Sustainable Cars or Green Speeding

Sustainable Cars or Green Speeding
All set up for a test drive at the Chicago Auto Show.

Guest blog by John Toliver, the son I sent to the Chicago Auto Show.

If you’re interested in seeing some pics of the cars John reviewed check the post

This entry is really about sustainable cars.

Since this is a green blog I will mostly focus on cars that have either reduced emissions or no emissions at all. The cars that are least likely to raise the sea levels, putting your favorite cities under water, cars that are less likely to melt the polar ice caps so baby seals, baby foxes and penguins have a place to live…. So polar bears can later come along and eat them.

First we would like to thank the organizers of the Auto Show for extending this opportunity to a few humble bloggers. We would also like to thank all the manufacturers for their exhibits and knowledgeable presenters… Especially those offering in truck off-road demonstration (insert rides) or those offering a straight-line acceleration course. In either instance you have a very personable and knowledgeable presenter explaining the virtues of the vehicle you are presently in, while also scaring the crap out of you by taking, THE VEHICLE YOU ARE PRESENTLY IN, over obstacles that should cause THE VEHICLES YOU ARE PRESENTLY IN to roll over or accelerating to an unbelievable speed and breaking before crashing into a wall killing everyone. When my heart started beating again I realized it was worth every minute and cannot wait to participate again next year. Unscathed and more educated we continued our mission.


Very Green Cars:

Most green cars come in one of 2 flavors, electric or hybrid. Electric of course generally depend on a large array of laptop style batteries providing power to electric motor/s to run you around town.  Though their range is steadily expanding and the charge time continue to drop, these types of vehicles are mostly useful as urban commuter cars.

Mostly green cars:

These are cars that could be very green, BUT they are so much fun they could be accused of clubbing baby seals, foxes and penguins while you are sleeping. Cars in this group? the Acura NSX and not as much in this category the BMW i8. These cars on a full charge and tank of gas will easily travel across most states, but are so much fun to drive they will hardly make it to the next gas/charging station.

Hybrid Sports Car

Hybrid Sports Car

Supercars with green technology:

An encouraging pattern:

Most car companies are moving away from larger and or higher revving engines to smaller and lighter, but more powerful turbocharged engines. This trend is surfacing from the most basic entry level cars to the flagship and high-performance cars. Turbos are not new to the automotive world, but in the past their cost, perceived lack of reliability, turbo lag, maintenance costs and the “There’s no replacement for displacement” belief kept their use to almost zero except in diesel trucks and a niche segment of the automotive market.

Fast forward a 3+ decades you have better materials, better and more efficient manufacturing, better engine management, reduced turbo lag and a more general acceptance into the broader car market. The benefits of a turbo charged engine are as follows: With a much smaller engine you have greater flexibility on where it may be placed within a vehicle. This can be used to maximize cabin space, performance by the balance of the car through engine placement or find a better compromise between the two than a much larger engine with similar performance.

The latest Ford GT, though it would be difficult to sell it as a green car, is a specific example where a smaller engine can even affect the overall shape of a car. The twin turbocharged V6 allows for a shorter and lower engine cover than if a 8, 10 or 12 had been used. Meeting emissions and fuel economy standards when sensibly driven is easier on a smaller engine. Additional fuel economy, when driven responsibly, is achieved through weight reduction and reduction in internal friction.

Most think about weight reduction as something that will assist in acceleration and breaking, though true the same physics assist with fuel saving. Accelerating the weight of the larger engine requires more energy than a much lighter one, similarly additional energy is required to move heavier reciprocating and rotating parts within the engine. Finally, with fewer cylinders or simply a smaller displacement you will have a reduction in internal friction


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