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.
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’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
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
Start-Stop Is an Invasion That’s Started – And We’re Not Talking About Hybrids.
It’s coming and it’s coming in a big way. Ford announced last week (Dec. 12, 2013) that 70 percent of its North American vehicle lineup will feature start-stop by 2017, which is essentially tomorrow in the automotive world that is in the 2014 model year and already introducing 2015 models. That came on top of analysts noting that 45 percent of European vehicles already feature start-stop, where it’s more widely accepted. Most current American vehicles featuring start-stop are hybrids, but this new breed takes the technology into a much broader market.
Ford spreads start-stop throughout its lineup
Chevrolet Makes Stop-Start Standard in Malibu
One of the simplest ways to reduce vehicle fuel consumption is to shut off the engine when it is not being actively used. Other than hypermilers, few of us turn the engine off when we stop at a traffic light or when at a fast food drive-thru and turn it on when it’s time to go – and in many older cars it might not even result in real fuel savings. That’s where stop-start technology comes in, so get ready for its invasion. In simple words, stop-start systems automatically shut the engine off every time the vehicle stops, such as at a traffic signal, and restart it instantly when needed.
The idea of stop-start dates back to the 1930s, and its use can be traced back to the 1980s by European automakers Volkswagen and Fiat. Gasoline-electric hybrids from Honda and Toyota introduced American drivers to stop-start systems more than a decade ago. Today, it is a feature of every hybrid vehicle in the market. For conventional gas- or diesel-powered non-hybrid vehicles, stop-start is a relatively low-tech, low-cost solution that moderately improves fuel economy as well as reducing tailpipe emissions.
These systems are also known as micro hybrids, start-stop, idle-stop, idle-elimination, and a variety of names branded by automakers such as Auto Start-Stop (Ford) and Eco Start/Stop (Mercedes-Benz).
Fuel Economy Savings
Depending on the system design and driving environment, stop-start by itself can add 3-10 percent to MPG numbers. Combined with other fuel efficiency technologies such as direct fuel injection, electric power steering, electric-powered air conditioning compressors, as well as regenerative braking, fuel economy gains can reach 15-20 percent improvement. Stop-start systems make an appealing option for automakers: they don’t require serious design or engineering changes, unlike hybrids and electric vehicles, and the benefits can quickly outweigh the relatively small cost.
Since stop-start operates when the engine is warm and lubricated, there is very little, if any, additional engine wear. They do demand, however, a lot from vehicle batteries. In addition to calling on the battery for engine ignition and starter-motor several dozen times a day, it must provide electrical power for climate control systems and maintain audio and lighting each time the engine shuts down.
Bring in the New Batteries
Conventional 12-volt lead-acid batteries aren’t designed for such punishment so automakers are turning to what’s called Absorbed Glass Matt (AGM) batteries. An AGM battery’s advantage is it recharges up to five times faster and can be deeply discharged with no damage. Like all automotive batteries, it will need replacement. Be prepared to spend two to three times the cost of a regular 12-volt battery. In addition to an upgraded battery, stop-start requires a beefier starter/alternator. Also, specific software programming is required to ensure the system performs properly. That means when the brake pedal is released – or clutch pedal if equipped with a manual transmission – the vehicle takes off quickly as well as smoothly.
Here They Come
In 2003, General Motors began offering stop-start on its full-size Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. With a 295 horsepower 5.3-liter V-8 and a four-speed automatic transmission, the EPA estimated city fuel economy at 16 MPG was 2 mpg better than the standard model (Highway fuel economy was the same at 19 MPG since start-stop has little impact in that mode.). For a variety of reasons, including a $2,500 additional cost, GM ended sales in 2006 with only a few thousand sold.
Production vehicles with stop-start technology began emerging in Europe in 2007. This was in response to stringent and escalating European emissions targets. The European Union has mandated that automakers’ fleets average 130 grams of CO2 per kilometer by 2015, with a target of 95 grams by 2020 – slightly more efficient than the 54.5 mpg proposed by the Obama administration. Today, nearly 50 percent of all light-duty vehicles sold in Europe are equipped with stop-start systems. That includes high-end performance cars from Ferrari and Lamborghini. Lux Research, a global automotive market research firm that has analyzed start-stop technology for several years, predicts that the European stop-start market will grow from more than 4 million units in 2011 to nearly 13 million units by 2017. European automakers began exporting vehicles with stop-start to the United States in 2012, including Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Added in 2013 were cars from Porsche, Jaguar and Volvo.
Prompted by the government’s CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) increase to 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016 and a requirement of automakers to raise the average fuel efficiency of new cars and trucks to 54.5 mpg by 2025, U.S. automakers are also turning to stop-start. In 2012, General Motor’s Buick division introduced a sophisticated stop-start system to its mid-size LaCrosse sedan. Called eAssist by GM, the system is now available on the Buick Regal and Chevrolet’s Malibu. Ford and Chrysler each put their toes in the start-stop water in 2013. Ford’s system is available on the 2014 Fusion SE sedan as a $295 option, while Chrysler’s stop-start is standard on the 2014 Ram 1500 HFE pickup truck. Chevrolet also added a no cost light stop-start system (see below) to the base Malibu model. The numbers may be small now but Lux Research has forecast that the North American stop-start market will grow from minimal in 2011 to more than 8 million by 2017.
Stop-Start System Types
Not all stop-start systems are created equal. Lux Research segregates stop-start systems into three broad classes: light, medium and heavy.
The most simple and least expensive, light stop-start systems employ a higher durability starter and a more powerful and longer lasting battery. Also, the engine controller requires reprogramming to pre-position the fuel injection system, starter and transmission to provide instant engine restart when the driver either releases the brake or clutch pedal. Most light stop-start systems include a driver-selectable on-off switch, and some add a small auxiliary battery to eliminate a momentary dimming of lights or slowing of the air-conditioning fan when the engine stops and starts. Extreme hot or cold weather can prevent systems from activating.
The light stop-start feature doesn’t use an electric motor and batteries to move the car down the road and is not considered a hybrid by many standards. Because of their mechanical simplicity, a stand-alone light stop-start system only costs $300-$400 more than a conventional vehicle. Fuel economy improvement is 3-5 percent, slightly more if most of the driving occurs on city streets and stop-and-go traffic. The majority of stop-start systems employed in gas-powered vehicles sold in the U.S. fall into the light category.
Like a light stop-start system, a medium stop-start version uses a beefed-up starter, more powerful battery and usually an auxiliary battery. In many medium systems, an enhanced alternator is used that allows regenerative braking to recharge the auxiliary battery, usually a small lithium-ion. Medium start-stop systems add $500 to $700 to the price of a conventional vehicle. Fuel economy improvement is 7-12 percent, and again, slightly more if most of the driving occurs on city streets and stop-and-go traffic. There is yet a vehicle with medium start-stop to be offered in the U.S.
Heavy stop-start systems offer the highest level of functionally. They are most often a design called Belt Alternator Starter (BAS) or, in Europe, Belt-Driven Starter-Generator (BSG). A BAS is integrated into the belt drive system of a conventional combustion engine. It replaces the belt driven alternator with an electric motor that serves as a generator and a motor. Thus, when the engine is running, the motor acting as a generator will charge a separate battery. When the engine needs to be started, the motor then applies its torque via the accessory belt, and cranks the engine instead of using the starter motor. The separate battery is also recharged via a regenerative braking system.
In this scheme, the motor/generator is made larger than a standard starter motor so more torque can be generated when in the motoring mode. This allows for quicker starts of the engine, and makes the stop-start operation possible. A BAS system is fairly sophisticated and, in addition to the stop-start function, can enhance fuel economy even during highway driving by cutting off the fuel supply when cruising or decelerating. Some systems can also provide some electric assist to the engine during acceleration, but not all-electric operation – thus the term “micro-hybrid.”
When an automatic transmission is part of the drivetrain equipped with BAS, an auxiliary electric-driven oil pump is added to the transmission. This keeps it primed and the fluid flowing when the engine shuts down at a stop. That sustains the transmission’s readiness to perform when the driver accelerates. A BAS heavy stop-start system can add $1,000 to $2,000 to the price of a car, but fuel economy gains are 15-25 percent or more. GM’s eAssist is considered a heavy system.
Actual Mileage Will Vary
In its recently published Fuel Economy Guide for model-year 2014 vehicles www.fueleconomy.gov , the federal Environmental Protection Agency notes for the first time vehicles with stop-start with the abbreviation “SS.” It includes both conventional as well as hybrid powertrains. What the guide doesn’t tell you is the official EPA fuel efficiency test cycle doesn’t include much idling time. Therefore, fuel savings provided by stop-start aren’t reflected in the official fuel economy ratings. That will change when the new 2017-’25 fuel-efficiency standards are published. It will include extra credit for “off-cycle” systems such as engine stop-start. Until then, you will just have to trust that the stop-start fuel economy gains claimed by auto companies are truthful.
It would appear that there are no reasons to doubt them. Though battery electric vehicles are the current sexy topic, stop-start is poised to become the real fuel saving technology revolution in automotive history. The reason for the breakneck ramp up is simple – it works and it doesn’t cost that much. Stop-start technology won’t be optional, but will soon be standard equipment. So, don’t be surprised if the next car, truck or SUV you purchase shuts off its engine at the first stop light – and enjoy the fuel savings it offers.
Photos from the manufacturers
Other related stories you might enjoy:
Overview: Ford Fusion With Start-Stop
The Top 10 Best Fuel Economy Cars for 2014
Cars & Technology of the Future
Top 10 Markets for Electric Cars
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
Related stories you might like:
Luxury Electric Car Market Heats Up
Cars & Technology of the Future
How To Find the Best Price For an Electric Car
By John Addison
Excerpt from the Prologue of Save Gas, Save the Planet: John Addison’s book about hybrid and electric cars, pathways to low carbon driving, and the future of sustainable transportation. © 2009 John Addison. All rights reserved.
Your vehicle is your second biggest expense. You spend the most on your home, which can be a good investment; a car can only be a big expense. Save Gas, Save the Planet is full of ways to save money and use less gasoline. People share tips and stories about how they save by riding smart, riding less, riding together, and riding clean.
A study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) shows that the average cost of owning and operating a passenger vehicle is 54.1 cents per mile.The IRS allows you to deduct 55 cents per mile for business. This is over $8,000 per year per vehicle, based on 15,000 miles of driving. Depreciation is part of that cost. Anyone who has bought a car for $20,000 and later sold it for $5,000 understands depreciation. Fuel, maintenance, tolls, parking, insurance, and tickets add up. Most households have two vehicles, costing them over $16,000 per year. New cars are expensive. Save Gas, Save the Planet will help you decide on the best choice for you. Electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and new fuels are explained including your choices today and by the end of 2010. Yes, better technology will help solve the problems of oil addiction and increased greenhouse gases. However, we are forecasted to expand from 800 million cars being driven to triple that amount. 2.4 billion cars trapped in gridlock are not the solution, even if they all run on renewable electricity.
Most do not need to rush into a new car decision. Millions are cutting car use by more often riding together and driving less. Many people are reducing the total number of vehicles they own. More are switching to transit and car-sharing programs. A growing number enjoy living car-free.
Save Gas, Save the Planet will help you lower your transportation costs. Save 2,000 miles per year by skipping rides, or sharing rides, and you save $1,000 per year. In the United States, people drive alone 93 percent of the time. Eliminating a few solo trips quickly adds up.
We drive 2.7 trillion miles per year in the United States, consuming 142 billion gallons of gasoline. In addition to the petroleum used to make that gasoline, a similar quantity of petroleum is used to produce the diesel demanded by heavy-duty vehicles, jet fuel for airplanes, special fuels for the military, and even for the asphalt that carries our vehicles.
We have more than 240 million vehicles in the United States; there are more vehicles than eligible drivers. The number of miles Americans drive has tripled in the past 50 years.
In addition to personally saving thousands, you can help the nation save billions. The United States government estimates that congestion created from commuting to and from work causes 3.7 billion hours of lost productivity annually, costing 92 million work-weeks and the nation $63 billion in wasted time and fuel. People stuck in traffic breathe harmful emissions such as particulates, nitrous oxide, and carbon monoxide. The health costs resulting from these pollutants are in the billions. In addition, by the time people get to work, they are stressed and less productive. We are spending more time on the road, stuck in traffic, burning fuel, and emitting pollutants. Instead, we can be intelligent about how we get around, work, shop, connect with others, and save money.
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© 2009 John Addison. All rights reserved.