Fuel Efficient Cars: Do They Have a Future?.
The development of fuel-efficient cars was primarily in response to the OPEC oil crisis of the nineteen-seventies and the dramatic rise in gasoline prices for American motorists. Up until the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Americans drove high-powered, gas guzzling cars. Since gasoline was so cheap, consumers were not interested in purchasing fuel-efficient cars. Subsequently, the Detroit automakers did not design or produce fuel-efficient cars. Within a few years, the market demand changed with skyrocketing oil prices. Fuel-efficient cars became a necessity, not only in the eyes of the consumer but also in the eyes of the auto industry and the American government.
For nearly a century, vehicles have been powered by internal combustion engines, which operate by burning its fuel inside the engine. The most common internal combustion engine is gasoline powered. Others include diesel, hydrogen, methane, or propane. From a technological perspective, gasoline-powered internal combustion engines have limitations in terms of performance and fuel-efficiency. Eventually they will have to be replaced by power systems that do not rely on internal combustion technology. .
A major problem with fuel efficiency is the technology in today's engines is nearly a century old. In a rather primitive sequence of events, a mixture of gasoline and air is sprayed into a cylinder. This is compressed by a piston and at an optimal point in the compression stroke; a spark plug creates an electrical spark that ignites the fuel. The combustion of the fuel results in a generation of heat. This produces the hot gases in the cylinder at a higher pressure than the fuel-air mixture, thus driving the piston down. .
The need for a viable alternative to the internal combustion is pressing. Hybrids are the bridge between the gas-guzzlers of today and the fuel sipping innovations of tomorrow.