Automotive technologies have made a lot of progress since the debut of Henry Ford’s Model T back in 1908. Interestingly enough, the basic engine design for an automobile hasn’t changed substantially since that first affordable car. They have become much more efficient, but the engineering behind it remains fundamentally the same. According to an article in Newsweek, the first successful, significant departure from the traditional combustion engine in the last 100 years is the engine developed for the Toyota Prius.
Does that mean that there has been essentially no improvement in combustion engine technology in the last century? It may appear so at first glance, but a more thorough examination of the facts suggests otherwise.
The Model T vs. the Modern Car
When the now-famous Model T made its debut 107 years ago, it got an average of 17 mpg. If that is the only figure considered, then it certainly seems little progress has been made in regards to fuel economy. With a reported maximum of 21 mpg, it is comparable to many much newer vehicles: most heavy-duty pickup trucks average 16 or 17 mpg, the same as the Model T.
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However, gauging the efficiency of a vehicle’s fuel economy solely based on the ratio of fuel consumption to distance traveled is completely inaccurate. Consider: the Model T weighed a minimal 1,200 pounds, didn’t have even the most basic of safety features and had absolutely no filters to reduce pollution. By comparison, the most popular car in America today, the Ford F-150, weighs some 4,000-6,000 pounds, has seat belts and airbags and is far more durably constructed. Moreover, the latest model gets up to 26 miles per gallon on the highway. When you look at it that way, the difference is pretty extreme. There really isn’t a comparison at all.
Technology Fuels Further Innovation
CNN recently reported that gas prices have dropped over $1.00 nationally, and in many states $1.50 or more. Lower gas prices doesn’t mean that companies are going to stop pursuing more fuel-efficient designs. The arrival of the Prius in the early 2000s created a demand for fuel economy that has steadily increased over the last decade. This can be seen everywhere, from the heavy-duty Dodge Ram to the mid-size Nissan Altima. The push continues to increase as consumers become less willing to trade size for economy.
Along Comes the World Wide Web
Combustion engines and steel-framed bodies are not the only ways modern technology has revolutionized the automotive industry. Internet search engines have put a wealth of information at your fingertips. With just a few keyboard strokes, the savvy consumer can compare hundreds of vehicles side-by-side using a service such as Carquest, launch a search for used car engines through a private company and much more. According to Low Mileage Engines, you can even find the right model for your car and how many miles are on a used engine right on the website. This flood of information forces auto developers to continue innovating. If they fall too far behind the competition, a quick search on Google will reveal a better product.