Cheap, High-MPG engines: Two Ways to Get There
Why does fuel efficiency have to come with a price premium? Hybrids, diesels and EVs all cost much more compared to their fossil-fuel-powered brethren.
It’s been well documented that it can take years of saving fuel costs to make up for the extra cost of the vehicle. In some cases, the car will have been sold or traded in before any savings are realized. What we need are low-cost, high-efficiency engines, but so far our lust for power, too, has only resulted in expensive turbos and help from electric motors.
Is it possible to create a non-turbo gas engine that is cheap and returns the fuel efficiency of a hybrid while not sacrificing power? If it were possible, someone would have it by now, right?
A story at Automotive News says an old technology has been refined enough to work in modern applications, in everything from lawn mowers to semi trucks.
Three companies developing opposed-piston engines say they can produce the magic combination of sharply increased efficiency and lower costs. The trio — EcoMotors International, Pinnacle Engines and Achates Power Inc. — are refining a pre-World War II internal combustion scheme in which two pistons operate in a single cylinder.
Maybe opposed-piston engines are the answer we’ve all wanted! They use many of the same parts as current internal combustion engines, but without a cylinder head or valvetrain. Fewer parts means less costs, and the the manufacturers say they can return impressive fuel economy (though no numbers are given).
But of course there are a few problems. First, many of these engines are two-cycle, which is just not practical for automobile use. Second, major automakers have shied away from the technology because of emissions problems. Still, the trio of companies believe they have solutions to these problems and hope to, eventually, sell to automakers from Detroit to Stuttgart.
The other option to achieve cheap fuel efficiency is to buy lighter, cheaper cars. The CarGurus used listings are full of older model Civics, Corollas, Sentras, Rios and Accents that you can pay cash for, then enjoy a few good years of cheap driving.
This is one case where I think old technology is a better buy than new. It’s cheaper, it’s still reliable and it returns excellent fuel economy. What you give up, of course, are modern safety features and quick acceleration times.
Are the sacrifices of an older fuel-efficient car worth the reduced costs of ownership?