European Fuel Economy: Keep Up America!



Fuel economy is a big item these days. As I walk around the streets in America I can’t help to notice the big gas guzzlers that most of us refuse to part with. But hey, gas prices in the U.S. are really nothing to cry about, at least not yet.

In Spain, as I recently discovered, they pay well over $5 dollars per gallon.  Yes, that is American dollars, good ol’ greenbacks.  “But they make a lot of money!” I often hear, but that is a misconception.  A professional engineer with a good salary makes about half what he or she would be making in the United States.  Yes, I said half.

So, back to fuel economy.  After a long day at work, one of my hosts gave me a ride to the hotel on his little BMW 118.  As we reached a stop sign, I noticed that the car shut off.  At first I thought he stalled it, but to my surprise, when he pushed in the clutch, the car started right back up, on its own.  When I asked him about it he laughed and explained to me a few other little peculiarities with the car that allow him to save gas.

  •  The car, once it meets other requirements such as operating temperatures, will turn off whenever it stops.  These automatic shutoffs are only efficient if the car is stopped for longer than 4 seconds, otherwise the restart uses the same amount of gas it would have if left on.
  • The engine cooling system is completely dependent on motor temperature.  In other words, the air ducts that guide outside air to the engine and cooling system have a variable damper that allows only the right amount of air to keep the engine functioning at optimal temperatures.  This makes for a more efficient motor, therefore better fuel economy.
  • The car is also equipped with a sensory system that tells the driver when to shift.  This is not however your hot rodding arrows you see on more cars to tell you when to get more speed on an upshift.  No, these are both up and down signals that tell you when a different gear would be more efficient.
  • If that was not enough, the car is equipped from factory with fuel efficient tires that have a more aerodynamic profile that help alleviate wind resistance.  On top of that, the car has this small, functional, air dampers under the front bumpers to further optimize air flow to the already efficient tires.

These little improvements on their own may not be a big deal, but when they are all combined on an already efficient diesel car, it makes a huge impact.  So, next time you buy a car, take a look around, and see what kind of european technologies are available on your vehicle, drive home happy, and drive people crazy at the stop lights when your car turns off on its own.

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