Yesterday, I took the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid for a spin to see if it was indeed possible to achieve the much advertised 41 mpg in the city—8 mpg better than the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid. This test drive got me thinking; if you look out amongst the landscape of the automotive industry you will find varying ways of attacking the latest miles-per-gallon (mpg) and environmental crisis. Some companies are going “big” with their hybrids, while others have said that they feel hybrids aren’t a smart bet compared to clean diesel. We get quite a range in the industry, but why? And what are consumers to think?
2010 Ford Fusion
After driving the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and getting to talk to one of the Hybrid Engineers for Ford, David Gabriel, I started to get the impression that the auto manufactures are trying to figure out the trends of the market place just like everyone else—and stay in business at the same time. Ford’s Sustainability Plan currently calls for the introduction of 4 more electrified vehicles by 2012. These vehicles will range from a small sedan hybrid to an all-electric version of the Transit Connect van that hits dealerships this summer. However, the interesting thing about Ford’s long-range sustainability plan is that it doesn’t mention anything about Hybrid versions of the Explorer, Expedition, F-Series truck or E-series vans. The closest you get is the Escape Hybrid, the coming Escape Plug-in Hybrid and the previously mentioned EV Transit Connect. The platform for the small sedan hasn’t been announced yet, so we will have to wait and see what hybrid b-platform car will look like.
Now look at GM, putting all of their financial struggles aside, the company has taken their Malibu sedan, Full Size 1500 Pickup Truck and Tahoe SUV and provided consumers with hybrid versions. The 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe offers today’s consumer the ability to carry passengers, cargo and more while still achieving an EPA estimated 21/22 mpg city/highway with the 2WD model. The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid Pickup Truck gets the same EPA estimated mileage rating. However, with an EPA estimated 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid can’t began to compete with the New 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid.
Then you have Nissan who has the 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid that is only available in 9 of the 50 States. Or Mazda that has yet to put out a hybrid vehicle or a clean diesel vehicle in North America. Of course these aren’t the only players in the market. At the 2009 Denver Auto Show the Lightning Hybrids LH4 made its debut with a proprietary biodiesel-hydraulic hybrid powertrain. Lightning Hybrids claims that their vehicle will be capable of doing 100 mpg and 0-60 in 5.9 seconds. This hydraulic hybrid setup draws from similar technology that is currently being tested in fleets of commercial delivery trucks. Moreover, there are some that believe that hydraulic power will far surpass the capabilities of hybrid electric power in small passenger cars.
2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
Some things to think about—if a small Loveland, Colorado company can develop a diesel-hydraulic hybrid, then why haven’t we seen clean diesel technology from the large auto manufacturers paired with hybrid technology? And with the fuel cell, all-electric and clean diesel focus of the large auto makers, why aren’t we also seeing research from them on hydraulic power? I am no expert in engineering, but I would like to hear from the industries automotive engineers on the barriers that are preventing all small cars from getting near the 100 mpg mark like that of Lightning Hybrids. Finally, who has it right? If you aren’t going to produce an SUV or Truck hybrid, then what do the families and workers of the world have as a sustainable option?
Lightning Hybrids LH4 World Debut at the 2009 Denver Auto Show
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