At the 2014 Washington Auto Show, referred to in the automobile industry as the Public Policy Show, more than forty automobile manufacturers will be showing the latest in automotive technology in the form of over 700 vehicles. The Washington Auto Show is one of the top auto shows in America, produced by the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association in Washington, DC. This year there will be at least a couple of special events, such as an exhibition of the world’s most-luxurious automobiles. On January 22, on the second Policy Day, Green Car Journal will announce the winner of the 2014 Green Car Technology of the Year Award. Of the ten nominees, which company will make the grade?
What’s the Impact?
There’s some great green car technology in the works, from automakers around the world, but what makes the best green car technology? Some might argue that the best green car technology is the one that reduces emissions the most. If that were the case, perhaps you might cast a vote for the Volkswagen XL1, a diesel plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) that’s rated over 200mpg (miles per gallon). On the other hand, when you consider that each one will sell for around $145,000 and it will be manufactured for a limited production run of just 250 units, how much of an impact could it really have? Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCV) are probably the cleanest vehicles you can buy, but with limited refueling options and an expensive technology package, not many people can afford to get into one.
No, the best green car technology has to be the one that makes the most impact. For example, the pickup truck is the best-selling vehicle class in America. Some have calculated that just a 1mpg improvement in pickup-truck fuel-efficiency, the best-selling Ford F-Series, to be specific, could save over 22 million gallons of gasoline. Put another way, American pickup-truck drivers could save some $80 million in refueling costs and reduce emissions by over 200 megatons of carbon dioxide. This kind of green car technology would have the same effect as removing 46,700 vehicles from the road, and that’s just a one-mpg improvement, in one vehicle!
This year, Green Car Journal will award the 2014 Green Car Technology of the Year Award to one of ten nominees, each of which offers a pretty impressive emissions-reduction strategy…
- The Audi 3.0ℓ TDI Diesel Engine is already more fuel-efficient than similarly equipped gasoline engines, but the addition of a variable-vane turbocharger gives it better performance over the operating range. Audi estimates that the TDI is 30% more efficient than its TFSI engine, and an additional 12% of emissions is scrubbed out by an improved catalytic converter.
- The Hyundai ix35 Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle is the first on the market, the result of a ten-year science project that actually made it to mass-production. Unlike electric vehicles, an FCV refuels in minutes, just like a conventional vehicle but, unlike conventional vehicles, an FCV emits zero emissions.
- Some might consider a 1.0ℓ i3 engine something for model cars, but the Ford 1.0ℓ EcoBoost could flip that notion on its head. Installed in a small sedan, the tiny 3-cylinder engine is fitted with a turbocharger. Boost is used during acceleration, for more power, but drops off when cruising, since cruising doesn’t require very much engine power.
- The Acura RLX SH-AWD (Sport Hybrid All-Wheel Drive) Powertrain combines a V6 internal combustion engine (ICE) and three electric motors. Overall fuel economy is rated at 30mpg, which may not sound impressive, until you recall that the RLX is a mid-size sedan with sports-car performance.
- The Cadillac ELR extended-range electric vehicle (EREV) is beefed up for better performance. Besides more available power, Cadillac ELR’s Regen-On-Demand system, activated by paddles on the steering wheel, approximates the feeling of downshifting a conventional vehicle, activating regenerative braking on demand. Drivers get a more satisfying driving experience, as well as recovering more lost energy than traditional regenerative braking systems.
- The lighter your vehicle is, the more efficient it is. At the same time, safety is a concern. BMW’s Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) Safety Cell is light, which helps the BMW i3 get such excellent fuel economy. BMW’s CFRP is also strong, which keeps passengers safe.
- The Honda Accord PHEV is one of the most-efficient PHEVs that you can buy in a mid-size sedan at 46mpg (miles per gallon) and 115mpge (miles per gallon equivalent). Only the Honda Fit EV has better mpge. Additionally, the Accord PHEV performs rather well, with the best PHEV sedan acceleration on the market.
- Another turbocharger makes the list in the Dodge 3.0ℓ EcoDiesel, a first in a long time for the light-duty pickup truck segment. The 3.0ℓ V6 diesel delivers more torque, at a lower rpm (revolutions per minute) than the larger gasoline-powered 3.6ℓ Pentastar V6 and 5.7ℓ Hemi V8. At the same time, it will probably be rated somewhere around 28-30mpg.
- Regenerative braking has been most-often associated with hybrid and electric vehicles, but Mazda i-ELOOP regenerative braking has been adapted for use on conventional vehicles. Electric generators simulate braking effect, quickly recharging a capacitor. The energy stored reduces electrical load on the engine, reducing emissions, and even allows for and engine start-stop system.
- The Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid may not look like a green car, but it certainly performs like one. Rated at 54mpg, the Panamera still has the guts to perform like a Porsche. Otherwise, who would buy one?
For ease of use, refueling opportunities, and overall cost, among other factors, my pick for the 2014 Green Car Technology of the Year Award would have to go to the Dodge 3.0ℓ EcoDiesel. Diesel fuel is nearly ubiquitous in the Nation’s gas stations, making refueling a no-fuss endeavor, and the EcoDiesel is also approved for use with B20 (20% biodiesel). Diesel engine technology is not expensive, and can be adapted for larger and smaller vehicles. Light-duty trucks are the best-selling vehicle in America, which means that emissions-reduction measures, even small ones, will have the most impact.
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