Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If you stand still you will be passed

Just for fun I went to and did a search for cars with best fuel economy and... hold it. What's this? A Hyundai Accent? A Hyundai Elantra? 30mpg city, 40mpg highway? WTF is going on here? Did they put a 20 horsepower engine into these things to get that kind of mpg?!

And the answer is... no! The 1.6L engine in the Accent produces more power than any other competitor's subcompact car engine, while the 1.8L engine in the Elantra is makes more power than even Honda's 1.8L engine while having better fuel economy because it's mated to a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission rather than a 5 speed conventional automatic transmission. What's going on is that that Koreans have matched, and SURPASSED, the United States when it comes to automotive technology. For the Accent they just released a GDI (Gas Direct Injection) engine that produces more horsepower than any other normally-aspirated (non-turbocharged) engine of its size on the planet. Direct injection is the technology that diesel engines use to squirt diesel fuel into cylinders to precisely meter how much fuel goes into the cylinder. It requires special fuel injectors that can take being in the middle of an explosion 3000+ times per minute, but gives much more precise fuel metering. Doing it to a gasoline engine brings that same precise fuel metering to the table, but because gasoline burns faster than diesel fuel does, you get horsepower, not just torque. GDI has been used in some high-end engines for performance prior to now, but this is the first large-scale application in a low end car for the purpose of getting fuel economy.

Furthermore, they introduced a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission which also happens to be their "manual" transmission too. Normal automatic transmissions lose power in the "torque converter", a sloshy thing that uses vanes on one side to slosh fluid around to push on vanes on the other side. A dual-clutch transmission has a pair of clutches like a normal manual transmissions and simply uses electronics rather than cables or hydraulic fluid to actuate them as well as to shift the gears. So they basically created a way to get the fuel economy of a manual transmission out of an automatic transmission. This isn't a new concept, VW's been doing it for a few years now (but for performance reasons rather than fuel economy reasons) and ZF has a dual-clutch transmission that Chrysler is in the process of building a factory to build here in America that's currently used in a number of high-end European makes (again, though, for performance rather than fuel economy), but Hyundai appears to be the first manufacturer to do it across their entire low-end line.

What this basically says is that you can't stand still. You can't refuse to innovate. You can't mark entire realms of science off-limits because they are "un-Biblical" and de-fund the schools because they're "liberal". Or else you're toast. South Korea has 1/6th the population of the United States. 25 years ago, they were a third world assembler of other people's parts, creating cheap piece of shit cars that fell apart almost as soon as they got off the boat. Today, 25 years later, they are world class, producing designs of their own making that are as good as or better than anybody else in the world. They didn't do that by de-funding their schools. They didn't do that by proclaiming that Jesus prohibits teaching of physics and biology because they contradict the Bible's creation story. They did that the old fashioned way -- by valuing education, innovation, and hard work. You know... like America used to be, before we started worshiping ignorance and started electing Presidents based on whether we'd like to have a beer with him rather than because he was, like, smart and shit.

-- Badtux the Car Penguin


  1. So WASF in an entirely different way.


  2. Welcome to the republican America.

  3. I'd say "welcome to boomer America". This all started in the 60's with the campus revolts against education that wasn't "relevant", which led into the 70's with the revolt against education that didn't specifically train you for a specific job (and leave out all that fancy stuff like Civics, history, etc., that had no relevance to a specific job), which leads right up to today. When America quit valuing education for education's sake and started demanding that it be "relevant", the die was cast, and the stupid eagerly grabbed that opportunity to validate their stupidity.

    - Badtux the History Penguin

  4. Those who "quit valuing education for education's sake" are those who never have had an education.

  5. Signing for an Accent tonight. I wanted the manual transmission, but they just cannot be had in this country. You go into a Hyundai dealer and ask for a car, and they print out a list of dealers across the country that maybe have one, and go phoning them up, one at a time.

    If you're at all picky, you'll have to wait for weeks.

    Of course, they DON'T have the car you want there!

    I sat in a brand new Mustang a few years ago. A friend rented it. Now, I like the way American cars are looking lately, but when I sat in this Mustang, it was like being in a car from 1970, perfectly preserved. The same fit and finish. Probably some of the same molds formed some of the same parts you know from decades ago. There's just an unbelievable amount of inertia and stultification in that industry. Nothing, not even bankruptcy and government rescue, can get them out of it.

    We need some independent car industry to grow in this country, free of the infection of the old.

  6. Nans, from what I can tell the manual transmission on the Accent is the exact same transmission as the automatic transmission. The gear shifter on the "manual" transmission doesn't even go into the transmission -- it's just a gated joystick like on a video game that just pretends to be a real gear shifter. The "clutch" similarly just sends electronic signals to the real clutch packs in the transmission. So don't feel like you lost anything other than some entertainment value by not being able to get the manual.

    My brother needed a family car back in the early 'oughts and got a Sonata. That was the first year of the previous-generation Sonata. It was/is reliable as a brick, as reliable as any Honda car my mother has ever had. And about as exciting as a brick, it wasn't competitive powertrain-wise with the competition on either power or fuel economy. Hyundai has decidedly fixed that with this generation :).

    Regarding an independent auto industry in the US, the biggest problem is that the auto manufacturers spun off their parts suppliers and thus lost control over their parts. One reason the Chevy Volt is so outrageously expensive is that GM no longer has AC/Delco in-house to fashion new parts -- it has so many new / unique parts that the parts suppliers are reaming GM to get back the R&D funds they had to spend to create new production lines for the new / unique parts (because designing the part is only the first step, once you design the part you have to design how to *manufacture* the part). So anyhow, now you know why when Chrysler re-designed the Jeep Wrangler in 2006, it no longer had the flat paddle-style door handles of the previous-generation Jeep that slid through deep brush so well. There was one (1) supplier of those things in the entire world, and they were charging Chrysler an arm and a leg for them because their last other customer (AMC) had been shut down by Chrysler long ago. So Chrysler put a standard door handle like had been on all their cars since the 1970's on the new Wrangler and called it good. I guess new Jeep owners just get free garnish for their dinner when they yank all those leaves and branches out of their door handles at the end of a run :).

    - Badtux the Industrial Penguin

  7. All I know is that certain "foreign" car manufacturers are taking full advantage of the automotive talent one finds in the greater Detroit area. I drive past a joint Hyundai/Kia research facility every day on my way to work. Toyota has a pretty major facility in the area too. The "big 3" have been cutting wages for their engineers and many of those folks have found they can get higher salaries elsewhere. What the auto companies need to do is to figure out that excessive executive compensation isn't going to do it for them. They need to compensate their creative talent well too.

  8. Ford has not been a slouch in the GDI engine department either:

  9. Ford's been using GDI to get horsepower, not economy. Their 3.5L turbocharged GDI engine, for example, makes more horsepower and torque than their 5.0L V8 engine. That wasn't Hyundai's goal with GDI -- though it's certainly a nice bonus.

    - Badtux the High-tech Penguin

  10. Ford's target market is still apparently 18-22 y/o male sweat hogs from 1972.

    My salesman told me a story about the automatic being just like a manual, but without a clutch. I just figured he thought I was a moron. I'd have responded much more vigorously to the phrase "shift-by-wire."

  11. Well, the salesman was sorta right, within the limited intellectual ability of a salesman (remember, car salesmen usually aren't too bright, else they'd be working jobs that required more brain cells -- like, say, pizza delivery driver ;). But in any event, yes, the two transmissions ARE the same, as far as I can tell. The only difference is the controls for shifting them.

    Compare/contrast to my antique Jeep Wrangler, where the 2wd/4wd lever pushes directly on planetary gearsets within the transfer case and the shift lever pushes directly on shift forks within the manual transmission. Just a different generation altogether, even if it *is* a six speed medium truck transmission rather than the traditional four or five speed of Jeeps of yore.

  12. A marketing manager in high tech I once knew referred, with great respect, to the Korean buyers of our product (an electronic component) as "Klingons". What he meant was that they were value-demanding and hard-bargaining, but then turned around and were champions of producing high-value, good-price-point end products in return.

  13. As vs. American industrial buyers, who are... Ferengi.

    - Badtux the Snarky Penguin

  14. 'Tux, your comment about the pizza delivery driver made me laugh so hard I forgot what I was going to write--something about being married to the status quo, I think.

  15. This begs the question, is there still something that America is actually good at now besides corporate malfeasance and puritanical religious fervor?


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