Heres’ the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Hank asks: Why does fuel injection need to be electronic? Isn’t it true that mechanically fuel-injected engines were available as long ago as the ’50s? I remember reading about them in high school and then the subject seemed to disappear. Can you shed any light?
My reply: As Ed used to say – you are correct, sir! There were mechanically injected engines back in the ’50s; Chevy, for example, offered this option with the Corvette and the BelAir.
Two reasons: One, it was expensive relative to carburetors and for two, the mechanical injection system could only anticipate how much fuel to inject over a limited spectrum. The system could be set up to work great at wide open throttle – or idle – but the in-between was a problem.
Electronic fuel injection solved it – via maps that encompass practically every conceivable throttle position/load scenario. EFI is much more tunable for street-driven purposes and it need not be overly complex, though it has become so (mainly because of the need to comply with ever-more-intolerant government regs).
In my opinion, the apogee of fuel delivery was reached in the mid-’80s, with Throttle Body Injection (TBI) which combined the simplicity of a carburetor with the superior driveability and low-maintenance of FI.
Port fuel injection upped the complexity, but the system is still overall a plus. But we are now at the point of Direct Injection – which is too complex and expensive for the gains achieved vs. PFI or TBI.
All that said, an early “fuelie” Corvette of Bel Air would be a really neat car to own!
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