What is Eco-modding and why am I doing it to my 1993 Honda Civic? Part 1
Updated: Dec 5, 2019
Eco-modding is a style of car modification that focuses on achieving the best possible gas mileage. Whether the purpose of eco-modding your vehicle is to save emissions or to save money, there is a possibility for everyone to lower their mileage through minimal investment.
Working on cars can seem daunting if you have never done it before, but simple changes can be made to improve mechanical efficiency, reduce weight or to create better airflow.
In this blog series I am going to discuss ways to Eco-mod your car and improve driving practices. I will also regale you with the current state of my 1993 Honda Civic, which as I write this, is nowhere near being completed.
Begin by not using your car as a storage unit. Why are you carrying uneccessary crap! The less weight you have the easier it will be to gain and keep momentum. Remove trash, household items, or that box of donations you still haven’t dropped off. If you want to take weight reduction to the next level, you can remove things that are detrimental to the performance of your vehicle. Some eco-modders have gone as far as removing interior panels and unused back seats. Body panels can be replaced with lighter weight ones such as carbon fibre. Glass can equally be switched with Lexan. Exchange the spare tire in for a can of tire sealant or a membership to a roadside assistance plan.
Removing items and parts from your car can also help the aerodynamics. For example, removing mud-flaps or roof racks can significantly decrease the amount of drag and weight on the car. Radio antennas can be removed or relocated. Side mirrors can be replaced with smaller more aerodynamic ones on the exterior or perhaps interior ones can be installed.
Sometimes the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) spoilers that come installed on the car can create drag. Removing them can be beneficial. However, from my personal experience, after removing the OEM spoiler on a 2007 Saturn Ion quad coupe, I noticed a loss in mileage. It decreased from roughly 700 km down to 600 km for a full tank during highway travel . One has to be intelligent about modifications.
For those of you who have heard of eco-modding, you may be thinking it is on the extreme with alterations like built out boat tails or wheel skirts. These dramatic changes may reduce drag significantly and work for their purpose very well, but they definitely aren’t for everyone. They can look very strange compared to the style of cars being released on the market.
This doesn't mean that eco-modded cars can’t look good. Eco-modding your vehicle can be a fun experiment. Making changes and tracking your mileage show how those choices affect your fuel efficiency. For instance, lowering your car can reduce the drag because it minimises the amount of ground clearance and space between the wheel and body of the car, leaving less room for air flow. This combined with a belly pan (a cover for the bottom of the car typically made by diy-ers out of chloroplast, a lightweight plastic sheet) can eliminate all the pockets where air can become trapped underneath your car, resulting in the ability to keep momentum longer, with less fuel. Tinting windows enhances the look of a car, and provides privacy when driving and can help keep the interior cooler. This reduces the need for air conditioning and fuel.
Taking unnecessary loads off your engine will tranfer more power into moving the car and in turn lower fuel consumption. Air conditioning and power steering are two good examples of mechanical systems that Eco-modders have forgone. Although it may make the drive slightly uncomfortable, it can help greatly. Even alternators have been removed, and a large battery installed in exchange. According to Eco-modders who have opted for this, they claim to have 10% better mileage. This shows that the alternator pulls a very large load from the engine.
The biggest improvement one can make in regards to lowering fuel consumption is taking a good look at one's driving habits. Ecomodder.com has a list of 100+ driving tips for better mileage ranging from better habits like time management to driving techniques. Hypermiling utilizes as many of these techniques as possible. Just having a steadier foot on the gas pedal and leaving sufficient space to avoid uneccesary braking, is a great way to conserve fuel.
With all the current conversations on global warming and the increasing demand for environmental change, comes the desire for more fuel efficient or electric vehicles. This isn’t an option for many though, as new cars can be quite pricey. When you look at the bigger picture, buying a new car isn’t always the most economical or environmental choice. Newly manufactured cars, gas or electric, still need to account for the resources used to build them. The embodied energy is the energy used to find, process, and transport all the parts of the vehicle until it gets to a new owner. In some cases it may be more beneficial to hold off purchasing a new car, and instead consider something like Eco-modding.
Tiffany Jockheck architectural technologist and car afficiendo
Ecomodder.com intro to eco-modding:
Ecomodder.com 65+ vehicle modifications:
Ecomodder.com 100+ driving tips
Metrompg.com alternator-10% saving: