News: 2019 Ram 1500 Pickup Gets 48V Hybrid

News: 2019 Ram 1500 Pickup Gets 48V Hybrid

A First in the Pickup Truck Segment

Trucks, trucks, trucks best describes the North American International Auto Show that opened last week in Detroit. First, Ford rolled out a 3.0-liter diesel-powered F-150 followed by the return of its mid-size Ranger; then Chevrolet introduced a completely redesigned Silverado featuring a new diesel engine. Completing the all-American new pickup reveals, FiatChrysler debuted its 2019 Ram 1500 pickup sporting a fresh new look that covers a new frame, enhanced drivetrains, bold new cabin tech and a 48-volt “mild hybrid” system.

2019 Ram 1500 Hybrid

The Ram becomes the first pickup with a hybrid powertrain

Three new, longer frame lengths are offered: a 144.5-inch wheelbase on Crew Cab short beds and a 153.5-inch wheelbase on Crew Cab long beds–both four inches longer than their predecessors. The Quad Cab long bed has a wheelbase of 140.5 inches. Along the way, Ram engineers found a way to trim 225 pounds off the new pickup, while at the same time offering a maximum payload of 2,300 pounds with a max tow rating of 12,750 pounds.

Mild Hybrid System Establishes A Benchmark

The 2019 Ram will be the only pickup truck to use a 48-volt hybrid system, standard on updated versions of its revised 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and optional on the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engines.

2019 Ram 1500 Hybrid

The Ram’s bigger battery is behind the rear seat

Called eTorque, the mild-hybrid system should give a decent fuel economy boost, but Ram hasn’t released fuel-economy details. Also scheduled for the new Jeep Wrangler, the eTorque system replaces the traditional alternator on the engine with a belt-driven motor generator unit that performs several functions.

With the engine running, eTorque’s motor generator unit feeds 48-volt current to a 300-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) graphite battery mounted behind the rear seats inside the Ram 1500’s cabin. In addition to spinning the engine for restarts, the eTorque unit also recaptures energy during deceleration and braking to feed electric charge to the battery pack.

The V6 is rated at 305 horsepower and 269 pounds-feet of torque, but the hybrid power boost can add 90 pounds-feet of torque. The Hemi V8’s power numbers of 395 horsepower and 410 pounds-feet of torque receive a boost of 130 pounds-feet.

In addition to the hybrid system, Ram also pioneers an industry-first thermal rear axle on two-wheel drive models. This system circulates engine coolant through the rear differential cover to bring differential oil up to operating temperature more quickly in cold weather, and keep the differential from overheating in hot-weather towing and hauling.

Looks Like a Ram Pickup, But Different

The most obvious exterior change is the retirement of the crosshair grille, an identifying signature dating back to 1994 when the trucks were sold under the Dodge name. Now, for the 2019 model,

2019 Ram 1500

Ram looks to pull away from the pickup pack

there will be six different grille designs depending on model: Tradesman, Big Horn, Rebel, Laramie, Longhorn, and Limited. There are also two different headlight designs, depending on the trim and options. The top-tier LED units are wide and slim, while the standard lighting looks similar to current trucks.

Sheetmetal changes include a new power-bulge hood, hood badging and taller bedsides on a truck that is slightly wider and about four inches taller than the outgoing model in both quad and crew cab configurations. Like the headlights, the taillights are an evolution of the current shape. Both halogen and LED units are available. The full-width steel rear bumper can be had in either chrome or body color.

Additionally, the new Ram will have an optional power tailgate, meaning you can open or close it with the push of a button.

Inside: From Work Truck to Luxury

Across all trim levels, including the bare bones Tradesman work truck, the 2019 Ram 1500 features push-button start, an electronic parking brake and a redesigned rotary shift knob. The shifter area also groups new feature buttons, including engine stop-start, hill-decent control, axle lock and transfer case controls, when equipped.

2019 Ram 1500

And the interior gets some more goodies

The wow factor of the new cabin is the available new 12-inch touchscreen with split-screen capabilities. The massive display is oriented portrait-style, like a Tesla, and can run two applications at the same time. FiatChrysler’s fourth-generation Uconnect system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, while navigation with 3D map graphics, 4G Wi-Fi hotspot and a 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system are available as options. As with FCA’s other touchscreen infotainment systems, the display is surrounded by an array of redundant physical buttons for controlling key infotainment and climate functions.

Ram is claiming class-leading interior storage space that is double the competition with a center console that’s configurable in 12 ways. Convenience and comfort come courtesy of up to five USB ports, two 115-volt power outlets, optional wireless charging pad and available heated and cooled rear seats with seat backs that recline up to eight degrees.

Other noteworthy details include a tilting and telescoping steering wheel and luxury items such as hand-stitched leather and real wood trim in higher-end models. For those who want to splurge, a new 33.3-inch by 43.4-inch panoramic sunroof also is available, giving passengers a spectacular 10 square feet of sky view and additional natural light.

On the safety front, the new Ram can be equipped with a 360-degree camera, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, forward collision warning, lane keep assist and blind-spot monitoring.

The 2019 Ram 1500 pickups will be in dealerships by the end of March. Pricing was not announced, but expect prices to be close to current models which start at around $28,000.

Other NAIAS (Detroit Auto Show) Stories:

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News: 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Introduced

News: Chevrolet Silverado Diesel Signals Resurgence

News: Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept Introduced

News: Smart Releases 10th Anniversary Edition

News: All-new 2019 Honda Insight Coming

News: 2018 Ford F-150 Gets a Diesel

News: GAC Shows EV Crossover Concept

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News: 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Introduced

News: 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Introduced

Greater Efficiency and an All-New Look Shown in Detroit

Toyota introduced its stunning all-new fifth-generation Avalon sedan yesterday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The radically redone full-size sedan retains its V6 and hybrid powertrains as it moves to the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) shared with the Camry and other newer models.

2019_Toyota_Avalon Hybrid

The 5th gen Avalon Hybrid sports a more aggressive look

The Toyota Hybrid System II (THS II) in the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid features many high-tech improvements for greater fuel efficiency (though Toyota execs didn’t say how much). It combines a 2.5-liter Dynamic Force four-cylinder engine with a 650-volt electric motor and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Since the current Avalon is rated at 40 mpg city and the smaller new Camry on the updated chassis gets more than 50 mpg, would it be out of line to expect a 5 mpg boost for the new Avalon? — ed) 

For 2019, the new four-cylinder Dynamic Force engine runs cleaner, is more fuel efficient and is more powerful than previous editions. Toyota’s Variable Valve Timing intelligent system with electric motor (Dual VVT-I with VVT-iE), employs an electric motor instead of using oil pressure to control variable valve timing. This aids fuel efficiency and promotes cleaner exhaust emissions, particularly in cold climates.

The direct injection four-stroke gasoline engine combines higher-pressure direct fuel injection and lower-pressure port fuel injection, applying each method based on specific driving parameters. New multi-hole nozzle direct injectors, with six holes per injector, further improve fuel efficiency.

The THS II uses two electric motors. One supplements the charging of the nickel-metal hydride battery, while the other assists the engine. The new battery pack moves from the trunk to under the rear passenger seat, thanks to the TNGA platform.

More Efficiencies

Efficiencies abound. The new power control unit (PCU) is lighter and smaller, and is located above the transaxle, which lowers mass for better handling. The new PCU has 20 percent less energy loss for conversion efficiency for the transaxle and electric motor. The cooling system’s energy loss drops 10 percent. The PCU’s DC-DC converter output filter is smaller, lighter, and quieter as well.

2019_Toyota_Avalon Hybrid

Inside the Avalon pushes into luxury territory

For greater fuel saving, Auto Glide Control (AGC) automatically calculates efficient coasting. Normally, the car uses engine braking to slow down when the driver lifts off the accelerator. AGC limits loss of vehicle speed while coasting to a stoplight. 

The 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid has some driver-oriented features, too, including Sport drive mode and Sequential Shiftmatic technology. The Sport drive mode applies power from the hybrid system for improved acceleration. Drivers can “shift” through the CVT’s six simulated gears using steering-wheel mounted paddles or the gearshift.

Regardless of drivetrain, the new Avalon is longer, lower, and wider, thanks to the move to the new platform. The large grill, slim, high-tech lighting, sharply defined side panels and sleek tail help to bring the co-efficiency of drag to a new low of .27.

The all-new Avalon was designed and engineered in the U.S., and is assembled in Georgetown Kentucky, its home for more than 20 years. It continues to be the only full-size hybrid in its segment.  It goes on sale in late Spring.

Other Stories from NAIAS 2018:

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News: Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept Introduced

News: Smart Releases 10th Anniversary Edition

News: All-new 2019 Honda Insight Coming

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News: All-New 2019 Honda Insight Hybrid Coming This Summer

News: All-New 2019 Honda Insight Hybrid Coming This Summer

Will Third Time Be a Charm for the Insight?

Honda has revealed that its third-generation Insight hybrid will make its world debut next Monday, Jan. 15 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Called the “Insight Prototype,” the company says the all-new car will be positioned above the Civic as a “premium compact,” offering a roomy interior and civilized road manners.

It’s easy to forget that the Insight name started the hybrid era in the U.S. back in December 1999. The tiny, tear-drop-shaped two-passenger with flared rear wheels boasted an EPA fuel economy rating of 61-mpg city/70 highway/65 mpg combined. (Converted to present standard, the EPA reckons it at 49 city/61 highway/53 combined.)

2019 Honda Insight

It started small back in 1999

Then, in June 2000 the Plain Jane four-door Prius arrived and took the wind out of the Insight’s sails. To fight back, Honda introduced a second-generation Insight in 2009, a four-door compact hatchback that looked a bit like a Prius but didn’t approach the Toyota’s fuel economy. Honda touted it as the “least expensive hybrid,” but it never caught on with buyers and was discontinued in 2014.

This new third-generation model apparently takes the place of the Civic Hybrid, which was dropped from the lineup with the compact car’s latest edition in 2015.

“The new 2019 Honda Insight signals we are entering a new era of electrification with a new generation of Honda products that offer customers the benefits of advanced powertrain technology without the traditional trade-offs in design, premium features or packaging,” said Henio Arcangeli, Jr., senior vice president of automobile sales and general manager of the Honda Division, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “The Honda Insight is anticipated to receive fuel economy ratings competitive with the best hybrids in the segment, with styling that will have universal appeal inside and out and best-in-class passenger volume.”

“In Excess of EPA 50 MPG”

Honda says the new Insight is expected to receive an EPA fuel economy combined rating “in excess of 50 mpg,” competitive with other compact hybrid offerings. Just to keep pace with competitors’ hybrid offerings, the Insight will need to deliver 56 or 58 mpg to top the highest-mileage versions of the Toyota Prius Liftback and the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, respectively.

To meet or beat the competition’s fuel economy, the Insight will be powered by a version of Honda’s third-generation two-motor hybrid system and multimode direct-drive transmission, the same as found in the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid. It features a highly efficient 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle engine, a powerful electric propulsion motor and lithium-ion battery pack. In most conditions, the new car will operate on electric power only, drawing energy from the battery pack or, if depleted, starting up the gas engine to act as a mobile generator.

Looks Like a Civic

2019 Honda Insight

Looking like part of the family

While Honda hasn’t disclosed what is under the sheet metal, the Insight has a distinct Civic look. It is long and low, with an aerodynamically tapering roof line that echoes a four-door coupe that appears to be optimized for aerodynamic efficiency. It features LED lighting in the front and rear, and its grill shares the “flying wing” styling with other cars in the Honda lineup. Its long wheelbase translates to roominess for the five passengers, according to Honda.

Inside, the Insight appears to be more upscale than the Civic with a seven-inch digital gauge cluster, a larger, eight-inch central touchscreen with volume knob and the push-button shifter found in several other Honda products. A host of premium features includes available perforated leather seating, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and Wi-Fi-enabled over-the-air system updates.

2019 Honda Insight

Inside the Insight is all of Honda’s latest tech

It will also incorporate the Honda Sensing suite of active-safety features. Those include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure alert, and a new traffic-sign recognition feature. Honda’s LaneWatch blind-spot-camera system will be offered on EX and above trims.

Where Does the Insight Fit into The Honda Lineup?

When it arrives this summer, the Insight’s EPA rating and sticker price will be key to the new version’s success, but those won’t be known until next week at the Detroit show at the earliest. What also may be clear with more info is how this new hybrid fits into Honda’s lineup range. The company has just finished launching the Honda Clarity series, a trio which includes the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid along with battery-electric and fuel cell-electric models. On top of that, the larger 2018 Accord Hybrid is also set to go on sale in the next couple of months.

Like fuel economy and price, we will have to wait and see.

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Road Test: 2018 Lexus LC 500h

Road Test: 2018 Lexus LC 500h

Grand Touring Pleasure

After looking at the 2018 Lexus LC 500h for a few minutes, a friend asked me if any of the 30 or so cars I review annually were hard to give back. “A few,” I nodded, pointing to the LC 500h sitting in front of us as a prime case in point. After one week of driving pleasure, I didn’t shed a tear as the LC 500h’s taillights faded into the distance, but a heavy sigh was clearly audible. So, the age-old question looms: Is the LC 500h a car you need or a car you want?

2018 Lexus LC 500h

Draws you in with the looks, keeps you with the performance

It’s available with two very different powertrains–a V8 and V6 hybrid, but Clean Fleet Report, as your source for news and reviews of electrified vehicles, looked at the hybrid version. Maybe someday we will slide behind the wheel of the 471 horsepower V8.

The 2018 Lexus LC 500h has a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 and two electric motors and generators, the components of its series parallel system. The transmission is a multi-stage hybrid transmission (CVT) coupled to a four-speed automatic; combined, that gets you to 10 gears. With steering wheel-mounted magnesium paddle shifters and seven drive modes, the LC 500h gives the driver a multitude of gearing and ride options. The result is a total output of 354 horsepower driving the rear wheels. The EPA mpg rating for the LC 500h reflects the hybrid contribution with 26 city/35 highway/30 combined. In comparison, the V8 LC 500 is EPA rated at 16/26/19.

Lexus (and parent company Toyota) hybrids are restricted in how far they can be driven in pure electric mode; going any distance as an EV means not applying any pressure to the accelerator pedal. The result of normal pedal throttling is the gasoline engine kicking in with a noticeable thunk. All Lexus and Toyota hybrids would benefit by having plug-in hybrid technology (PHEV; which is found on the Prius Prime). Competing brands with PHEVs can go, as an example, as far as 33 miles on pure electricity, such as with the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, even doing so at freeway speeds.

Hybrid Benefits: On the Road

The 2018 Lexus LC 500h is not a sports car, but more a spirited Grand Touring coupe. Based on the all-new Lexus global architecture for its luxury cars (internally GA-L), the weight balance on the LC 500h was very good: 54 front/46 rear. This balance was apparent when diving into sharp corners, especially where a downward curve demanded the front end not compress on the inward wheel or the rear end slip out. Chassis stiffness was carefully designed-in. The steering feedback, through the speed-sensing electric power steering, made it a pleasure to toss around a car that weighed 4,435 pounds with a 113-inch wheelbase and measured sixteen feet overall. It never felt heavy or cumbersome, but rather alive and adaptable.

2018 Lexus LC 500h

The sensuous side view

Lexus pegs the zero-to-60 time at 4.7 seconds with a top track speed of 155 mph. We achieved the first, on separate runs, by using the drive modes of Normal, Sport S and Sport S+. Lexus will be happy to hear we didn’t attempt the latter, keeping our top speed on Interstate 405 in SoCal around 75. In addition to the above drive modes, the LC 500h has Comfort, Custom, Snow and Eco. Each of these has it own attributes, but for our driving, we found Eco was perfect for freeway cruising; Comfort or Normal for in-town errands; and Sport S+ for maximum acceleration and driving enjoyment. The paddle shifters were nice, but with the abundance (possibly overabundance) of drive modes and an advanced automatic transmission, there isn’t much need for them.

A bit more about Sport S+–going through the driver-selectable drive modes electronically affects the efficiency of the engine, including changes to the transmission gearing. In Eco, the best fuel economy can be expected. Conversely, when in Sport or our favorite Sport S+, the engine mapping keeps the transmission in gears longer during acceleration and deceleration and stiffens the steering input and suspension. But, where it gets oh-so-satisfying is the change to the exhaust note, which becomes a very pleasing rumble. It never is obnoxious, but adds an aural sensation of performance. Hence, that’s why we were in Sport S+ as much as possible, sacrificing top fuel economy.

One of the main benefits of a hybrid vehicle is how quiet it can be. This was the case with the LC 500h whether we were at freeway speed or on a milk-and-egg grocery run. Most hybrid and all-electric cars come with low resistance rolling tires to maximize fuel economy. The 2018 Lexus LC 500h has none of that! The Michelin run-flat 20-inch tires on bright, 10-spoke wheels were beefy and grippy, but also quiet. The low 0.33 coefficient of drag (Cd) helped the LC 500h slip through the air.

Head-turning Exterior

The all-new 2018 Lexus LC 500h is as stunning at first sight as anything on the road. A ground-hugging look, with 5.5-inches of clearance, is enhanced by smaller tires in the front than the rear. Lexus invites you to “Experience Amazing” and says the “LC 500 makes the strongest statement yet about the brand’s future direction.” If this is the case, we at Clean Fleet Report approve.

2018 Lexus LC 500h

An aggressive approach

The LC 500h is a car that needs to be walked around a few times to get the true gist of what the designers had in mind. The first impression is that the car looks as if it is leaning forward. Up front is the Lexus signature, chrome-trimmed, spindle grille. Under certain lighting it sparkles and reflects, showing-off thousands of individual surfaces. Centered in the grille is the Lexus “L” badge with a blue background, which signifies the LC 500h is an electrified car. Framing the grille are sleek LED projector headlamps with integrated LED fog and daytime running lamps, in the form of an “L,” that wraps the front edges.

From a side silhouette, the sloping line from top of the windshield to the front grille is as raked as you will find. Then, moving your eye from the roof’s apex, it is almost a continuous line to the short trunk lid, ending with the smallest-of-small integrated spoiler. Something to note is the lack of a roof-mounted shark fin antenna, which is almost universally found. On the LC 500h it would only ruin the uninterrupted lines.  The attractive LED tail lamps use mirrors to create a sequence of L-shaped graphics. Finishing off the rear are dual, rectangular chrome exhaust tips.

The most distinctive design features on the LC 500h are the flared quarter panels. Giving a muscular look as they encase the rear tires, the flares enhance and reinforce the visual sense of how stable the LC 500h will be on the road.

The LC 500h is a modern take on the classic Grand Tourers of the past. The proportions are perfect, with an elegant execution.

An Interior to Experience

Clean Fleet Report’s 2018 Lexus LC 500h interior was trimmed in orange, blue and white leather, with satin metallic finished trim throughout the cabin. We don’t blame you if at first flush this sounds like a clash of colors, but it is just the opposite. The colors complement each other in a way that are both calming and intriguing at the same time. It is very pleasing to the eye and to be around.

2018 Lexus LC 500h

Get into it to appreciate

After the colors, the first thing you will notice is the naturally reclined seating position. Lexus says it is “an optimal position that sets the stage for spirited driving.”  The front heated and ventilated seats have 10-way power adjustments, but it was curious that this only included two-way lumbar and no thigh bolster adjustments. Therefore, you can sit more upright and higher, but this is most likely not what the Lexus designers had in mind for how to pilot the 2018 Lexus LC 500h.

The seats have possibly the best shoulder bolstering I’ve experienced, securely holding the driver and passenger in place during aggressive cornering. Surprisingly, even with the reclined seating position, rearward visibility was better than expected. Access was easy to the front seats, but ceiling-mounted handles would have been helpful for exiting. While we are talking seats, there are two beautifully sculpted rear seats, which must be there purely for show. I don’t expect their leather surfaces getting much, if any, wear.

2018 Lexus LC 500h

So many choices live here

The center console finds the radio control touchpad with manual controls for audio and channel selection. The infotainment system in our test car was the optional Mark Levinson 13-speaker, 915-watt surround sound system with navigation. All the standard features were there such as AM/FM/HD/CD and SiriusXM. As can be expected with a system like this, the sound was excellent. However, the touchpad control was touchy and unpredictable at times, making you take your eyes from the road to adjust the radio.

The cockpit design is driver-friendly, starting with the very handy head-up display and the power tilt/telescoping steering column. The leather-trimmed steering wheel has audio, telephone and cruise controls, as well as the paddle shifters. Interior features include a dual-zone automatic climate system with dust and pollen filters, digital and analog clocks with the digital clock being GPS connected, a center console storage box and cup holders. The interior also has a panoramic moonroof (a carbon fiber roof is an option), power windows with one touch up/down, power door locks, Smart Access with push button stop/start technology, 12V and USB power outlets, folding and electrochromatic heated, outside rear-view power side mirrors.

Safety and Pricing

The LC 500h is well-equipped with all the latest active and passive safety features, advanced safety technology and driver support systems. However, we were surprised for a car this sophisticated, and with a six figure price point, that Intuitive Park Assist, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert technology were not standard.

The 2018 Lexus LC 500h has a base starting price of $96,510. Clean Fleet Report’s test car had a MSRP of $99,205, which included $3,690 in optional packages. All pricing does not include the $995 delivery charge.

Observations: 2018 Lexus LC 500h

The Lexus “L” series is all about luxury, with the “LC” meaning Luxury Coupe. Dictated by the Lexus philosophy of Takumi (“artisan” in Japanese), the attention to detail is shown throughout the LC 500h design and construction.

Rarely does a car produce both an aggressive and sensuous sensation on first look. This graceful result is from some bold thinking in the Lexus design shop, with the 2018 Lexus LC 500h looking more like a concept car than a production car. Guaranteed, when driving the LC 500h, you will be noticed, with the occasional comment of “I have never seen one of these before.”

2018 Lexus LC 500h

The part of the LC 500h most will see

This brings us to rarity and exclusivity. Lexus will be candid with you that the LC 500 is not for everyone. And, rightfully so, it can’t be for everyone. The buyer of a Grand Touring car, selling for more than $100,000, is in a select group. Maybe not so much because of their financial wherewithal, but that there are so many options out there positioned just below and above the LC 500. Between the LC 500 twins, the number of hybrid models sold versus the lower-priced, higher-performance V8 model will be very small. So, what do you get when taking home a 2018 Lexus LC 500h?

The LC 500h is a true pleasure to drive or ride in. It is designed for long road trips, hence it’s a Grand Tourer and not a sports car. There is a premium level to the car-plus sophisticated and advanced driver technology systems-that are second to none.

The design says something about a LC 500h owner, but not in a snooty way. A LC 500h owner will be recognized as a free-thinker and somewhat of a trailblazer. So, know that aspiring to own a LC 500h is not wasted time, because when one is parked in your garage, it will become your daily driver real, real fast.

Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!

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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at

Flash Drive: Delphi & Tula Teach an Engine to Dance

Flash Drive: Delphi & Tula Teach an Engine to Dance

48-Volt Hybrids+Advanced Cylinder Deactivation Is Coming

I have driven the car of the future. Not some distant, expensive, exotic future, but a future that is going to start to define the cars you drive over the next few years. To check off the usual suspects—the car didn’t fly, wasn’t self-driving and wasn’t even fully electric or fueled by hydrogen. But it was electrified with a small battery and contained an engine packed with brand-new software.

Delphi 48-volt

The car of the near-future still uses gas, but ups the efficiency quotient

The car was provided by one of the world’s top automotive suppliers—Delphi Technologies—and demonstrated a side of the “future car” discussion sometimes lost here in Silicon Valley where I reside. We are going through revolutionary times—yes—but the future may end up being defined by more incremental changes.

The changes inside the Volkswagen Passat I drove were born out of the software revolution and battery advances coming out of Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the automotive world, but their implementation in a car is subtle. The computer power in a modern automobile continues to grow. This software taps into it to wring more efficiency from a traditional engine at minimal cost. Dropping a battery into a car is old news at this point, but the costs of doing it has been dropping this past decade, while the power derived from a battery continues to grow.

Two Key Factors

Sometimes we may forget that car companies are not there just to turn out world-changing, dazzling new machines. For most auto companies–the bottom line is the bottom line. They’re in business to make money as well as cars, much as are the technology and supplier companies contributing the parts and pieces that make up a modern automobile. Electric cars are great, but they are expensive and are not yet selling at volumes high enough to drive down costs draatically.

Another factor are government regulations worldwide that are driving auto companies to lower-CO2 cars, with electrification is the logical path to get there. So, for a profit-driven automaker (and that’s all of them), the quest is to electrify and drive down emissions (and increase fuel efficiency) at the most reasonable cost.

Enter Suppliers   

Suppliers live to solve automakers problems. They recognize that while they have one foot in the present, solving immediate issues of cost and volume production, they also have to address longer term solutions. So Dephi has a division focused on full electric powertrains and plans to bring that into the mix during the coming years.

In the meantime, as CTO Mary Gustanski said at a recent media briefing: “In 2025 95 percent of all light-duty vehicles will still have internal combustion engines,” but will still have to meet stringent emissions regulations and remain affordable. Gustanski sees Delphi as having the value proposition that gives automakers the biggest fuel economy boost for the least cost. The technologies are:

  • Gas direct-injection engines
  • Engine control software to enhance efficiency of the engine
  • Proprietary Tula software that allows individual cylinder deactivation
  • Delphi 48-volt

    The key of the eDSF 48V system is it all fits under the hood

    A 48-volt mild hybrid system  

Gustanski added that Delphi’s secret sauce is system integration, which is where the cost is wrung out of the package. The Passat I drove with the system claimed to deliver at least a 15 percent CO2 reduction (they’re aiming for 20 percent) with increased low-end torque for improved acceleration and seamless start-stop operation. The incremental cost is in the hundreds of dollars to the OEM, according to Delphi. The company expects systems like this, incorporating 48-volt batteries, to grab 20 percent of the new car market by 2025.

Scott Bailey, Tula Technology’s CEO, called this “smarter fuel efficiency,” using the increased computer power found in a vehicle to “dynamically right-size the engine.” Its Dynamic Skip Fire (DSF) system uses algorithms added to the engine control software only run as many cylinders as are needed under each different driving situation. The driver controls the action via the accelerator. Ask for more power and it is there; coast down and the engine rests. The Tula software also factors in engine balance so its operation is transparent to the operator. 

We’ve had a trial run with the Tula software before and were impressed with its functionality. Adding in a 48-volt hybrid battery takes the system to a new level. The fuel economy gains may not be as dramatic as a plug-in hybrid, but the cost of the system promises to bring exceptional fuel economy and a better driving experience to a broad range of cars. Although neither Delphi or Tula would disclose the manufacturer, they said the DSF package as a stand-alone is already getting close to production while they expect the  eDSF package to follow soon after. But both supplier companies also added that they think they can wring even more efficiency out of the old ICE. So hang on.  

New Engine Tech 

In a competitive sport, there are at least two approaches to getting a win. One is to go for the knock-out punch, overwhelming your opponent with power, skill and strength. It’s risky and can be costly if you have a misstep. Think surprise knockout by a challenger going against an overconfident foe. A second strategy is the one for the long game–

Delphi 48-volt

The car of the future may be more like today’s — but better

if we’re sticking with the boxing analogy, think Ali’s rope-a-dope. Keep in the game by wearing down your opponent by being better, getting in a few more punches, playing a smarter and better game. 

The auto industry is no boxing match; it’s closer to a rugby scrum on some days, but the tactics above are often on display. Delphi Technologies, the automotive powertrain and propulsion portion of what once was Delphi (the other, now separate part is Aptiv, which is focused on mobility solutions, smart vehicle architectures and connected cars). While they are developing electric car technology,  they see a long game with the internal combustion engine and will be showcasing some of their latest counterpunches at CES next week. Their punch–take a sophisticated cylinder deactivation technology and mate it with 48-volt mild electrification for substantial fuel economy gains with no loss of performance.

Flash Drive: Clean Fleet Report “Flash Drives” are concise reviews of vehicles that include the major points and are easy and quick to read. A “Flash Drive” is often followed later by a comprehensive test drive review.

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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2018!

We wish all of you a very Happy New Year! We hope 2017 was as good for you as it was for us here at Clean Fleet Report. We published more articles than in any previous year, covered breaking news of new models and tested cars of all shapes and sizes. The team of John Faulkner, Larry Hall, Steve Schaefer and Nick Zatopa dug deep and brought you up close to all of the important stories this year.

It’s a great time to be focused on green cars as the number of EVs, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and high-mileage gas and diesel vehicles continues to climb. And autonomous technology and connected vehicles promise to become a part of our daily lives. This has been a great year for us, but we think 2018 promises to be even more exciting. Glad to have you along for the ride.

Look for some surprises in January!

Michael Coates

Editor & Publisher

Clean Fleet Report

Tesla Model 3

The Mode 3 is just one of the stories we’ll be covering in 2018