Virtually every automaker exhibiting at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show has a solution for making vehicles run cleaner and use less fuel.
At this November’s Show, most vehicles on display transcend earlier technologies and are now achieving historically high levels of efficiency. Even high-performance vehicles are delivering vast improvements over previous generations. The number of exhibiting vehicles using some form of electrification has grown by more than 25 percent since the last Show. Cars that achieve 40-plus miles per gallon using traditional gasoline or clean diesel have doubled.
“L.A. Show attendees are increasingly interested in this next generation of fuel-efficient vehicles and this year demonstrates that there is no single technology that satisfies this increasing demand,” said Andy Fuzesi, general manager of the L.A. Auto Show. “The Show will feature a dramatic increase in the number of advanced vehicles able to satisfy most car shoppers’ needs and budgets.”
The solution today for most consumers looking to use less fuel and produce fewer carbon emissions is the small and more powerful four-cylinder, internal combustion engine. It has replaced the six-cylinder engine as the powerplant of choice in the U.S. While six- and even eight-cylinder-powered vehicles have shown significant fuel economy improvements, the 40-plus club of vehicles-those getting 40 mpg or more-is expanding rapidly. An L.A. Auto Show World Debut from a yet-to-be-named U.S. manufacturer will add another entry to the 40 plus mpg club and will join a dozen other vehicles that now achieve the previously-elusive 40-mpg number. Other new entries into this fuel-efficient category include the Hyundai Veloster, the 2012 Kia Rio and the 2012 Mazda3 with SKYACTIV technology.
Mazda’s new SKYACTIV powertrain and chassis technologies will also be featured in the North American Debut of its all-new CX-5 crossover. BMW will introduce new, more-powerful, four-cylinder engine technology, but placed in popular performance cars-the Z4 and 528. Both boast improved performance and increased fuel efficiency.
Clean diesel technology has also clearly advanced with today’s diesel engines getting better mileage and emitting less particulate matter than gasoline engines. Several models are beginning to sell in much larger numbers as the U.S. rethinks diesel. A prime example is the Audi A3 TDI, which previously won Green Car of the Year®. Other clean diesels at the Show include the Volkswagen Passat TDI, Jetta TDI, Jetta SportWagen TDI and Golf TDI and Mercedes-Benz will feature its S350 BlueTEC.
Hybrids and Electric Vehicles
The most ground breaking category, when it comes to technological advancements, continues to be the hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle categories. These advances are such game changers that they are inspiring a new methodology for measuring the fuel economy of higher efficiency vehicles. The EPA’s new system to measure efficiency is called MPGe “miles per gallon equivalent” of electric and alternative-energy vehicles.
The Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt were the early movers in the EV category, but now a whole pack of EV’s are entering production and will be available at dealerships soon. The production electrics and hybrids at this year’s show include Mitsubishi’s all-electric i, which boasts 112 MPGe and has a single-charge range of 62 miles at one of the most affordable price points. The most popular hybrid vehicle in the world, the Toyota Prius, will showcase its production, plug-in hybrid version, which has a total all-electric range of 14.3 miles and an expected total range of 475 miles.
According to Toyota, the Prius Plug-in is expected to be rated at 112 MPGe. Important EV news is also expected from Honda as well, and they also will showcase their latest hybrid improvements in the new Civic Hybrid and the more fuel-efficient Insight Hybrid.
BMW will debut two all-new concept vehicles that are part of BMW i sub-brand initiative. The high-tech and futuristic-looking, all-electric i3 Concept is actually close to becoming a reality and it is scheduled to enter production in 2013. The i8 Concept, scheduled for production in 2014, is a plug-in hybrid sportscar with dual power sources-the i3′s electric motor over the front axle paired with a high performance three-cylinder combustion engine producing 164 kW/220 horsepower at the rear. Working in tandem, they deliver the performance of a true sportscar while achieving up to 62 mpg.
It is no surprise that Southern California is home to several start-up manufacturers devoted to the development of electric vehicles, including Fisker Automotive and CODA Automotive. Fisker will debut its all-new sport wagon prototype, the Surf, slated to go on sale in mid-2012. Fisker’s first vehicle, the Karma, is a performance sedan that has just begun customer deliveries. Los Angeles-based CODA will show its all-electric compact sedan, now becoming available. It features a single-charge range of up to 150 miles and 221 ft.-lb. of torque.
Down the road, expect to see continued breakthroughs in hybrids and EVs, including several from Ford. The Blue Oval plans to introduce five EVs over the next three years. Vehicles featured at this year’s Show include Ford’s first all-electric, the Ford Focus Electric (2012), and the C-MAX Energi Plug-in Hybrid, a 5-seater crossover SUV (2012).
The Road Ahead
The future of mobility promises to offer even more options like natural gas (CNG), featured in the Honda GX, as well as biofuels like sugarcane-derived ethanol. Hydrogen-powered vehicles have also been tested in various scenarios for over a decade and several will be featured at this year’s Show. Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV), are one of the most promising technologies, and are currently being tested by BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, General Motors and Toyota. Hyundai is already testing a third-generation FCEV, the Tucson.
High Mileage and Green-Tech Vehicles at the Show
Hybrids and Plug-in hybrids
Lexus LS 600h L
Clean Diesel Vehicles
Hydrogen/Hydrogen Fuel Cell
* List of vehicles at the show subject to change
About the Los Angeles Auto Show:
As the first major North American auto show of the season, the 2011 L.A. Auto Show will host some of the industry’s most important new vehicle debuts and set the tone for the rest of the year. The dates are Nov. 16 and 17 for press and Nov. 18-27 for the public. Media registration is now open. Following Press Days, the Show is one of the best consumer-attended auto shows in the world. To receive the latest show news and information, follow the L.A. Auto Show on Twitter, visit the Facebook page and sign up for alerts at LAAutoShow.com.