Ownership Your Roof Rack Could Be Turning Your Car Into a Major Gas Guzzler
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The roof racks that Americans use to lug skis and canoes and bikes in less-than-aerodynamic fashions are, it turns out, a serious drag on individual gas mileage. And they're becoming common enough to represent a drag on the fuel economy of the United States as a whole, scientists have found.
The racks cost the country 100 million gallons of gas last year, equal to 0.8 percent of light-duty vehicles' consumption,of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found. Their study, "Fuel consumption impacts of auto roof racks," appears in the latest issue of the journal Energy Policy.
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The range of how your rack is slowing your individual roll can vary tremendously. Researchers found a rack its various add-ons can crater fuel efficiency by as much as 25 percent, or sometimes not at all. They recommend that manufacturers design more aerodynamic racks, and that government policies discourage driving with empty racks, which they found accounts for four to eight times as many miles driven as full racked-vehicles. By 2040, too, rack usage is expected to increase 200 percent.
Consequently, the scientists write, better design and attentive policy could save something like 1.2 billion gallons of fuel during the next 26 years. And if nothing's done? Racks will account for fuel waste "about six times larger than anticipated fuel savings from fuel cell vehicles and 40 percent of anticipated fuel savings from battery electric vehicles in 2040." You want to go green, then, on the cheap? Unrack that drag chute from the top of your car.
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