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It has become routine. You get in your car, turn the key, put the transmission in gear, hit the gas and off you go. But, have you ever stopped to think what it takes to make your car run? Powering a vehicle down the road requires thousands of parts all working together. In response to your instructions, they manage a continuous flow of energy as the car accelerates, cruises and brakes – all the while providing optimum efficiency and fuel economy.

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When discussing car engines, efficiency is measured by how much of the energy in gasoline is actually converted into power that moves the car down the road. Sadly, even with regular car maintenance such as a tune-up or an oil change, today’s gasoline engines are only around 30 to 35 percent efficient, which means roughly 65 cents out of every dollar you spend on gas goes to waste. To address this issue, automakers and their suppliers are investing tremendous resources to increase engine efficiency, meet EPA fuel economy standards and reduce exhaust emissions.

The Future of Auto Fuel Efficiency

Several types of hybrid powertrains and new transmission designs are being introduced or refined to improve fuel economy. A recent example is stop-start systems that increase efficiency by temporarily shutting off the engine when the car is stopped in traffic. Other key technological developments that are being explored include:

• Improvements to engine mechanical operation

• Enhancements to the combustion process

• Innovations that deactivate some cylinders when their power is not needed

Several industry groups are also lobbying for higher-octane gasoline that will allow additional engine modifications for greater efficiency in the future.

How Driving Habits Impact Fuel Consumption

Today, the most efficient vehicles typically have the highest EPA estimated fuel economy ratings in their class. When seeking optimum efficiency, don’t overlook your own driving behavior, which has a big effect on gas mileage. Proven practices that make major differences in fuel economy include moderate acceleration, early upshifts, staying within speed limits, coasting down to stopped traffic, “timing” traffic lights and “driving ahead” to eliminate unnecessary braking and acceleration.

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