By Juan Carlos Zuleta (8/12/10)
On March 29, 2009 I asked myself: Why Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC) dislike lithium? My short answer to that question was: Because it was in their own interest to behave this way.
As is well known, these car makers pioneered the use of hybrid technology with nickel metal hydride batteries. Both created the conditions for a very profitable niche market, the hybrid electric vehicle market. So they had much to gain from delaying the arrival of the real electric car revolution since this would help them make more profits out of a rather obsolete but still commercially viable battery technology until the new emerging battery technology is finally introduced into the market. By doing so, they were also contributing to postponing the arrival of the sixth techno-economic paradigm with lithium as its main factor.
But this, of course, was a flawed strategy. In another blog published in April last year I argued that following a rather cautious and conservative approach to a lithium-based transition to electric propulsion in the global car industry implied their lagging behind General Motors insofar as electric automobile technology.
In a Seeking Alpha article published in July 2009, I went on to argue:
“Until now, most analysts thought that there was no real potential for use of Li-ion batteries in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs). They erroneously believed that Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries were the best choice for today’s HEVs, whereas Li-ion batteries were reserved for tomorrow’s Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV), Range Extended Electric Vehicles (REEVs) and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs).”
This argument, of course, never made sense. It rested on the unreasonable two-fold assumption that Li-ion batteries are not ready for prime-time and that plug-ins (and, for that matter, REEVs and BEVs) are a scam. For one thing, Hitachi’s notice tears apart the first half of the above contention. For another, Toyota’s latest decision to begin mass-producing PHEVs by 2012 and Nissan’s conviction that “now’s time to go electric” completely demolish the second half of it. Indeed one should not be surprised since PHEVs can be really thought of as an extension of HEVs. So if Li-ion batteries are to be used quite soon in plug-ins and both range-extended and battery EVs, then why not utilize them now for conventional hybrids as well?”
And I then concluded:
“Given both GM’s re-launch and Nissan’s renewed financial situation after having been granted a $ 1,6 billion loan to develop advanced Li-ion batteries for its new pure electric car, to retain its largest share in the automobile market of the world, Toyota will probably need to modify significantly its current conservative business strategy.”
As of now, both Toyota and Honda appear to have made some progress in this regard. Toyota has already launched its first 500 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) with Li-ion batteries for testing in Japan, North America and Europe and has recently announced that as part of its new partnership with Tesla it will mass-produce a new version of the all-electric RAV4 also with such advanced battery technology. Honda’s new CEO announced a few weeks ago that in the next-generation Civic Hybrid to be launched in 2011 it will use Li-ion batteries supplied by Blue Energy, a joint venture company between GS Yuasa and Honda.
The question is now whether these efforts will be enough to prevent Hyundai (HYMLF.PK) from leapfrogging them in the hybrid electric car market following its recent announcement that later this year it will launch the 2011 Sonata Hybrid, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid with a lithium-ion battery pack. And the most obvious answer at this point is: Probably not.
So this leads us to a new query: Will Toyota and Honda rethink their business strategy now so as to finally become more aggressive in terms of using Li-ion batteries in their next different car models? And my humble opinion is that chances are they will.
Fuel from Wood and Waste Not Food and Haste
By John Addison (3/6/09)
The 9 billion gallons of ethanol that Americans used last year helped drive down oil prices. For those of us who fuel our vehicles with gasoline, as much as 10 percent of that gasoline is ethanol. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires that more biofuel be used every year until we reach 36 billion gallons by 2022.
Reduced oil prices are good. We can go from good to great, if we move past fuel from food and haste to fuels from wood and waste. Although the economics do not yet favor major production, pilot plants are taking wood and paper waste and converting it to fuel. Other cellulosic material is even more promising. Some grasses, energy crops, and hybrid poplar trees promise zero-emission fuel sources. These plants absorb CO2 and sequester it in the soil with their deep root systems. These plants often grow in marginal lands needing little irrigation and no fertilizers and pesticides, standing in sharp contrast to the industrial agriculture that produces much of our fuel.
Cellulosic biofuels are becoming economic reality. Norampac is the largest manufacturer of containerboard in Canada. Next generation ethanol producer TRI is not only producing fuel, its processes allow the plant to produce 20% more paper. Prior to installing the TRI spent-liquor gasification system the mill had no chemical and energy recovery process. With the TRI system, the plant is a zero effluent operation, and more profitable.
A Khosla Ventures portfolio company is Range Fuels which sees fuel potential from timber harvesting residues, corn stover (stalks that remain after the corn has been harvested), sawdust, paper pulp, hog manure, and municipal garbage that can be converted into cellulosic ethanol. In the labs, Range Fuels has successfully converted almost 30 types of biomass into ethanol. While competitors are focused on developing new enzymes to convert cellulose to sugar, Range Fuels’ technology eliminates enzymes which have been an expensive component of cellulosic ethanol production. Range Fuels’ thermo-chemical conversion process uses a two step process to convert the biomass to synthesis gas, and then converts the gas to ethanol.
Range Fuels in Georgia is building the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the United States. Phase 1 of the plant is scheduled to complete construction in 2010 with a production capacity of 20 million gallons a year. The plant will grow to be a 100-million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant that will use wood waste from Georgia’s forests as its feedstock.
Over one billion people are hungry or starving. Agricultural expert Lester Brown reports, “The grain required to fill an SUV’s 25-gallon tank with ethanol just once will feed one person for a whole year.”
Corn ethanol that is transported over 1,000 miles on a tanker truck, and then delivered as E85 into a flexfuel vehicle that fails to deliver 20 miles per gallon is bad. GM and Ford have pushed flexfuel vehicles that can run on gasoline or E85, which is a blend with as much as 85 percent ethanol. For the 2009 model year, the best rated car running on E85 in the United States was the Chevrolet HHR using a stick-shift, with a United States EPA gasoline mileage rating of 26 miles per gallon, and an E85 rating of only 19 miles per gallon.
In other words, if you passed on using E85 and drove a hybrid with good mileage, you would double miles per gallon and produce far less greenhouse gas emissions than any U.S. flexfuel offering. Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Four-Door Sedans for 2009
The problem is not the idea of flexfuel. You can get a flexfuel vehicle with good mileage in Brazil. The problem is that GM and Ford used their flexfuel strategy as an eay way out, instead of making the tougher choices to truly embrace hybrids and real fuel efficiency. Flexfuel buying credits and ethanol subsidies have created incentives to buy cars that fail to cut emissions.
A new paper – Economic and Environmental Transportation Effects of Large-Scale Ethanol Production and Distribution in the United States – documents that the cost and emissions from transporting ethanol long-distance is much higher than previously thought. Ethanol is transported by tanker truck, not by pipeline, although Brazil will experiment with pipeline transportation.
It’s a tough time to make money with ethanol. Major players, like Verasun, are in bankruptcy. For the industry, stranded assets are being sold for pennies on the dollar. With thin margins, low oil prices, and high perceived risk, it is difficult to get a new plant financed.
Activists worry about oil refiners, such as Valero, offering to buy ethanol producers such as Verasun. But oil companies can bring needed financing, program management, and blending of next generation biofuels with existing petroleum refined gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.
Government mandates for more ethanol do not match today’s reality. Subsidies to industrial corn agriculture are not good uses of taxpayer money. Encouraging federal, state, and local governments with their 4 million vehicles to give priority to flexfuel vehicles with lousy mileage is government waste.
Not all government help is misplaced. Range Fuels large-scale cellulosic ethanol production was helped with an $80 million loan guarantee. The loan guarantee falls under the Section 9003 Biorefinery Assistance Program authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill, which provides loan guarantees for commercial-scale biorefineries and grants for demonstration-scale biorefineries that produce advanced biofuels or any fuel that is not corn- based.
Beautiful is the transition to electric drive systems and the development of next generation biofuels. Last year, Americans in record numbers road electric light-rail in record numbers. In 2008, Americans drove 100 billion miles less than 2007. Americans also drove 40,000 electric vehicles.
Critics and special interests try to stop the shift to electric vehicles by wrongly stating that if there is coal power used, then there are no benefits. Mitsubishi estimates that its electric vehicle is 67 percent efficient, in contrast to a 15 percent efficient gasoline vehicle. Efficient electric drive systems lower lifecycle emissions. With the growth of wind, solar, geothermal, and other renewables, lifecycle emissions from electric transportation will continue to fall. For example, my main mode of transportation is electric buses and rail that use hydropower. My backup mode is a Toyota Prius that I share with my wife.
Long-term we will continue to see the growth of electric drive systems in hybrid cars, plug-in hybrids, battery electric, fuel cell vehicles, light-rail, and high-speed rail. Over decades, the use of internal combustion engines will decrease, but the transition will take decades, especially for long-haul trucks. During these decades we can benefit from next generation biofuels that will replace corn ethanol and biodiesel from food sources.
Shell has a five-year development agreement with Virent, which takes biomass and converts it to gasoline – biogasoline. Gasoline, after all, is a complex hydrocarbon molecule that can be made from feedstock other than petroleum. Unlike ethanol, biogasoline has the same energy content as gasoline. Unlike cellulosic ethanol alternatives, Virent produces water using a bioforming process, rather than consuming valuable water. Virent has multi-million dollar investments form from Cargill, Honda, and several venture capital firms. Biogasoline will be its major initial focus. Its technology can also be used to produce hydrogen, biodiesel, and bio jet fuel.
Sapphire is an exciting new biofuels company backed with over $100 million investment from firms such as ARCH Venture Partners, the Wellcome Trust, Cascade Investment, and Venrock. The biotech firm has already produced 91-octane gasoline that conforms to ASTM certification, made from a breakthrough process that produces crude oil directly from sunlight, CO2 and photosynthetic microorganisms, beginning with algae.
The process is not dependent on food crops or valuable farmland, and is highly water efficient. “It’s hard not to get excited about algae’s potential,” said Paul Dickerson, chief operating officer of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy “Its basic requirements are few: CO2, sun, and water. Algae can flourish in non-arable land or in dirty water, and when it does flourish, its potential oil yield per acre is unmatched by any other terrestrial feedstock.”
Scale is a major challenge. Producing a few gallons per day in a lab is not the same as producing 100 million gallons per year at a lower cost than the petroleum alternative. Yet, some of our best minds are optimistic that it will happen in the next few years. We will see fuel from marginal lands, from crops and algae that sequester carbon emissions. The fuel will blend with existing gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, and run in all engines, not just those with low mileage.
Some think that such a transition is as impossible as an interception with a 100 yard run for a touchdown in a Superbowl. It is exciting when the impossible happens.
John Addison is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – which is now available at Amazon. He publishes the Clean Fleet Report.
By John Addison. Toyota achieves a record 50 miles per gallon with the new 2010 Prius, which just made its formal debut at the North American International Auto Show. This article also covers Toyota’s latest plug-in hybrid and EV announcements.
2010 Toyota Prius with Solar Moonroof
Since the Prius was first went on sale in Japan in 1997, continuous improvements have been made. My 2002 Prius has a combined EPA rating of 41, and that has been its actual mileage. Newer models are rated at 46 mpg. The new 2010 should be rated at 50 miles per gallon, or better. Toyota
In addition to normal driving, Prius now comes with three selectable modes – EV, Eco and Power – to accommodate a wide range of driving conditions.
Hybrid components like the inverter, motor, and generator are now smaller and lighter. The new midsized 2010 Prius improves fuel efficiency with a 0.25 coefficient of drag making it the world’s most aerodynamic production vehicle. Hybrid components like the inverter, motor, and generator are now smaller and lighter. The new beltless 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder gas engine with 98 horsepower, runs at lower RPMs at highway speeds for better fuel efficiency and improved uphill performance. An exhaust heat recovery system, exhaust gas recirculation, and an electric water pump contribute to a more efficient hybrid system with a net horsepower rating of 134.
An exciting new option is the solar moonroof using Kyocera PV that automatically powers a ventilation system on hot days. This system allows fresh air to circulate into the vehicle, cooling down the cabin so that the A/C doesn’t have to work as hard, conserving battery power. The solar roof will be paired with a remote air-conditioning system that is the first in the world to run on battery power alone. LED head lamps are another exciting energy saving option.
Better mileage is also the result of using lighter materials. Weight was saved through use of aluminum in the hood, rear hatch, and some other components. Toyota uses plant-derived, carbon-neutral plastics in the 2010 Prius. This “ecological plastic” will be used in the seat cushion foam, cowl side trim, inner and outer scuff plates, and deck trim cover.
The new Prius will get an enthusiastic greeting from the owners who now drive over 1 million Priuses and have put over 37 billion miles on their hybrids.
Toyota is also accelerating its roll-out of plug-in hybrids. Beginning in late 2009, Toyota will start global delivery of 500 Prius plug-in hybrids powered by lithium-ion batteries. Of these initial vehicles, 150 will be placed with U.S. lease-fleet customers.
The first-generation lithium-ion batteries powering these plug-in hybrids will be built on an assembly line at Toyota’s Panasonic EV Energy Company battery plant, a joint-venture production facility in which Toyota owns 60 percent equity. During its development, the new Prius was designed and engineered to package either the lithium-ion battery pack with plug-in capability, or the nickel-metal hydride battery for the conventional gas-electric system.
The Prius will face increased competition. The new Honda Insight 4-door sedan, 5-seater, with an Ecological Drive Assist System is expected to be priced for thousands less than the Prius. Honda will start selling the Insight in North America in spring 2009. The Insight will have a combined EPA rating of 41 miles per gallon, over 20 percent less than the 2010 Prius.
The new Ford Fusion Hybrid midsize 4-door sedan will be on sale in the US this next spring, with an EPA certified 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid may travel up to 47 miles per hour in pure electric mode. The Advanced Intake Variable Cam Timing allows the Fusion and Milan hybrids to more seamlessly transition between gas and electric modes.
Toyota plans to make a hybrid drive system optional on all vehicles by 2020. At the North American International Auto Show, Toyota confirmed its plan to launch a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) by 2012. The FT-EV concept shares its platform with the revolutionary-new iQ urban commuter vehicle. Toyota continues to give customers an increasingly exciting selection of fuel-efficient hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles.
John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. His new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – goes on sale March 25.
Honda Insight to Underprice Toyota Prius
The four-door sedan continues to be a popular vehicle for fleets and for individuals. These sedans often deliver the right amount of space for 4 or 5 passengers and enough cargo space for a taxi. The following 10 four-door sedans have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per mile of any vehicles available for volume commercial sales in the United States in 2009. In many cases, they also have the best fuel economy. All can achieve freeway speeds. Buying these clean cars often gives fleets tax breaks and special funding opportunities.
Reduced greenhouse gas emissions are becoming a priority with fleet managers and millions of conscientious consumers. These Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Four-Doors are listed from lowest to highest in carbon footprint.
- Toyota Prius
- Honda Civic Hybrid
- Honda Insight
- Ford Fusion Hybrid
- Nissan Altima Hybrid
- Honda Civic CNG
- Toyota Camry Hybrid
- Toyota Yaris
- Chevrolet Aveo
- Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 will be a challenging year for automakers. This list is likely to change with new announcements and also because at least one on the list may not be announced for volume fleet availability.
This list was developed by first searching the U.S. EPA and DOE’s valuable fueleconomy.gov, with its extensive search capabilities. The EPA combined miles per gallon rating is based on 45% highway and 55% city driving. The carbon footprint is carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) based on 15,000 miles of driving, using the GREET 1.7 model.
Fleets are also early adopters of vehicles with even less emissions including electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell, plug-in hybrid conversions, and diesel hybrid concept cars. Because these are not offered for commercial volume sale, they are not part of this Top 10 Four-Door Sedan list. Electric and alt-fuel vehicles are also covered in detail at Clean Fleet Report.
The Toyota Prius continues to lead the four-door sedan field in fuel economy and lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. This perennial favorite midsize is lowest on the list with 4 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for the EPA annual driving cycle; combined fuel economy is 46 mpg. Yes, 4 tons of CO2e is a lot; by comparison the 2009 Lamborghini Murcielago rates at 18.3 tons and only gets 10 mpg. Sorry fleet managers, you’ll need to take that Lamborghini out of the budget. At the North American International Auto Show, Toyota announced the 2010 Prius with an expected 50 mpg combined and an optional solar roof option to power accessories and thereby boost mileage. Prius
The Honda Civic Hybrid compact rates at 4.4 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 42 mpg. Civic Hybrid
The new Honda Insight four-door sedan with an Ecological Drive Assist System is priced for thousands less than the Prius. Honda will start selling the Insight in North America in spring 2009. The Insight will deliver 41 mpg combined, with annual emissions of about 4.5 tons of CO2e. Honda Insight
The Ford Fusion Hybrid midsized sedan will be on sale in the US by next spring, with an EPA certified 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Clean Fleet Report makes an unofficial estimate that emissions will be 4.8 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle. The Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid may travel up to 47 miles per hour in pure electric mode. The Advanced Intake Variable Cam Timing allows the Fusion and Milan hybrids to more seamlessly transition between gas and electric modes. Green Car Congress
The Nissan Altima Hybrid also delivers good mileage for a midsize, benefiting from Nissan’s continuously variable transmission technology. The EPA rating is 5.4 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 34 mpg.
The Honda Civic CNG emits 5.4 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 28 mpg equivalent. This vehicle is popular with fleets that also want to reduce their criteria pollutant emissions and have their own CNG fueling. Heavy CNG buying accelerated last year when oil prices soared.
Toyota Camry Hybrid delivers good mileage for a midsize with an automatic transmission. The EPA rating is 5.4 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 34 mpg. Toyota has been showing a concept Camry CNG Hybrid which would lower CO2e to only 4.6 tons should Toyota decide to offer it to fleets.
Toyota Yaris is a less expensive subcompact, when priced in comparison to the larger hybrids listed above. The Yaris delivers good mileage for this affordable subcompact when using a 5-speed stick, and is respectable with an automatic. The Yaris has a 5.7 ton CO2e footprint and a combined 32 mpg rating. Yaris
The Chevrolet Aveo is a pick for fleets that prefer to buy from a company headquartered in the United States. This affordable compact delivers good mileage with a manual 5-speed, delivering an EPA rating is 6.1 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 30 mpg.
The Volkswagen Jetta TDI delivers very good freeway mileage for this turbodiesel which outperforms many hybrids. This VW rates at 6.2 tons of equivalent for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 34 mpg with a 6-speed shift. The mileage is equally good in the SportsWagen version, and almost as good with an automatic transmission. Drivers often report getting over 40 mpg.
Carbon emissions are of growing concern. Government fleets are showing leadership in transportation solutions with shrinking carbon footprints. The stock market is favoring corporations that are sustainable. As states implement climate solution law, lowering CO2e is critical. California, in 2009 has the CO2e emission standard of 323 grams per mile for passenger and light-duty vehicles. The standard drops each year to 205 grams per mile.
Not considered in this Top 10 list are vehicles with the lowest smog-forming emissions, once the only factor considered by government regulators and buyers. In general, vehicles with low greenhouse gas emissions are low in criteria pollutants.
The list should be more exciting in 2010. During 2009, expanded fleet trials of plug-in hybrids, fuel cell vehicles, and electric vehicles are on-going.
Fleets need wide range of vehicles. The 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid has more cargo space and a smaller carbon footprint (5.7 tons) and better mileage (32 mpg) than some of the above sedans. The optional AWD is desirable where roads get icy. With a common drive system, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid and Mazda Tribute Hybrid deliver the same carbon footprint and respectable mileage.
Delivering lower emissions than some on the list is the Honda Fit, which is a four-door small station wagon with a carbon footprint of only 5.9 tons of CO2e. Honda is developing an even more efficient Fit Hybrid which it is likely to commercialize in Japan and possibly the U.S.
If you are planning to buy any four-door sedans, this list may be a good starting point. The focus is on low CO2e emissions and likely commercial availability in the United States, thereby excluding some of the small diesel wonders in Europe and electric vehicles in Asia. Some people will need larger sedans, while others will need affordable small cars, including small station wagons and two-doors which are not part of the list. Executives and sales managers that once required luxury sedans may now insist on one of the green alternatives in the Clean Fleet Report Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Four-Door Sedans for 2009.
By John Addison (11/24/08). The Volkswagen Jetta TDI was just selected “Green Car of the Year” by Green Car. Last June, I test drove the new Volkswagen Jetta TDI Diesel. It accelerated on to the freeway faster than my Toyota Prius. Driving freeways and stop-go city, I wondered which would be the bigger seller, the new European turbodiesels or the Japanese Hybrids.
Considering that diesel dominates Europe’s car market, we can expect turbodiesel manufacturers to give their hybrid counterparts a run for their money in the United States.
The VW Jetta TDI Diesel has an EPA rated mileage on 41 mpg highway and 30 city with a 6-speed stick; 40/29 with an automatic. With 140 horsepower, the Jetta has plenty of performance. The diesel Jetta has a combined EPA rating of 33, compared with 25 for its gasoline cousin. In other words, diesel delivers over 30 percent better mileage, making a real difference to the pocket book even with diesel fuel’s higher prices, and to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Over 1.5 million Toyota Priuses are now on the road. The 2008 Priuses has an EPA rated mileage of 48 city and 45 highway. Notice that this hybrid with regenerative braking actually gets better mileage in stop and go than on freeways where there is added wind resistance. The Prius computer automatically disengages the engine most of the time when stopped and going slowly, making it more quiet than diesels. The Prius has a bit more passenger room than the Jetta. Both have the same trunk space.
Using both an electric motor and an engine, the Prius has always delivered more performance than I’ve needed, whether accelerating on a freeway or climbing a steep and icy mountain road. With its powerful electric motor, the Prius has plenty of torque and good acceleration.
Honda is not happy with Toyota’s success in selling four hybrids for everyone that Honda has sold. In John Murphy’s interview with Honda about their green image, Honda CEO Mr. Fukui stated that “Honda’s image was better but has evened out with [Toyota] because of the strong image of one single model, the Prius, which Honda feels is a problem. Next year, we will come up with a dedicated hybrid vehicle. We feel this model will have to overwhelm and overtake Prius.” It is rumored that the new Honda hybrid will be priced well under $20,000 and reach a broader market. Wall Street Journal Interview.
In the next two years, Honda is also likely to bring diesels to the U.S. including the Acura, the Odyssey minivan, and the CR-V SUV.
In the USA, many prefer SUVs to sedans. SUVs have more cargo space. Some can seat more than five people, but not the more fuel efficient SUVs. They ride higher. Some drivers feel safer, although sedans like the Prius and Jetta score better than some SUVs in front and rear collisions and are loaded with air bags and advanced vehicle controls.
The Ford Escape Hybrid is the most fuel efficient SUV on the market with an EPA rating of 34 mpg highway and 30 city. The VW Tiguan is a somewhat comparable compact SUV, but less fuel efficient with 26 mpg highway and 19 city using a six-speed shift; and only 24/18 with an automatic. The Tiguan is a light-duty vehicle that is roomy with 95 cubic feet for passengers and 24 for cargo. Drop the back seat and you have 56 for cargo.
The new VW Jetta Sportswagen offers many SUV lovers with an appealing alternative. It achieves the same mileage as the Jetta sedan of 41 mpg highway and 30 city with a 6-speed stick; 40/29 with an automatic. With 33 cargo cubic feet, it beats SUVs like the Escape and Tiguan. Drop the back seat and you have 67 cubic feet. Watch VW take market share from SUVs that get half the miles per gallon of this new turbo diesel.
The Prius, Jetta, Jetta Sportswagen, Tiguan and Escape all seat five people. All have ways to accommodate a fair amount of cargo when the back seat is dropped. The four-door sedans offer much better fuel economy. In the new era of $4 per gallon gas prices, sedans are gaining market share at the expense of SUVs and light trucks, like the once best selling Ford F150.
For those who enjoy both performance and luxury, Mercedes and BMW have new turbo diesel cars with about 30% better fuel economy than their gasoline counterparts. Last summer when I was treated to test drives of the Mercedes E320 Bluetec and the BMW 535D. I was impressed with the quiet, smooth, performance of these larger sedans and with the roomy luxurious experience. Mercedes and BMW are also bringing concept hybrid diesels to auto shows.
The new turbo diesels are not your diesels of the past. They are quiet. I could smell no emissions. Emissions are far lower than those of the previous decade, meeting the tough new 50 state requirements including using ultra-low sulfur diesel.
The automakers do not want you to put B100 biodiesel in these new engines with common rail and very high pressure injection. When I met with Volkswagen on June 12, they explained that they warranty to B20 in Europe and only B5 in the U.S. Biodiesel’s Future
For the moment gasoline hybrids give most people better fuel economy than the new turbo diesels in the U.S. The diesel hybrids being developed by VW, Audi, Mercedes, and BMW could change the game. Most significant are diesel plug-in hybrids. The VW Golf TDI Hybrid concept is demonstrating 69 mpg. The full-hybrid supports an all-electric mode.
Volkswagen is serious about hybrids and electric drive systems. In announcing a new lithium-ion venture with Sanyo, Prof. Martin Winterkorn, CEO of the Volkswagen Group stated that VW’s future “will be directed more strongly at making electrically powered automobiles alongside ones driven by more efficient combustion engines.” Volkswagen’s Audi is also demonstrating a plug-in hybrid concept Quattro.
Toyota is well aware of the success of diesel in Europe. Toyota is developing an advanced diesel engine in both the Tundra and Sequoia. Toyota plans to expand its use of hybrids in a wide-range of vehicles. Currently Toyota is constrained by trying to increase battery manufacturing enough to meet its current exploding demand for hybrids. Toyota also plans a plug-in hybrid by the end of 2010.
General Motors does not intend to watch Asia and European rivals take all its market share. In late 2010, it plans to offer both gasoline and diesel plug-in hybrids that will give the average driver over 100 miles per gallon. In the USA it will introduce the Chevy Volt gasoline plug-in hybrid. In Europe, GM will sell a diesel plug-in hybrid under the Opel brand.
Are there other offerings of hybrids, diesels, and other fuel efficient alternatives? Yes. A good starting point to compare vehicles is at the EPA’s Fuel Economy site.
Different people need different types of vehicles. Hybrids benefit everyone who spends part of their driving in cities and/or stop-go traffic. The new turbo diesels tend to get thirty percent better performance than their gasoline counterparts. Two long-term trends are converging – the expanded use of more fuel-efficient diesel engines and the expanded use of electric drive systems for hybrids, plug-in hybrids and for electric vehicles.
Cleaner vehicles, however, are not the whole solution. When gasoline hit $4 per gallon, Marcia and Christian convinced a car dealer to take their two vehicles as trade-in, including a large SUV, for one more fuel efficient SUV. Living and working in a city, only one vehicle was needed because both could use public transportation and car pool with friends. They save over $5,000 per year by sharing one vehicle. Now that is a real solution to save at the pump and help all of us by saving emissions.
By John Addison, Publisher of the Clean Fleet Report.