Friday, May 22, 2009

The Future of the Car

There’s been a lot of talk about the auto industry this week. As GM sits on the verge of bankruptcy, President Obama set proper guidelines for more fuel efficiency—goals that should have been set long ago. Introducing more efficient engines (turbo, diesel, hybrid) as well as lighter, more aerodynamic vehicles, we will begin to help lower our addiction to oil.
Even beyond fuel consumption, emissions needed more stringent standards in order to protect our environment. By setting a national standard, we are making a statement to the world about putting our money where our mouth is.
On the opposite end of the automotive spectrum, this weekend is the Formula One Grand Prix in Monaco. I know it’s hard to believe that a motor sport which consumes enormous amounts of resources could actually offer a vision into the future; however this year the sport is testing several new fuel efficiency systems. Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) allow the car’s movement to recharge and boost engine output with an electronic system. A handful of teams, including Ferrari, are working with the KERS system, trying to improve its reliability. The other development is the “double diffuser,” a way to improve the aerodynamics of the car. Brawn GP, owned by famed car designer Ross Brawn, designed a diffuser that has propelled the car to the top of the grid, proving that an aerodynamic system on a car can have a great impact in its performance.
Of course, investments in mass transit, high speed rail systems, and urban planning are ways we can decrease our reliance on the car altogether. Sprawling development sends everyone into their cars to go anywhere. By clustering mixed use spaces, the car is in its most fuel efficient state: parked.

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