Clean Fleet Report Looks Back at 2015 and Look Forward to This Coming Year
In the automotive industry artificial milestones like January 1 don’t mean much, but the end of a calendar year does beg for a quick look back and look ahead to the coming year. Clean Fleet Report has had a good, fun year, full of great cars, significant news and technological progress. We’ve posted 72 stories this past year, more than any previous one. We’ve driven and reported on all of the technologies available, including fuel cell cars, electric cars, plug-in hybrids, conventional hybrids, clean diesels and the gas-miser cars and trucks with the best fuel economy in their segment. We can say with confidence that cars have never been better bargains, offering cost-effective paths to a “greener” transportation.
For all of the positive news and great progress during 2015, the year also presented some challenges. Two big challenges hit environmentally friendly vehicles where it hurts—the Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal and low gas prices.
Clean Fleet Report addressed the VW story at its outset and has watched as it has unfolded during the intervening months. The story has still not played out completely as of the new year; our intent is to revisit it once some definitive answers and solutions are forthcoming. In the meantime, VW’s admitted cheating on diesel and other emissions has cast a black eye on what has been demonstrated by other manufacturers (BMW, Mercedes and General Motors, to name three) to be a viable, creative way of delivering not only environmental benefits, but a great driving experience. Those manufacturers have shown clean diesel is not an oxymoron, but we’ll see what happens down the road.
Low gas Prices
Low gas prices are another deal completely. They may be the most challenging thing electric cars and other high fuel economy vehicles face. Or they may not because people remember the high gas prices of recent years and know they could return. Or it may be a moot point since the auto industry is on track to produce higher fuel economy vehicles to meet U.S. CAFE standards and European CO2 standards.
It’s a tough call. While we’ve seen a spike in sales of pickups and SUVs that are on the lower end of mpg scale, that could be attributed to pent-up demand from years of a stagnant economy as
much as a reaction to low pump prices. What is a fact is that while SUV or crossover sales are up, the hottest segment is the subcompact models that offer the best fuel economy. While hybrid and plug-in hybrid sales are down, pure electric vehicles are due to hit another record year. Due to the push for better fuel economy, the number of pure electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and clean diesel vehicles continues to climb. Choices are better than ever, and smart consumers are taking advantage of them.
One trend we can comfortably predict we’ll be covering in 2016 is self-driving cars. The autonomous vehicle (as it is way beyond just cars with heavy-duty trucks and off-road equipment also ready to head into this space) is happening. How it fits with the ongoing electrification of the automotive fleet and how new players like Google and Apple will be one of the big stories of 2016. Don’t expect it to be resolved this year, though. This is a part of a longer game. Clean Fleet Report will be there throughout the year, reporting on the development, driving the cars and listening to your feedback on it all. We’d love to hear about your expectations for the year.
In the meantime, Happy 2016!
Top News Stories of 2015:
News: The Legacy of Volkswagen Clean Diesel
Ford’s Silicon Valley Lab Leads the Way to New Mobility
Toyota Invests in Artificial Intelligence on the Road to Autonomous Cars
Safer and Self-Driving Cars Now on the Road
Elon Musk and the Near Future of the Autonomous Car