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Efficiency? Think Racing Cars, Not Hybrids

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the more-fun-that-way-too dept.

Transportation 1320

Gordonjcp writes "A renowned racing car designer has said that car manufacturers should be looking at making cars lighter to improve efficiency, rather than adding complex drive trains. In this article on the BBC News website, Professor Gordon Murray explains that a weight saving of 10% in a normal car would make more difference than switching to a hybrid engine and motor combination. Could this be the next nail in the SUV's coffin?"

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In the US no one wants to buy light cars (5, Insightful)

kalidasa (577403) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726625)

Because they're afraid they'll be crushed to a fine pulp when they get hit by a big honking SUV.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (5, Insightful)

cephah (1244770) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726673)

And their fears aren't exactly unfounded. Only way to get the majority of people to stop driving heavy cars is to increase gas prices to the point where lighter cars are the only option, or having a flag day where everybody agrees to switch, i.e. not gonna happen in the near future :)

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (3, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726677)

There's an easy solution for that: start prosecuting agressive SUV drivers for vehicular manslaughter and/or attempted vehicular manslaughter. Problem solved.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (2, Insightful)

Anarke_Incarnate (733529) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726741)

Because it is impossible for a partial blowout of a tire to force a 5000lb SUV into a 1900lb compact? Why is it that when an SUV owner gets into an accident, it is because they are aggressive? You want to talk aggressive, talk to all the 530i penis compensators who drive like they are on their own personal autobahn.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (1, Troll)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726837)

I am an avid cyclist and in my experience the ONLY times I have been close to an accident have been with SUV drivers, not sports cars, not sedans, not even minivans. SUV drivers. Mostly because they are just blissfully unaware of the fact that they have significantly reduced visibility, esp. in the back and sides. However, since the SUV owners are confident that they won't get hurt in an accident they dont give a flying fuck about anyone else on the road. Fuck SUV drivers, SUVs are WMDs, plain and simple. If you have one, I think you deserve the death penalty. Get modded troll for that, but its the truth, you simply don't deserve to live.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (5, Insightful)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726919)

I bike commute to work, the only close shave I've had is with a school bus. But then again we are both speaking with anecdotal evidence.

Re:I am also an avid cyclist... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23727319)

I bike commute to work, and the only close shave I've had is with the new Gillette Fusion(r) Power razor. Truly, the best a man can get.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (5, Funny)

raygundan (16760) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727373)

I used to bike commute, and my only wreck was with a tow truck. But it was my own stupid fault, not his, and if you're going to go over your handlebars, I highly recommend doing it onto the flatbed part of a flatbed tow truck. Saves the long fall back to the pavement.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (5, Insightful)

Lord_Frederick (642312) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726953)

The flaw in your argument is that these days almost NOBODY gives a flying fuck about anyone but themselves. It's not restricted to SUV owners.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (4, Insightful)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727287)

Sadly you can remove "these days" from that claim. Your point would still be accurate and as a bonus it wouldn't come out as "Get of my lawn!".

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23726955)

Lumping all SUV drivers in together is as fair as lumping in all bicycle riders together. You know, they don't follow traffic laws, don't signal, ride on the sidewalks, etc. etc. Fuck all bike riders.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23727059)

Well, I haven't seen a cyclist yet that's actually been paying attention enough to even know when they're close to being in an accident. They also don't give a flying fuck about traffic laws and pay no mind to street signs, traffic lights, crosswalk indications, etc.. Fortunately, since they don't deserve to live either, physics helps take care of that sometimes.

Wow, I never would have guessed how much fun it is to grossly generalize and cast reckless aspersions about people I don't even know! Thanks for the example!

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (2, Insightful)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727101)

Not to be rude, but maybe you should take the lack of visibility to heard and stay away from the backs and sides of SUVs? You can't expect that just because you are poorly protected and virtually invisible people will be extra careful about preserving your safety. You can hope they will, and you have every right to demand they will, but most drivers are end users and it would be folly to expect anything of them. These are the people who made it illegal to talk on the phone while driving, you know.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (2, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727129)

If you have one, I think you deserve the death penalty.
I take you are in the "John McCain isn't conservative enough" camp? Wow.

Have you ever considered that some truck drivers drive like grandmas because they understand the limitations of the vehicle? Should we give all bike riders the death penalty because some of them ride on the sidewalk?

But here I am trying to reason with a guy that wants roughly half of the driving public dead.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (-1, Troll)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727209)

I carpool to work every day, in my tiny 93 accord, and in my experience the ONLY times I have been close to an accident have been with cyclists, not sports cars, not sedans, not minivans, not even SUV drivers.

Mostly because they are just blissfully unaware of the fact that they disrupt the flow of traffic, and are impossible to pass on some roads. However, since cyclists are so damned convinced there going to be on the next tour de France, they have got to train on every major road and fuck everyone else who needs to get somewhere.

Fuck cyclists, cyclists are moving roadblocks, plain and simple. If you have one, I think you deserve the death penalty. Mod me troll for that, but its the truth, you simply don't deserve to live.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (5, Insightful)

initdeep (1073290) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727271)

As an avid motorcyclist, i can say that a large majority of the time I've been nearly turned to a small spot on the road is due to morons driving cars who are on cell phones.

These morons (or cagers as we motorcyclists car eto call them) come in all shapes and sizes and so do their vehicles.

in fact i can provide anectodatal evidence of everythign from a fucking little college girl who ran a buddy off the road while merging off an off ramp, to the time a farmer pulled his combine onto the road directly in front of a group of 20 bikes.

None of that means a shit to anybody but the people who were there, yet i can say that i'd much rather we prosecute idiots who arent paying attention than go after a specific type of vehicle.

FYI, this isnt exactly a new situation for motorcyclists. We've been complaining about this longer than SUV's have been a mainstream vehicle.

How about instead of trying to lump people by the type of vehicle, we instead start issuing "distracted driver" tickets to all those morons deserving of them.

I'm fairly certain every state in the union has a distracted driving law on the books.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (2, Funny)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726861)

Because criticizing a perfect European car or the enlightened people who drive them is unacceptable.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (3, Funny)

jo42 (227475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727291)

enlightened
That's a new definition of "having your head up your arse" that we haven't heard before...

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (1, Flamebait)

Animaether (411575) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726897)

"Because it is impossible for a partial blowout of a tire to force a 5000lb SUV into a 1900lb compact?"

Not at all - but when the person purchased that 5000lb SUV, did they realize the impact this would have - on them and potentially others - should they have such a tire blowout? I'd imagine they should be, so why shouldn't they be held to a higher standard?

In NL all cars are required by law to get regular checkups, all trucks (by this I mean semis / 18 wheelers / whatever you want to call them) are required to get them more often, and more thoroughly, exactly because of the much greater danger such a truck (trailer or not) poses to the rest of the traffic should something go wrong.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (-1, Troll)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727283)

Call me selfish, but I'm not going to be the guy out there in the lightweight car. I'm not going to risk the life of my daughter "for the greater good". Sorry, but that's human nature.

That is why we need uniform standards. Fuel mileage standards will work, as will more expensive gas (which is what you do in the NL). People will generally buy the heaviest, most powerful car that is practical for them. They may not be actively shopping for the heaviest car, but that's what they get when they look for roomy and inexpensive.

In Europe, roughly half of shoppers buy the heavier diesel despite the added danger to others on the road. They aren't doing this because they want the weight, but diesel is cheaper in Europe.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (5, Funny)

llamalad (12917) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726943)

Because with greater vehicular mass should come greater driver responsibility.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (4, Insightful)

Anarke_Incarnate (733529) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727143)

Then realize that when you drive a compact or subcompact and have a mechanical failure that puts your vehicle out of your control while it is going in excess of 35 miles per hour, if you kill a pedestrian, you should be charged with manslaughter, because you knew that you were in a car.


That sounds ridiculous, and it is. Accidents happen. People who fail to realize that the world is a chaotic place outside the control of civilized or even uncivilized society will only be upset when they are shown evidence of this.


Cars do not cause accidents, guns do not cause murder, pencils do not cause spelling errors and pie does not cause obesity. The actions undertaken with the use of the "tool" is the cause and the perpetrator is to blame, not the devices. If there were no car, there would be carriage accidents. If no gun, there would be knife attacks. If no pencil, then coal would be used to misspell things on cave walls. If no pie, they would simply have to eat cake :).

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (4, Insightful)

llamalad (12917) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727361)

It seems to me that there's got to be a reason that pedestrians have the right of way. Maybe it's that in exchange for being granted the privilege of driving an automobile on a public road these drivers assume responsibility for remaining in control of their vehicles and are accountable for the consequences of failing to do so.

You get in a Mazda Miata, drive off the road at 30mph, you run through a mailbox and crash into a light pole. You do the same thing in a Ford Excursion at 30mph, you go through the mailbox, pole, the two kids in their plastic wading pool, grandma whose watching them from a lawn chair, and crash in to the house, maiming mom and dad who were watching tv sitting against the wall you just drove through.

Bigger car = more potential for harming others.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727047)

Considering that many of the egregious driving by SUV owners seems to be when they have their cell-phone up to the head without a hands-free, I think it shouldn't be "aggressive" but "negligence" that they should be charged with. Most people don't seem to have the foggiest where the silly vehicle is when they're not on the phone- and it goes all the way out the window when they get on it while they're driving that behemoth.

Moreover, most of the people driving them are driving them as status symbols. Much like the dualies and whatnot were back in earlier times.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (2, Insightful)

Anarke_Incarnate (733529) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727249)

Generalizations are .........general.

I drive an SUV. It is a 4Cyl powered machine that weighs about 3300lbs. The mileage is "acceptable" if not a bit disappointing. I have also not hit anybody nor have I been hit, outside of minor parking dings when I return to my car.

However, I have been in car accidents and the majority of them were with sedans where the driver was inattentive or downright moronic.

The trouble you have is not with SUVs but with the people who drive them. Sure, some of them may be more inclined to purchase an SUV, but trust me, they are hardly status symbols anymore. I got mine simply for the utility of it and the AWD features, as I often have no choice but to make it to work (Datacenter) and I can get a good deal of snow on the ground where I live.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (2, Insightful)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727281)

They are at fault by nature of their vehicle choice. They could have bought a minivan, but chose the heavier, trendier, more "rugged" option. The only benefits to an "SUV" are psychological/social.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23727331)

Have you ever had a tire blow out? I have, I was doing 65, the tire went bang (thanks to truck debris spillage slicing my wall), my car just continued normally, no swerve, no panic, just a slight leaning to the front right. When I pulled over I was surprised to see my tire was utterly flat. I had no idea what the noise was until I went around the car looking for damage.

Yoy say an SUV will swerve for the same thing. Yet more evidence SUVs are not safe. Have fun digging that glass out the kids when you roll over.

Get this into your head, fast cars are safe. They are designed to stop fast, turn fast and hold the road. SUVs do none of this. Each SUV has warnings they may roll over above the driver's seat. Doesn't that tell you something?

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (1)

Spuds (8660) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726801)

There's an easy solution for that: start prosecuting agressive SUV drivers for vehicular manslaughter and/or attempted vehicular manslaughter. Problem solved.
Yes, because no one has accidents when driving and driving laws prevent such accidents from occurring. /sarcasm

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726763)

Actually, I'm not. I understand why people think that way and therefore by heavy cars and SUVs themselves, but I would rather drive a small, light car that I can maneuver with and (hopefully) avoid collisions while ensuring that I don't do too much damage to other people.

Besides, I really enjoy driving maneuverable cars (even if it's just a kia rio) rather than driving a larger vehicle with a huge turning radius.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (1)

s.bots (1099921) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727127)

I'm hoping at some point in time I will get the opportunity to drive a Lotus (any of them). The whole principle behind it - speed through light weight, not huge power - is brilliant. I'm not sure what the fuel efficiency is in one, but it can't be too shabby considering that their "high power" model rocks out about 240hp from a supercharged 1.8L engine. It may be a little impractical as an every-day driver though...

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (2, Interesting)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727365)

I agree, my last car was a 93 Civic (manual). Personally, I got between 35 and 40 MPG; why does it take a hybrid to get that kind of mileage today?

And yes, it had an air conditioner, even!

Why? It ALL revolves around safety requirements. Give up air bags? I don't know how much weight they add... air backs, ESC, ABS, enhanced crumble zones and passenger cages... collectively I expect they add quite a bit.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23726821)

Regarding your sig, do you know the context of it, or is this an example of "Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur"? The rest of the passage points out that the reason a war is harder to stop is because only the victor can decide to stop it. The message, therefore, is that war is ok provided you win it.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23726873)

Safety devices in cars are the major reason that fuel efficiency hasn't significantly improved since the 70s. Since the 70s and 80s up to 500 kg have been added to cars in the form of safety devices. For example, a 1979 Honda Civic had a curb weight of 680 kg. A 2008 Honda Civic has a curb weight of 1180 kg. A 1980 Toyota Camry had a curb weight of 1000 kg. A 2008 Toyota Camry has a curb weight of about 1500 kg. This 500 kg rule applies across a broad range of vehicles.

Why the safety assumption? (1, Informative)

clonan (64380) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727001)

What is really surprising is that despite the common consensus, SUV's are NOT safer than small cars.

Even a tiny car vs. an SUV you are just as likely to walk away in the small car as the SUV.

Now, tiny car vs Mack truck, Mack truck wins everytime...Mack truck vs SUV and guess what, Mack truck wins every time.

It is true that you are more likely to TOTAL a small car but if it is safety you are after than ANYTHING that passes crash testing is more than safe for everyone but professional racers. Wear your seat belt, check your tires and breaks and DON'T cut people off with 36 inches to spare at 80+ MPH!

The SUV safety myth was created by marketing pure and simple.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (1)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727081)

Because they're afraid they'll be crushed to a fine pulp when they get hit by a big honking SUV.
And those people do not understand crash dynamics very well. If 5000lb SUV hits 1500lb CAR, unless the car is pinned, it will move with the force of the SUV, which is better than a much heavier vehicle that will resist that movement more. The small and light cars are just as safe as any other vehicle out there. The big issue comes when being hit by a semi, which even an SUV will lose an argument with.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (1)

elguillelmo (1242866) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727165)

Stating the obvious, heavy doesn't equal hard... and the fact SUV's are safer is disputed [wikipedia.org] : SUVs are more likely to roll over, more likely to be in a single-car accident and more likely to cause harm to other road users

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (1)

Instine (963303) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727323)

Pussies.

Re:In the US no one wants to buy light cars (3, Insightful)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727349)

Because they're afraid they'll be crushed to a fine pulp when they get hit by a big honking SUV.

Which is amusing because most of those SUVs are over half crumple-zone by volume. There was a time when an SUV was a 4x4 vehicle made of steel that you drove because you needed to be able to go off road or lug all your belongings somewhere in the snow. Those days are long gone. Now it doesn't snow here anymore and an SUV is a minivan with a six-liter v8 purchased for ostentation and to satisfy latent napoleon complexes.

Seriously? (3, Insightful)

Thyamine (531612) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726643)

People are still buying SUVs, and really, I still prefer the idea of an SUV than a minivan or station wagon to try and haul people/stuff around. Maybe I'd feel different if I had a few children to get in and out, but I don't see the SUV going away anytime soon. Plus why not just make a lighter SUV?

Re:Seriously? (1)

jimbobborg (128330) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726805)

With all the safety and emissions equipment that is now required on cars, like unibody construction, catalytic converters, etc., the average sedan weighs about the same as some of the older tanks that were around during the early 70s. My wife's 2005 Mercury Sable weighs the same as my old 1971 Ford Galaxy. And the Sable is significantly smaller than the Galaxy.

Jim

Re:Seriously? (3, Informative)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726815)

Lighter SUVs flip over easier. How could you prefer any SUV when it's far less safe? Minivans and station wagons at least have better crumple zones to protect you in a crash. Even those half-SUV/half-car things use car frames with proper crumple zones and have a lower center of gravity.

Re:Seriously? (1)

mrslacker (1122161) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727075)

Yes, I have a Ford Freestyle (now called a Taurus X). Well, ok I have a bicycle and dodge SUVs, my wife drives it. It's a good idea, but the mileage is hardly great (20mpg or so) and it's not exactly a light car.

Here in Southern California, driving is an obsession that needs to change real soon. At least I only have one car.

Re:Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23726839)

Because a lighter SUV would be even more likely than they already are to flip over and roll.
If you prefer the idea of an SUV because you feel safer in one remember that is just an illusion.

Re:Seriously? (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726855)

The SUV is good in terms of vehicle size. Being of the genus 'lankyus pratus', I'd certainly prefer one, if only for the legroom. It's just the fuel requirement that's the killer, and that won't change any time soon, not soon enough to prevent the deatho of that class of car.

I wouldn't be surprised if in a few decades, once energy efficient engines are common and cheap, they make a comeback.

Re:Seriously? (1)

Manhigh (148034) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726867)

I'm curious to see what kind of torque comes out of the Chevy Volt and other electric-drive hybrids coming out in the coming years.

I love my pickup, and I bike to work to offset the poor milage I get. But if a Volt has sufficient torque to pull a 4x6 trailer when I need it, I'd consider going that route.

Re:Seriously? (2, Informative)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726939)

People are still buying SUVs
Well, err, they are but sales are falling. As an example, this quote from the NYT [nytimes.com]

Ford, which last month abandoned its long-standing goal to be profitable in 2009, has been hurt by the shift in U.S. consumer demand toward smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles and away from large trucks and SUVs.

Ford relies heavily on sales of its SUVs and full-size pickup trucks in the U.S. market, but the U.S. demand for the large vehicles has been shrinking for several years and the declines accelerated in the last couple of months as gas prices rose above $3.50 per gallon.

Re:Seriously? (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727125)

IMO, minivans kick an SUV's ass in pretty much all categories (fuel efficiency, people hauling, stuff hauling, just plain hauling) with the possible exception of offroading (but 90%+ of SUV owners aren't going offroad) and genital enhancement.

Re:Seriously? (1)

winwar (114053) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727181)

"I still prefer the idea of an SUV than a minivan or station wagon to try and haul people/stuff around."

An SUV is a repackaged station wagon. As are most minivans. Most SUV's have no more usable space than a station wagon. Heck, some have less usable space than a Prius.

Re:Seriously? (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727233)

People are still buying SUVs, and really, I still prefer the idea of an SUV than a minivan or station wagon to try and haul people/stuff around. Maybe I'd feel different if I had a few children to get in and out, but I don't see the SUV going away anytime soon. Plus why not just make a lighter SUV?
I'd say far fewer people are buying them since all of the major manufacturers have dramatically reduced production [wired.com] , though they haven't stopped.

So what is it, for you personally, that makes the SUV more appealing than a sport wagon? Or minivan? I find the Honda Odyssey and the Subaru Outback to be better than most SUVs I've been in, and driven. SUVs tend to be cludgy and difficult to opperate, where sport wagons are nimble and still have significant space. And vans have dramatically more capacity than SUVs but with lower (un)loading levels and sliding doors that can open wider and in tighter spaces.

The only purpose I see for SUVs are their ability to drive offroad, and most of them never do that. And most sport wagons can go more places than most SUVs are taken.

All that said, I own a 4 door Wrangler, but at least I've gotten the thing dirty [google.com] , and I use it to haul my dogs around. I would not be able to take an Odyssey where I DO take my Jeep, and I would not be able to put my dogs in their crates in the back end of an Outback. But I have friends who own large SUVs instead of minivans and the dirtiest those vehicles get is spilled Cheerios in the third row seat and baby vomit in the middle. If you're going to buy an SUV at least occationally use it for what it was built for.

Re:Seriously? (1)

Paranatural (661514) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727235)

An aerodynamic one would be more useful, actually. But SUV drivers usually like big square/rectangular shapes.

Could this be the next nail in the SUV's coffin? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23726647)

I sure hope so!

It's a question of weight ratios (4, Funny)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726685)

... but how many coconuts can an SUV carry?

Re:It's a question of weight ratios (4, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726769)

American or Japanese?

Re:It's a question of weight ratios (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23727307)

African or European?

Two things (3, Informative)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726709)

Cars need to be lighter and more aerodynamic [aptera.com] . The drag on a standard automobile is just ridiculous. Rear ends today are typically vertically flat! Who are these designers that aren't familiar with the teardrop shape?

Re:Two things (1)

Lord_Frederick (642312) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726783)

They don't make cars with rear ends like that because nobody would buy them except the 5 or 6 people that actually think that looks good.

Re:Two things (5, Insightful)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726869)

Cars need to be lighter and more aerodynamic [aptera.com] . The drag on a standard automobile is just ridiculous. Rear ends today are typically vertically flat! Who are these designers that aren't familiar with the teardrop shape?
Well, the teardrop shape is less space efficient than a box, and most vehicles don't go fast enough often enough to make use of quality aerodynamics. If it's just a mom driving her kids to school, and around town, she's rarely going to get over 35mph and likely not waste much fuel in wind resistance. But the fact the vehicle is boxy means she can get more kids / stuff in the back end and much easier. To have the same space but a slopey backend would required adding several feet to the overall length of the vehicle.

Re:Two things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23726991)

what highways are you driving on? Most the SUVs I see on the highways are going 80-90, same as everyone else, and the lack of aerodynamics is most certainly a factor at that speed.

Re:Two things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23727175)

That mom is probably not the hardest hit by the gas prices, though. People in more rural communities often have long daily drives and don't have access to public transportation.

Re:Two things (1)

TigerNut (718742) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727057)

Because the teardrop shape is (a) hard to fabricate (b) easy to damage and (c) damn hard to maneuver with - a typical small car such as my Echo would require a ten foot (3 meter) tail to have a 'proper' teardrop shape.


The right answer is to use a Kamm tail, where the taper is cut off and vortex generators, if necessary, are used to cause a high-pressure zone to build behind the cut-off part. Many of the current crop of high-efficiency cars already have airflow management features on the rear of the car, and that is in fact why the rear ends are vertical with sharp corners.

Because it's actually better (3, Informative)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727095)

Because basically a long time ago, someone discovered that you can cut off the tail of that teardrop, and the air flow will still be largely the same. Only this time without the added mass and drag of that teardrop tail.

And especially if you read the RTFA, weight is a big problem. Increasing the car's weight with a useless tail would negate any aerodynamic benefits anyway. If you save, say, 0.5 litre per 100 km in aerodynamic drag with a tail, but pay 1 litre per 100 km to move that extra weight, it's not worth it.

Re:Two things (1)

hankwang (413283) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727211)

The drag on a standard automobile is just ridiculous. Rear ends today are typically vertically flat! Who are these designers that aren't familiar with the teardrop shape?

The flat back you're talking about is called a Kammback [wikipedia.org] and it has actually a lower air resistance than a teardrop shape.

Kammback (5, Informative)

raygundan (16760) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727237)

A truncated teardrop with a flat back (like the Prius or the Insight) is actually more aerodynamic than the teardrop. It's called a Kammback [wikipedia.org] , and it's named for the gentleman who noticed that if you chop off the back of the teardrop, the air keeps flowing the same way, except without the drag of sliding along the surface of the parts of the teardrop you just chopped off.

Re:Two things (4, Informative)

kryptKnight (698857) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727269)

Who are these designers that aren't familiar with the teardrop shape?
This is kinda tangential, but a raindrop (which is considered the ideal aerodynamic shape) is shaped like a slightly squashed sphere rather than the traditional teardrop shape.

For comparison, the drag coefficient of a water droplet is 0.04, a Honda Prius is 0.24, an H2 Hummer is 0.57 and an open parachute is 1.75. Smaller numbers represent less drag, obviously.

Here are a couple articles about cars that have been designed to be shaped like water droplets, one from Mechanical Engineering Magazine [memagazine.org] and one from from Popular Science [popsci.com]

The Saturn Philiosophy (2, Interesting)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726727)

"If it can be made out of black plastic, make it out of black plastic!"

(I had a crack in my radiator - sure enough, part of the manifold for the radiator was made out of black plastic as well. Surprised the engine block itself isn't black plastic, at times.)

Weight and cost savings. Nothing new (my car is a '97 Saturn; alive and well with 160k miles and between 30-40 MPG city).

Re:The Saturn Philiosophy (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727239)

had a crack in my radiator - sure enough, part of the manifold for the radiator was made out of black plastic as well.

Yup. I had the exact same issue with my 97 Saturn SC2. It's a known flaw with the plastic breaking down over time.

Re:The Saturn Philiosophy (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23727261)

Several years ago I had an the opportunity to talk to one of the design engineers for Saturn at an auto-show. At the time they were researching ways to make all the body panels out of plastic, the hood and trunk lids needed to be metal, due mostly to the heat they absorb. The eventual goal was to mold the car's color into all the plastic parts, to eliminate the need to paint any of the exterior parts of the car. One problem they had with this process at the time is that bumper plastic is different from the fender plastic, and tinting the panels to match exactly was very difficult. One big benefit to the consumer was the ability to just sand minor scratchs and scrapes off the car. No need to repaint. I am surprised that we have not seen more of this type of innovation. Making more parts out of plastic would lighten the load of the car.

What about 10% weight savings in the driver's seat (4, Insightful)

PrimeWaveZ (513534) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726759)

I'm just saying...

It might be helpful.

Re:What about 10% weight savings in the driver's s (1)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726995)

I'm just saying... It might be helpful.
I wish I had some mod points to give you an insightful on this one.

Re:What about 10% weight savings in the driver's s (2, Insightful)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727019)

How about this. You force people to walk more, and you solve two problems at the same time :)

Re:What about 10% weight savings in the driver's s (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23727217)

How about 10% weight saving of the driver and each passenger?

Surprising (5, Funny)

Nodamnnicknamesavial (1095665) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726773)

So aerodynamics and weight make a difference when trying to propel an object?!

This is going to revolutionize everything!

Maybe if we drove cars in space we wouldn't have those pesky problems.

Re:Surprising (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727273)

You better file a patent on that before someone else does.

How about doing both? (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726827)

What's wrong with the idea of making cars lighter AND looking for alternative (and cheaper) fuels? Is there a reason for either/or, or can't we just build lightweight hybrids?

Re:How about doing both? (1)

nasch (598556) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727255)

Money could be an issue. Removing weight costs more money, and so does a hybrid drivetrain (so far anyway). Do both, and you could spend 50 grand on a compact car. Not a good proposition in today's market.

Re:How about doing both? (2, Interesting)

mh1997 (1065630) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727301)

What's wrong with the idea of making cars lighter AND looking for alternative (and cheaper) fuels? Is there a reason for either/or, or can't we just build lightweight hybrids?
The additional weight of the electric motor/drive train/batteries probably eats up any weight savings. I don't know, I'm just making a guess. The only weight spec I could find for the above is 54Kg battery pack for a prius which is about 5% of the car's total weight.

Partially right... (3, Insightful)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726889)

I like bigger autos. I'm 6'3" with a family history of back problems. I DON'T want a car, I want a fuel-efficient pickup/SUV/Crossover that doesn't bounce around like a jeep and I don't have to deal with the up-and-down motion of getting in and out of. I like hauling crap around. I like being able to see OVER traffic.

GM is on the right path with the Hybrid Silverado they are making, but I would like to see something a little smaller, along the lines of a Ranger or S-10/Sonoma (I LOVED the 1994 Sonoma I drove through college). Americans are going to buy small cars in the near future, but the REAL money will be made when we can drive larger SUV's and trucks that get 30+ MPG's.

Re:Partially right... (5, Interesting)

Pope (17780) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727091)

I like being able to see OVER traffic.

This amuses me to no end, and I've heard it repeated from people at the Budget rental place as well as talking heads on TV. What possible use is seeing over traffic if you're still stuck in it? Are you following too closely and not paying attention to your surroundings or something?

Re:Partially right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23727133)

you're one of those annoying whiners who like to disrupt traffic with your big dumb vehicle. just shut your cake hole and learn to drive a real car like the rest of us who don't have an inferiority complex. stop trying to make up for your lack of real manhood with a suv or pickup. maybe you'll find it gratifying to be a real human after all.

Re:Partially right... (2, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727179)

I can understand the height issue, and there will always bee a need for larger vehicles. But the thing about seeing over traffic disturbs me.

The need to see over traffic just makes the problem worse. You want to see over traffic, so you get a taller vehicle. That's fine, except now everyone else who could see just find before can't see over you. So they also need higher vehicles. And they you can't see over them, so you need a yet taller vehicles. And each time we do this we get less fuel efficiency and less safety.

Re:Partially right... (2, Insightful)

gaspar ilom (859751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727377)

I like being able to see OVER traffic.
If everyone acted as you, what would you do then? Seeing "over" the traffic seems like a poor excuse to get a larger car, and if everyone did it, it would become a never-ending arms race.

SUV has a coffin already? (1)

WK2 (1072560) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726921)

Who bought SUV a coffin? That's pre-mature.

Sure, mod me down. I'm just pointing out that SUVs are popular, and there was never any indication otherwise.

Re:SUV has a coffin already? (2, Insightful)

xgr3gx (1068984) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727381)

Haha - gotta love mass hysteria.
How come nobody is freaking out about heating oil?
- That's 4.50/gal in my area.
Granted, we don't really need it now, but in a few months...
Gas @ 15gals per fillup vs Heating oil at 300gals per fillup.
I can change driving habits pretty easily, but I can't stop heating my home. I keep the heat as low as I can with an infant in the house, and use a programmable thermostat.
Oh my god! Death to the oil fired furnace - long live wood!

Well Duh (1)

Dodger73 (654030) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726937)

I suggest everybody start riding motorcycles. For one, it would improve their gas mileage tremendously, and secondly, I wouldn't have to worry anymore about morons in their SUVs changing lanes without so much as looking or setting their turn signal, and almost running over me when I'm on mine.
Hey, just an idea. And Darwin will take care of the idiots, something that SUVs are currently preventing.

Re:Well Duh (1)

s.bots (1099921) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727309)

When at least six months of the year are winter (either snow or just too damn cold) a motorcycle is not practical. Not that an SUV is either, I've seen a Hummer stuck in a snowbank and had a good chuckle. As long as you have proper tires and don't drive like a fool, any car will do fine in the snow.

Old hybrids... (0)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726941)

... like the DeLorean... it runs with fuel or with garbage (with the optional MrFussionTM attached), and is so light that even floats.

Ok, wasnt so hybrid, the garbage only was used for time travel, and the floating part somewhat dont work in the far west... but at least with it you can load fuel when it was dirty cheap on gas stations.

Who knew? (5, Insightful)

voislav98 (1004117) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726957)

Lighter cars use less gas? What's next? Telling people that they shouldn't live 200 miles from where they work? I heard a kind of a funny fact this morning on BBC, average energy consumption per capita in North America is double that in Europe. It's not like the standard of living or climate is that much different, it's all about the culture.

Re:Who knew? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23727199)

I don't know about most American cities, but where I live gas would have to be $10 a gallon for years before it would be concievable to move close enough to work to walk or ride a bicycle. American cities are failing to provide the infrastructure to do anything like that and the few people who might be interested are far outweighed by the majority. Further, companies are more than willing to send their employees to other locations ad hoc with little regard to their personal needs. I was once next to a man on a plane who took an 8 hour flight to work every monday and flew back every friday because his was a specialized field and the company wanted him to work somewhere far from home.

Hopefully a watershed moment, the oil "problem" (2, Insightful)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 6 years ago | (#23726961)

One could hope that the coming oil problem and the focus on energy use will spill over to the general public's energy use. We have up to know, had almost unlimited energy and we've thrived in that environment. But now that we see a huge energy resource shortage in the oil markets we're starting to rethink this policy of unabated energy use. Hopefully in the coming years there will be more focus on energy efficiency in all aspects of life.

We didn't learn the first time (1970s) (2, Insightful)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727279)

I feel like I'm re-living the past. I am old enough to remember the oil embargo of the 1970s, and how that quadrupled the cost of fuel. For a short time, it was all windmills, car pooling, public transportation, and econo-box cars, then it was right back to the guzzlers.

I also remember fuel prices dropping, very briefly, in early 2006. The sales of SUVs spiked right along with the fuel cost drop. If fuel prices drop during the election, the same thing will probably happen again.

Those who don't remember the past, yadda yadda.

Lotus Elise (4, Informative)

Quila (201335) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727007)

The original Lotus Elise got almost 30 mpg with 1.8l, 120 hp, and it was a high-performance car.

Put a little 1 liter, 60 horsepower engine in there and it'll probably get 50 mpg, but have regular car performance.

The secret? Weighing only about 1,650 lbs.

my 2 cents (1)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727009)

I sick of hearing that X technology is more efficient then Y and there are merits to Z technology - I want a vehicle with X, Y and Z technology. Combine them all and make something decent.

Yes a light car will be mashed by a truck or SUV - but I think you'll find in the vast majority of cases it will make sod all difference and in any case SUVs are a dying breed. Ken Livingstone coined the phrase "chelsea tractors" for Londoners who collected their offspring from school in vast 4x4 vehicles.

Private cars will never be a substitute for a decent, affordable mass transit system. My preferred future has public transpot the norm with shared cars available on demand for subscribers (think the ZipCar model) for when a train is inconvenient.

http://www.zipcar.com/ [zipcar.com]

And yes, I know I am in fantasy land here.

New day, old solution (1)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727033)

This isn't in the least bit a new approach. The 1970's solution to it's energy crisis was compact cars. We do have a leg up on almost 40 years ago though, materials technology is a quantum level up from where it was.

As soon as... (1, Insightful)

Duncan3 (10537) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727065)

As soon as women stop screwing men in big fast cars, and men stop buying big fast cars to get laid ... we'll have no problem. As if that will ever happen. It's no the tech, it's the human.

Regenerative Brakes (4, Interesting)

hardburn (141468) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727113)

Hybrids get their benefits in two ways: reclaiming power that would otherwise be lost during braking, and the fact that electric motors have a flat torque band. You generally can't do either that with an internal combustion engine alone.

However, there are a few ways to do both the above without an electric motor. One way is to have a flywheel connected to a CVT on the drive shaft. When you hit the brakes, the flywheel spins up. You can then release that power again when you accelerate. The flywheel will also act as a gyroscope, so you need to have some way of tilting it so you can go through corners with it spun up (which has the side effect of increasing handling). This method is being put on F1 cars soon.

The other way is to have an air compressor, which again is run off the drive shaft when you hit the brakes. On acceleration, the compressed air could either run the drive shaft, be dumped into the intake to increase boost, or dumped into the exhaust manifold to eliminate turbo lag. This is probably easier to design than a tilting-flywheel system, though it won't make handling better.

The compressor could also run off turbines using inlets around the car's body that are opened when braking. This particular use is probably illegal for F1 and other types of race cars (which often ban variable body shape systems), but could easily be used in road cars.

Both the above don't require any particularly exotic materials (though carbon fiber or nanotubes would be nice for the flywheel), and shouldn't be as heavy as an electric motor/battery system.

It's somewhat self fulfilling (2, Interesting)

Conficio (832978) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727117)

A lighter car means a smaller and lighter engine, which works on two factors to reduce energy consumption.

SUV's not going anywhere (2, Insightful)

katorga (623930) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727135)

The majority of "SUVs" are light pickup trucks, and they are the lifeblood of the working class. Landscapers, yard cutters, painters, plumbers, etc etc all require pickups.

Use different cars for different purposes (1)

Conficio (832978) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727231)

One of the larger issues is that we all use one or max two cars to fulfill our various transport needs. In essence we buy the largest car we need/can afford.


I think Switzerland has an interesting model. They tax and insure cars through the license plate to operate it. That way you can own that SUV for the trips to your back country house, but drive in a slick SMART [smartusa.com] to work in the city and save gasoline, road space and parking space.

reading comprehension (1)

jschen (1249578) | more than 6 years ago | (#23727315)

From the article... "If you could take 10% off the weight of every car on the planet overnight, it would make so much more difference than all the new engine technologies and fuel technologies that people are talking about." He said that taking 10% weight off of all the cars makes more difference than all the alternative technologies out there. That's because the alternative technologies out there have little market penetration so far, not because taking 10% weight off will make a car have hybrid-like efficiency. Consider... a compact car might weigh around 1200 kg. 10% is two light passengers. If you get decent gas mileage carrying two friends around, do you suddenly get hybrid-like milage when you throw out the friends?

Honda Insight (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23727343)

Honda adopted the "racing car" model when it designed the Insight. This was the first hybrid to hit to US market (2000-2006) and it was both very lightweight (1900 lbs) and aerodynamic (drag coef of 0.25). I own a 2000 model and get about 60-70 mpg on the highway (depending on speed and prevailing wind). The hybrid electric system gives virtually no benefit during highway cruising so that awesome MPG rating could presumably be acheived by a lower-cost reincarnation of the vehicle that lacked the expensive hybrid mechanics. Of course, part of the car's premium pricetag (~$21k) was due to the use of higher-priced aluminum instead of steel in many components.
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