A Contribution to Understanding Automotive Fuel Economy and Its Limits

Paper #:
  • 2003-01-2070

  • 2003-05-12
  • 10.4271/2003-01-2070
Sovran, G. and Blaser, D., "A Contribution to Understanding Automotive Fuel Economy and Its Limits," SAE Technical Paper 2003-01-2070, 2003, doi:10.4271/2003-01-2070.

The fuel economy of an automobile is a highly complex function of the detailed characteristics of the vehicle and its subsystems (particularly the engine, transmission and drivetrain), as well as being dependent on the manner in which the vehicle is driven. For existing vehicles, automotive manufacturers utilize laboratory test procedures to evaluate fuel economy. However, during new-vehicle design, and to assess the fuel economy potential of new technologies, computer programs that simulate the operation of the vehicle system over prescribed driving schedules are used. Of particular interest are the integrated fuel consumptions on the EPA Urban and Highway driving schedules since these are subject to Federal regulation. Since neither detailed subsystem test data nor simulation programs are typically used by those outside the automotive industry, the physics of fuel economy is not always well understood. This paper presents the physics of motor vehicle fuel economy in an accurate, concise, and understandable form so that meaningful discussion/debate on the prospects for, and the limitations of, fuel economy improvements can be facilitated.

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