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Unique air shutter helps Chevrolet Cruze achieve 40mpg fuel efficiency

By

August 16, 2010

An exploded view of the Chevrolet Cruze's air shutter system

An exploded view of the Chevrolet Cruze's air shutter system

Image Gallery (3 images)

The Honda Civic hybrid gets approximately 45 mpg on the highway, while the similarly-sized 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco gets 40 mpg. That's pretty decent on the Chevy’s part, considering it isn’t even a hybrid. Of course, because it isn’t a hybrid, that means it doesn’t sport a hybrid’s price tag – the Cruze Eco will start at $US18,895, as opposed to the Honda’s $23,800. So, how is it possible for a combustion-engined car to almost match a hybrid’s fuel efficiency? Well, lowering the weight and the ride height help a bit, but according to Chevrolet, the real reason lies in the car’s unique front air shutter system.

The shutters are located behind the Cruze’s front grille, and utilize sensors to determine ambient wind and temperature conditions. At higher speeds, electric motors automatically close the shutters, to maximize aerodynamics. At lower speeds, the shutters open, to improve engine-cooling airflow.

The Cruze's air shutter system is located behind its front grille
The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco

All told, the shutter system reduces the car’s drag coefficient by a factor of 0.016, which translates into about about one mile per gallon of added efficiency on the highway, and about half a mile per gallon combined city and highway.

The Cruze Eco will be available Q4 of this year.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
26 Comments

I'm not sure this is much of an achievement! There are European and Asian non-hybrid cars that will easily do much more than this. My 10 year-old Peugeot with do 40 mpg. There are things like the WV Polo Blue Motion that will do more than 60 or 70 mpg.

Ravenacious
17th August, 2010 @ 12:52 am PDT

"The Honda Civic hybrid gets approximately 45 mpg on the highway, while the similarly-sized 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco gets 40 mpg. That's pretty decent on the Chevy's part, considering it isn't even a hybrid."

In what way is a hybrid supposed to have an advantage on the highway?

Rune Winsevik
17th August, 2010 @ 12:53 am PDT

There are the usual muddled units here - mpg (US) and mpg (UK) are wildly different. My Honda Civic Hybrid (7 years' old) achieves 60 mpg (UK) in the summer (when the air is thinner) and around 57 mpg in the winter. Not 45 mpg (US).

Ravenacious's comment about the VW is in UK units, so should not be compared to the US units in the article!

Harmsy
17th August, 2010 @ 01:48 am PDT

How is this unique? Porsche did this 23 years ago on the 928. Toyota also recently got credit for a dual plenum intake that the same 928 introduced. Sure, it was the top of the line Porsche, but this isn't new

Chris Fabri
17th August, 2010 @ 05:22 am PDT

Harmsy, I really think that you should explain better the difference between UK mpg's and US mpg's... are their gallons of a different size or density? are there miles all flat or downhill? do they have a different atmospheric pressure or less gravitational pull? I just fail to see what the difference could possibly be between a "UK mpg" and a US mpg."

David Klein
17th August, 2010 @ 06:52 am PDT

I don't get it. This isn't groundbreaking in any way. My 1993 Nissan Sentra XE sedan got 45 mpg (US) highway consistently with no mods. My 2002 Camry V6 gets 31 mpg highway right now, and it's huge and heavy compared to the Cruze Eco.

Carmakers have gone backwards IMHO. When they introduce a car that gets over 60 mpg (US) that's actually a practical car (like that old Sentra or my Camry) then they'll have something worth getting excited about.

Big Mook
17th August, 2010 @ 07:57 am PDT

one mile per gallon is not that impressive, but the article is smart in pointing out that it is way cheaper than a hybrid getting comparable mileage. That has been my argument for years. For instance, the Ford Focus Hybrid is $4000-$5000 more expensive than the regular gas version. It only increases mileage 15%. That takes a LONG time to break even on your investment.

We sell a much better solution with our compact on demand hydrogen generators. They cost under $1000 (our small kits under $500) and usually average a 20-40% increase in mileage as well as a significant drop in emissions. We have had one customer go from 16 mpg to 50 mpg using our system (results not typical), which beats the pants off of a hybrid in my opinion.

You can see them here if interested: http://www.hhokitsdirect.com/

You can also see real customer results here: http://hhokitsdirect.com/articles/

I can answer any questions that anyone may have about them if you want to contact me...

I try not to spam my comments or use them to advertise, but I feel this is very relevant...

Bob

Facebook User
17th August, 2010 @ 07:57 am PDT

Sounds great for those of us who see purely electric vehicles as problematic until the suburban and rural areas provide convenient recharging points and the mileage between charges picks up. What really bothers me is the 'made lighter' aspect which usually means a copious use of thinner plastic. Passenger safety is paramount, more so than efficiency, and ending up implanted in the grill of a truck, bus or semi just isn't my idea of a smashing way to end the day. If you are going to have a lighter vehicle it will be more susceptible to wind, potholes/bumps/cracks in the pavement and will stop quicker than the steel car-crushers behind it, requiring greater attention to the road on the driver's part plus a safe and secure passenger compartment.

leedobolek
17th August, 2010 @ 08:02 am PDT

40 MPG (US) is pitiful. My bone stock old enough to vote Geo Metro gives 52 MPG(US) at 50 MPH, and 45 at 70. Why aren't we seeing the LUPO here?

drbob
17th August, 2010 @ 08:29 am PDT

Great.. But How long will Chevy Cruze last??? Chevy is not know to last like a Honda..

Crazy2
17th August, 2010 @ 10:05 am PDT

Cars in the 1920's and 1930's had temperature controlled grille shutters which opened and closed according to the coolant temperature. Before designers recessed the radiators behind curved grilles, the vertical shutters were the grille.

Look up pics of old Packards and other high end cars. If the grille looks like it's made of a series of overlapping chromed slats with no way for air to get through, those are the shutters with the engine cold or not running.

Facebook User
17th August, 2010 @ 02:40 pm PDT

Let's not compare antique cars the size of a shoebox made out of balsa wood and sporting a 3 HP V1 to real, modern vehicles here, with hundreds of pounds of air bags, air conditioning, backup cameras, automatic transmissions, tire pressure sensors, etc. Your 1936 Green Gremlin may have gotten 50MPG, but it's not 1936. For a modern car with 136 HP, four doors and decent features, 40MPG is an impressive achievement, all the more so without using hybrid technology and with packing 10 standard air bags, traction control, etc.

@David Klein - the difference between the US & UK MPG figures would be in how they're calculated. It's no different than seeing a laptop battery life figure from the manufacturer and one from a review site. It's not a different definition of "hours" (or "miles" or "gallons") but the issue where one might have measured at 20% screen brightness doing nothing but idling background tasks while the other measurement might have been made at 80% screen brightness while playing full-screen video.

@Big Mook - Edmunds lists the EPA estimates for a 4-door '93 Sentra Xe at

Manual: 25 mpg (city) / 35 mpg (highway) / 29 mpg (combined). You must have been doing something right to get 45 MPG highway. Maybe a lot of folks here are recalling their cars of old in a somewhat favorable light? :-)

@Crazy2: If you look at their website, the Cruze was apparently subjected to the baking temperatures of Saudi Arabia, frozen in Scandanavia, and drenched in Venzuela. I don't know if the interior pic is for the stock Eco trim, but it looks a heck of a lot more beautiful than my mom's 2007 Civic. It's also supposed to have more room. If Chevy gives us a cheaper, roomier, prettier, more fuel-efficient and spacious Civic with even close to Honda build quality, they could move a heck of a lot of these.

alcalde
17th August, 2010 @ 03:18 pm PDT

as Chris said and I know to be fact as I worked for Porsche in the 1980s this system was on the 928 in 1987

Bill Bennett
17th August, 2010 @ 06:47 pm PDT

@Bob - more than a few tests by reputable consumer organisations and others have found that in exactly EVERY case, add-on stuff folks stick in their cars never makes any significant fuel consumption difference, and in *almost* every case, it actually makes things worse than without it.

HHO is a scam. That's why exactly zero of the hundreds of HHO sites/dealers out there put out any test results - and instead put "testimonials" from people with "identiy-protected" names.

Congrats for making money from snake oil - everyone needs an income.

christopher
17th August, 2010 @ 07:42 pm PDT

An imperial gallon is bigger than a US gallon. Just looked it up on Wikipedia to get the figures, US gallon is 3.78 L, Imperial gallon is 4.4 L. You'll clearly go farther on an Imperial gallon.

Urq196, thanks for the backup. I did in fact own an '87, although my flaps no longer functioned. One of the problems Porsche had was that if the flaps failed in the closed position for some reason, the car would easily overheat, and wirth an aluminum block this resulted in some failed engines. It was actually removed in '91, I believe. Future cruse owners, keep an eye on that coolant temp!

Chris Fabri
17th August, 2010 @ 08:23 pm PDT

The early American settlers got their measures mixed up and used a 16oz. pint rather than the standard 20oz pint. That is to say the US pint is only four-fifths of a standard pint. Since there are still eight pints to a gallon the US gallon is similarly only 80% of a standard gallon. Thus if you took the same car running under the same conditions it would necessarily achieve a lower mpg figure when filling it with the smaller US gallon.

professore
18th August, 2010 @ 01:46 am PDT

ref 'Ye Article' :

Conclusion : Yet another spiv driven puff

ref Historical presidents :

See comments of Others below this

The original design emanates (as/common for a lot of things automotive and useful)

from Fred Lanchester

His were put to the out (ie Were the outer grilling to the radiator)

and called 'Lanchester slats/grill/shutter'

As near a correct definition of the US set up of article as I can put forward is:

'Internal Lanchester slats - electronically controlled and actuated'

For others using same / similar set-up of present production see firstly:

Bristol Cars UK

Military vehicles various of countries various

including mods to existing vehicles (see UK REME 'lash-ups')

The Clerk

Somewhere-in-England

theclerksmailbox
18th August, 2010 @ 01:59 am PDT

Err

Further to last - a PS

Forgot to note the obvious :

Original moving/controllable slatted grills :

VENETIAN BLINDS

The Clerk

Somewhere-in-England

theclerksmailbox
18th August, 2010 @ 02:36 am PDT

It's quite bitty that BMW only offers its high end engines in the US.

New 2 liter turbocharged diesel engine will use 4.0 l/100 km and will go 0-100 km in 7.5 seconds (it is 184 horsepower engine (torge 380 Nm)).

Previous engine did use 4.5 l/100 km and did 0-100 km/h in 7.9 seconds with it's 174 horsepower engine.

I think that this is quite remarcable performance.

Kris Lee
18th August, 2010 @ 02:48 am PDT

Not a silly idea, better to have it than not 1

As for the UK v US MPG debate.... seriously?

Of all the places, never thought I'd see it in Gizmag comments!

LOL, fail.

Craig Jennings
18th August, 2010 @ 10:24 pm PDT

I bought a new 1967 Fiat Spider ($2500). It looked like a $5000 Lotus Elan. The low drag gave me 46 mpg. I drove it for 10 years. I bought a new '88 Daihatsu for $6000 that got 46mpg and drove it for 8 years. It had no mechanical problems, unlike the Fiat. My point is that the "big three" deserve to go out of business. They were not responsive to customer needs or wants. This is what happens when an industry uses money to buy political protection rather than R&D. My father (an excellent mechanic and motor re-builder) put a $500 deposit on a Tucker in 1948 because he recognized it was the best car in the U.S. The politicians killed the competition. Government is always anti-Capitalist. When an industry uses gov to protect it against competition this is called "fascism", e.g., our system.

voluntaryist
19th August, 2010 @ 02:32 pm PDT

My 2009 1.4L TSI Golf gets 45 MPG on the highway without air shutters, so this isn't much of an achievement, surely?

Facebook User
19th August, 2010 @ 05:58 pm PDT

for those of you who do not grasp the difference between MPG (Imperial) and MPG (US)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miles_per_gallon#Conversion_from_MPG

The Chevy Cruze gets 40 MPG (US), equal to 48 MPG (Imp)

@Big Mook

The Cruze's weight has not been officially announced, but is in the EPA 3125-3375 lb testing category. http://www.autoblog.com/2010/04/19/2011-chevrolet-cruze-quick-spin/

a 1996 Nissan Sentra sedan (2300lbs) weighs nearly 1000lbs less, but only has a 5mpg advantage. you're "big and heavy" 2002 Camry (3100 lbs) weighs less than a cruze, but gets 10mpg less.

what was your point exactly?

@Facebook User

your 2009 1.4L TSI Golf (engine not available in the US, btw) gets 45 MPG (Imp), the equivalent of 37.5 MPG (US). So it gets slightly less MPG than a cruze, despite being a few hundred pounds lighter.

Ho Le
23rd August, 2010 @ 12:27 pm PDT

There are lots of factors at play - the weight of the car, streamlining, engine efficiency and drag from the tires on the road. Here in Canada we use metric units now - where 4.5 L is an Imperial Gallon whereas 4 L is an American Gallon. My Chrysler Concorde XLI gets 40 mpg - this is a lightweight Renault-based front wheel drive large touring car with a very sleek co-efficient of drag: 0.29. And of course I have to drive at 100 Klicks (62.4 mph) or less with 45 lbs/in2 of air in my tires.

Unfortunately, Chrysler's customers eventually preferred a boxy, heavy rear-wheel drive successor to the lightweight streamliners, more Old-Bently-like and imposing look. But you can't fool physics - it takes power to push weight and boxy shapes with softly inflated tires down the road and that takes more mpgs. I hope the time returns when aeodynamics, design efficiency and styling are in synch.

Barry Moore
27th September, 2010 @ 10:39 am PDT

Last night I was cruising in a friend's 1956 2 door Chevy... a classic. It has a three speed manual transmission with overdrive. The engine is a 327 V8 with a 4 barrel carb. On the highway the car gets 21 MPG at legal speeds. So, in 54 years of technological advances we gain 2x the mileage, ok, and less pollution. He can also perform his own tune ups without special electronic tools and equipment. We can sit three across in the front seat. When did you ever have your girlfriend sit next to you while driving so you could put your arm around her?

Mark A
3rd October, 2010 @ 09:30 am PDT

Many trucks over the years have had thermo driven slats in their grille. when the engine temp increased the slats open when it cools they close...

Everyone in industry these days wants to claim the rights to patents they have no right to.

The Patent offices issue patents without due diligence, because if the owners are silly enough to pay for a patent they can't defend in court than the Patent office is happy to take their fee, and ongoing maintenance fees... for a 20 year exclusive patent that couldn't be defended in year 1.

MD
1st November, 2011 @ 08:58 pm PDT
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