Fuel economy was on display at the Detroit Auto Show. Even more exciting vehicles will be unveiled at the North American International Auto Show, also in Detroit this week. $100 per barrel oil and new CAFÉ standards have made improved fuel economy mandatory for auto makers.
Most popular with individuals and fleets is the four-door sedan. Over the next three years, there will be a number of affordable offerings with fuel economy from 40 miles per gallon, to infinite miles per gallon.
General Motors (NYSE:GM) continues to draw considerable attention with its Chevy Volt, which will offer 40 mile range in electric mode before its small 1L engine is engaged. 40 miles accommodates the daily range requirements of 78% of all U.S. drivers. The Volt uses an electric drive system with a small ICE in series that is only used to generate added electricity, not give power to the wheels. GM hopes to take orders for the Volt at the end of 2010.
World hybrid leader, Toyota (NYSE:TM), is likely to beat GM to market with a new plug-in hybrid also using lithium batteries. Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe discussed Toyota’s vision:
Sustainable Mobility addresses four key priorities. First, we must address the vehicles themselves and the advanced technologies. Highly advanced conventional engines, plug-in hybrids, fuel cells and clean diesels, as well as many other innovative new technologies, will all play a part. Second, we must address the urban environment, where these new technologies will live. In the future, we foresee ‘mixed mobility,’ combining intelligent highways and mass-transit, bike paths and short-cut walking routes, recharging kiosks and hydrogen fuel stations…. By 2010, we will accelerate our global plug-in hybrid R&D program. As part of this plan, we will deliver a significant fleet of PHEVs powered by lithium-ion batteries to a wide variety of global commercial customers, with many coming to the U.S.
A new offering from China’s leading battery manufacturer, BYD, will bring a plug-in hybrid to market sooner than Toyota and GM and at a lower price. BYD executive Mr. Lin said BYD Auto plans to launch the plug-in hybrid during the Beijing Olympics at a price of less than $30,000 (200,000 Yuan). The company sold about 100,000 cars in China in 2007, he said.
The F6DM (Dual Mode, for EV and HEV), is a variant of the front-wheel drive F6 sedan that BYD introduced into the China market earlier this year, actually offers three modes of operation: full battery-powered EV mode driving its 75 kW, 400 Nm motor; series-hybrid mode, in which a 50 kW, 1.0-liter engine drives a generator as a range-extender; and parallel hybrid mode, in which the engine and motor both provide propulsive power. Expect the BYD F6DM to be selling in the U.S. by early 2010. Green Car Congress
Ford (NYSE:F) announced EcoBoost - this new 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder engine family features turbocharging and gasoline direct injection technology. The EcoBoost technology will deliver approximately 20% better fuel economy and 15% fewer CO2 emissions. The company will introduce EcoBoost on the new Lincoln MKS in 2009. Eventually the technology will be integrated into a range of flex fuel vehicles, which currently suffer from poor gasoline mileage, and 27% worse mileage with E85 ethanol.
Europeans are already enjoying 25% mileage improvements with new turbo diesels with direct injection. Exciting models will be available in the U.S. this year. Daimler (DCX), Audi and Volkswagen (OTCPK:VLKAY), all partners in the BLUETEC clean diesel marketing initiative showed a new Tier 2 Bin 5 compliant (i.e., able to be sold in all 50 states) BLUETEC model at the North American International Autoshow in Detroit
VW is the diesel passenger car sales leader. The Tier 2 Bin 5-compliant 2009 model year Jetta TDI, equipped with the clean diesel engine option, will be on sale later this year. Some drivers may experience over 40 miles per gallon with the Jetta’s efficient 2L four-cylinder engine.
Will we see the combined efficiency of diesel and hybrids? Yes. The Mercedes S 300 BLUETEC HYBRID is a 4-cylinder diesel a with hybrid module that gives it the performance of a V-8. The luxury saloon delivers 44 miles per gallon (5.4L/100km).
The Detroit shows unveiled a dazzling array of muscle trucks, loaded SUV's, hot sport cars, concept electric vehicles, and many model improvements.
Over the next three years, the biggest impact on reduced fuel use and lowered emissions will be in the every popular four-door sedan. Toyota has a commanding lead with over one million four-door Priuses on the road. Soon, Toyota will be selling one million hybrids per year.
Fuel economy improvements in the new vehicles are the result of using lighter materials, better aerodynamic design, lighter and more efficient engines, replacement of more mechanical components with electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid designs.
While some auto executives still think that the key to financial success is yesterday’s big heavy and low-mileage cash cow, others recognize the path to sustained profitability is to deliver great fuel economy in popular full-featured cars. The global race is on. The sure winner is the customer.