Engine Downsizing Gains Ground

Engine Downsizing Gains Ground

Porsche,Cayman,Boxster,engine,fuel economy,mpg

Even Porsche Downsizes Its Engines

Smaller Is Better For Automakers  And Consumers Shouldn’t Notice Any Difference.

The global drive to reduce greenhouse gases and increase vehicle fuel efficiency is pushing automakers to reduce the size of their engines – while trying to keep all of attributes consumers expect from their cars. Engineers have pushed the limits of technology to produce engines that are more efficient, meet increasingly stringent pollution standard and yet make better horsepower and torque than previous generations.

Recently, three auto companies announced new engine families that epitomize this new trend:

  • General Motors’ new engine family
  • Porsche’s new four-cylinder engines
  • VW’s new diesel engine

Let’s look at each of these to see how they plan to ease consumers into this new generation of engines.

General Motors’ New Fours

After successfully going through bankruptcy, GM is now starting to put money back into development of its hardware, with a focus on engines that can serve its models around the world. That world-emphasis means fuel efficiency is at the forefront.

The new family of small engines GM just announced will eventually include 11 powerplants that will range from a 1-liter turbo three-cylinder up to a 1.5-liter turbo four. All will have aluminum blocks and heads, which

GM,General Motors,Ecotec,engines,fuel economy,mpg,turbo

GM Gets Small With Its Engines

should result in lighter weight to enhance any efficiency gains from the engines themselves. In addition, they have double overhead cams with four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, water-cooled exhaust manifolds, variable oil pumps to save energy and piston cooling jets.

Some engines may also feature direction fuel injection and turbocharging, depending on the market.

GM said variants of the modular engines would be able to be produced on the same assembly line in five plants around the world. Eventual volume could reach 2.5 million units, GM added. The first engine, the Ecotec 1-liter turbo three-cylinder, will be sold in Europe, but no U.S. appearance for it has been announced, but several of the engines are likely to show up in GM’s small cars and applications such as the Chevy Volt and Cadillac ELR range-extended electric cars, which currently use a 1.4-liter non-turbo engine as a generator.

The engines are designed to put GM a leg up on Ford’s EcoBoost engines with quieter operation and as good or better efficiency and power.

Porsche Goes Back To Four

Porsche has more of a challenge. This subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group doesn’t make very many cars and specializes in sports cars (even though its current best-seller is an SUV) and has an image that is key to its sales success.

Porsche,Boxster,Cayman,engine,mpg,fuel economy

Porsche Bets On a Powerful Four

Even though the company’s heritage is in small displacement engines, in the more recent past that image and sales were tarnished with some four-cylinder models concocted in partnership with VW. the 1969-76 914 was ridiculed as a VW-Porsche and was finally dropped when Porsche returned to a focus on its higher-end sports cars.

Like the engine offered in the 914 – and Porsche’s larger six-cylinder engines – the new engines will be horizontally-opposed or “flat fours” and will be produced on the same assembly lines. Compared to the offerings of the 70s they will bring considerably more technology and may produce almost 400 horsepower in some versions. The current 2.7/3.4-liter six-cylinder engines in the Boxster and Cayman production from 265 to 340 horsepower.

They should aid the Boxster and Cayman models in which they’ll be available by reducing weight and thus boosting handling and braking.

“We will continue with the downsizing strategy and develop a new four-cylinder boxer engine, which will see service in the next-generation Boxster and Cayman,” said Porsche CEO Matthias Muller, in an interview with Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport magazine. “We will not separate ourselves from efforts to reduce CO2,” he added.

Of course reduced CO2 translates into better fuel economy which, while not a major focus of Porsche buyers, is a concern for the corporation that produces them.

Diesel Also Moves Forward

Volkswagen’s build a good reputation with its small, turbocharged direct-injected gasoline and diesel engines, but its engineers are not resting on their laurels. This year VW will introduce a new four-cylinder diesel it has dubbed the EA288 in its VW and Audi models.

The engine does what diesel engines have been doing in each of several generations since being introduced almost two decades ago – increasing horsepower and torque while decreasing fuel consumption and emissions. Our experience with VW and Audi TDI models has been excellent.

VW,Volkswagen,TDI,diesel,clean diesel,MPG,fuel economy, emissions

Diesel Marches On

The engine will show up first in the new Golf due this year. Although it has the same displacement as the engine it replaces at 2.0-liters, the engine is all new, an Audi spokesperson told Clean Fleet Report. While keeping pace with new emissions restrictions, the diesel also is expected to push various models’ fuel economy ratings beyond their current range of 41-43 mpg. In addition, VW engineers said the new engine would be a worldwide model, ending the current practice of using different engines in Europe and the U.S.

As was seen in GM’s new engine line, the VW diesel added detailed features to increase efficiency, including reduced in-cylinder friction, an oil pump with controlled internal airflow, a variable water pump, a new thermal management system and a roller cam. It also has an intercooler integrated into the intake manifold and adds urea exhaust aftertreatment.

VW also announced that the EA288 will be B20 (20 percent biodiesel/80 percent ultra-low sulfur diesel) compatible. After appearing in the Golf TDI, the engine will be found in other VW and Audi products, including the Jetta, Sportwagen, Passat, Beetle and Audi A3, among others.

Words and Photos By Michael Coates; Some Photos By the Manufacturers

Posted March 29, 2014

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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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Smart EV Wins Best Eco Car Award

Smart EV Wins Best Eco Car Award

Small but top of the list

Small Cars Lead List of Greenest Automobiles.

Maybe it’s the time of year. We’ve got Olympics competition and all of the medals and ranking of athletes and countries that goes with that. We’ve got the Academy Awards and all of those statuettes. So it makes sense that this is the awards season for automobiles as well. Magazines hand out their “Best of” trophies and multitudinous “Top 10” lists. We’ve been guilty of that as well.

So, recognizing that the value of a Top 10 list may be in direct proportion to its focus, we’d like to present the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s Top 10 Greenest Cars and throw in some explanation and commentary. Let’s start with the list:

  1. Smart ForTwo ED – pure electric – two-seat minicar
  2. Toyota Prius c – hybrid – subcompact
  3. Nissan Leaf – pure electric – compact
  4. Toyota Prius – hybrid

    toyota-prius-plug-in-price drop

    Toyotas dominate the Eco list

  5. Honda Civic Hybrid – hybrid – compact
  6. Lexus CT 200h – hybrid – compact
  7. Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid – plug-in hybrid –
  8. Mitsubishi Mirage – gasoline – compact
  9. Honda Civic Natural Gas – natural gas – compact
  10. Honda Insight – hybrid – compact

Bubbling just below the list were the conventional Smart ForTwo and the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid. Our colleague Jim Motavelli of Plugincars.com did some digging into the criteria used to rank the “greenness” of the cars. He found that the weight of a vehicle was a big factor in the non-profit group’s “complex” formula along with manufacturing-related emissions.  The ACEEE’s summary of their methodology is explained this way:

“We analyze automakers’ test results for fuel economy and emissions as reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board, along with other specifications reported by automakers. We estimate pollution from vehicle manufacturing, from the production and distribution of fuel and from vehicle tailpipes. We count air pollution, such as fine particles, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and other pollutants according to the health problems caused by each pollutant. We then factor in greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide) and combine the emissions estimates into a Green Score that runs on a scale from 0 to 100. The top vehicle this year scores a 59, the average is 37 and the worst gas-guzzlers score around 17.”

As you can see by the scores, it’s a tough test and no one does that well. ACEEE is 30-plus-year-old nonprofit organization that is very serious about promoting energy efficiency. But I see as the subtext of the ACEEE’s approach a negative view of the private automobile. What kind of ranking has the best  contestants scoring 60 percent? The curve with these guys starts low and goes down from there. Cars are bad, but some are worse than others.

ford,F-150,aluminum,lightweighting,EcoBoost

Eco trucks should also be on the list

Our approach at Clean Fleet Report is a little more accommodating. We believe people need a variety of different vehicles for different uses and different situations. Yes, vehicles have negative environmental impacts, but so do most other activities. We should be aware of them and do our best to minimize or mitigate them, but activity cannot stop because of a heavy vehicle or fuel economy that doesn’t reach Prius levels. We know that full-size pickup trucks are unlikely to ever reach Prius-level MPG; that’s basic physics. They can get better and we’re reporting on that regularly because you should be able to choose the best vehicle for the job.

Not that ACEEE doesn’t also make a nod toward the different uses of vehicles, breaking out the best vehicles by class in their list, but I’m afraid being told the best vehicle in a class scored a 35 out of a possible 100 is not exactly a ringing endorsement – nor does it make anyone who values these ratings a likely buyer.

For my money, I think  you need to do what we do here at Clean Fleet Report, evaluate vehicles in the real world and show their capabilities and deficiencies, with a heavy weight given to environmentally positive attributes. But putting a two-seat, 8-foot-long Smart on the same list as a full-size half-ton pickup doesn’t give the reader very valuable information.

Photos by Michael Coates and the manufacturers

Posted Feb. 23, 2014

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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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Electric Cars Are Cleaner Today and Will Only Get Cleaner Tomorrow

Electric Cars Are Cleaner Today and Will Only Get Cleaner Tomorrow

By Max Baumhefner and Cecilia Springer*

Uncovering a fraud is uniquely satisfying, which is perhaps why news outlets continue to provide electric car deniers with a platform to proclaim they aren’t as green as they appear. But close examination reveals the latest round of skeptics to be lacking in substance. Numerous peer-reviewed articles have reached the same conclusion — from cradle to grave, electric cars are the cleanest vehicles on the road today. And unlike cars that rely on oil, the production of which is only getting dirtier over time, the environmental benefits of electric cars will continue to improve as old coal plants are replaced with cleaner sources and manufacturing becomes more efficient as it scales up to meet growing consumer demand.

“Did you account for the pollution from the electricity it takes to power the vehicles?”

This question has been asked and answered. Using today’s average American electricity mix of natural gas, coal, nuclear, hydro, wind, geothermal, and solar, an electric car emits half the amount of harmful carbon pollution per mile as the average new vehicle. In states with cleaner mixes, such as California, it’s only a quarter as much. To find out how clean your electric car would be today, plug your zip code into the EPA’s “Beyond Tailpipe Emissions Calculator.” Those benefits will only improve as the electric grid becomes cleaner over time.

Before NRDC began advocating for vehicle electrification, we did our own homework, publishing a two-volume report in partnership with the Electric Power Research Institute. The work took almost two years and concluded that a long-term shift to the use of electricity as a transportation fuel provides substantial reductions in carbon pollution and air quality benefits.

It’s essential to take a long view when examining vehicle electrification because the electric grid doesn’t stand still. Since the time we published that report, the EPA has adopted power plant standards for mercury and other air toxics, ozone-forming emissions, fine particulate pollution, soot and coal ash, proposed standards for greenhouse gases from new power plants, and has been directed by the president to adopt greenhouse gas standards for existing plants. Meanwhile, twenty-nine states have adopted renewable energy targets to reduce emissions. Driving on renewable electricity is virtually emissions-free.

“Did you account for the resources it takes to build the cars?”

Producing an electric car today requires more resources than producing a conventional vehicle, generally due to the large batteries. However, comparing the efficiency of relatively nascent and small scale electric vehicle manufacturing to the efficiency of conventional automobile production, which has benefited from more than a century of learning-by-doing, is misleading. Automakers are racing to save money and materials through recycling and more efficient production. Those who win the race will win the market.

Even with today’s technology, on a lifecycle basis, the electric car is still the cleanest option available. Higher emissions from manufacturing are more than offset by the substantial benefits of driving on electricity. We examined six peer-reviewed academic studies and found that in every case, electric vehicles win by a substantial margin, with estimates ranging from 28 to 53 percent lower crade-to-grave emissions than conventional vehicles today.[1]

Opponents often rely upon the original version of a Norwegian study (Hawkins 2012), which has much higher estimates of emissions associated with the production of electric cars. Those skeptics generally cherry-pick from the original version of that article, and ignore the fact it was corrected post-publication, resulting in its estimate of the comparative emissions benefit rising from 22 percent to 28 percent. In other words, even the source relied upon by skeptics shows a substantial lifecycle advantage for electric cars.  The Norwegian study finds the lowest benefit relative to the other articles examined partially because it includes an estimate of emissions associated with the disposal of advanced battery materials that is higher than other studies, which brings us to the next question:

 “What about mining and disposing of the materials needed to make the batteries?”

First off, there is no shortage of the materials needed to make advanced vehicle batteries. A recent article in the Journal of Industrial Ecology concludes, “even with a rapid and widespread adoption of electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries, lithium resources are sufficient to support demand until at least the end of this century.” Another analysis of the trade constraints associated with the global lithium market came to a similar conclusion, and noted that even a “five-fold increase of lithium price would not impact the price of battery packs.” Furthermore, companies like Simbol Materials are already finding innovative ways to acquire lithium by harvesting materials from the brine of geothermal power plants — no mining required.

Secondly, advanced vehicle batteries are unlikely to be simply thrown away; they’re too valuable. Even once they’re no longer suitable for automotive use, they retain about 80 percent of their capacity and can be re-purposed to provide grid energy storage to facilitate the integration of variable renewable resources, such as wind and solar. Automotive batteries can also be re-purposed to support the electrical grid at the neighborhood level, preventing the need to invest in costly distribution system equipment. Pacific Gas & Electric plans to use money saved through the strategic deployment of used battery packs in neighborhoods throughout Northern and Central California to provide electric car drivers with rebates to reduce the purchase price of new electric cars.

Finally, those batteries that aren’t re-purposed will likely be recycled. Conventional vehicle manufacturing is one of the most efficient industries in the world – around 95 percent of vehicle parts are recycled, reducing the energy needed to make more parts.  It is worth noting that conventional lead-acid car batteries are consistently the most recycled product for which the EPA provides data, with a recycling rate of 96 percent. Advanced battery recycling could cut associated emissions in half, according to a 2012 study from researchers at Argonne National Laboratory.  Companies are already investing in such technologies.

In summary, a sustained and serious examination of the cradle-to-grave impacts of electric cars reveals they are the cleanest option available today, and that the environmental benefits of vehicle electrification will only increase over time. That’s not only good news for the eco-conscious, but for any consumer interested in driving on a cleaner fuel at a price equivalent to buck-a-gallon gasoline. For more, see Real Oil Independence: Buck-a-Gallon Electricity for Life.

History and Forecast

*Cecilia Springer is an associate at Climate Advisers, where she manages projects on transportation and sustainable supply chains.

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