Formula Ford proves weight among biggest obstacles to fuel efficiency

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Formula Ford

A Formula Ford race car, with a three-cylinder engine, has just set a faster lap time around the Nurburgring than a Ferrari Enzo, while doing 57 mpg. Photo Credit: British Formula Ford/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Ford recently sent one of its Formula Ford cars around Germany’s Nurburgring faster than a Ferrari Enzo, despite the puny thing having only 202 horsepower and a three-cylinder engine. It also gets almost 60 miles per gallon, easily proving weight is among the biggest obstacles to fuel efficiency.

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Even though the company he founded has floundered for years, Lotus founder Colin Chapman was on to something. A car that is powerful, as the saying goes, is fast in a straight line, whereas a car that is light is fast everywhere.

For instance, take the Formula Ford that’s making the auto news rounds at the moment. According to Car and Driver, the car, not much bigger than the garden variety refrigerator, recently went around the Nurburgring’s Nordschleife, or north loop, the one used to seriously test cars, in 7 minutes, 22 seconds, which is supercar territory. Some cars with slower lap times include, according to a Wikipedia list of lap times, include serious speed machines like a Nissan GT-R, Maserati MC12, Pagani Zonda, Ferrari Enzo and so forth.

The Formula Ford also did it having only a turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine.

Not the only party trick

Formula Ford is actually an open-wheel “spec racing” series. In other words, drivers race in Indy or Formula One style cars, basically road-going go-karts with a lot of power, all by Ford. The thing formula race cars are known for is being very light weight, as F1 cars usually less than 1,500 pounds or so.

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Another interesting thing about the Formula Ford that was just timed on “the Ring,” is that it has a traditional six-speed manual transmission, according to AutoGuide, and since it has headlights, turn signals, a license plate and was tested on normal passenger tires, it’s technically street legal. Granted, don’t expect it to show up at any Miami, Portland, Des Moines or Spokane dealers of Ford, as it’s a race car. It has a top speed of 159 miles per hour and gets from 0 to 60 mph in less than four seconds.

It also gets 57 miles per gallon at highway speed.

Weight and fuel economy

The Formula Ford is quite impressive, as a car that’s faster than a Ferrari and gets better mileage than a Prius is quite an achievement. The same engine is going into the next model year Fiesta.

It isn’t a secret that weight and fuel economy are related. The more weight an engine has to lug around, the more work it has to do. Ergo, lighter cars will be more fuel efficient. Engine displacement also plays a role; more cylinders burn more gasoline.

Consider the Volkswagen XL1; the carbon-fiber bodied VW weighs less than 1,800 pounds, according to AutoBlog. It uses a 1.0-liter two-cylinder diesel engine in conjunction with an electric motor and battery pack to get 235 mpg. Granted, it also is said to take 32 seconds to get from 0 to 50 miles per hour and is expected to take a sizable auto finance loan when they do go on sale in the next year or so.

Sources

AutoGuide

Car and Driver

AutoBlog

List of Nordschleife lap times: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_N%C3%BCrburgring_Nordschleife_lap_times

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