergonomics of displaying the data on the dash. This was obvious from two aspects of the reportage. First, the automobile used in the test had an onboard computer with such display options, and it was a modest car (a Chevrolet), the problem was that there was much pushing of buttons to have the appropriate fuel consumption be displayed on the dash. A constant display would be far better.

In any event, the cost of implementing this feature to automobile manufacturers will likely be negligeable. The use of a three year time span allows the manufacturers to incorporate the new requirement into their next review of their product lines, further minimizing implementation cost.

Automated tire pressure monitoring systems are already present on some luxury models. Monitoring of tire pressure is a safety concern, as well as one for the environment. Cars with incorrect pressure can show poor manoeuvrability and traction as well as the fuel consumption penalty. Verification of tire pressure, is a relatively time consuming and oft neglected chore. For those with poor mobility, such as the elderly, or those who will not normally perform such tasks (such as my wife, who does not want to touch the dirty wheels or crouch beside the car in the winter with the slush.) automated monitoring is a boon. Admittedly, this requirement might add cost to automobiles. One hopes that as it becomes a mass market item, the additional cost would be minimal.

From Achilles Michaud's report, a Ford Focus produces 3.7 tonnes per year of CO, while a Ford Explorer produces 7 tonnes. If we take an average vehicle at being 5 tonnes per year, then a twenty percent savings from these two measures would meet the 'one tonne challenge' all on it's own. The goal of this suggestion is to ensure that drivers have real data on which to make continuous decisions, and promote real progress towards meeting Kyoto targets in a sustainable fashion.


The followup to Kyoto is coming to Montreal: http://unfccc.int/meetings/cop_11/items/3394.php

The Jacques Duval & Achilles Michaud media report:
http://www.radio-canada.ca/actualite/v2/tj22h/index.shtml

The one tonne challenge:
http://www.climatechange.gc.ca/onetonne/english/

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