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Trucks and Fuel Economy

Regular fuel is closing in on $1.50 per litre. For me that number seems to be a breaking point. I am really looking forward to riding my bike to work. School is out soon (maybe even sooner) and my kid driving responsibilities are nearly over. I would be even more excited if the weather was a little less unpredictable.

Most automobile manufacturers are touting their vehicles’ fuel economy advancements and many Canadians are biting. Canadian auto sales are at an all time high. If the current trend continues, 2014 will be a record year. What are Canadians buying? We are sticking with trucks and suvs. Not small economy cars. Maybe small trucks and suvs?

Truck technology is on the move as manufactures fight for bragging rights. Who will be the fuel economy leader? All the manufacturers are touting their available V6 engines. Dodge or Ram even has a small diesel available in a half ton. Sales of these smaller engine full size trucks are becoming significant. Many times six cylinder engines were offered but nobody bought them.

Ford was first in with a V6 that everyone wanted. The turbocharged Ecoboost V6 promised and delivered more horsepower than the V8. The jury is out on fuel economy though. To get the good fuel economy of a smaller displacement turbocharged vehicle you have to drive carefully. The whoosh of turbocharged power is addictive. Believe me, I know.

Ram was next to try a V8 upset. A very high technology small 3.6 litre V6 was made available in a half ton with an 8 speed automatic. Many gear ratios means a small engine can be tuned for lots of horsepower at a bit higher rpm. All these gears allow decent acceleration when needed and relaxed economical cruising. It seems owners of these vehicles are getting significantly better mileage than the Hemi V8s.

For 2014 the General (GMC, Chevy) has stepped into the fray with a 4.3 litre V6. This is not your old 4.3. The new EcoTec3 has all the technology of the new V8s (continuous variable valve timing, cylinder deactivation, and direct fuel injection). This engine is already being sold in 20% of the half tons. It produces nearly 300 horsepower compared to the previous version’s 200 horsepower. It also produces significantly better fuel economy numbers.

Not to be outdone in the fuel sipping full size half ton truck wars Toyota has its 4.0 litre Tundra for 2014 and Ram now has a 3.0 litre diesel. I am sure the little diesel will become the engine of choice for fuel economy bragging rights.

What’s next? Ford is removing 700 pounds from their trucks by using aluminum body panels in place of steel. We mechanics can rest. The body shop guys are going to need some fresh training for aluminum repairs.

In any case replacing your V8 truck or SUV with one of these V6 gas models will net you about one litre per 100 kilometre improvement. A small diesel will get you more.

On the other hand if you are not in the market for a new vehicle you can probably make the same efficiency gains with some tender loving care to your current workhorse. Check your tire pressures. If your check engine light is on it is time to determine the cause. You might not think your vehicle needs a tune up but it probably does. Replace that underbody piece of plastic you tore off during the winter. These pieces allow your vehicle to slip through the air more efficiently.

In the end though if you want to really save fuel, park your truck and ride your bike.

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