The Top 3 Trends to Expect at the LA Auto Show

November 18, 2015 | 9:51 am
What will be behind the curtain at the LA Auto Show? Source: Flickr/infinitiglobal/
David Reichmuth
Senior Engineer, Clean Transportation Program

The 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show opens this week and I’ll be there to cover all of the news on new cars and trucks.

While we don’t know the big announcements yet, here are a few of the industry trends I’ll be expecting to see more of this week:

1) More efficient gasoline technologies (and some in surprising places)

I’ll expect to hear some more news about the current (and future?) gasoline efficiency leader, the Toyota Prius. The newest edition of the Prius is rumored to get 55 MPG and variants may be even better. The high efficiency of the Prius comes from a number of sources: a very efficient engine, systems that turn off the engine when not needed, and redesigned components that are lighter but just as functional.

However, fuel saving technology is also showing up in pickups, sports cars, and SUVs. For example, the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro includes a fuel-saving 4-cylinder turbocharged engine in the base model. The V-6 model includes a cylinder deactivation system that essentially turns off 2 cylinders when not needed to increase efficiency.

Turbocharged engines in general are becoming more popular across the board. The LA Auto Show will have the debut of a new Honda Civic coupe with an available turbo while Ford just announced that they are on track to sell 1 million cars with some version of the “Ecoboost” turbo engine. The Ecoboost engine is now available in almost every Ford passenger model, including their highly popular F-150 pickup truck. The F-150 truck is also an example of a vehicle that shed weight without losing strength to increase fuel efficiency, in this case replacing significant amounts of steel with aluminum.

All of these technologies show that meeting the national fuel economy standards is achievable with today’s technology. In fact, a number of cars and trucks are already meeting or exceeding the 2020 federal emissions standard.

2) More plug-in electric options

The number of plug-in vehicles available in the US continues to grow, and there should be more announcements at the show. For example, I expect more news about the Hyundai Sonata plug-in hybrid at the auto show. I also wouldn’t be surprised to hear more news about BMW’s efforts to electrify it’s fleet with plug-in versions of the X5 SUV and 3-series sedans likely to hit the US soon. Toyota is also expected to release a new version of its Prius Plug-In model for 2017, but it might be too early for details. We also might get more hints about the 200-mile range electric vehicles expected from GM and Nissan in the next 18 months.

While we don’t know the details about the new vehicles yet, what we do know is that these vehicles will be among the most efficient vehicles on the road and have lower emissions than their gasoline counterparts. Our most recent report on the emissions from electric vehicles shows that both the vehicles and the electric grid are getting cleaner, trends we expect to continue.

3) Fuel Cell Vehicles

The new Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will be at the show. The Mirai sedan is driven by an electric motor and can go over 300 miles between fill-ups for long-range, low emissions. The first consumer deliveries started less than a month ago and Toyota will be slowing rolling out the car as the hydrogen filling stations come online in California.

The Mirai is the first vehicle built from the start as a fuel cell vehicle, but it should have company soon, as Honda will be bringing its prototype of the Clarity fuel cell model to LA. The Clarity should have similar long-range performance as the Mirai and also boasts a new space-saving fuel cell design that allows all of the key powertrain components to fit under the hood. This should allow for more passenger space and also make it easier to design future fuel cell vehicles.

I’m looking forward to hear the announcements from the automakers this week. We don’t know the details, but given current trends we should see a lot of new cars that are more efficient and less polluting than ever before. The technology in these new vehicles means that automakers have the tools needed to meet both the national Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard and the requirements of the Zero Emission Vehicle program.

Featured photo: Infiniti Global

About the author

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David Reichmuth's work focuses on analyzing new vehicle technologies and advocating for policies that support the increased electrification of transportation. Dr. Reichmuth has testified at hearings before the US House of Representatives, the California State Legislature, and the California Air Resources Board, and he is an expert on California’s Zero Emission Vehicles regulation.