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LA Auto Show: Showing the Way to Doubling Fuel Economy

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New fuel economy and greenhouse gas rules were finalized by the Obama Administration this past year that go out to 2025, more than a decade away. The standards have enjoyed strong support from consumers and automakers alike. But as with most big steps forward, there are always some naysayers. To the naysayers, I say come to the LA Auto Show. The variety of technologies automakers are employing to make big gains in fuel economy are wide-ranging. And it is with this menu of technologies that automakers can meet the standards set for 2025 and beyond.

Here are a few highlights from the show, showing the range of conventional tech, hybrids, plug-in vehicles and fuel cells that will continue to give consumers better and better fuel economy options in the coming years.

Ford FiestaFord Fiesta – Are three cylinders really enough? The 2014 Ford Fiesta certainly suggests the answer is yes. Ford has applied their ecoboost technology to a 1.0 liter 3-cylinder engine delivering more horsepower and torque than its 4-cylinder engine while promising even better fuel economy. Though official numbers are not out yet it is expected to exceed 40 mpg in highway driving.

Dodge Dart AeroDodge Dart Aero – Chrysler has combined a turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine with other fuel savings attributes including a dual clutch transmission, low rolling resistance tires, as well as active grill shutters and under body panels to improve aerodynamics. These features put the compact sedan in to the 40 mpg hwy club.

The Ford Fusion and CMAXFord’s 2013 Fusion and CMAX hybrids – Toyota still claims the top all-around fuel economy spot with the Prius at 50 mpg, but Ford seems to be nipping at their heels. The Fusion Hybrid hits 47 mpg in both highway and city driving, as does the CMAX, topping the Prius V’s rating. The Fusion also was named Green Car of the Year. Both the CMAX and Fusion are also being offered as plug-in hybrids. With those models, you’ll gain about 20 all-electric miles range while losing a little trunk space for extra batteries.

Audi Diesel A8 – Audi introduced more diesel-powered models, including the A8, claiming a 24 mpg city 36mpg  highway rating compared to the gas version at 18/28. Diesel vehicles are typically 20 to 30 percent more efficient than gasoline vehicles. But keep in mind, mpg ratings are good for estimating fueling costs, but diesel fuel economy ratings should be discounted by about 15 percent when comparing global warming emissions and about 20 percent when comparing petroleum reductions. That’s because there is more carbon more petroleum in a gallon of diesel than gasoline.
The Honda Accord plug-in hybridHonda Accord Plug-in Hybrid – A new entry by Honda with an estimated 13 mile all-electric range, available in 2013 in California and New York. Price starts at $39,780 before tax credits. Honda’s targeting the higher-end buyer, offering only the highest trim level. A regular hybrid version will also be available later in 2013 and will likely carry fuel economy ratings in the high 40s using Honda’s next-generation hybrid system.

The Chevy SparkThe Chevy Spark EV was unveiled by GM, which boasts it will be one of the fastest EVs on the market. I suspect the Tesla Model S might be another of those in contention. The Spark is expected to cost under $33,000 before the $7500 federal tax incentives, and has an expected range  on a full charge “among the best in the segment”. Fiat also released the 500 e all-electric with an expected range of about 82 miles.

So there’s plenty of technology on display at the auto show, from improvements to the internal combustion engines, to hybrids, and fully electric drivetrains, all of which will help the auto industry nearly double the fuel efficiency of the new vehicle fleet by 2025. And the benefits of all this tech? Spending a lot less at the pump is definitely one of them.

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About the author: Don Anair is a senior engineer with expertise on diesel, hybrid and battery electric vehicle, and goods movement technologies and the policies needed to turn them into real solutions for U.S. oil dependence, air pollution and global warming. He holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering. See Don's full bio.

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