Rising fuel prices, and competition to offer better fuel economy without turning all automobiles into golf carts, make the automatic shutter in the grille something worth developing.
[Ford vehicle engineering chief Don] Ufford said the shutters notion had been studied for years but was not practical until breakthroughs in engine computers.Under constraints that previously didn't bind, or that didn't have a high shadow price to violate, such improvements probably weren't cost-effective.
Now the shutters could be opened or closed based not just on engine temperature, but outside air temperature, vehicle speed, air-conditioning demand and other factors.
The goal with the Cruze Eco was to create a car with the gas mileage of a gas-electric hybrid, but without the higher price tag that comes with the hybrid's expensive batteries and electric motors.Simple, however, is determined relative to a cost-benefit calculation.
Using shutters allowed GM engineers to come up with a car that can handle the worst-case scenario for engine overheating — pulling a trailer up a Death Valley mountainside on a summer day — yet pick up the benefits of less wind drag by shutting the louvers when days or nights are mild.
Makes sense, says Robert Sawyer, a professor emeritus in engineering at the University of California-Berkeley. He says that in order to meet the tougher government gas-mileage regulations, automakers "will need everything they've got" to pick up an extra mpg or two. "Anything that is simple," is sure to be part of the formula.