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.
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 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.
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.
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.
An exotic rarity just three or four years ago, electric cars appear to be coming into their own in 2012 with at least seven new or returning models available for purchase and more are in the works.
With output of 170 hp and maximum torque of 184 lb.-ft., the all-electric BMW ActiveE accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in under nine seconds (preliminary). The newly developed lithium-ion batteries, with active thermal management, facilitate a vehicle range of around 100 miles in everyday driving. The BMW ActiveE is based on the body of the BMW 1-Series Coupe and can be charged at virtually all public charging stations. The BMW ActiveE will be available for lease in select markets, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, New York, and Boston, as well as the state of Connecticut beginning in fall 2011. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in late 2011, as of press time.
The all-electric 2012 Mitsubishi i-car is getting ready for its first U.S. deliveries starting in December 2011. The i-car is powered by Mitsubishi innovative electric vehicle (MiEV) technology. The vehicle’s drive system features a 49 kW AC synchronous electric motor and an 88 cell, 330v lithium-ion battery pack with peak storage of 16 kWh. The electric motor is capable of producing peak torque of 145 lb.-ft. and the vehicle also has a top speed of approximately 80 mph. The vehicle’s packaging makes comfortable accommodations for four adult-size passengers. The Mitsubishi i earned an EPA-rated 126 MPGe in city driving and 99 MPGe on the highway. Additionally, the vehicle’s driving range is stated at 62 to 98 miles, depending on driving characteristics.
To create the Ford Transit Connect Electric, Azure Dynamics integrated its Force Drive electric powertrain into the automaker’s existing Transit Connect.
Utilizing an advanced lithium-ion battery from Johnson Controls-Saft, the Transit Connect Electric can achieve a range of 50 to 80 miles depending on auxiliary power usage and drive cycle and has a top speed of 75 mph. The battery is rechargeable using either a 240v or standard 120v outlet.
Joining its transit sibling, Ford’s Focus Electric is the company’s first-ever all-electric passenger car. The vehicle is a realization of the company’s mid-range sustainability strategy to implement all known energy technology by 2020. The Focus Electric, which leverages the company’s C-car platform, is one of five fuel-free, rechargeable passenger cars it plans to deliver by 2012. The Focus Electric can be fully recharged in three to four hours at home using the available wall-mounted 240v charge station. The all-electric powertrain and single-speed transmission provide immediate responsiveness and smooth acceleration for a top speed of 84 mph.
The Mercedes-Benz F-Cell continues to be available for lease in Southern California. The five-door, four-passenger hydrogen-electric delivers 134 hp and 214 lb.-ft. and is powered by fuel-cell technology with an EPA-estimated range of 190 miles. The F-Cell utilizes a hydrogen fuel cell stack for generating electricity and a lithium ion battery for energy storage. Taking only three minutes to refuel, the B-Class F-Cell emits water as its only by-product.
The Mercedes-Benz smart consists of five fortwo models, including two that are all-electric — the passion coupe and passion cabriolet. Both the gasoline- and electric-powered smart vehicles are representative of the line’s emphasis on sustainability, safety, and customization. The models are classified as ultra-low emissions vehicles by the State of California Air Resources Board (CARB).
The Nissan LEAF was the first generally available all-electric vehicle on the market. Powered by a lithium-ion battery pack composed of 48 compact modules and a high-response 80kW AC synchronous motor generating 107 hp and 207 lb.-ft. of torque, the LEAF has a 100-mile range on a single charge. Technology assists the driver with range management. The Nissan LEAF can be charged up to 80 percent of its full capacity in 30 minutes when equipped with a quick charge port and using a DC fast charger. Charging at home through a 220v outlet is estimated to take approximately eight hours. The lithium-ion battery pack carries a warranty of eight years or 100,000 miles. The quick charge port is standard on the SL model.
Extended Range Electric
For drivers with range anxiety, the Chevrolet Volt, now widely available for fleet use, is primarily an electric vehicle propelled by a 111kW electric motor with a secondary gasoline engine that takes over seamlessly from the electric engine. The Volt offers a total driving range of up to 379 miles, based on EPA estimates. For the first 25 to 50 miles, the Volt can drive tailpipe emissions-free using a full charge of electricity. When the Volt’s battery runs low, the gasoline-powered engine takes over, extending the driving range up to 340 miles. Designed for today’s infrastructure, commercial fleet drivers don’t need to modify their work schedules to meet their cars’ charging times. Unlike a pure electric car limited by EV range, the Volt can be the only car a driver requires on the job. The Volt uses a GM-designed and built 16kWh lithium-ion battery.
Of all the alt-fuel technologies, the hybrid is by far the most successful and popular.
This year, Toyota is releasing a plug-in model. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid offers seating for five and is expected to achieve a manufacturer-estimated 87 MPGe in combined driving and 49 mpg in hybrid mode. The plug-in hybrid will allow true EV operation and performance for up to 15 miles at speeds up to 62 mph, along with quick home charging, using a standard AC outlet and 15-amp dedicated circuit. Operating in EV mode, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid provides the quick, smooth quiet driving of a pure electric vehicle. The 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid retains the Hybrid Synergy Drive of the standard Prius model and will seamlessly switch into hybrid operation at a pre-determined state of battery charge. A newly developed 4.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack replaces the standard Prius model’s nickel-metal hydride battery and fits under the rear cargo floor, and the vehicle adds an easy-to-use external charging cable.
Honda’s family of hybrid vehicles includes the Civic Hybrid, CR-Z, and Insight.
The 2012 Civic Hybrid offers a higher fuel economy rating of 44/44/44 mpg city/highway/combined, up from the 40/43/41 of the 2011 Civic Hybrid. For 2012, the Honda IMA system uses lithium-ion batteries, replacing the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in the previous two generations of Civic Hybrid. The 2012 Civic Hybrid features a larger 1.5L i-VTEC four-cylinder engine, up from 1.3L for improved mid-range torque, which incorporates extensive friction-reducing technologies for greater efficiency. It is connected to a lighter, larger, and more powerful electric motor that provides up to 23 hp. The gasoline engine and electric motor have a 110 combined hp at 5,500 rpm and torque is rated at 127 lb.-ft. at 1,000 to 3,500 rpm.
The Honda CR-Z features a 1.5L i-VTEC four-cylinder engine that works with Honda’s unique, compact, and lightweight IMA system to supply both power and efficiency to the vehicle. A sport-focused, 6-speed manual transmission is a first for any hybrid. And an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) is available and includes steering wheel paddle shifters for manual-like gear-ratio control. A new, exclusive 3-mode drive system allows the driver to configure the vehicle’s responsiveness for Sport, Normal, or Econ (economy) driving modes. The Honda Insight includes a 1.3L, four-cylinder i-VTEC gasoline engine and 10kW electric motor, positioned inline between the engine and the continuously variable transmission, adds power during acceleration and in certain cruising situations, and recaptures energy from the vehicle’s forward momentum during braking.
Ford’s 2012 Fusion Hybrid can operate up to 47 mph in pure electric mode, and has a city driving range of more than 700 miles on a single tank of gas. The 2.5L Atkinson-Cycle Hybrid four-cylinder powertrain combines with the electric motor to generate a 191 net-hp rating. During braking in the Fusion Hybrid, the regenerative braking system captures 94 percent of the kinetic energy lost in conventional vehicles and sends it to the battery pack to be stored for later use. Not only is regenerative braking efficient, but it helps minimize wear on the brake pads, lowering the cost of maintenance.
Growing its electrified vehicle offerings, Ford will be introducing the C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in vehicles, building on the company’s sustainability initiatives. The C-MAX Hybrid features a lithium-ion battery and 2.0L Atkinson-cycle I-4 gasoline engine. The C-MAX Energi is powered by an advanced lithium-ion battery system developed by Ford and a high-efficiency 2.0L Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine. The C-MAX delivers a more than 25-percent improvement in fuel economy versus today’s Escape Hybrid. The C-MAX Energi targets more than 500 miles of driving range using the battery and engine.
The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid generates its electric power through its Hybrid Blue Drive powertrain, a lithium polymer battery pack with engine decoupling, which significantly reduces the amount of energy required to maintain highway speeds, resulting in an estimated 40 mpg highway fuel rating. The Sonata Hybrid is also equipped with a Theta II GDI 2.4L four-cylinder engine with a gasoline direct-injection (GDI) fuel-delivery system. The Theta II delivers 24 mpg city/35 hwy/28 combined fuel economy rating with both the 6-speed manual and automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC. The horsepower and torque ratings for the Theta II are 198 hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque.
Characterized as a “mild hybrid,” the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid’s gasoline engine and electric motor work together for responsive performance, and its driveline includes a specially configured seven-speed automatic transmission, a transformer to power the 12v vehicle system, and intelligent operating electronics. The S400 Hybrid features a lightweight, high-capacity lithium-ion battery that works with a 20-hp electric motor and a V-6 gasoline engine for a total of 295 hp and 284 lb.-ft. of torque. The S400 Hybrid uses a 3.5L V-6 gasoline engine, a magneto-electric motor and sophisticated hybrid electronics to produce 30-percent better fuel economy than a comparable S550 model. Not only does the electric motor make 20 hp, but it also produces a starting torque of 118 lb.-ft., while the gasoline engine develops 275 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque.
Though officially a 2013 vehicle, Chevrolet’s Malibu ECO will be available beginning in January 2012 and features the company’s eAssist “light electrification” technology, which is engineered to deliver an estimated 26 mpg city/38 hwy, and is classified as a hybrid technology by the U.S. government. The eAssist system is mated to a 2.4L Ecotec direct-injection four-cylinder engine that delivers 182 hp. The eAssist system uses a 115v lithium-ion battery and a 15kW motor-generator unit to help increase fuel economy.
Chevrolet’s Tahoe Hybrid is a full-size SUV that includes eight-passenger seating and a towing capacity of up to 6,200 lbs. on 2WD models. The electrically variable transmission (EVT) and 300v nickel-metal hydride energy storage system (ESS) work in concert with the standard 6.0L V-8 gasoline engine with active fuel management (AFM) and late intake valve closing (LIVC) technology to enable the Tahoe Hybrid’s efficient performance. Like the Tahoe Hybrid, Cadillac’s Escalade Hybrid is a full-size SUV. The luxury model is powered by an innovative, fuel-saving two-mode hybrid system. Both are available in RWD and 4WD configurations. They deliver up to 5,800 lbs. of usable towing capacity on RWD models and 5,600 lbs. on 4WD models. Escalade Hybrid’s patented two-mode hybrid system consists of an advanced, electrically variable transmission and 300v nickel-metal hydride energy storage system. These systems work in concert with the standard 6.0L V-8 Gen IV gasoline engine with Active Fuel Management and late-intake valve closing technology.
The Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid is a full-size truck that delivers 33-percent greater city fuel economy and a 23.5-percent improvement in overall fuel economy — with the capability expected of a full-size truck, including a 6,100-lb. towing capacity. The estimated fuel economy for both the 2WD and 4WD models is 20 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. Combined with a 26-gallon fuel tank, the Silverado Hybrid delivers a cruising range of more than 500 miles. Like the Escalade, the Silverado Hybrid combines General Motors’ two-mode hybrid system and a powerful 6.0L gasoline V-8 to deliver highly efficient performance, including all-electric driving up to 30 mph. The Silverado Hybrid is offered in the Crew Cab body style on both 2WD and 4WD models.