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Car Tech forum: Where is the innovation when it comes to car engines?

by: biergeliebter June 2, 2009 12:51 PM PDT

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Where is the innovation when it comes to car engines?

by biergeliebter - 6/2/09 12:51 PM

Sixteen years ago I did my computing on an Amiga with 512K of RAM and no hard drive because I couldn't afford it. The add-on of a 40 MB hard drive was over $400. In December of 1992 I bought a $13,700 Honda Civic EX Coupe which according to the sticker would get 41 MPG highway and during the first four years actually averaged over 50 MPG. (On long trips where all the miles were highway, it would get 54) A year later my sister bought the Civic VX that had a sticker highway MPG of 50.

Here we are 16 years later and I am now computing on a Dell with several GB of RAM, a terabyte hard drive that cost me less than $200, and my mind gets twisted when I begin to think of the various innovations that have taken place with processors through those years, yet if I want a car that can get more than 40 MPG I have to get a hybrid and the Civic EX is rated at 34 MPG highway. Wait, what? No seriously, take a look.

So why is it technical advances have been made in so many of the products we use, with some products seeing technical advances many times over, but if I go get another Civic EX it will get 34 MPG highway, 7 less than the one I bought 16 years ago? If we had put the Maxtor and Seagate and other hard drive engineers in the car industry a decade ago, I think they might have had us up to 100 MPG by now. And while the hybrid is a great innovation for the auto industry, I'll be impressed when it can get better mileage than my 1993 Civic did.

I don't think government dictating a mileage minimum is a good thing, but shouldn't the industry be farther than they are? According to in 1994 there were 9 cars that could get highway mileage over 40; 4 of them were even made by American auto makers, including a Geo at the top of the heap with 51 MPG. Fifteen years later the VW Jetta is the only non-hybrid that is rated over 40 MPG highway.

Does anyone have some insight on this? Lazy engineers? Laws of physics? Government conspiracy? Since American auto makers were at the top of the heap 15 years ago and now only has a handful in the top 35, I'm leaning to the latter until someone tells me different.

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