While that's just 1 percent of total fuel consumption, it's no small number.

Author: John Beltz Snyder

It shouldn't surprise anyone that roof racks are a drag, in the literal sense. Adding components that disrupt the flow of air past your vehicle is going to hurt your fuel economy a little bit, right? And compared to the convenience of being able to throw your bikes or other outdoor gear up there to save room for people and cargo inside the vehicle, it's a small price to pay. A new study, though, shows that roof racks are responsible for nearly one percent (0.8 percent, to be precise) of fuel consumption by light duty vehicles in the US.

That's 100 million gallons of gasoline last year alone dedicated to pushing roof racks through the air. Depending on the configuration, roof racks can hurt a vehicle's fuel economy by as much as 25 percent.

And it's about to get worse, according to Yuche Chen of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Alan Meier of Berkeley Lab, the authors of the study published in Energy Policy. The use of roof racks is expected to climb 200 percent by 2040. Roof racks, both loaded and unloaded, are expected to use six times the amount energy fuel cell vehicles are expected to save, and 40 percent of fuel savings from EVs.

So, what should we do about it? The authors say, "These results suggest that some fuel-saving policies should focus on reducing the number of vehicles driving with empty racks." While manufacturers are able to create more aerodynamic racks, requiring energy labeling on roof racks could effect more change. Ideally, racks could be designed for easier removal when not in use. While the researchers call implementing government policy to minimize the usage of empty roof racks "admittedly extreme," they say it could, in combination with better design, save 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline between now and 2040.

According to the EPA's calculations, that's almost 11.8 million tons of CO2 emissions, or the amount 86,717 of today's cars would emit in the US over those 26 years. Is that worth the price of government meddling to you? Read more in the press release below.

Source: Autoblog.com

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