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Automotive Connected Cars Editor's Picks

Saving fuel with the latest connected cars from BMW, Ford, Honda and more

We’ve seen car companies make massive gains when it comes to safety, but that’s not the only area in which technology has moved on. The latest cars are more efficient than ever, and there's plenty of innovative tech helping you to get more from every drop of fuel.

Stop-start engines

It probably comes as no surprise that cars guzzle fuel when the engine is turned on, which is why nearly every manufacturer has introduced stop-start technology like BMW's Auto Start Stop. With engines that can turn themselves off when you're sat at traffic lights and in neutral, starting up automatically when you tap the gas, it's an incredibly effective way of cutting down on petrol or diesel. After all, it's not like you actually need the engine to be running when you're not intending on moving for a few minutes.

bmw

You can also see this from the likes of Ford with their start-stop tech included in ECOnetic, making sure you're not actually using fuel when you don't need to.

Hybrid technology

That’s just the start though, and while the internal combustion engine remains relatively inefficient, there are an increasing number of cars out there like the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight and BMW i3 that take advantage of both a small petrol engine and electric motors.

Not all hybrids work in the same way: The Prius spends most of its time running on a regular engine, harvesting energy during braking to boost batteries that powers an electric motor to increase performance, enabling the use of a smaller engine. The Honda Insight is similar, with a small petrol engine backed by an electric motor to boost performance, while also getting a CVT gearbox for better emissions.

Meanwhile, the BMW i3 uses an electric motor to actually power the wheels, while offering the option of a two-cylinder engine that effectively exists to top up the i3’s batteries. The result of hybrid technology is a car that won’t leave you stranded on longer journeys like a regular electric car could, but will help to deliver much better fuel economy.

toyota-Prius-2015-exterior-tme-001-a-full_tcm-3060-590352

Eco tyres

While the engine may be the part of your car that's actually burning fuel, there's a whole lot more to eking out an additional few miles to the gallon, and tyres play a massive part in that. Companies like Dunlop, Michelin, Bridgestone and Goodyear have spent years developing tyres that offer more grip, better longevity and even the ability to run without any air, but getting more miles to the gallon is all about rolling resistance and aerodynamics, and that’s where the latest eco tyres come in. [More on this topic in a future article].

According to the US Department of Energy, up to 15 per cent of the fuel in your car is used up overcoming rolling resistance from the tyres, and as such the latest eco-friendly cars opt for tyres that are more efficient. On the BMW i3, for example, BMW has opted for taller, much thinner tyres. The result is more aerodynamic, cutting through the air more efficiently and producing less rolling resistance, all helping you to go that extra mile.

Active aerodynamics

Car makers have spent considerable amounts of time and money developing the most slippery shapes, with a low aerodynamic drag co-efficient resulting in much better fuel efficiency. It’s not just about the shape though, and companies like Ford, BMW and Mercedes have also been working on active aerodynamics, with the 2015 Ford Mustang featuring grilles on the front of the car that can close to control airflow. That means the car is able to get air to the radiator and other components when necessary, but shutting and re-routing air to reduce drag when it’s not required, helping you to eke out a few more miles.

Ford

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)

We’ve focused so far on technology from the big car companies so far in this article, but HERE is also contributing when it comes to fuel efficiency. As a location intelligence business, we’re not involved in making engines or sculpting aerodynamic shapes, of course, but we are adding to the effort to lower everyone’s fuel bills.

The advance of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) systems, with predictive powertrain control is proving particularly useful when it comes to fuel savings. Scania trucks have already implemented systems that can adjust the speed of a truck depending on the conditions, helping to avoid knee-jerk reactions from the driver and keeping things smooth. That’s not just about making things easier, but also plays a big part in delivering a more effective and efficient driving experience.

With pro-active efforts to protect the environment and increase fuel efficiency increasing, it’s something we’re likely to see a lot more of in the future. You may also want to look into the fuel-efficiency program we’ve piloted with the US Argonne National Laboratory.

More map-based ADAS is already being realised: plugging HERE maps into how a cars drive is set to increase their efficiency in every way.

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