Several weeks ago, in Upper Marlboro, Md., our president mounted a photo op to champion two federal agencies of questionable competence (Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy) in their efforts to tell U.S. automotive engineering organizations how to save energy in vehicle design.
To a 75-year-old mechanical engineer, the arrogance and overreach of this administration goes beyond reasonable discussion. The engineering community is clearly up to the challenge, but the fundamentals of physics and thermodynamics still prevail.
A much better federal “mandate” might be to encourage sensible citizens to drive sensibly. A 300-plus-year-old Newtonian law of physics would suggest that for in-city, start/stop driving, the energy — and fuel — required to accelerate any vehicle from a stop to a given road speed is directly proportional to vehicle weight as well as to the square of the speed achieved.
Thus, for example, accelerating from a stop to 36 mph will expend almost 45 percent more energy (and fuel) than accelerating to 30 mph. Accelerating an additional 4 mph to 40 mph will eat up almost 80 percent more fuel compared to 30 mph.
These numbers are far from trivial and over extended periods of in-city driving can truly impact the amount of energy, fuel and money expended in moving about town. The numbers also dwarf the gains our naive president thinks he can achieve.
Federal dictates by a hopelessly misguided administration are the last thing we need. We can make a huge difference simply by making intelligent vehicle purchase decisions (regarding weight) and observing in-city speed limits.
David A. Nealy