I think I started thinking of a way to improve gas mileage about 5 years ago. I have been tinkering with it on-and-off since then. One of the features of the Buick RoadMaster that Ali and I bought was the throttle-body fuel injection because I thought it would be easier to modify than the direct injection of newer engines. Despite learning lots about how I would tackle the problem, I don't think I'm going to worry about ever actually implementing it; instead, I'll focus more of my energy on human-powered vehicles like custom bicycles and such.
I read an article that included a graph of engine efficiency for a Volkswagen (I think) that plotted efficiency (horsepower per gallon of fuel) as a color against throttle position and engine RPM. In this particular engine, efficiency varied between about 5% and about 30%. One way to think of it is that for any given engine speed (i.e. 2500 RPM), the efficiency the engine converts fuel to mechanical power varies with throttle position. A rudimentary observation is that the engine is more efficient at 50% throttle than at either 5% or 95%. Also, there is a "sweet spot" — a throttle position that is the most efficient (or a range that's pretty close) — for any given engine speed.
Automotive designers have not done much with this information as far as I can tell. They try to make the "sweet spot" bigger for efficient cars, they try to set the top gear in the transmission so average highway speeds are in the sweet spot, and in a few cars, they switch off half the cylinders sometimes to try and change the sweet spot.
My idea is to change the fuel system more radically. First, switch to "throttle by wire" — make the accelerator pedal more akin to a "torque selector" than a "gas pedal". The actual engine throttle would be computer-controlled to try and maintain the most efficient engine output for its current output RPM. To control the amount of power the engine actually produces, the computer would disable fuel to suppress firing of certain cylinders at a ratio that approximates the desired power output requested at the accelerator pedal.
For example, if you're driving up a grade on the highway and need the engine to deliver 40 horsepower, the car might be running at 1800 RPM and you'd have the throttle at 40%. Let's say this gets you an engine efficiency of 12%, but at 1800 RPM, the "sweet spot" 60% throttle you can get 20% efficiency. At 60% throttle, though, the engine delivers 80 horsepower and you'd be accelerating. So the computer would turn off the cylinders half the time so the effective engine output would be 40 horsepower, but the engine efficiency would nearly double — and so would your gas mileage.
The trouble is, it's quite a time-consuming, complicated project. The first step is to measure the engine data — and that starts with building sensors and recording equipment to get a good set of efficiency and power output data for a spectrum of both throttle positions and RPM. Then it's a matter of analyzing that data to get the target throttle positions and ratio calculations to match the existing performance of the accelerator pedal. But then it gets complicated: you need a throttle actuator, an electronic accelerator pedal, and a way to send the engine computer corrected data from the exhaust oxygen sensor (i.e. turning off half the cylinders increases exhaust oxygen a lot) — probably more sensors too, and a computer to process all that information real-time. Of course you need to make it safe, and be able to record data so you can present it truthfully.
And if everything goes perfectly, it's a gamble as to how much improvement you'd actually get. The thing that kept me interested in the project was the prospect of doubling the mileage — going from 20 MPG to 40MPG. I think it's more realistic to consider a 10%-20% improvement. But without the big step of collecting data, I don't even know at all.
I promised myself this year that I'd put forth extra effort and really try to make it work. I made this promise for 3 years now, and I still have no system. So I'm relieving myself of pretending to get it done. At the end of March, I was supposed to have a working Controller Area Network (CAN) to reliably communicate data between the various microcontrollers in my system. It's now the middle of May and I have no such system. So it's time to zip up the body bag and pack this one away. I learned a lot in doing research, and I'm glad I did, but I just don't think I'm going to bother finishing it.
This evening I was biking on my "tall bike" through The Lilac Festival today when I came to the South/Highland intersection. Police had stopped traffic to permit the pedestrians to cross. Once the people had completely cleared the intersection, I slowly rolled through next to the barrier blocking Highland before the cops released vehicular traffic. One of the cops said, "do you know I can give you a ticket for that?" I just smiled and he repeated his question so I just said, "yeah" and rode away. [Admittedly, I made a terrible mistake: I should have stopped and answered him with, "am I being charged with a crime or am I free to go?"]
What the hell was that all about? He said nothing to the pedestrians who cut through the road, jaywalking outside the crosswalk. But once again I get to have a negative experience with the police. By riding a bike, I not only have to be responsible for a motorist hitting me [let's be real here: if I were killed by a car, you'd hear a lot of, "well, he was taking chances riding that tall bike"] I also have to deal with being hassled by the cops (just like last time).
If Officer Killjoy wasn't just a power-hungry egomaniac awarded a badge by Mayor "More Cops For More Problems", he would have actually stopped me and given me a ticket — after all, that's his job. Along with all the jaywalkers. But he was out to ensure I "knew my place" — that he was the Authority Figure. I tell you what, pig: how about you ticket the myriad of SUV's that get a tax discount for being a commercial vehicle, but that exceed the 3-ton gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) on most residential streets, and I'll start caring that you have anything to do with enforcing the law.
Why not? Here's a thought: BP Oil.
Someone riding a bike says, "we don't need oil." It's a statement that although the oil companies could go bankrupt and the economy could go to hell, people will be okay. Illegally using a commercial SUV as a commuter car is a statement of faith in infinite oil and in a vibrant and ever-growing economy. Guess which activity attracts more police attention? See, it's only through ensuring people are terrified of something (in this case, gas shortages) that they stay in line and obey cops. After all, it depends on what you think is important: a viable future for America, or an easily controlled populace.
Today at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) at 6 p.m., John Isaac will discuss his work as part of the Wish You Were Here Travel Lecture Series. [Note that I needed to go to City Newspaper to get this information: Eastman House's online calendar has been broken, but to contact them, you need to go through a convoluted process rather than just e-mailing them. I guess it'll be broken for a while.][source:
City Newspaper][all ages]
The Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) will be showing Eraserhead starting at 8 p.m. The answer to the big question is what it's about, and I think the Eastman House calendar gets it right saying it's "a surreal nightmare examining male paranoia." Yeah ... pretty much. Plus that weird baby thing.
Dryden Theater calendar][all ages]
The Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) will be showing Neil Young Trunk Show starting at 8 p.m. and again on Sunday at 5 p.m. I love a good concert-footage movie, and the Eastman House calendar's description warms my heart: "in his second collaboration with legendary rocker Neil Young, director Jonathan Demme captures his subject's musical and spiritual soul during the Chrome Dreams II tour. Surrounding himself with his favorite instruments and his long-time touring band, Young develops an environment where he can play his songs exactly as he wants."
Dryden Theater calendar][all ages]
The Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) will be showing Hei yan quan(I Don't Want to Sleep Alone) starting at 8 p.m. From the Eastman House calendar: "in this visually stunning and erotically charged picture, director Tsai delves into the depths of loneliness and our inherent need for companionship."
Dryden Theater calendar][all ages]
This page is Jason Olshefsky's list of things to do in Rochester, NY and the surrounding region (including nearby towns Irondequoit, Webster, Penfield, Pittsford, Victor, Henrietta, Gates, Chili, Greece, and Charlotte, and occasionally other places in Monroe County and the Western New York region.) It is updated every week with daily listings for entertainment, activities, performances, movies, music, bands, comedy, improv, poetry, storytelling, lectures, discussions, debates, theater, plays, and generally fun things to do.
Music events are usually original bands with occasional cover bands and DJ's with musical styles including punk, emo, ska, swing, rock, rock-and-roll, alternative, metal, jazz, blues, noise band, experimental music, folk, acoustic, and "world-beat."
Events listed take place during the day, in the evenings, or as part of the city's nightlife as listed.
Although I'm reluctant to admit it, it is a Rochester blog and I'm essentially blogging about Rochester events.
I also tend to express opinions, review past events, make reviews, speak of philosophy or of a philosophical nature, discuss humanity and creativity.
Oh, and it's spelled JayceLand with no space and a capital L, not Jayce Land, Jaycee Land, Jace Land, Jase Land, Joyce Land, Jayce World, Jayceeland, Jaceland, Jaseland, Joyceland, Jayceworld, Jayceeworld, Jaceworld, Jaseworld, nor Joyceworld. (Now if you misspell it in some search engine, you at least get a shot at finding it.)
It's also not to be confused with
Jake's World or JakesWorld which is a site of a Rochester animator.
While I'm on the topic of keywords for search engines, this update includes information for Thursday, May 20, 2010 (Thu, May 20, 2010, 5/20/2010, or 5/20/10) Friday, May 21, 2010 (Fri, May 21, 2010, 5/21/2010, or 5/21/10) Saturday, May 22, 2010 (Sat, May 22, 2010, 5/22/2010, or 5/22/10) Sunday, May 23, 2010 (Sun, May 23, 2010, 5/23/2010, or 5/23/10) Monday, May 24, 2010 (Mon, May 24, 2010, 5/24/2010, or 5/24/10) Tuesday, May 25, 2010 (Tue, May 25, 2010, 5/25/2010, or 5/25/10) and Wednesday, May 26, 2010 (Wed, May 26, 2010, 5/26/2010, or 5/26/10).
indicates an event that's a preferred pick of the day ... probably something worth checking out.
indicates a "guaranteed" best bet for the particular genre of the indicated event.
links to a band's page on GarageBand.com which offers reviews and information about bands.
links to a band's page on MySpace.com which is a friend-networking site that is popular with bands.