This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

November 26, 2008

Hybrid and Electric Cars are Prominent at the L.A. Auto Show

The 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show is now underway in Southern California, and this year's automobile extravaganza features the world debut of three hybrid vehicles, two hybrid concepts, two fuel cell vehicle concepts, and one all-electric vehicle. Perhaps the most anticipated entry is that all-electric vehicle, namely, BMW Group's MINI E, which powers its 150-kilowatt motor with a 35 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that can launch the diminutive car to a top speed of 95 miles per hour. The electric drive system was provided by California-based AC Propulsion. On a full charge, the electric MINI can travel up to 156 miles under ideal driving conditions, but the range is more likely to fall around 100 miles under real-world conditions. And to test those real-world conditions, MINI Financial Services will lease 500 of the vehicles to drivers in the Los Angeles and New York City metropolitan areas, with the latter including residents of either New York or New Jersey. The one-year lease is intended as a field trial, and it will cost $850 per month. The vehicle has to be recharged with a garage-mounted, high-voltage wall box, provided by MINI USA, so you have to come home to recharge it. The company is accepting applications until December 10. See the AC Propulsion press release (PDF 143 KB), the MINI E Field Trial Web site and the MINI E specifications sheet (PDF 68 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

Photo of an angular, two-door sports car with narrow windows and a t-shaped grill, surrounded by a crowd.

Honda brought some flair to the L.A. Auto Show with its FC Sport concept, which demonstrates the design potential for fuel cell vehicles. Enlarge this image.
Credit:Honda, Susan Goldman

While the MINI E is undoubtedly the most significant world premiere at the L.A. Auto Show, Honda's FC Sport concept clearly has the greatest visual impact. Looking like a stealth bomber without wings, the angular three-seat concept car explores the design potential of Honda's fuel cell powertrain by placing the fuel cell between the two rear seats, hiding the battery pack in the floor, and placing the motor and two hydrogen storage tanks near the rear axle. Kia Motors Corporation also unveiled a fuel cell vehicle, the all-new Kia Borrego FCEV. The sport utility vehicle (SUV) combines a 115-kilowatt fuel cell with a 100-kilowatt, 450-volt supercapacitor to achieve an efficient drive system with a top speed of 100 miles per hour. A 7.1-cubic-foot high-pressure hydrogen storage tank, combined with a lightweight aluminum body, yields a range of about 426 miles for the SUV. See the press releases from Honda and Kia.

And yes, one domestic automaker debuted green vehicles at the L.A. Auto Show, as Ford Motor Company unveiled its first two hybrid sedans, the 2010 Mercury Milan Hybrid and the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid. Both vehicles mate a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission and a motor that can drive the vehicles in all-electric mode at speeds as high as 47 miles per hour. Meanwhile, Toyota's Lexus division unveiled the 2010 RX 450h, a sport utility vehicle that features an exhaust-heat recovery system to warm up the engine faster and a cooled exhaust-gas recirculation system that allows the engine to run more efficiently. With a more efficient inverter and a slightly bigger V6 engine than its predecessor, the RX 400h, the new model delivers 27 more horsepower, for a total of 295 horsepower. Toyota also debuted a Camry Hybrid concept vehicle that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG). And Hyundai threw its hat into the hybrid ring, unveiling a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid concept with a groundbreaking lithium polymer battery pack from LG Chem that promises higher energy density at a lower cost than lithium-ion batteries. The Hyundai hybrid system includes a 30-kilowatt electric motor and a six-speed automatic transmission and will be offered in North America in 2010. Hyundai will also sell a crossover vehicle with a turbocharged, gasoline-direct-injection, four-cylinder engine that achieves high fuel economy. See the Ford press releases on the 2010 Mercury Milan and 2010 Ford Fusion, the Toyota press releases on the 2010 RX450h and the CNG Camry Hybrid concept, and the Hyundai press release.

The final clean vehicle to be unveiled at the L.A. Auto Show doesn't employ an electric motor at all. Volkswagen's Toureg V6 TDI is the automaker's latest clean diesel vehicle, meeting emission standards in all 50 states. The sport utility vehicle achieves an estimated 18 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, a fuel economy boost of more than 25% over the six-cylinder 2009 Volkswagen Toureg, which achieves 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway using premium gasoline. The diesel version achieves a lower horsepower but a much higher torque than its gasoline-fueled cousin. Volkswagen is also displaying its clean-diesel Jetta TDI and Jetta SportWagen TDI, which have been on sale in the United States since August. In recognition of the market impact of these new clean diesels, the 2009 Jetta TDI was named as the Green Car Journal's 2009 Green Car of the Year. The compact car beat out BMW's clean-diesel sedan, the smart fortwo, the Ford Fusion Hybrid, and the Saturn Vue 2-Mode Hybrid to win the award. The L.A. Auto Show continues through November 30 and features 44 hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. See the VW press release, the L.A. Auto Show press releases on the "Top 5 for 2009" and the 2009 Green Car of the Year, and the auto show's lists of debuts and alternative fuel vehicles.