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Will Mandated CO2 Reductions Curb The Horsepower Race?

hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
edited March 2014 in General
The great horsepower race of the '50s ad '60s was finally reversed, beginning in the late '60s, and continuing in the '70s, due to federally mandated emission controls. Concurrently, performance was further compromised by new safety regulations, which increased vehicle weight. Will the recent increase in support for curbing CO2 emissions bring the the current horsepower race to an end?

I think that we may see a variation of what we experienced in the '70s and early '80s, with differences. If we can agree that horsepower will not rise indefinitely, due to environmental and safety concerns, then we can talk about what will eventually turn the focus to another attribute, such as environmental friendliness or greater reliance on renewable energy. This time, though, I think that high performance cars, such as the new generation of pony cars, will remain available, but at a price that puts them out-of-range for the average motorist.

I think that while the horsepower of family cars, to name one category, will plateau soon (you won't see any 5 second 0-60 Camrys), it won't go down materially, as it did in the '70s, due to engineering advances. Also, whereas pony and muscle cars were affordable for many in the '60s, 8 cylinder RWD performance cars will be considerably higher priced this time around, to curb demand. Most new car buyers will be able to afford a V6 Mustang or Camaro, for example, but not a new V8 version.


  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    Please shorten the title of this discussion to read "Will Mandated CO2 Reductions Curb The Horsepower Race?"

  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
  • douglasrdouglasr Posts: 191
    It's a serious issue. I wrote Stavros Dimas, the European Commissioner for Environment if he would consider an exemption for manufacturers selling less than 10,000 cars per year, so that his 120/130gm/km CO/2 fleet standard would not adversely affect the smaller manufacturers who also happen to be at the top tier of the industry; Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston-Martin...etc. The response I got back was that the European Commuission was aware of that very issue and were making allowances for it, as they did not want to economically harm the market at the same time imposing "green" regulations.

    The importance of this is that the top tier of the market is often where the advances in engine design, and expansion of engine brake horsepower per cubic inch, litre, or per cylinder of engine displacement curves happens. So if you want to see what can be attained look there first. What you see there often wends its way down to mass market cars, so it is important to preserve the high range in the market-place. And even so those cars often displace very efficient power curves and emmissions output.

    Hopefully, the U.S. Government might follow suit when considering standards for CO/2 emmissions, and even former Vice President Gore has stated the whole burden "should not fall on the auto industry" despite the recent Supreme Court Rulings (U.S v Duke Power) urging the EPA to impose standards that might wipe out the top tier of the market at the same time. So the issue of engine efficiency versus brake horsepower becomes a paramount one if we are at all to retain a full range of market choices against the possibilities.

    For example, on a per cylinder basis a Rolls-Royce V12 puts out 32.08 gm/km CO/2 emmissions. Only 1% of sales in the UK fall into the plus 300 gm/km catagory, taxed in the new "G" range of cars. According to the SMMT/UK The largest group of sales, where 23.8% of the cars are sold, falls within the plus 185 gm/km CO/2 emission catagory, what they classify as the "F" range (taxed at 190 pounds per year). Thus the average CO/2 emissions per cylinder is 30.8 gm/km median output, (in a class where the average engine is 6 cylinders) which represents less than a 8%, 2 grams per kilometer, difference for engines twice that size.

    Since the R-R engine puts out 453Bhp, it is not an issue of brake-horse-power versus CO/2 emmissions per say, but the efficiency of the engine design and the quality of its manufacture that makes the difference. Even so, for every 1Bhp the R-R engine emmitts .84 gm/km CO/2; (453BHp v. 385 gm/km). By comparison, even a Honda 2.4 Type S emmitts 1.16 gn/km CO/2 for every 1 BHP, (187BHp v. 214gm/km) so engine size alone is not the determinant of the efficiency of the engine in terms of emmissions versus brake-horsepower.

    The other issue of impact is also the product cycle of the automobile: how long will the car stay on the road. I would wager that cars with more than an adaquate BHP/Weight ratio stay on the road longer than cars lacking in appropriate BHP to move the metal. Perhaps only Prius drivers care little about performance, but the remainder of the driving populous would not want to find themselves drivng a "lump". Lumps that can't get out of their way or deliver the performance the driver needs gets traded off quickly, (not to mention are dangerous) and soon will see the other end of the crusher. Just look at the cars that command high prices in the used market and auctions: a majority of them have good power to weight ratios, and are known for their engine performance.

    ...the manufacturers are painfully aware of this reality, and while they may be cautious as Mr. Lutz's recent remarks indicate, not wanting to develop products and then get caught in the regulatory cross-fire, brake-horse-power commands the road. Even Dr. Porsche built his "Bug" with a proper power to weight ratio so that the car could do its intended job, and designed the engine for maximum revs without harm to the motor. Engineers know (now) that to emasculate engine performance against other criteria is an elixir for lost sales: a look at the American market in the 1970's a perfect example. So it is not only an issue of extravagant versus mini cars, or large displacement versus small. Engine power curves and engineering design efficiency still rule the day.


    (Sources SMMT/UK)
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,025
    Done - but in the future, please send these requests by e-mail as we're likely to miss them within the discussion. Thanks!


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  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Why do you equate higher horsepower to lower efficiency? A vehicles horsepower rating represents its potential. Given two comparably sized vehicles it is invalid to assume the one with a higher hp rating will require more gas to cruise down the road. This so-called horsepower race has not led to a decline in fuel efficiency. The fact that the US fleet is getting lower mpg than it did 20 years ago is not because vehicles have become less efficient. A 3,500 lb vehicle is every bit as efficient as it was 20 years ago despite its greater power. The problem is we are not buying the same vehicles. We are buying larger vehicles that are inherently less efficient.

    If higher fuel efficiency standards are mandated the manufacturers are not going to accomplish this simply by putting smaller engines in their vehicles. I seriously doubt today's 2.5L Camry would get any better mileage if you slapped a 1.8L Corolla engine in it.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    I agree with much of what you said, with one difference. Specifically, I agree that higher horsepower doesn't necessarily mean less fuel economy. It may or may not. Sometimes higher horsepower is the result of more efficient design, yielding more horsepower AND better fuel economy. Some times, and sometimes higher horsepower is achieved through greater displacement. I also agree that drivetrains are generally more efficient now than 20 years ago, but that some of the potential mileage gains have been lost to greater size and weight. Further, I agree that "if higher fuel efficiency standards are mandated the manufacturers are not going to accomplish this simply by putting smaller engines in their vehicles." The key word in that statement is "simply."

    Higher fuel economy will be achieved by a number of changes, possibly including smaller engines. While today's Camry MAY not achieve higher mileage by replacing its 4 cylinder engine with the Corolla's 1.8 unit, because the 1.8 would have to work harder, the 2.4 engine is designed to provide the best balance between performance and economy, but not necessarily the mileage that will be required in the future. Judging from the way the political winds are blowing, it's likely that significantly higher mileage will be mandated, through changes in CAFE or by some other means. I'm not arguing for or against higher mileage standards here (heck, I enjoy good performance as much as the next guy), but I sense we're headed in that direction.

    Getting back to the Camry example, while 2.4 displacement may be optimal for today, something less than this (maybe 2.2 or 2.0, or 1.8 turbocharged) may be required to achieve the new standard. The result could be a reduction of horsepower. Hopefully, it won't be, but it could be. In any event, I don't think the reduction would be anywhere near as great as what happened in the '70. The best of all worlds - greater economy AND performance - through better designs, can't be ruled out, but it may take a while to achieve, as it did after the '70s.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    "Higher fuel economy will be achieved by a number of changes, possibly including smaller engines."

    And possibly not. Every car requires 'x' amount of horsepower to move down the road at a particular speed. Fuel economy is related to how EFFICIENTLY one can generate that amount of horsepower.

    For instance, if a Camry needs 25 hp to maintain 60 mph (counteracting aero drag and rolling friction) then the fuel economy will be based on the most EFFICIENT way to generate 25hp. It's not always the smaller displacement engine; besides, as DOD type of technology becomes more commonplace, a 3.0l V6 could be as efficient at a 1.5l 3-cylinder under light throttle conditions.

    Personally, I think the only way to achieve substantially better economy is NOT necessarily by directly curbing hp, but by cutting vehicle weight and cutting back on the aero drag. The nice thing about that approach is that then hp CAN be reduced without a loss in performance.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    I think we're saying essentially the same thing, since "possibly" means possibly yes or possibly not.

    Insofar as DOD is concerned, a 3.0L V6 with DOD should yield almost as much mileage as a 1.5L 3 cylinder in steady highway driving, but not quite since the 3 cylinder would have a weight advantage, and probably generate less friction, if it requires smaller tires. In city and mixed driving the 3 cylinder should yield better overall mileage, since the V6 would be running on all cylinders much of the time. This assumes a vehicle weight for which 1.5L provides reasonable performance, and not one where the accelerator would be floored much of the time.

    Aside from acceleration and mileage, the 3 cylinder should have better weight distribution, and thereby handle more nimbly.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    and news outlets have been speculating for some small time now that we are about to enter the age of weight reduction. This might happen through some downsizing in average size of the fleet, but it will also happen as new engineering efficiencies continue to be found, and through the use of lighter-weight materials. At least, I hope this will happen, as we have yet to see any evidence of it. Jaguar and Audi go to all the trouble and expense of making cars mostly of aluminum, and the cars they end up with are pigs on the road, at or above two tons in curb weight.

    I would like to believe that there will be a trend downward, or at least a plateauing, of horsepower and speed among the everyday cars (I fully expect there to continue to be a thriving market in sports cars, but as we all know they make up a tiny minority of overall sales), the transportation cars. But I dunno, people want to do things in an ever greater hurry with each passing year it seems.

    You could stick a Corolla engine in the Camry, accept that it will be slow, and I bet that without any other mods it would improve in fuel efficiency by 20%. Yes, it would be slow by modern standards. But if we accepted that our cars and trucks are now going to get a little slower in the near future in the name of CO2 reductions, it would sure clear the way quickly for achieving those reductions.

    Since I am sure no-one will accept that trade-off, I am pinning my hopes on the weight reduction thing! :-P

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,993
    So you are willing to accept and encourage all this over a theory called global warming. :confuse:

  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    Well heck, Rock, I just want to save gas! :-)

    But I'm also a HUGE fan of engineering efficiency, and the pigs we have on the road today are anything BUT examples of that. Plus, most of the power under the hoods of family cars and vans these days is a total waste given the crowded roads we drive on. These cars aren't going to the track on weekends, as we all know.

    I belong to the Colin Chapman (think Lotus) school of thinking! :-)

    However, I think we are straying from the question posed here, which is do we think that the automakers will finally be forced to stop increasing the power of our cars by new regulations limiting GHG emissions? I would say, if they can find any way AT ALL to avoid taking that route to compliance, I am sure they will. Not a doubt in my mind.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,993
    Nippon, you can buy me a Tesla Roadster pal and you won't here me gripe one bit.-grin :blush: I'd love to own a all electric car but making them as fast as that affordable to the most of us is another barrier. I gotta go check out the Tesla forum and see if their are any more info on that 644 hp? electric powered SUV they are coming out with ?????? Boy nippon, I could fall in love with something like that very easy. I wanna say it was going to be like
    $50 or $60K. (I think)

    If I lived in Cali or had a dealership near me I'd for sure look at one and crunch the numbers on gas savings. If electric cars were that great I and most americans would be all for it. I do think mass produced electric vehicles is several years away.

  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    Luckily they are getting closer to reality all the time, and for the speed lovers among us, some of them are DARN fast! :-)

    I think in the next ten years, the way we will see automakers meet new strict CO2 guidelines is almost certain to be with diesels, with maybe a strong push by Toyota to add hybrids to the line.

    The electrics, the E85, the fuel cells, the CNG, all of that stuff might be great in future, but not commercially viable in any significant quantity inside a decade. And sad to say, weight reduction will probably take a back seat in the whole process. :-(

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,993
    Hey do you or anyone else rember the 644 hp EV SUV I'm talking about ??? I thought Tesla, was going to make it but then again it very well could of been someone else ?

    Man I'm pounding my brain to remember !!! :sick:

  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,993
    Nevermind it's made by ZAP :D

    Now this is my kind of vehicle-grin ;)

  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,993
    I belong to the Colin Chapman (think Lotus) school of thinking! :)

    Zap, Lotus Team Up on Electric Crossover SUV - ver-suv-232415.php

    Now only if they would make me a passenger car ? :blush:

  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,993
    My dream car pal........ :shades:

    This car has to be so fun to drive. Who needs a Ferrari when this baby revs up to 13,500 rpm's ? :P

  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    With electric motors efficiency typically improves with higher power. So any hp race that might ensue would not be criticized from the perspective of wasting energy.
  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,993
    Man tpe, if I won the lottery I'd own one of those Tesla Roadster's. That thing is very sweet. Especially in that blaze orange color to out run the red and blues. J/K :P

  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    13,500 is okay, but the Venturi Fetish goes to 14.
  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,993
    Wow, bumpy you never seem to not amaze me with the cars you find and info you give me. That is a very awesome car pal. :) where's it made ? France ? It sure is expensive !!!! I'd buy the Tesla, as it looks like a better car and has more features and take the extra money $500+K and go on lots of road trips to golf courses. :shades:

  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    and most of the cost in in the carbon-fiber unibody shell which keeps the weight down. Driving a Fetish is probably like stuffing a LS2 in a first-gen Miata, but a lot smoother and quieter (no intake or exhaust noise and no engine vibration).
  • kdshapirokdshapiro Posts: 5,751
    Not impressed. The car would be a hoot if you live in Manhattan but most California commuters would not be able use it for one round trip commute.
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