The Nut Behind the Wheel: One Way to Be More Fuel-Efficient

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Researchers at the University of California’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CERT) are studying ways of boosting fuel efficiency by improving driving habits. There is a saying amongst the hyper-mileage crowd that the best way to improve the fuel economy of any vehicle is to adjust the nut holding the steering wheel. But with a $1.2 million federal grant, CERT is looking at ways to make sure the “nut” holding the wheel gets a little help changing their fuel-wasting habits.

The automotive industry has tried a number of ways to help driver’s break their bad habits. There have been gas pedals that resist jack rabbit starts, eco-modes that reduce engine power, passive feedback systems such as fuel economy displays that show the driver how their driving is effecting their fuel efficiency.

It is no surprise that most people do not like being reminded of their poor driving habits and nobody likes giving up control of their vehicles. The fact is that the cars we drive today are much more fuel-efficient then the cars we drove ten years ago. The federal government has set fuel-efficiency standards that have the auto makers placing a huge amount of development dollars into finding better ways to make cars and trucks more fuel-efficient.

The evolution of our personal transport has been changing from day one. The electric car for example is not a new concept at all. In 1835, Thomas Davenport, a blacksmith from Brandon, Vermont, built an electric car. By the turn of the century America was prosperous and cars, now available in steam, electric, or gasoline versions, were becoming more popular. The years 1899 and 1900 were the high point of electric cars in America, as they outsold all other types of cars. One example was the 1902 Phaeton built by the Woods Motor Vehicle Company of Chicago, which had a range of 18 miles, a top speed of 14 mph and cost $2,000. Later in 1916, Woods invented a hybrid car that had both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.

Gasoline as an energy source for cars cannot be beat. The amount of energy derived from the combustion of a gallon of gasoline is about 132×106 joules of energy which is equivalent to 125,000 BTU or 36,650 watt-hours.

A number of high-end cars today have pre-crash sensors that can determine your vehicles location among other vehicles, the centerline of the roadway and objects that you might collide with.

So consider this, with emerging technology, could we someday merge onto the local interstate and take our hands off the wheel and put our feet on the floor? We would move along at a constant speed, spaced evenly in our lane of travel, our GPS determining our exit and possible alternate routes. Safer and more efficient travel without traffic jams or road rage and maybe finally removing the “nut” from the wheel.

About the author / 

Green Dude Scott
scottrobinarousseau@gmail.com'

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