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Fixing American Cars - Meeting Fuel Standards the Easy Way

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I'm a BIG car guy, gearhead, grease monkey, etc.

I love my fast sports cars, my big Trans Am muscle car, that Italian jalopy with twin turbos, even the Shelby-designed Tiger.

I'm not a nut even though I am big on conservation.

But I am not an idiot or a fool.

For decades I've been pointing out some simple but critical changes which need to be made in cars sold in the U.S.

If they had started years ago the challenge now would be much easier to meet, but they didn't and Detroit says they can't build cars with good mileage which people will buy - well, tobacco companies used to insist that cigarettes didn't cause cancer and fast food joints still insist that the fact that lots and lots of their customers are either fat, extremely fat, or have fat kids.

Americans just don't understand moderation but will accept it if forced on them.

As far as cars and pickup trucks go, there will always be aftermarket gadgets and people who tinker with their cars - I think that is fine. Gearheads can supertune their vehicles or buy antiques, or just concentrate on making their vehicle get the best mileage for the quarter mile.

But 95% or more of people just buy and drive so making a change in the assembly line car is critical and effective.

But, explain to me why the speedometers on most of my vehicles go to 120 mph or more. (One reads 160 mph but we'll skip over that, it is 25 years old and only runs over 65 on a track.)

If you want safer cars that get better gas mileage, why not make it illegal to sell a car or truck that can go faster than 80 mph.

Does it make you feel good to know your teenager can go 120 mph? How about that your grandmother or wife can be T-boned by a drunken 18 year-old going 115 mph through a stop sign?

80 is plenty fast enough to kill anyone and even NASCAR uses restrictor plates to slow down their race cars.

Lowering the maximum speed is easy; it is a simple programming change in a vehicle computer.

Besides saving lives of teens, drunks, other idiots, and their victims, think of the advantages if most cars and pickup trucks could only go 80 mph max.

Police cars could be set to go 100 and high speed chases would be a thing of the past.

Given a lower maximum possible speed gear ratios could be changed and it would take less engine power to run every vehicle - you could even have great acceleration, but not having to make every vehicle capable of that extra 40 mph of top speed means better efficiency.

It is also more efficient to make an engine produce power in a more narrow rpm range.

Checking the integrity of the computer could be made part of emission checks - or, just ignore the 5% who swap out chips until they get caught in an accident, their chip gets read, and they lose their driver's license for say 40 years on the first offense.

And, why not require every vehicle driven by anyone under 18 (or perhaps 21) to carry a recording dongle which records maximum speed and driving habits?

This gadget exists now, you can buy one from J.C. Whitney and anyone can install it without tools - it plugs into that ODBII computer diagnostic socket just above your foot. Personally I would never let any teenager of mine drive without one.

http://www.jcwhitney.com/DAVIS-INSTRUMENT-CAR-CHIPS-E-X/GP_2008127_N_111+10201+600003519_10101.jcw

This model records speed and other information for 300 hours of vehicle operation capacity would be easy to increase.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death of U.S. teens, why not pass out the dongle with a learner's permit and require that it be submitted for review every 6 months or revoke the license?

Is this an invasion of privacy? Sure, we're supposed to invade the privacy of teenagers to save their lives. Speed limiters would save thousands or tens of thousands of lives every year - compare that to the hair-brained safety campaigns we see every week which affect only a few idiots. We put warning stickers on rat poison to remind people not to eat it but we put teenage drivers in 3000 lb. weapons capable of going 120 mph.

And, don't kid yourself, you may already be monitored yourself, some vehicles come with accident recorders right off the assembly line - the dealer just didn't tell you about it.

So a minor computer change saves lives, makes cars safer, and saves fuel. Obviously Detroit can't do that, it would remove their competitive edge - oops, that's right; everyone else would have the same limits on their cars and trucks. Well, there must be some reason we can't do it.

What else can car makers do without borrowing another $100 billion of your tax money?

How about increasing the diameter of the exhaust system? Cost would run a few $$ per car since it only costs a couple hundred dollars to do this aftermarket and throw away the original system entirely.

And why not use better air filters? I have lifetime full-flow filters on all my cars and it could be done on every new car right at the factory, again, cost is only a few $$ per new car.

Five main factors make internal combustion vehicles get lower mileage:

>high speed (or building in the ability to go fast)

>heavy vehicle (put a maximum GVW on all vehicles so 2,300 lb. small cars aren't at a disadvantage in a collision with 8,000 lb. SUVs - use carbon fiber and aluminum to keep the big expensive vehicles lighter.

>restricted air flow - use better air filters

>restricted exhaust - use larger diameter pipes (don't eliminate CAT converters.)

>engine friction - use synthetic oil

Just don't believe car makers who say it can't be done - they could have been doing a better job for decades at virtually no additional cost.

Oh, and by the way, there is a Chinese company which builds very nice cars for $20,000 - they are electric and go more than 300 miles on a single charge so, if Detroit can't figure out how to fix their cars perhaps we'll lose all of that business also.

John McCormick is a reporter, /science/medical columnist and finance and social commentator, with 17,000+ bylined stories. Contact John through NewsBlaze.

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