Aug 182013

When driving through a parking lot, you will see many similar looking cars.  Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, Lexus, BMW, Audi, etc all sort of blend together when comparing their side and front profiles.

The reason is aerodynamics.  In order for automakers to meet CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) ratings of 54.5 mpg in 2025 set by the US government, they need to work on reducing Cd (coefficient of drag).  The government will fine automakers millions of dollars in penalties if their average car fleet is below CAFE standards.

As you can see below, the drag coefficient is the most important lever for increasing fuel efficiency.  If automakers can reduce drag by 0.05, fuel economy improves by 1 mpg.


Back to the car shape and Cd.  The ‘half moon shape’ that is commonly used in car design today has the lowest Cd, while still maintaining the most interior room.  Thus, autos start to look like one another.  Look at these similar car profiles that I picked at random (All the cars below have lower Cd’s of around 0.30):

Lexus ES


Audi A4


Ford Fusion


Cadillas ATS


Buick Verano


Boring right?  At some point, automakers need to differentiate car body styles to avoid being too common.  Other fuel saving measures like direct injection, engine stop/start, lower resistance tires, transmissions with more gearing, and utilizing hybrid engine setups will help fuel efficiency.

There will always be some people that view a car as just an appliance, and its only purpose is to get you to and fro.   But for others that are passionate about styling, performance, fuel efficiency and technology, we still want cool cars that don’t look like a carbon copy of everything else on the road today.


Aug 102013

[Volvo-V60-Hybrid-2 Volvo-V60-Hybrid-7v60 1

As Americans become more enamored of cleaner diesel cars, major automakers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, VW, Chevrolet and Jeep are introducing exciting new cars with awesome oil burning engines.  But why haven’t automakers merged diesel power with hybrid technology?  It is mostly a case of demand.  Diesel are just becoming hot in the U.S., thanks to increasing prices at the pump.  But adding hybrid power to a car generally bumps price by several thousand dollars.  Combine that with the extra cost of a diesel engine (compared to a gas engine), those other costs make automakers weary of the potential sales numbers.

But in Europe, where diesels cars are the norm, and hybrids are slowly catching on, there are a few car companies experimenting with the diesel+hybrid mix.  Peugeot was first to market with the 3008 diesel hybrid car, which can get up to 62 mpg.  Citroen has the DS5 Hybrid.  And Volvo has followed up with their own plug-in hybrid diesel, the V60 wagon.   I love the idea of a torquey engine paired with a hybrid for city commuting.

The Volvo V60 Diesel Hybrid wagon is the first plug-in hybrid diesel.  It has a 215 horsepower turbo diesel engine powering the front wheels, and a lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 11.2 KwH connected to the rear wheels.  That battery provides up to 68 more horsepower.  The entire hybrid set-up gives the V60 a 0-60 time of 6.1 seconds, and a range of over 550 miles.  In full hybrid mode, the V60 can provide more than 50 mpg, which is fantastic in a very spirited car.  Unfortunately, the U.S. won’t see this car as Volvo isn’t importing it.  Time to pray to the car gods…

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