Weekly auto rail, with a look at automotive technology, Car Q&A with Junior Damato and more.

Tip of the Week


To satisfy car buyers' tastes, automakers have been busily developing ways to squeeze more miles out of a gallon of gas. In addition to better engine design, an often-overlooked transformation has led to increased fuel efficiency: more and more, automakers are replacing heavier materials with lighter-weight plastics.


Generally known as "lightweighting," reducing a car's weight minimizes the load on the engine, so it needs less fuel. Replacing traditional materials with plastics has contributed significantly to lightweighting, so much so that experts estimate plastics make up 50 percent of today's automobiles by volume - but only 10 percent by weight. This progression toward plastics occurred over many decades, as cars also became generally more reliable, safer and better designed.


So if roughly half of today's car is made with plastics - where is all this stuff? This trend is probably most readily apparent inside the car. Other than windows and perhaps leather seats, nearly everything a driver or passenger sees and touches is made with plastics: the ceiling, visors, dashboard, instrument panel, door panels, carpeting, seat fabrics and cushions, seat belts, air bags … the list goes on. It may be less obvious on the exterior, but today's bumpers, quarter panels, headlights, taillights, grills, spoilers, running boards, and some other parts are generally made with plastics - or are rapidly headed in that direction. And take a look under the hood: a plethora of hoses and housings are made with plastics.


Lightweighting, and the resulting increase in fuel efficiency, contributes not only to the car owner's bottom line but also to a lighter environmental footprint. Better gas mileage saves money at the pump, and cutting fuel consumption can reduce a car's CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the impacts associated with energy production itself. Lightweighting contributes significantly to the efficiency of hybrid and electric vehicles, too.


- ARA


The List


According to Forbes, here are the fastest cars under $50,000:


 


5. 2012 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS


4. 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8


3. 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 Superbee


2. 2012 Ford Mustang Boss


1. 2012 Ford Shelby GT500


Did You Know


Chrysler recently announced a new Viper, which will be built by its SRT division. The Viper will be 640 horsepower.


Car Q&A


Q: I have several cans of engine oil in my garage. The brands vary, as does the viscosity. My question is, can I use these oils in my 2008 Toyota Camry?


A: You should never mix oils and or viscosities in late-model vehicles. If you know someone with a pre-1990 vehicle, you can use the old oil in old vehicles. The use of the incorrect oil in a late-model vehicle can cause major problems with the internal moving parts and hydraulic powered timing control solenoids.


- Junior Damato, Talking Cars columnist


GateHouse News Service