Fuel Efficiency Through the Years: The Changing Face of the Car Industry

Fuel Efficiency Through the Years: The Changing Face of the Car Industry

Petrol Pump

A lot has changed since the first car was patented by Carl Benz in 1886. The development has been seen as the birth of the automobile. Benz’s vehicles were armed with a one-cylinder two-stroke engine unit, running for the first time in 1879. Nowadays the Lamborghini Aventador boasts a 6.5-litre, 691BHP engine. How, though, have our cars changed in the scope of fuel efficiency?

The launch of the gas-powered car

Henry Ford’s Model T was a frontrunner in the early lifecycle of cars. The 1908 launch featured a gasoline-powered vehicle that could run up to 21 miles per gallon. Other vehicles were unable to keep up with these impressive stats and MPG levels started to drop. 14 miles per gallon became the standard fuel efficiency level in 1935 but plummeted down to the 12mpg mark in the 1970s. An imposed oil embargo from the Arab nation created a worldwide shortage and saw fuel prices rocket. It brought a new dawn as a large selling point for new designs.

Modern advances

Modern vehicles aren’t that much more fuel efficient than the cars of yesteryear. The average car in 2020 has a range of 20 to 30 miles per gallon, similar to the cars from the 1920s. The larger size of cars has contributed to these figures. Cars weighed approximately 1,385kg in 1982. This rose by 226kg by 2006 and continues to rise. You can do simple things to improve MPG such as using a car tyre pump to ensure all your tyres are at the optimum inflation levels – under and over-inflated tyres can result in extra fuel consumption. Development of safety and tech features also play a role in these stats, but some advances can improve the MPG ratio. The Volkswagen Golf has become a popular choice among drivers, owing to the impact of its efficiency on performance.

So, without many changes to fuel efficiency, how are fuel types evolving?

An electric revolution

The expanding electric car market coincides with the UK government’s push to halt the production of new petrol and diesel cars by 2025. Although electric vehicles do more for the environment they don’t always convert to a more fuel-efficient drive. Unreliability was a curse for electric vehicles in their infancy and a lack of charging ports proved problematic. An electric car now though can return more than 100 miles to the gallon (MPGe). The introduction of EV charger installation ensures there is a wider infrastructure to support the growing number of electric vehicles on our roads as they can be charged at a greater number of points across the UK as a result.

The Hybrid vehicle concept was first introduced on the eve of the 20th Century but did not come to fruition until 1997. The first mass-produced hybrid car was the Toyota Prius, which launched in Japan in 1997 to combat electric cars’ unreliability. It reached European markets three years later and now boasts a rapidly improving miles per gallon ratio as a focal point.

Whisky a-go-go

The Scottish are now even looking at whisky as a way of fuelling vehicles. The national tipple was used to fuel a car in 2017 after Celtic Renewables Ltd used residue as a direct replacement for petrol. The firm claimed the fuel, called biobutanol, had no value to the whisky industry. Another bonus is that it doesn’t require cars to have a modified engine. The yeasty liquid — effectively the leftovers from the fermentation process — could forge a multi-million pound industry in Scotland if successful.

The interconnected worlds of fuel efficiency and environmentally friendly cars clearly have a wealth of room for development on the miles per ratio front. Could the latest fuel advances be the catalyst to drive fuel efficiency forward?