Boosting Economy with a Software Tweak
A Dutch scientist claims that the fuel consumption in many of today’s cars could be reduced by 2.6 per cent through the addition of new software to the engine’s computer. John Kessels from the University of Eindhoven worked in conjunction with Ford to develop software that would improve engine performance, and the initial results of this collaboration look promising.
Kessels’ software works by dynamically switching the dynamo responsible for charging the car’s battery on and off. In conditions where it would be particularly inefficient for the engine to power the dynamo, the software ensures it is deactivated. This simple procedure is sufficient to improve the engine’s overall efficiency.
“Just by adding a piece of software and a simple cable, cars can save 2.6% of fuel consumption,” says Kessel. Ford does not hold the copyright to Kessel’s software and it can be used in any vehicle fitted with an engine computer, as most contemporary vehicles are. However, the software is not completely ready for release. “We don’t yet know how much it might degrade the battery,” Kessel cautions.
The inventor believes an improvement in fuel efficiency of just a few percent would be welcomed by car manufacturers. “For CO2 consumption, it’s becoming more and more important to look at small improvements,” he says. More significant fuel savings – upwards of 5 to 6 per cent – could be achieved if the car’s engine itself were capable of being rapidly switched on and off. However such a set up would involve significant engine adjustments, including the addition of a powerful starter motor to ensure the car gets going quickly after each engine shutdown.