Electric Vehicles

Eminently Efficient

November 2011, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Chris Wolski


At a Glance

The MY-2012 OEM models are highlighting an increasing variety of alternative- and super-efficient fuel technologies, including:

  • Compressed natural gas.
  • All-electric and extend-range electric.
  • Hybrid-electric.

Just a few years ago, all-electric, hybrid, and super fuel-efficient vehicles were ideas that resided on engineering drawing boards and in the imaginations of fleet managers. Today, MY-2012 is packed with a plethora of alt-fuel and super-efficient gasoline-powered vehicles, making the upcoming model-year something of a tipping point for green vehicles.

Gasoline

Gasoline is the standard by which all other fuel technologies are measured, and today’s vehicles are becoming ever-more efficient.

For instance, the Mazda3 SKYACTIV enters 2012 offering significantly improved fuel economy thanks to its SKYACTIV technology, part of the Sustainable Zoom Zoom initiative. The 2012 Mazda3 is the first vehicle to make use of this technology in the United States, which is designed to improve fuel economy and lower emissions while, at the same time, improving driving performance using standard gasoline. This includes not only the 155 hp 2.0L engine and transmission, which generates 148 lb.-ft. of torque, but the body structure, platform, suspension design, and all other elements of the car are optimized for better performance. The Mazda3 SKYACTIV has a fuel economy of 28 mpg city/40 hwy for a 15-percent improvement over the current 2.0L engine. The next phase of the SKYACTIV initiative will see the launch of a CX-5 crossover.

The Chrysler 300 is equipped with an  all-new 8-speed 3.6L Pentastar V-6 that is 50-state compatible for flex-fuel efficiency. It and the Dodge Charger, which is also equipped with the Pentastar V-6, have a fuel economy of 19 mpg on the EPA city cycle — an increase of 5 percent over last year’s 5-speed automatic. With eight speeds, driving at a lower rpm in both city and highway environments also effectively helps reduce emissions by nearly 11 percent.

The 2012 Fiat 500 compact vehicle boasts a world-class 1.4L engine with MultiAir technology to reduce emissions while delivering up to 10-percent better power and fuel efficiency.

The Dodge Charger’s 8-speed 3.6L Pentastar V-6 engine provides the Charger SE with increased fuel economy when compared to the previous entry-level 3.5L V-6 engine. The Dodge Charger features more than 65 safety and security features, including standard Keyless Enter-N-Go and electronic stability control (ESC) with segment-exclusive Ready Alert Braking and Rain Brake Support safety features to improve overall vehicle handling and performance.

The Nissan Versa Sedan features a second-generation 1.6L HR16DE four-cylinder engine, which includes a range of cutting-edge technologies such as a dual fuel injector system, which allows a wider injection of fuel, with the smaller nozzles delivering a finer spray to help achieve more complete combustion. The fuel economy is rated at 30 mpg city/38 hwy/33 comb with the CVT transmission, and 27 mpg city/36 mpg hwy/30 comb. with the 5-speed manual transmission. The next-generation Xtronic CVT transmission adds an auxiliary gearbox using planetary gearing, helping to enhance efficiency.

Ford’s EcoBoost technology and twin independent variable cam timing (Ti-VCT) are featured on several of its vehicles, including a 3.5L EcoBoost for its F-Series, 2.0L EcoBoost for its Edge and Explorer, and the company’s new Escape will be introduced with 1.6L and 2.0L four-cylinder EcoBoost. The Escape will also be available with a 2.5L Ti-VCT four-cylinder. The 1.6L EcoBoost engine, which uses turbocharging, Ti-VCT, and direct injection to deliver the same performance as a larger engine, is making its North American debut in the Escape. It is expected to deliver even higher highway fuel economy than the current Escape Hybrid, which is EPA-rated at 31 mpg. Ford’s EcoBoost technology will be featured in 90 percent of its vehicles by 2013. EcoBoost increases fuel economy up to 20 percent while reducing CO2 emissions by up to 15 percent.

Diesel

Diesels are also getting more fuel efficient.

The 2012-MY Audi A3 is available with a 2.0L TDI clean diesel engine, which produces an outstanding 236 lb.-ft. of torque. Adding to its credentials the Audi A3 TDI was recently awarded the 2010 green vehicle of the year. Additionally, the Audi A3 TDI has been rated by the U.S. EPA at 30 mpg city/42 hwy, making it one of the most fuel efficient vehicles available in today’s marketplace.

 The Audi Q7 features a standard 8-speed tiptronic transmission combined with a 3.0L TDI engine that produces 225 hp and 406 lb.-ft. of torque. This combination provides more torque than a conventional V-8. The Audi Q7 is rated to pull 6,600 lbs. tongue weight when equipped with the available tow package. Both the Audi A3 and Q7 TDI offer a 25-percent reduction in CO2 emissions compared to their comparable gasoline counterparts, making them a cleaner alternative in all 50 states.

The Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTEC 4MATIC sedan is equipped with a 3.0L V-6 turbocharged BlueTEC engine that delivers 240 hp, 455 lb.-ft. of torque and fuel economy of 20 mpg city/31 hwy — with a range of up to 700 miles. The BlueTEC technology, which is featured in other sedans and its SUVs, controls emissions by driving exhaust gases through filters to the catalytic converter, emitting harmless nitrogen and water.

Mazda also offers its Mazda3 SKYACTIV in a diesel version.

CNG

While trucks or transit vehicles are commonly powered with compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG), cars have rarely been powered with one of these fuels.

The Honda Civic Natural Gas changed that. Known as the Civic GX from 1998 until 2011, the Civic Natural Gas has a Honda-estimated city/highway/combined fuel economy ratio of 27/38/31 miles per gasoline-gallon equivalent (GGE). Compared to the 2011 model, city fuel economy has been improved by 12.5 percent and highway fuel economy is up by 5.5 percent. The Civic Natural Gas includes Honda’s ECO Assist technology, an innovation that can enhance efficient vehicle operation at the touch of a button while also providing visual feedback to promote and confirm an efficient driving style.

General Motors’ GMC Savana and Chevrolet Express  cargo vans are offered with a CNG option and come with a full five-year /100,000 mile powertrain warranty. The models are available in either a three-tank design with a 16 GGE capacity or a four-tank design with a 23 GGE capacity. They have a range of over 200 and 300 miles respectively. These CNG vans meet GM’s rigorous standards for safety, reliability, and durability.  The vehicle, including the CNG fuel system, are covered under GM’s limited vehicle warranty.

 Ford’s CNG emphasis is targeting the many unique vocations and vehicle requirements of the industry by offering gaseous engine prep packages on multiple vehicle lines, including Transit Connect, E-Series, Super Duty and the upcoming Medium-Duty with the 6.8L engine. Collaborating with qualified upfitters Ford has released guidelines to ensure consistent and reliable performance. This strategy provides the greatest flexibility of commercial applications.

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