Redesigning the Auto: A Key to Solving the U.S. Energy

by Eugene E. Dallaire, Assoc. Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, New York, NY 10017,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1979, Vol. 49, Issue 11, Pg. 92-97

Document Type: Feature article


The automobile is a tremendous consumer of energy. The entire transport sector uses 26% of the energy used in the U.S. — and half the oil. In fact, the American auto alone consumes one-ninth of all the oil used in the world today. Since our present land use patterns lock us into intensive auto use the best approach is to redesign the auto for vastly better fuel economy. By 1985, auto makers will have to have cars that average 27.5 mpg. And beyond that, the federal DOT wants to produce autos that average 50 mpg. Among things the auto industry is developing: cars to run on new fuels — e.g. gasohol, methanol, ethanol, and liquid fuels derived from coal and oil shale; new auto engines that are vastly more efficient and can burn a variety of fuels — e.g. the Stirling engine and the gas turbine; the electric auto and the hybrid auto (combination electric and engine powered vehicle); the flywheel as a means of storing energy normally wasted in braking; lighter cars using weight-saving materials such as high-strength steels, fiber-reinforced plastics, aluminum, etc.

Subject Headings: Energy consumption | Automobiles | Energy efficiency | Electric power | Energy storage | Coal | High-strength steel | Land use

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