Occupy Corvair – Roger Ingalls
If you read the blog last week, you probably understand the meaning of the title for this post. My plan is to rebuild and slightly reengineer a 50 year old Chevy Corvair as a protest against California’s crazy smog laws and the kissy-cozy relationship between Big Oil, auto manufacturers and their lobbyists. To understand why rebuilding an old car is a protest, read the previous post.
I did receive a few emails about last week’s post asking why the Corvair was selected for the rebuild protest project. The following few paragraphs explain the technical reasons. Keep in mind that this project is focused on creating a high performance hypermiling vehicle. In this case, high performance does not mean massive horsepower or super speed. It means long distance traveled per gallon of gas consumed or high performing efficiency.
The Corvair is a rear wheel drive, rear engine vehicle. Since the engine is in the back and connected to the rear wheels, there is no heavy transmission and driveshaft running the length of the car. Less weight means more miles per gallon. The elimination of a long heavy spinning driveshaft is important. A pound of rotating mass, in automotive engineering terms, is equivalent to seven pounds of static weight. Again, reducing weight improves mpg because the engine doesn’t work as hard per distance traveled. With the engine in the rear, the Corvair is lighter in the front. The reduced forward weight means less down force on the front tires so turning takes less physical force. The Corvair’s easy steering eliminated the need for power assistance. Most cars have parasitic power steering that takes energy from the engine which should be used to propel the car.
The Corvair has an air-cooled aluminum engine that is lightweight, again, less weight more mpg. Air cooling is also important. No radiator, water pump, hoses or heavy coolant is needed making the vehicle lighter. In addition, the water pump is a parasitic device that must be powered by the engine which further robs energy that could be used to propel the car. One of the engineering modifications I will make is to the air intake that feeds the motor. The new intake will take hot air coming off the motor which is expanded and carrying less oxygen. This has the effect of making the engine smaller. To maintain the proper fuel to air mixture required to burn, less gas is used. This will reduce the horsepower but the project is designed to increase mpg and not for racing at a track.
The Corvair has four wheel independent suspension. Most cars sold in America have their suspension adjust with a toe-out (front wheel slightly pointed outward on the leading edge) to make them easier to handle for novice drivers. This creates rolling resistance which robs power. Since the Corvair has independent suspension, I will be able to precisely adjust all four wheels so they are pointed forward decreasing roll resistance all the way around. As an example of this resistance, try pushing a car with the wheels pointed straight and with them turned; you’ll instantly feel the difference.
The Corvair will be turned into a pseudo hybrid. Multiple car batteries will be put is the trunk (located in the front of the car). These will be used to operate all parasitic devices such as, air conditioning, heater, and engine cooling fan which are normally powered by the gas engine. In addition, the alternator/generator that normally charges the single car battery will be modified. It will be present in the car but not engaged and, if needed, a lever will engage it (an alternator/generator is a parasitic device). Lastly, I will make aerodynamic and overall weight reduction changes to improve fuel efficiency.
This will be a fun project that proves we’ve had the technology to increase gas mileage for over fifty years.