Car Games: Buick eAssist Smartphone Games Raise MPG Awareness


Three games show the fun side of saving fuel

DETROIT – In 2011 alone, the Apple App Store reported more than 100 million downloads to phones and iPads. Just as consumers embrace hand-held technology, studies show they want the same smart technology in their vehicles. Buick’s new eAssist Fuel Efficiency smartphone games seek to connect the two.

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Available free in Android and Apple stores, the three games come bundled in a single app that offers a fun way to sharpen driving techniques and improve fuel economy.

“Consumers today want purposeful technology in the products they buy,” said Tony DiSalle, U.S. vice president of Buick Marketing. “Buick is offering exactly that with fuel-saving eAssist,”

The games focus on the key attributes of eAssist and how they can be used to stretch every gallon of fuel.

Regeneration Road highlights the regenerative braking feature of eAssist, which captures energy otherwise wasted during braking to repower the compact lithium-ion battery located beneath the car’s trunk floor. Players must make it through a town and to a destination without running out of fuel. Pedestrians along the way add difficulty.

Roll and Boost: The energy stored from braking can later be used for an added, emissions-free boost of acceleration, and using that energy wisely is key to this game. A beautiful weekend drive through a flowing countryside is limited to just one tank of fuel. The goal is distance, not speed, and battery management strategy is vital.

Wind Tunnel Tester allows players to become an automotive engineer. If a vehicle cuts through the air easier, eAssist’s other features don’t need to work as hard. By tweaking a car’s length and width on the screen, players can gain an understanding of how the sleek, modern shapes of Buick sedans help the car slice through the air. Aerodynamics-defeating extras like spoilers and roof rails can be added or removed.

Standard on the 2012 Buick LaCrosse and available on the Buick Regal, the eAssist light electrification system uses a compact lithium-ion battery pack and small electric motor to aid the performance of a fuel-efficient 2.4-liter gas engine. Both models achieve the same 36 highway mpg as a Mini Cooper and top larger full hybrids like the Infiniti M35h, rated at 32 mpg.

In addition to its fuel economy-boosting benefits, eAssist allows the gas engine to turn off completely when the car is sitting still. Energy gathered from the regenerative brakes and stored in the battery keeps the climate and audio systems operating, and the engine is able to restart without passengers taking notice.

“The driving force behind eAssist’s development was to make great vehicles like the LaCrosse and Regal even better,” said Dan Cottrell, General Motors assistant chief engineer for the eAssist powertrain. “With eAssist we can improve both vehicle performance as well as fuel economy.”

Like the eAssist games, the driving experience in a Buick with eAssist is aided by an “Eco” gauge in the instrument cluster that indicates how efficiently the driver is operating the vehicle. The car’s infotainment screen delivers more advanced reporting of what the intelligent powertrain is doing.

Ask an Engineer: Three Fuel Saving Tips from GM engineer Dan Cottrell

  1. Think about what your feet are doing. Be light with the gas pedal and avoid hard braking, too. Smooth driving saves fuel. In cars with eAssist, an “Eco” gauge offers a visual aid to encourage efficient driving.
  2. Tires can make a big difference. Low-rolling resistance models like the Michelin Energy Saver A/S on the LaCrosse with eAssist reduce friction between the tire and the road and increase fuel economy. If the tires roll easier, a vehicle can also coast longer on declines. With eAssist, fuel flow to the engine is cut off during coasting.
  3. Aerodynamics is a big word, but benefitting from good aero can be easy. Roof racks and anything else attached to a car can increase drag and reduce fuel economy, so avoid bulky accessories. LaCrosse with eAssist benefits from a set of active shutters that block air from the front grille when it isn’t needed, improving airflow over the car.