The Frontal Cortex

Low-Tech Fuel Efficiency

This is the car I covet:


And I don’t just want the new variant of the Volvo C30 because it’s oh so cute:

Called the C30 Efficiency, this special car will sip diesel fuel at the rate of 4.5L per every 100 kilometers. That’s 52.26 mpg to us Yanks. It achieves these numbers using a variety of techniques. For the engine, efficiency was increased by using low-friction transmission oil and optimizing the engine management software. An age old trick for good gas mileage, higher gearing, was used on 3rd, 4th and 5th gears to eek out a few more kilometers, as well. Low rolling resistance tires, another common strategy for higher mileage, were also used. Finally, Volvo made the C30 slipperier through the air by reducing its ride height, adding a special rear roof spoiler, new rear bumper, and even adding underbody panels to smooth out the car’s belly. Even the new 16-inch rims are aero-optimized!

The C30 Efficiency’s engine is a 1.6L turbodiesel producing 105 hp. Not only does it achieve 52.26 mpg, but it also emits less than 120g of CO2 per kilometer.

Hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells get all the press (and R&D dollars), but what we really need are some low-tech solutions that can increase fuel-efficiency right away. I only wish more car companies were interested in providing “efficient” variants of their car models. I’d certainly be willing to pay extra for a more efficient car, especially if I don’t have to spend several thousand extra dollars on a hybrid.


  1. #1 Webs
    August 20, 2007

    It’s nice to see other bloggers than those on TreeHugger writing about this technology. It’s a great way to spread it’s awareness.

    Too bad we can’t get the Big US Auto companies to take the efficiency hint.

  2. #2 chez jake
    August 20, 2007

    Your points on immediate reduction of fuel consumption are well made. The next question becomes, why aren’t the makers of hybrids using these very efficient diesel engines in conjunction with their hybrid electric technology?

  3. #3 Matt Platte
    August 20, 2007

    No, the next question is, “How does that old Hippie (that would be me) in Nebraska get 50+ mpg in his 1991 VW Jetta diesel?” And the answer is quite simple: 1) slow down and 2) know that every time you touch the brake pedal, you lose.

    Sheesh! It’s not rocket science, guys. You don’t even need a slippery new Volvo to put it into practise.

    It pains me to agree with the Preznit, but when he said “America is addicted to oil” he was 100% right. Lusting for that Volvo is also saying that you are completely powerless to increase your transportation efficiency by yourself, that you need the automobile industry to intervene and force you to get more miles per gallon. It’s an appeal to the ghost of Henry Ford to please, please stop me from being a wastrel.

    Grow up. Stop driving like you’re fifteen.

  4. #4 bigTom
    August 20, 2007

    Look up the car on wikipedia. There are six different engines offered, 4 gasoline, and two diesel. I suspect the quoted milage is for the smaller diesel engine. They already mention a future plug-in diesel hybrid. Sortof like the (still vaporware Chevy Volt). Just add photovoltaics onto the roof of that and you got a really cool car!
    I didn’t see anything about the price. New Priuses can be had for $22-23K. They seat five, so are perhaps a tad larger than this one, with similar milage. So it is now possible to get a 50mpg vehicle to be ready for the next oil shock.

    Matt, I sure hear you. Seems harly anyone understands high-school physics. In our society we just want to do things by brute force, when what is called for is a little bit of subtlety and patience.

  5. #5 Andrew Dodds
    August 21, 2007

    Webs –

    I would have to point out that both Ford Europe and GM-Vauxhall do decent (not class leading, but OK) common-rail Turbodiesels. So, technically, thse companies DO have the technology, just can’t be bothered to introduce it..

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