10 Best Engines of 2015 the Most Diverse Ever

10 Best Engines of 2015 the Most Diverse Ever

Fuel Cells, Electric Motors Join Gas & Diesel Engines

It’s a whole new world. WardsAuto World has been calling out the 10 Best Engines for 20 years. The list has been dominated by the basic internal combustion engine configurations—V8s, sixes and fours, usually fueled by gasoline. During the past decade, hybrid-electric and diesel engines have joined the crowd and a few electric powertrains have been honored. But 2015 looks like a watershed—two traditional (though very modern) and very powerful V8s were picked along with a turbodiesel V6, three four-cylinders (including one in a boxer configuration), two three-cylinders, an electric motor and, for the first time, a fuel cell powerplant.

Wards may be fast-approaching the point where they will need to rename the award and drop the “engine” moniker. Traditionally, electric motors are not described as engines and fuel cell

Hyundai,Tucson,FCEV,fuel cell,electric car

Hyundai’s fuel cell electric takes a prize

“powerplants” are really electrochemical reactors designed to create the electricity to run the electric motors found in fuel cell cars.

The bigger import of this year’s 10 Best Engines is its reflection of the diversity of choices the American consumer now faces in the showroom. No longer is the choice between bigger or smaller engines with a commensurate amount of horsepower. Small, turbocharged engines now offer power as impressive as much larger ones, but with the added benefit of excellent fuel economy. Even big gas engines like the two V8s picked this year deliver 20+ mpg highway miles (along with up to 700+ horsepower!). Diesels don’t smoke any more, but continue to offer great torque and significant fuel economy improvements compared to similar-sized gasoline engines. A variety of hybrid powertrains are now joined by pure electric motors capable to head-snapping acceleration without using any petroleum. Finally, fuel cells have entered the mix and because of their technological achievements are likely to make regular appearances in Ward’s lineup.

Here’s a list of this year’s winners with some key notes are their significance:

  1. Hyundai’s fuel cell. Ward’s may be rewarding Hyundai for its aggressive marketing as much as its technology, but fuel cells are remarkable machines, taking in hydrogen, creating the electricity to run the Tucson for more than 250 miles and emitting water vapor out of the tailpipe. I suspect next year we may see another fuel cell “engine” from Toyota, Honda or maybe Mercedes in the mix.
  2. BMW’s ground-breaking i3 electric motor. While the motor is impressive, BMW also may be singled out for the package it comes in as well. We just road-tested the i3 and the motor
    BMW,i3,EV,electric car

    BMW’s electric is among the 10 best engines

    may be the most BMW part of that package.

  3. Ford Fiesta’s 1-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Well, now we’ve moved back to the traditional engine, except in a tiny three-cylinder configuration, something previous to this decade relegated to loss-leader econoboxes, East European machines of dubious quality and motorcycles. They’ve grown up now, not in size, but sophistication. The Fiesta engine is a great representative of the genre; we’ll have a road test of it coming up soon, but we can give you a hint—it really works great.
  4. Mini’s 1.5-liter turbocharged threecylinder engine. Minihas a reputation to keep up as a “fun” car, so it took three cylinders and made them fun and
    Ford Fiesta,1-liter,EcoBoost,mpg

    Small but mighty

    powerful enough to keep up the Mini tradition while also delivering more than 30 mpg.

  5. Subaru’s 2-liter turbocharged boxer four in the WRX. Subaru’s engine may be a fairly traditional four-cylinder but its configuration is not traditional at all. The boxer format, usually only found in high-end sports cars, helps the engine to crank out excellent horsepower while still delivering good fuel economy.
  6. Volvo’s 1.8-liter turbo four found in the S60. The Wards editors found the power output and fuel economy of this engine exceptional. It stood out from among the 15 turbocharged four-cylinder engines considered for this year’s awards.
  7. Volkswagen’s 1.8-liter TSI turbo four found in the Golf. This engine is the poster child for the advancement of gasoline-fueled engines in their quest to try to emulate the efficiency of diesels. Since VW is one of the world leaders in diesels, it looks like they have done quite a job of applying some of the technological advances from compression-ignition engines to the spark world of gasoline, with a trifecta of great results in power, fuel efficiency and emissions. We’ve driven this engine and it gives no quarter to any of its challengers.
  8. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ turbodiesel 3-liter V6 found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 pickup. Last year Wards had three diesels among its final 10; this year one made the cut, but it’s one that’s tearing things up. We’ve been in the Jeep powered by this powerful but fuel-sipping engine and we’ll have the test up soon. Suffice it to say, it deserves its place in the group.
  9. Corvette’s 6.2-liter V8. What can you say? Here’s a push-rod V8 cranking out 455 horsepower and still delivering more than 21 mpg on the highway. Where’s the sacrifice? Where’s the
    Jeep,Ram,EcoDiesel,fuel economy

    Torque & fuel economy is the diesel’s forte

    pain at the pump that comes with exotic-car level performance. It’s so last century, GM seems to be saying. I’ve driven this car with the seven-speed manual and it’s a blast—not Clean Fleet Report material, but plenty of fun.

  10. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ V8 found in the Hellcat Dodge Challengers and Chargers. Does anyone really need 707 horsepower or a 204 mph top speed? Of course not! But is it a fun challenge for a mass market car company to crank out a car or two with an engine packing those performance stats? Not even a rhetorical question. This supercharged V8 takes an already potent Hemi engine and changes up to 90 percent of its components and software to boost its performance up into the stratosphere. Oh, but did we mention this engine also delivers 22 mpg highway if you lay off the throttle? Such is the way of performance in the 21st

It’s quite a group and one that is likely the forerunner of many to come with a variety of different powertrains all delivering the delicate combination of power and fuel economy that consumers demand. We at Clean Fleet Report think the quest for best ways to move a car down the road is going to continue to turn up great new technologies and we look forward to reporting on those as they arrive on the scene.

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Hyundai, Honda, Toyota Lead With Zero Emission Contenders

Hyundai-fuel cell-hydrogen-Toyota-Honda

Hyundai First Fuel Cell In The Showroom

Story & Photos (except Toyota) By Michael Coates

Electric cars running on hydrogen, creating their own electricity as they drive, are officially no longer the cars of the distant future. As Hyundai Motor America president and CEO John Frafcik said last week: “The future is much closer than you think.” Come spring, you can go to a select Southern California Hyundai dealer (one near the growing hydrogen station infrastructure), put down $2999 and drive away in a Tucson fuel cell car, a compact SUV with water as its only tailpipe emission, a 300-mile range on a tank of free (for the life of the $499/month loan) fuel, and free Concierge Service (like that offered with the Equus model). In other words, Hyundai is ushering in the hydrogen age and doing its best to make it an easy transition for the early adopters who choose to shift to zero emission driving. It made the announcement at the Los Angeles Auto Show, creating a stir among the more mundane introductions of conventional cars and trucks.

Hyundai, which has made a commitment to produce several thousand Tucson FCEVs on the same assembly line as its gas-powered cousin, is not alone as both Honda and Toyota will have their own fuel cells on sale in 2015. Both companies showed off concept cars hinting at the look of their 2015 FCEV sedans. Honda’s car, shown at the LA Auto Show a few hours before Hyundai’s announcement, was a futuristic design that will probably be tamed down for production, but clearly takes a page from its initial foray into hybrids with the 2000 Insight. Toyota’s FCEV, which was introduced at the Tokyo Auto Show, featured more conventional styling but carried the same promise as Hyundai of a consumer-friendly market approach.

Others Will Join In The Fuel Cell Parade


Of course, Mercedes, General Motors, Nissan, Ford, BMW and Volkswagen are not far behind the three leaders. All have their fuel cell cars ready to roll out (and some have done limited marketing as have Hyundai, Honda and Toyota) and are expected to hit the market prior to 2020.

The big hang up for fuel cells has been the refueling infrastructure. Unlike pure electric cars, which can rely on the ubiquity of electricity for easy, if slow, refueling, FCEVs need a network of stations to truly become a technology that can replace the internal combustion engine. Governments in Germany, Japan and Korea (and a few other spots in the world) have committed to build that infrastructure and California fell in line this year when it passed a bill to fund up to 100 stations, most of which will be located in Southern California where the cars will see their initial rollout.

Early adopters opting for the 2015 Tucson FCEV will get quite a deal. For comparison, we ran the numbers for a base gas-powered 2014 Tucson in Southern California. A 36-month lease with $2,999 down would give you $544/month payments – and you’d have to pay for your own gas and service!

Honda and Toyota didn’t have the retail details that Hyundai offered, but they made it clear that 2015 would be the introduction date of their fuel cell vehicles, which in the U.S. also will be targeted to the Southern California region with an infrastructure to support the cars.

The Hyundai Fuel Cell Deal


At the introduction, Hyundai’s Krafcik ticked off the advantages his company sees in fuel cell vehicles, compared with pure battery electrics. He also said there was plenty of room in the market for both types of zero emission vehicles, but FCEVs offered:

  • Driving range of 300 miles,
  • Capable of refueling in less than 10 minutes,
  • Minimal reduction in daily utility compared with its gasoline counterpart,
  • Minimal cold-weather effects, and
  • Extensive crash, fire and leak testing.

What fuel cells share with battery electrics is instantaneous torque from its electric motor, good daily reliability and long-term durability, few moving parts, quiet operation and zero greenhouse gas emissions from operation. Krafcik noted that a UC Irvine study done this year found the well-to-wheels emissions of fuel cell vehicles to be lower not only than gas or diesel vehicles, but also battery electrics.

In addition to the straight sales pitch, Krafcik also said that the Tucson FCEVs will be available as rentals through Enterprise.

Honda Fuel Cell Concept

Honda-fuel cell-electric car

Honda Gets Zoomy With Its Next Fuel Cell


Honda, while adamant about the 2015 launch of its next generation fuel cell car, was less committal about planned volumes or price at the LA Auto Show. Honda has been leasing its FCX Clarity fuel cell for several years, but in very small volumes. Honda reviewed its history getting the public into its fuel cell cars, noting that the next generation’s fuel cell stack (the “engine” for an FCEV) will have a 60 percent power density improvement over the one used in the Clarity. The stack also is 30 percent smaller than its predecessor and costs have been reduced.

The Honda FCEV is a five-passenger sedan, similar in exterior size to its current FCX Clarity, but with a more spacious interior because of the smaller fuel cell stack. Honda didn’t release exterior dimensions of the concept, but said its stack would yield more than 100 KW of power output and would deliver a driving range of more than 300 miles.

Toyota Fuel Cell Concept


Like Honda, Toyota chose an auto show to unveil a concept version of the fuel cell sedan it will launch in 2015. The Camry-size four-passenger sedan, unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show last week, is a less radical design than Honda’s, appearing to be much closer to the production intent for the production version. Its released dimensions indicate it is slightly longer overall than a Camry (191.7 inches compared to 189.2 for for the Camry), has a wheelbase that is almost identical and is about a half-inch narrower. Toyota said its new fuel cell stack has a power density similar to Honda’s at 3 kW/liter, which they said represents more than twice that of its current stocks. The company also claimed reduced size and costs. Automotive News quoted Toyota officials as saying that fuel cell cars by 2020 will cost roughly the same as a plug-in hybrid to produce.

Toyota-fuel cell-electric vehicle

Toyota’s 2015 FCEV Concept







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By John Addison (9/6/11)

The most popular way to extend the range of an electric vehicle is to add a small gasoline engine coupled with a generator as done in the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. The most popular way to extend the range of an electric bus is to add a fuel cell that generates added electrons. During the Winter Olympics, 100,000 riders were transported up Whistler’s 12 percent grades on 20 hydrogen fuel cell electric buses. Now SUVs made by Hyundai-Kai, General Motors and Toyota are also testing Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV).

So far, hydrogen vehicles have been following the adoption path of natural gas vehicles. They do well in specific fleet applications, but they have not been ready for consumers at competitive prices, complete with 100,000 mile warranties and a network of public fueling stations. Hyundai, Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, and General Motors are all working to make FCEV mainstream commercial success. Linde, Air Products, Praxair, Shell and others are installing more private and public stations.

When my wife and I drive our Nissan LEAF, we charge the lithium battery with electricity and go. We do not suffer energy loses of using electricity to electrolyze water creating hydrogen and further energy loses of converting hydrogen back to electricity. The LEAF with its 60 to 100 mile practical range meets 80 percent of our needs, but not 100 percent. If we were driving hundreds of miles daily, or on a heavy bus driven 300 miles daily up and down hills, we would need a clean way to extend the range of our electric vehicle. Hydrogen fuel cells extend the range of electric vehicles. Neither battery-electric or fuel-cell vehicles provide 100 percent of the solution. We need a portfolio of solutions to achieve fuel economy, energy independence, and clean air.

Mercedes Fuel Cell Vehicles Drive 18,000 Miles Around the Globe

After 70 days of driving and more than 18,000 miles, three B-Class F-Cell’s circled the globe and returned home to Stuttgart becoming the first round-the-world drive with fuel-cell vehicles. The three F-CELL hydrogen-powered cars crossed through 14 countries on four continents. Even a no-fault accident in Kazakhstan was unable to stop the B-Class F-CELL.

Now Mercedes is putting 200 of these F-CELL hatchbacks into fleets for daily use. I was impressed with my test drive. The F-CELLs smooth ride and quite cruising reminded me of driving my LEAF. The Mercedes deployment of 200 FCEV follows GM’s successful Project Driveway where 100 Equinox FCEV were driven for two-years.

“With the F-CELL World Drive we have shown, that the time for electric vehicles with fuel cell has come. Now the development of the infrastructure has to pick up speed,” said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “For only an adequate number of hydrogen fueling stations enables car drivers to benefit from the advantages of this technology: high range, short refueling times, zero emissions.

So far, there are only approximately 200 fuel stations worldwide at which fuel cell vehicles can be refueled. According to expert calculations, a network of around 1,000 fixed fuel stations would be sufficient for basic nationwide coverage in Germany. The exclusive partner for hydrogen supply on the F-CELL World Drive was the Linde Group.

The World Drive vehicles drove not only in downtown areas, on country roads and lengthy stretches of highway, but also proved their capabilities driving on unfinished surfaces, for example on stages in Australia and China.

Hyundai’s Fuel Cell SUV with 400 mile range

Last week, I looked at Hyundai’s third generation Tucson ix FCEV and talked with some of their product engineers and managers. 48 of these 400-mile range electric vehicles are being put on the roads now. It’s cousin, the Kia Borrego has a 466 mile range. By the end of 2014, 2,000 of these vehicles will be in service in the United States, Europe, and Asia. By 2015, Hyundai has hopes that this roomy and fully-featured SUV can be priced as low as $40,000.

Hyundai is now driving the Tucson FCEV from San Francisco to New York, traveling 4,500 miles in less than 30 days. Fueling will be a Hyundai dealers where various industrial gas distributors will deliver compressed hydrogen tanks. Along the way, Hyundai Hope on Wheels will award $7.1 million to 71 children’s hospitals.

New battery-electric and plug-in hybrids have benefitted for the design progress and fleet tests of fuel cell vehicles. A Honda engineer told me that 75 percent of the parts had been eliminated. A Volkswagen manager told me that with volume manufacturing using vapor deposition equipment, over 90 percent of the platinum needed for fuel cell catalyst could be eliminated. A Hyundai research scientist told me of 76-percent range improvements in the latest Tucson FCEV.

The new Tucson ix stores 144 liters of hydrogen compressed to 700 bar. Energy storage includes a 100kW hydrogen PEM fuel cell integrated with 100kW supercapacitor and 21kW of lithium battery pack. The vehicle is propelled only by a 100kW induction electric motor.

McKinsey Report: Portfolio of Power-Trains for Europe

A report well worth reading is A portfolio of power-trains for Europe: a fact-based analysis. The study compares outcomes for Europe with 273 million vehicles by 2050 if they follow a path dominated by increasingly efficient internal combustion vehicles (ICE), or battery electric and plug-in hybrid, or 50 percent fuel cell. The report forecasts that the cost of all powertrains converge, benefitting from technology improvements and volume manufacturing learning curve. The Report states, “The cost of fuel cell systems is expected to decrease by 90% and component costs for BEVs by 80% by 2020, due to economies of scale and incremental improvements in technology…. The cost of hydrogen also reduces by 70% by 2025 due to higher utilization of the refueling infrastructure and economies of scale.”

The Report states, “Medium/larger cars with above-average driving distance account for 50% of all cars, and 75% of CO2 emissions. FCEVs are therefore an effective low-carbon solution for a large proportion of the car fleet. Beyond 2030, they have a TCO advantage over BEVs and PHEVs in the largest car segments.”

Pike Research Forecasts 2.8 Million Fuel Cell Vehicles by 2020

Pike Research forecasts that light duty FCVs will be commercialized by mid-decade.  According to the Pike Research “Fuel Cell Vehicles” cumulative sales of fuel cell cars and trucks will surpass 2.8 million vehicles globally by 2020.

Pike identifies the best contenders for light-duty fuel cell commercialization to be Daimler (Mercedes), Honda, Toyota, Hyundai-Kia, and GM. “Fuel cell vehicles have been an elusive goal for the automotive industry,” says industry analyst Dave Hurst, “but they are on the verge of commercial reality.  With substantial support from the largest automakers, the pressure is on gas companies and governments to make sure that hydrogen fueling stations are available to support this emerging market.”

Pike Research forecasts that fuel cell transit buses will be at the vanguard of the FCV movement, with sales growing at a compound annual growth rate of 31.7% by 2015. Fuel cell light vehicles will be commercially launched in 2014 predicts Pike, and their sales will reach almost 670,000 vehicles per year by 2020.

Pike Research forecasts that Western Europe will be the leading region for FCV sales with a 37% share of the world market, followed closely by Asia Pacific with 36%.  FCV sales in North America will represent approximately 25% of global sales during the period from 2014 to 2020.  The cleantech market intelligence firm anticipates that FCV revenues will reach $23.9 billion annually by 2020.

Renewable Hydrogen

Energy security advocates like the fact that hydrogen is already produced from many sources. Often the most cost effective way is to reform natural gas (CH4) into hydrogen. In Oakland, AC Transit uses the city’s natural gas pipeline to reform CH4 into hydrogen at the facility where they fuel 12 hydrogen buses.

For the Winter Olympics, hydrogen was produced by electrolysis where H2O separates hydrogen and oxygen. Canada used hydropower for the electrolysis. Waste hydrogen from a chemical plant was also used. In Torrance, a Shell station delivers hydrogen from the pipeline that runs from Torrance to Carson. In that area, pipelined hydrogen is mainly used in refining oil into high-octane gasoline and low-sulfur diesel.

Orange County Sanitation District opened world’s first to source hydrogen from wastewater. The Fountain Valley wastewater facility uses waste gas from water treatment and fuel cell technology to create electricity, heat, and hydrogen—a tri-generation system. As the stationary fuel cell generates heat and 250kW of power for facility use, it also produces 100kg of hydrogen for the vehicle fueling station operated by Air Products.

On October 13, the California Hydrogen Business Council will host an all day meeting about renewable hydrogen. The author of this article, John Addison, will present a scenario to reduce transportation greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent. The presentation will include a portfolio of solutions including transit-oriented development, reduction of vehicle miles travel, hydrogen and electric vehicles. 80/2050 Scenario Paper