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Thread: Government Fuel Efficiency Regs and the 100 mpg Carburetor

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Government Fuel Efficiency Regs and the 100 mpg Carburetor

    Maybe there really was a 100 mpg carburetor.

    Remember?

    Years ago (in the days before all new cars were fitted with fuel injection) there was a legend that someone had invented a carburetor that was capable of tripling or even quadrupling the fuel efficiency of the average car. But the technology was suppressed by a cabal consisting of Big oil and the automotive Big Three - who supposedly wanted us to burn as much fuel as possible.

    But no one ever bothered to ask how it would actually hurt the car industry (or even Big Oil) if the fuel economy of vehicles tripled or even quadrupled.

    Would people stop buying cars? Would they stop driving?

    Sure, we'd spend less money on fuel - but probably that would have made it financially feasible to drive more (and longer) and thus ... burn more fuel.

    And in fact, that's exactly what did happen. But for an altogether different reason: government fuel efficiency edicts, known in bureaucratese as CAFE, short for Corporate Average Fuel Economy. CAFE specifies that the car companies must achieve a certain "fleet average" fuel economy figure (it's going up to 35.5 mpg by 2016) or face "gas guzzler" fines - which of course they pass along to the consumer.

    Why bring this up?

    There's a parallel you may have noticed between the magic promises of the 100 mpg miracle carburetor and what amounts to the same thing via the federal government's demand that every new car built achieve 35.5 mpg by such and such a date.

    Supposedly, this will save fuel. In reality, it has already done the opposite.

    The first wave of CAFE rules gave us the SUV boom - a real fuel-saver, that.

    How'd it happen?

    At the time (late 1970s, early 1980s), there were two separate categories of CAFE rules - one (higher) for passenger cars, the other (lower) for what the government categorized as "light trucks."

    The car industry found a way to do an end-run around the government and give consumers what they wanted. The higher (27.5 mpg, average, at the time) CAFE standard that applied to passenger cars made it very hard to keep on building the sort of cars that most Americans had been used to driving and still wanted to drive - that is, large sedans and station wagons, typically with rear wheel drive and V-8 engines.

    However, the lower CAFE standard (21.5 mpg) in force at the time for "light trucks" could still be met without nixing either V-8s or RWD or the large vehicles that came with them. Just enclose the bed of a full-size truck, add seats and presto!

    The "SUV" was born.

    They sold in droves and before long came with even bigger, even thirstier V-8s and weighed even more than the biggest land yachts of the 1970s. Lincoln Navigators and Ford Expeditions; Cadillac Escalades and Chevy Tahoes; Dodge Aspens and Toyota Tundras and Nissan Titans.

    Fuel was not saved.

    Recently, the "light truck loophole" was closed and all vehicles except heavy-duty commercial models will have to meet the same (and much higher) CAFE standard, now closing in on 40 mpg.

    But we're still burning more gas than ever!

    Why?

    Well, CAFE has certainly prompted the automakers to build more fuel-efficient vehicles. There are now a half-dozen hybrids (including trucks and SUVs), micro-cars, more small cars than ever - and even larger cars are getting respectable fuel economy as a result of new technologies like direct fuel injection, cylinder deactivation and variable valve/cam timing.

    But the unanticipated consequence of this is that lower running costs (in the form of better gas mileage) have encouraged people to drive more often - and for longer.

    Which, of course (wait for it) burns more fuel.

    In fact, what bureaucrats call VMT - Vehicle Miles Traveled - has increased in parallel with every uptick in CAFE.

    VMT only drops when gas prices rise.

    As Pietro Nivola and Robert Crandall note in their 1995 book about CAFE and its effects, "The Extra Mile":

    "Whenever (gas) prices rose sharply, as in 1974 or 1979, automotive mileage (the miles people drive their cars) fell as motorists curtailed leisure trips and other discretionary travel and even modifed some entrenched commuting practices (such as single driver commuting, etc., in favor of carpools or public transport)."

    This is a critical point - and no less true today than it was in '95, when the study was published.

    CAFE may make cars more fuel-efficient (as well as smaller and more expensive) but it doesn't make people conserve fuel. Quite the opposite.

    What makes people use less fuel is - Rocket Science Moment - higher fuel costs.

    Example: VMT dropped significantly beginning around 2006-2007, when gas prices began to surge upward to $3 or even $4 a gallon. Twenty years of CAFE regs had nothing to do with this. Yet one of the the first priority items of the incoming Obama administration was to push for a major increase in CAFE - which did indeed pass.

    Achieving compliance with the new CAFE regs is going to cost a lot of money - estimates range from $500 or so per car on the lower end to several thousand on the higher end, for advanced technologies, including the special composites and plastics, etc. that will be needed to preserve the crashworthiness of much smaller, much lighter cars.

    And it may just kill what's left of GM, Ford and the husk of Chrysler - since these three more than any of the others are dependent upon truck sales, and building an economically feasible 35 mpg truck that can do any real work is the automotive equivalent of sending tourists to Mars.

    But none of this is going to get people to drive less. Which means not much fuel - if any - is actually going to be saved.

    Someone really ought to tell the feds about this... .

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    Yeah, but the Chief Fed is barely educable, and thinks he's been elected God, so he doesn't listen to anyone anyway.

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    Senior Member J. ZIMM's Avatar
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    Not only will this hurt the Auto industry, but it will have a RIPPLE effect. The RV industry will really take a hit. If you can't tow it, why have it. If it can't haul it, why have it. This will make the old Thirty, Forty year old trucks in high demand. In some foreign Countries, there are some smaller trucks that seem to do the job. I mean they won't haul your Camper, or tow a Fifth Wheel. But for light duty, they should be ok. I don't know much about them, but you seem to see these little trucks in third world countries. There were some over in my neck of the woods for a while. Don't know what ever happened to them. But they could still be used for town and city PUD's. They should get a lot better millage than some of the bigger trucks being used now. If this new CAFE comes to a head, this could be a gold rush for the wrecking yards. All those old trucks could be Born Again...

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J. ZIMM View Post
    Not only will this hurt the Auto industry, but it will have a RIPPLE effect. The RV industry will really take a hit. If you can't tow it, why have it. If it can't haul it, why have it. This will make the old Thirty, Forty year old trucks in high demand. In some foreign Countries, there are some smaller trucks that seem to do the job. I mean they won't haul your Camper, or tow a Fifth Wheel. But for light duty, they should be ok. I don't know much about them, but you seem to see these little trucks in third world countries. There were some over in my neck of the woods for a while. Don't know what ever happened to them. But they could still be used for town and city PUD's. They should get a lot better millage than some of the bigger trucks being used now. If this new CAFE comes to a head, this could be a gold rush for the wrecking yards. All those old trucks could be Born Again...
    Absolutely.

    I know at some point I will need to pursue this course.

    And you know what? A '70s-era F-100 or equivalent, updated with a modern overdrive transmission and decent tires, would be a damn decent vehicle to have.

  5. #5
    Ridin Dirty dom's Avatar
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    I have four 100 mpg carburetors!


    1. on my weed eater
    2. on my lawn mower (wait that one is only around 75 mpg)
    3. and on my chainsaw
    4. last one is on my 50cc scooter in Japan

    "Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato "
    -Mussolini
    All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.

  6. #6
    Senior Member J. ZIMM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    Absolutely.

    I know at some point I will need to pursue this course.

    And you know what? A '70s-era F-100 or equivalent, updated with a modern overdrive transmission and decent tires, would be a damn decent vehicle to have.
    I know about a 70's era F-150. I had a '77 with a 300ci, C-4 Tranny, and a twenty foot Komfort travel trailer. That little truck would pull that travel trailer up the Mt. Hood Hyway at 45 mph. Of course, I had the gas pedal shoved clean up to the radiator, but it still pulled it. Bicycles hanging off the front, fully loaded truck and trailer. One hell of a task. You know, I wouldn't mind finding another one like it. And I still got darn good mileage with it.

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