Toyota is “all in” on fuel cell electric vehicles

Toyota is “all in” on fuel cell electric vehicles

Company Loves Its Hybrids But Likes Hydrogen Better Than Electricity.

The race to provide the car of the future is heating up and it should surprise no one that one of the world’s largest car companies, Toyota, is right in the middle of chase to provide it. For Toyota, that future car is powered by a fuel cell that produces electricity on-board from hydrogen.

Craig Scott, Toyota’s national manager of advanced technologies, brought that message recently to a meeting of the Western Automotive Journalists, a Northern California-based group of auto writers.

toyota,fuel cell,future,craig scott

Scott points to the future

Scott’s message was clear–the car’s are real, they’ll be on sale next year and they will deliver what consumers want in a car while helping the automaker to meet tightening emissions regulations around the globe. Toyota’s fuel cell story is in sync with its competitors Hyundai and Honda, who are also ready to enter the market, as well as other companies that will follow–Daimler/Mercedes, Ford, Nissan, General Motors and BMW. The cars will offer a range comparable to gas models and a similar fill up time (both advantages cited for offering a fuel cell electric car as opposed to a battery electric one). The catch, of course, is where those fill ups will take place. As Scott reported, the state California has dedicated $20 million a year for the next decade to put 100 stations in place, augmenting the meager network of nine that exist right now.

Because fuel cell vehicles have no emissions of either criteria pollutants or greenhouse gases (GHG), they fit California’s quest for zero emission vehicles and help the automaker meet U.S. federal and other countries’ goals for reduced GHGs.

Zoomy Concept Shown

The concept fuel cell FCHV (for Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle to remind of Toyota’s bread-and-butter advanced technology) sedan Toyota has been showing was unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Show last year and most recently showed up at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Scott indicated that next year’s production car would use the zoomy styling of the concept, though not all of the details of the show car would make it to the

toyota,fuelcell,future,FCHV

An aggressive alternative fuel

street. Costs of the fuel cell “engine” hardware have dropped significantly in the last few years, Scott said, meaning the cars that go on sale in 2015 may still be more expensive than their petroleum-powered cousins, but they won’t cost automakers the $1 million the prototypes did during the past decade. Costs and prices are expected to drop further as production volumes ramp up in the 2020s and other advances in technology, such as reducing the amount of exotic metals like platinum, come on board.

The advances and volumes are expected to come not just because consumers are expected to snatch up great numbers of fuel cell cars when they get to the market, but because automakers have banded together to share costs and collaborate to move the technology forward. Toyota is working with BMW, Ford, Daimler and Nissan are working together, GM and Honda have formed an alliance while Hyundai is going it alone and Fiat-Chrysler appears to be sitting out this round.

The Market Begins

Although both Honda and Mercedes have been leasing limited number of their fuel cell cars for a couple years, Hyundai will be the first on the retail market with a real push. Michael O’Brien, Hyundai’s vice president of corporate and product planning, told the Governor’s Office Summit on Zero Emission Vehicles (March 7, 2014) that the first load of Tucson FCEVs (Hyundai uses the more conventional Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle

Honda,fuelcell,refueling,future

Future fueling too?

nomenclature) will ship from Korea in 3-4 weeks, arriving in April and going on sale mid-May at four dealerships in Southern California. Hyundai previously announced it would offer a $2,999 down, $499 lease that includes free fuel and maintenance for the three years of the lease. Hyundai’s also going to make the Tucson FCEV available for rent through Enterprise Rent-a-Car.

Scott said Toyota isn’t ready to talk pricing on its fuel cell sedan, but it can be expected to be competitive. We’ve seen the same dynamic at work in the electric car space, where the limited market has driven all the automakers to offer very similar discounted leases. Toyota executives have also said they will approach their fuel cell vehicles with the kind of patience they showed with the Prius hybrid introduction. That technology took almost a decade before it took hold in the market, but Toyota has said they’re in it for the long haul and will be able to continue investing in the technology until the market catches up with it.

Taking a page from the Tesla playbook, Scott also said Toyota is planning to augment any public hydrogen stations with a network of its own, which may be a key way of reassuring new buyers that they will be able to refuel.  In the same vein, Honda recently demonstrated a quick refueling station that reduces the fill time to about three minutes, more than comparable to the time spent with a gas or diesel car.

While Toyota and Honda both showed off concept versions of their upcoming fuel cell cars, Hyundai introduced theirs as a Tucson-based model, virtually indistinguishable from the gas version except for badging. Hyundai corrected that by introducing the Intrado FCEV concept at the Geneva Auto Show.

Expect the drumbeat of fuel cell announcements to continue through the year as automakers gear up for more of the cars appearing on the market. Much of the news will be California-centric, but other centers of fuel cell infrastructure and vehicles can be found in Germany, Japan and Korea with England, Denmark and Singapore also in the mix.

Photos by Michael Coates & the manufacturers

Published March 8, 2014

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Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Go On Sale In 2014

Cars & Technology of the Future

Suddenly, Hydrogen Cars Are Back

ROAD TEST: 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas

ROAD TEST: 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas

Different in a good way.

When looking at alternative fuel vehicles, hybrid, electric and diesel are the most common options based on sales and choice. One other fuel, compressed natural gas (CNG) doesn’t get much attention, probably because there is only one mass-produced CNG-fueled car on the market–the 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas. So if Honda alone believes in this technology for passenger cars, what are they seeing that their competitors aren’t and what is the future for CNG?

Natural gas is the cleanest burning of all petroleum-based fuels and it is abundant. Drive by any oil drilling rig or petroleum refinery and you will see it being burned off. With recent advances in technologies for hydraulic

Honda,Civic,CNG,natural gas,road test,nat gas,

So much the same, but different

fracturing–more commonly referred to as fracking–and capturing of gasses from landfills and other biogas sources, the natural gas supply is solid for decades to come according to industry estimates. Its cost per an equivalent gallon of gasoline runs 30% – 40% less than gas or diesel, and a CNG-fueled internal combustion engine will have a longer service life and require less maintenance because natural gas burns so cleanly, producing almost no combustion by-products into the motor oil, spark plugs or injectors.

So if natural gas is plentiful, less expensive to purchase and burns cleaner than gasoline and diesel, does owning one make sense for your lifestyle and driving patterns?

The 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas we were driving looks pretty much like the gasoline powered Civic except for the Federally mandated (for emergency responder’s safety) blue and white diamond-shaped CNG sticker on the trunk lid. When driving the Civic CNG, it feels the same as its siblings except for less power.

Drivetrain

The front-wheel drive, five-speed automatic Civic CNG is rated at 27 City/38 Highway with a combined 31 MPGe. The “e” is for “equivalent,” which means you are not using a gallon of liquid fuel like gasoline. The EPA has figured out how much energy is in a gallon of gas and how far it will take you–that’s MPG. So MPGe is how far you can go with the amount of CNG that has the same amount of energy as a gallon of gasoline. In CNG’s case it takes 126 cubic feet of CNG to equal the energy of a gallon of gas–and that will take you 31 miles. Add in the amount of CNG you can store in the Honda’s tank (the equivalent of 8 gallons of gasoline since it’s compressed at 3600 psi) and you end up with a range of about 190 miles. There is also an Eco button to maximize your fuel economy.

Powering the Civic CNG is a 16-valve, 1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder aluminum alloy engine. It puts out 110 hp and 106 lb-ft of torque while the gasoline version brings 130 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque. Without going into performance numbers, that 30 hp and 22 lb-ft of torque can make a big difference when it is time to get up and go. But maybe the trade-off for fuel economy and cost are worth it, especially if you aren’t a hot rodder.

Honda,Civic,CNG,natural gas,alt fuel

Strikingly Familar But Different

Driving Impression

The Civic CNG comes with 15-inch lightweight aluminum-alloy wheels, all-season tires, electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, power-assisted front disc and rear drum ABS brakes, MacPherson strut independent front and multi-link rear suspension, with stabilizer bars at both ends. The Civic rides comfortably but could have more steering feel. You will feel freeway bumps and hear road noise, and, while the Civic CNG is not a sports sedan or to be considered an enthusiast vehicle, it handles corners well.

The Civic CNG has smooth acceleration, but as previously noted, it is not fast off the line. With patience, it cruises right along at freeway speeds.

Interior

Finding a comfortable seating position with the manual adjustable driver’s seat and tilt and telescoping steering wheel was easy. The front bucket/rear bench seats (with a flat rear floor) can accommodate four adults with good head and leg room and the glass area provided an open, airy feeling with good visibility. Standard equipment includes A/C, power door locks and windows and cruise control.

The 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas we drove came with the 5-inch LCD color touchscreen, Honda navigation system with voice recognition, rearview camera and a database of available CNG refueling stations. The four-speaker sound system has XM and Pandora, steering wheel mounted controls, Bluetooth audio and phone hands-free link, SMS test messaging, USB interface and MP3/Auxiliary input jacks.

None of the goodies are worth a thing if the car isn’t safe to drive. The 2013 Civic CNG I was driving had six airbags, ABS with front-wheel disc brakes, power door mirrors, Vehicle Stability Assist, rearview color camera,

honda,CNG,natural gas,Civic,

A different hose – not too much pressure

tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and side-impact door beams with front and rear crumple zones. The Civic is rated at four stars for frontal driver and passenger front impacts and five star for front side driver and passenger and rear passenger impacts.

 

Honda,Civic,CNG,natural gas,trunk

The trunk’s not half of what it used to be

There are two areas the CNG version compromises the long-range driving comfort and its capabilities compared to the gasoline version. To accommodate the CNG tank, the trunk has been reduced to being able to carry two small suitcases and, because of the tank, the rear seats do not fold flat nor is there a pass through for long items.

Exterior

The look of the Civic CNG is contemporary and holds its own within the compact car category. Up front there is an attractive black honeycomb grill, lower air dam with a stylishly placed chrome accent piece with wrap-around clear lens headlights and cornering lights. In back the rear bumper has an upswept design with a low access for the trunk opening.

The Fueling Process

Your Honda dealer will provide a list of local CNG stations but you will be best served by going to websites such as these:

Once at the station, which will almost always be a 24/7 unmanned operation, you will swipe a major credit card and then, if it is your first time fueling, watch a short instructional video on the pump. The video will give you a three-number code and then explains how to attach the hose end to the fitting on the car and the sequence to start fueling. It is a very simple process with a full tank taking only minutes to fill. After doing it once you will be a seasoned pro.

A note about CNG fueling stations. Many of them will be located in an industrial setting and will not be freeway close. They can be buried amongst storage yards and transportation centers where you will be pulling-up alongside city buses and trash trucks. Until more CNG vehicles are offered by manufacturers the fueling locations will be more for local traffic and not road warriors traveling the freeways.

A final fueling note: compressed natural gas is more sensitive to temperatures than the gasoline or diesel we’re all used to. Experienced CNG users will tell you the fillups you get on a cool morning compared to a hot afternoon can vary significantly with the cooler temperatures resulting in a more complete fill. Similarly, fast-fill facilities that can refuel a CNG car in roughly the same time as a gas or diesel one, tend to provide a less complete fill than slow-fill operations. 

Pricing & Warranties

The 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas NV I was driving was fully optioned with a MSRP of $28,755, which included a $790 Destination Charge.

For those in California, the Civic CNG automatically qualifies for the coveted HOV sticker which allows driving in the Carpool lane even with just the driver. If you haven’t heard the stories, people buy the Civic CNG just for this benefit.

The 2013 Civic CNG NV warranties include:

Honda,civic,CNG,natural gas,refueling

Done under pressure & looking like the competition

 

• 3 Year/36,000 miles: New-Vehicle

• 5 Year/60,000 miles: Powertrain

• 3 Year/36,000 miles: Honda Genuine Accessories

• 1 Year: Replacement Honda Genuine Parts

• 3 Year/36,000 miles: Honda Genuine Remanufactured Parts

• 5-Year/Unlimited mile: Corrosion

 

 

Observations: 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas

The Honda Civic has been part of the United States driving scene since 1973 with more than 8.8 million sold; the natural gas version joined the fray in 1998. Honda owners are famously loyal to the brand with many of them thinking owning anything other than a Honda to be unthinkable. If you are in the market for a Civic, there are several models to chose from in a fairly broad price range. Here is a quick look at three base Civic models:

Civic LX lists at $18,165 and gets 28/36/31 (City/Freeway/Combined mpg)

Civic Hybrid lists at $24,360 and gets 44/44/44

Civic CNG lists at $26,465 and gets 27/38/31

Since you can get a gasoline-powered Civic that gets comparable fuel economy for $8,000 less than the CNG version and the Hybrid for $2,000 less that gets considerably better fuel economy, why would you consider the Civic CNG?

Two big reasons: The cost of CNG is 30 – 40 percent less than unleaded gasoline, making your cost per mile driven very low. And if you live in California, the car gets you into the carpool lane with a single driver, which is no small thing in the Golden State!

So where do you fit in as a future Civic CNG owner? Since the Civic CNG has a range of under 200 miles and has limited storage space, this car should be high on your shopping list if the majority of your driving is the in-town or freeway commuting type. The result is a car that will work well for you.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

The Future of CNG Vehicles (By Michael Coates)

With natural gas pump prices cheap and everyone from T. Boone Pickens to President Obama talking up the use of American energy, you might think that CNG-powered passenger cars would be a hot topic among automakers. After all, it’s not exotic technology; many car companies have natural gas models marketed around the world. But it’s not happening in the U.S. for now and lacking any major government push (such as the current one behind electric and plug-in vehicles), it appears they will continue to be a small niche. It is unlikely, even if other automakers market models to compete with the Civic, that this segment will achieve numbers that would warrant much attention. The Civic, after all these years on the market sells only a couple thousand natural gas versions with a good number of those going to government fleets.

The number of CNG offerings for fleets have increased extensively in recent years as government incentives (for vehicle purchase and infrastructure development) and low fuel prices have pushed fleets to consider

Honda,Civic,CNG,natural gas

The badge of access

natural gas pickups and vans. These work for the same reason many alternatives to gasoline or diesel do – the duty cycle or daily drive of the vehicle fits the limited fueling infrastructure and needs of the owner.

One arena where natural appears to be making some inroads is in medium- and heavy-duty trucks – the large trucks you see hauling loads in town and out on the highway. In recent years natural gas engines have increased in size and horsepower and have become a true alternative to the traditional diesel engine. But even with exponential growth, natural gas trucks still only comprise a few percentage points of the total new truck market in these sectors. All of the major truck makers offer natural gas-powered models and some specific applications, such as refuse trucks, are racking up some impressive sales numbers.

One issue that is just beginning to play out could spell the future – positively or negatively – for natural gas, and that is the ultimate environmental tally on fracking. As noted above, the technique of hydraulic fracturing has helped produce the abundant and cheap domestic natural gas. However, several environmental groups have started to raise alarms about the global warming gases emitted as part of the fracking process and have questioned the overall benefit of using natural gas in vehicles (using it to create electricity or heat homes lends itself to a different environmental conclusion). Recent government and academic studies have questioned the environmental and health impacts of fracking and found that it may be best to proceed cautiously.   

Competitor Vehicles

The Civic CNG’s closest rivals are the Volkswagen Jetta TDI, the Toyota Prius c and the Chevrolet Cruze Eco.

Words & Photos By John Faulkner

Posted March 1, 2014

Related stories you might want to check out:

Volkswagen Jetta TDI & Hybrid

Toyota Prius c Test Drive

Chevy Cruze Diesel Road Test

My Top 10 Cars & Trucks for 2014

My Top 10 Cars & Trucks for 2014

BMW,i3,electric car,2014

BMW’s i3 – one of the fresh faces of 2014

My Hot Picks for 2014 vs. Consumer Reports Hot New Cars & Trucks.

It must be January because everyone feels compelled to present their plan for the year – their hopes and expectations. In the automotive world, that comes down to picking the cars and trucks we think will be the hot ones this year. Consumer Reports, that well-respected Bible of rational evaluation of consumer goods, has published their list, labeled the “10 Hot New Cars And Trucks for 2014.”

I may quarrel with some of the picks, after all, that’s what these lists are all about, but given my focus on advanced technology, alternative fuels and high-MPG vehicles, my first approach is to take their list and hone it down to the cars and trucks that make sense for me and Clean Fleet Report. Of course, the worst part of this kind of speculation is we can never be sure if these models will actually show up during the calendar year. Given that caveat, make this my wish list for what I would like to drive this coming year.

It’s curious and probably an indicator of the amazing age we’re living in, but I found something in almost every offering that made sense for the CFR crowd. See if you agree.

Here they are in CR’s alphabetical order.

1. Audi A3 – This is an easy one because Audi is going to present the new A3 this year in a variants to suit every taste. My first choices are the two versions that will compete for the compact luxury fuel economy crown – the TDI that will feature the latest version of Volkswagen AG’s workhorse diesel engine, a new 2.0-liter that promises better fuel economy, lower emissions and lighter weight than the efficient engine it replaces. Second on my list will be the A3 e-tron. Well, maybe first since it will be Audi’s first foray into the electric car world. The e-tron is slated to arrive as a plug-in hybrid hatchback with enough power to maintain the Audi performance image.

2. BMW 2-Series – Here I have to diverge from CR. While this new BMW will undoubtedly be a lot of fun to drive and will probably be quite efficient, my BMW target for 2014 will be the i3, which will arrive in pure electric and extended-range versions. I spent a good amount of time last year driving some of the early versions, but I look forward to living for a week or so in the production version and getting a better chance at evaluating them in the real world.  Of course, if I get a chance to tool around in the exotic i8 plug-in hybrid, I won’t turn that down either.

3. Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon These new midsize pickups are exciting for the market, bringing back a truck size that many thought was being left behind by the ever-growing and very popular full-size pickups.

chevy,chevrolet,colorado,pickup,diesel

Waiting for the diesel upgrade

But to me the Colorado will come alive late in the year (or maybe early 2015–sigh) when it gets an injection of diesel power from GM’s 2.8-liter V-6 engine. That should produce some great fuel economy numbers while actually boosting the performance and practicality of the truck.

4. Ford Mustang – I’ve lived through the entire history of the Mustang and, to be honest, have never been a big fan of the car. I think it’s iconic, but dated and not much in the introduction this year really changed that in my mind. However, I caught some hints from Ford execs that the original pony car might get an EcoBoost or even a diesel engine. That would put it on my driving list. In the interim, I’ll stick with my current favorite Ford, the plug-in Fusion Energi. Then again, an aluminum-intensive F-150 pickup rumored to be Ford’s centerpiece for its Detroit Auto Show program, also sounds intriguing.

5. Honda Fit – The smallest Honda has been one of my favorites since its introduction, mainly on the basis of its road-handling characteristics. This coming year a new model will be introduced that promises some upgrades in its interior as well as a new engine (something that Honda is always good at). While the standard version will probably be quite fuel efficient, there have been rumors of Honda planning to bring a hybrid version, which given the latest technology shown off in the Accord Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid, could make this hatchback even more desirable. Of course, I also haven’t spent any time in the limited edition EV version so that could be on my list as well.

6. Hyundai Genesis – Once again, I’ve got to take a different route than Consumer Reports on this one. I’m sure the Genesis is a fine model, but I don’t see it fitting the CFR profile, so I’d opt for a test of Hyundai’s fuel cell electric car, the Tucson FCEV, when it goes on sale this spring. Driving a series production fuel cell car will signal the beginning of a new era (something along the lines of driving the first Honda Insight hybrid back in 1999 (or the first generation Toyota Prius which came right after) or the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt when they were introduced. Living with the car for a week and dealing with the still-developing infrastructure will also inform me more about the issues early adopters will face with the vehicle.

7. Mini Cooper This little combination of German and British engineering is everything an efficient car should be – fun to drive, powerful and functionally designed. The new version due this year promises to up the ante with a more fuel efficient three-cylinder engine. I’d enjoy driving it, but also would love to see them bring over a diesel version like the European one I’ve driven. It meets all of the above criteria and takes the fuel economy up a notch.

 

porsche,macan,suv,diesel,mpg,2014

Porsche’s new small SUV

8. Porsche Macan – Although I’ve had a chance over the years to spend some time in Porsches, my environmental focus of the past decade has made it a tough vehicle choice to rationalize. But the Macan is smaller and will naturally be more efficient than its big brother, the Cayenne. So if the Cayenne delivers 16/23 City-Hwy MPG, that should put the Macan up near 30 MPG. That’s fine, but Porsche representatives made clear to me at the vehicle’s introduction that a diesel model is likely to show up soon. Even using the same engine found in the Cayenne, the lighter Macan should be able to push its MPG well into the 30s – and that’s something I would love to test in the real world.

9. Subaru WRX – I’m not going to argue that the WRX is a fun and still functional car, but it’s not something I’d put in the CFR test fleet, even with a new model. Keeping with Subaru, though, I’d go for the XV Crosstrek Hybrid, which I haven’t had a chance to test. But if you ask for my wish list, I know Subaru’s got a boxer diesel running in Europe that would boost any of its models up into the 30 MPG territory without sacrificing any of their AWD versatility.

10. Volkswagen Golf A new Golf is always an event for VW and the seventh generation signals some significant changes, including using a new architecture. I’ve got my eye on two versions based on my experience with both – the latest TDI and the new e-Golf. The TDI should get the new world diesel engine VW is working on (see A3 notes above although the Golf may get a different iteration of that engine) and the e-Golf (I’ve driven prototypes and enjoyed my time in all of them) should be a blast. VW appears to be dedicated to maintaining the Golf’s basic fun-to-drive quotient and I expect this new EV to be one that will challenge the current

VW,volkswagen,Golf,electric car,e-Golf

Maybe an EV Golf this year

fun leaders in the segment, the Fiat 500e and Chevy Spark EV.

So, there you have it. The 10 or more cars and trucks I’m looking forward to spending some time with in 2014. I hope they all make, but I probably should also have saved a spot or two on the list for some surprises. In 2013 we had a few of those and I’m expecting more in 2014. That’s what keeps us on our toes.

Let me know what you are looking forward to in 2014 and maybe we can compare lists.

Words & Photos By Michael Coates

Posted Jan. 8, 2014

Other articles related to this topic:

Top 10 Best Fuel Economy Cars of 2014

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Cars Go On Sale in 2014

Top 10 2014/2013 AWD & 4WD SUVs/Crossovers With Best MPG

How Long Will It Take to Convert the U.S. Fleet to Electric Cars?

How Long Will It Take to Convert the U.S. Fleet to Electric Cars?

Past Experience Doesn’t Make One Optimistic, But Times Are Changing.

Plug-in electric cars had record sales this past year, jumping 84 percent from the previous year’s sales and hitting almost 100,000 in sales. They’re selling better than hybrids did after their introduction more than a decade

chevy,volt,EV transition,future

100 years of progress, but it doesn’t happen quickly

ago. Optimists expect the trajectory to continue; pessimists point to the waning of incentives from government to offset the increased prices of EVs and the lack of automakers ability to continue the fire-sale tactics that dominated the 2013 market.

As is always the case at the end of one calendar year and the beginning of another, predictions for the future of new technologies abound. Some representative headlines:

  • Nissan announced it will have autonomous cars for sale in 2020.
  • Eight governors pledged to get 3.3 million more zero emission cars on the roads by 2025.
  • Three quarters of vehicles sold worldwide by 2035 will have autonomous features.
  • By 2022 there will be nearly 1.9 million natural gas-powered trucks and 1.9 million natural gas buses globally.

Presidential Predictions

But experience tells you to step back and take a breath when you read this kind of prognostication. President Obama in his 2011 State of the Union address called for the country to put a cumulative one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. In that total he included range-extended versions such as the Chevy Volt. Of course, it was not to be since that total was built on the expectation of GM selling 120,000 Volts a year in 2012 and  2013 (as well as 50,000 Leafs and 10,000 Ford Focus Electrics in 2013). Not to mention the expectation that the Fisker Nina would be produced and sold along with the Think City, Fisker Karma and Ford Transit EV. Of course it didn’t anticipate all of the plug-in cars that have some on the market in the past two years, but the cumulative numbers will be nowhere near the expected million.

It reminds me of the Yogi Berra quote: “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

Ford On Fuel Cells

hyundai,tucson FCEV, fuel cell,

Hyundai steps up to retail its fuel cell cars this year

I found an interesting story and quote from less than 13 years ago. Bill Ford, then chairman (now executive chairman) of Ford Motor Company. “I believe fuel cells could end the 100-year reign of the internal combustion

engine.” He then predicted that Ford would offer fuel-cell-powered Focus by 2004.

Well, here we are a decade later and its Hyundai, not Ford, who is putting a fuel cell vehicle on sale (the Tucson FCEV goes on sale this spring at California dealerships). Of course Honda, Mercedes and GM have put limited numbers of fuel cell cars in consumers’ hands, but this is the start of the retailing of this technology.

 

FedEx’s Pledge & Reality

Another illustrative story comes from FedEx, a leader in adopting new technology. In 2004 they joined with the NGO Environmental Defense and Eaton Corporation pledging to replace its 30,000 medium-duty trucks

FedEx, alt fuel vehicles,electric delivery trucks

FedEx moves slower than expected

with hybrid trucks over the coming years to reduce both pollution and greenhouse gases. It seemed like a win-win with environmental advances also paying off in a better bottom line for FedEx because of increased efficiencies.

Well, again, here we are a decade later and FedEx has deployed 408 electric and hybrid (either gasoline-electric or diesel-electric) trucks.  The good news is FedEx’s leadership has led to another 1,400 hybrid delivery trucks hitting the roads with other companies. As FedEx acknowledged, government incentives will continue to play a critical role in rollout of advanced technology vehicles.

These Things Take Time

These things do take time. Wishful thinking won’t get us there. Government money can help, but ultimately it can only play a minor role if the goal is the transformation of a fleet. Cars and trucks that are better alternatives to gasoline ones in every way will be the only way to make it happen.  That’s the way gasoline won out over electricity and steam 100 years ago. That’s why diesel won out over gasoline in Europe 15 years ago. That’s why the Toyota Prius is the 10th best-selling car of 2013.

In spite of all of the predictions, 2014 could be one of those years where we see some real change. We at Clean Fleet Report will be here to chronicle it.

Honda,fuel cell,future car

What the future may hold

Story & Photos by Michael Coates

Posted January 3, 2014

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Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars of 2013

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Go On Sale in 2014

Cars and Technology of the Future

Top 10 Fuel Economy Cars for 2014

Top 10 Fuel Economy Cars for 2014

EPA Rates Them All; Finds Plug-ins Best;

100 MPGe May Be The New 40 MPG.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency spends a good portion of its time and manpower compiling a guide that compares like vehicles’ fuel economy, spaciousness (interior space) and engine technology. The result for 2014 vehicles (cars and trucks) is now available on www.fueleconomy.gov and has a new benchmark – the Top 10 fuel economy cars all feature a plug. Some are pure electrics and others are plug-in hybrids. The fuel economy numbers are astronomical by historical standards, but are setting the new benchmark for what a modern automobile needs to achieve to be considering a state-of-the-art environmental leader.

The side story to this list is that being a high-mileage hybrid or diesel (or gas-powered car) is fine, but it doesn’t set you apart as a true leader in the fuel economy department anymore. Not that long ago we were talking about

Spark EV-King of the HIll

40 MPG being the floor for an efficient vehicle; already, it looks like 100 MPGe (equivalent to gasoline miles per gallon on an energy basis) is now the ticket to be among the leaders.

Here are the Top 10 for 2014, with some commentary about each. Of course the biggest caveat is that these fuel economy numbers by design are miles per gallon equivalent, since some of these cars use no gas at all and others are capable to running for a significant amount of time without any petroleum.

1. Chevy Spark EV – 119 MPGe – Chevy’s spunky little electric car takes top honors in the fuel economy race with its efficient electric powertrain. When we tested it, the Spark EV lived up to its billing.

2. Honda Fit EV – 118 MPGe – Honda comes close to Chevy with its slightly larger Fit EV, though neither car has scored significant sales this year. Price cuts brought buyers into the showroom, but sales are still averaging less than 50 per month.

3. Fiat 500e – 116 MPGe – Right in the mix (after all, what a few MPGe’s when you’re into triple digits) is the fun little Fiat electric car. We gave it a spin and came away very impressed with the Italian approach to the EV.

4. Nissan Leaf – 115 MPGe (2013) – Even though it’s the best selling pure electric car, the Leaf was not included in the EPA listing for 2014 models since its 2014 model doesn’t launch until next month, but it is unlikely its

Best-seller and Top 4 MPGe

MPGe will change so we’ve included the 2013 numbers. We have spent plenty of time in the Leaf and find it to be well-suited to the task of almost replacing your internal combustion car.

5. Honda Accord PHEV – 115 MPGe – Honda’s engineers have scored a very impressive feat by producing a plug-in hybrid that turns in fuel efficiency numbers on par with pure electrics. Well received in the marketplace – and just named Green Car of the Year – we were impressed when we first had a chance to drive the Accord.

6. Mitsubishi i-MiEV – 112 MPGe (2013) – Another model missing from the 2014 EPA listing is Mitsubishi’s quirky electric car. As is the case with most plug-ins, it has struggled to find customers (although selling twice as many as the Fiat 500e or Honda Fit EV), which led to a price drop in the new model.

7. Smart fortwo ED coupe/conv – 107 MPGe – The diminutive Smart has a couple things going for it – it’s the only convertible electric car on the U.S. market right now, and it’s on its third generation and shows the lessons learned from earlier iterations. The zippy two-seater is primarily found in car-sharing programs.

8. Ford Focus Electric – 105 MPGe

9. Ford Fusion Energi PREV – 100 MPGe

10. Ford C-Max Energi PHEV – 100 MPGe (2013) – We can close out the Top 10 with a triumvirate of Ford models – its pure electric Focus and two plug-in hybrids (dubbed Energi), the Fusion sedan and C-Max wagon. having three models gives Ford the most variety of any automaker in the high-MPG stakes, although even with three models its cumulative sales still trail the single model sales of the segment leaders – the Leaf, Chevy Volt and Tesla Model S. That said, they are competent vehicles and have been building sales. They also represent a piece of Ford’s strategy that has the plug-in models offered along with non plug-in hybrids.

Ford Offers 3 Ways to Plug-in

Bubbling under the Top 10: While the task of being in the Top 10 in MPG (or MPGe) is getting more difficult every year, three models that are right below the No. 10 cutoff can claim other marks that may be even more impressive. They represent three of the top four best-selling plug-in cars (the other is No. 4 Nissan Leaf) of the most recent month (October 2013), a mark that in some ways is more impressive than their still-hefty fuel economy numbers. The three are:

  • Chevy Volt – 98 MPGe
  • Toyota Prius PHEV – 95 MPGe
  • Tesla Model S 60/85 – 95 MPGe/89 MPGe (2013 numbers)

BMW’s i3 will probably land in the Top 10

Two more to keep an eye on: Two vehicles (with three models) appeared to have not made the testing deadline for inclusion in the EPA guide, but can be expected to be in the mix as soon as their numbers are finalized. BMW’s new i3 (which will have a pure electric as well as a range-extended version with a small gas engine) will probably make it into the top 10 and bump out one of the Fords. Cadillac’s ELR coupe, since it is based on the Chevy Volt architecture, will probably turn in similar numbers to its four-door cousin so not crack the Top 10.

Missing in action: Gone from last year top fuel economy list are the Scion iQ electric, Coda sedan and BYD e6. None of the three made much of an impact although the latter two did represent the first Chinese cars on sale in the country and BYD is still likely to return with more models later in the decade.

Two new cars for 2014 that didn’t have reported numbers in the EPA guide and probably won’t make the Top 10 are exotic hybrids – the McLaren P1 and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid. Both are wonderful examples of technologies but are unlikely to have the efficiency of the more mundane models on the list.  The price for the Porsche starts at $100,000 while the McLaren will run a staggering $1.15 million.

Story & Photos by Michael Coates

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