Essay on Automotive Energy Consumption

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Automotive Energy Consumption

In the United States, the automobile has come to be more than simply a means of transportation, but also a status symbol and a symbol of autonomy. As a status symbol, automobiles have gotten larger and more expensive, with little or no regard for efficiency or environmental impact. With the proliferation of the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), the average fuel efficiency of cars in the United States has begun to fall from a peak over a decade ago. With technological and material advances made in the last decade, it seems counterintuitive that average fuel economy had begun to decline. In order to understand the advances made in internal combustion engine technology, one must have a basic understanding of
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As plant and animal matter decays, fossil fuels are formed from the intense pressure placed on them and from the earth’s geothermal energy. As a result, fossil fuels are a resource that can’t be replenished at the same rate they are consumed. Petroleum products are derived from one group of fossil fuels known as hydrocarbons. There is no definitive quantity of hydrocarbon resources left in the world today, but most estimates are not very optimistic. Given the current rate of fossil fuel consumption and the current rate of increase of consumption, some estimates place the usable life of fossil fuel resources between 15 and 30 years. This leaves little doubt that changes must be made in transportation technology.

Improvements to Fuel Efficiency

Much technology has been developed in recent years to increase the fuel efficiency of automobiles. The integration of lightweight components into automobiles continues to increase efficiency. For example, the use of plastics, aluminum, magnesium, titanium, and carbon fiber, to name a few materials, has greatly reduced the overall weight of many vehicles. American auto manufacturers have used these material advances to justify building larger cars that are no lighter than the previous generation of vehicles. The net effect is that there is no gain in fuel efficiency, and in most cases a slight decrease in fuel efficiency due to aerodynamic losses and…