The more we talk about improving transportation emissions, the more we have to talk about fuel economy and how to achieve better numbers.
Considering that we’ve been steadily improving fuel economy here in the US, it does one well to take a look at some of the technologies being used to achieve such goals. Citycars, such as the Smart ForTwo and Fiat 500, have really changes the way we think about commuter transportation, at least for those, myself not included, that feel safe in such a tiny tin can. On the other hand, hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius and Ford Focus Electric, achieve their fuel economy feats via advanced powertrains. They offer the utility and spaciousness of larger vehicles without the accompanying refueling costs.
Still, we’ve said it before, the internal combustion engine is not dead, that is, there is still plenty of innovation left in automobile design, such as improved engine technology and lightweight materials, or in the fuels themselves, such as biofuels. As some have pointed out, however, this technology really isn’t anything new, it’s “off the shelf,” so to speak, just needing someone to put all the pieces together. From 1999 to 2005, Audi put some of these pieces together in a conventional vehicle with fuel economy that makes the Toyota Prius look like a gas guzzler, the Audi A2.
Aficionados may not recall the Audi A2 1.2 TDI, a short-lived model that was produced in Europe for about six years. Looking at the engine, one guesses how it gets such great fuel economy, a 1.2 ℓ turbodiesel under the hood equipped with a start-stop system and coast system to further reduce fuel consumption. That’s not all, however, instead of reducing the size of the cabin to reduce weight, Audi went with lightweight materials to improve fuel economy without sacrificing space. The aluminum frame and body, as well as magnesium-alloy wheels, reduced the weight of the A2, about the size of a five-door Toyota Yaris, to the weight of a Scion iQ. Actually, that’s not quite right, even the Scion iQ citycar weighs about 150 lb more than the A2, despite being able to carry far less in terms of passengers and cargo.
Add in some slick aerodynamic tweaks, just 0.25 Cd, and the result is a remarkably fuel efficient five-seater. The Audi A2 was rated at 78 mpg, back in 1999, when the Toyota Prius was squeezing out just 50 mpg! With all the new technology on the road today, why would I bring up a European car from a decade ago? The point is this, some automakers have been putting all the pieces together, but I wonder why these kind of vehicles aren’t more popular?
Photo credit: harry_nl