Post by Guest Author B. Jerew
I’m not what you would call a “motorhead” or “tuner,” but I do like to see a well-built machine. The auto shows are where you want to be if you are an enthusiast of any kind. Sure, there are the latest off-road vehicles, like the Jeep Wrangler, that’s just as comfortable on the highway as it is on the rocky trails of Moab. Then there are performance cars, like the 50th Anniversary 5.0 Ford Mustang, a great blend of new technology and timeless style, not to mention power.
Kind of like a kid in a candy store, at first the selections are overwhelming, but I know what kind of candy I like: Green Candy.
I went into the 2013 New York International Auto Show [NYIAS] with one thought on my mind, “If 30 [mpg] used to be the new 20, then maybe 40 is the new 30?” Given the increasing price of fuel and increasingly strict emissions regulations, automakers are developing the next generation of automobiles that are more fuel-efficient or even eliminate fuel altogether. Green cars are future of transportation, and you can expect your future vehicle might never visit a gas station like those old clunkers from 2012.
This year’s NYIAS vehicles, at first, didn’t seem all that impressive to me, when I dream of zero-emissions electric vehicles with 1,000 miles range on a single charge or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that are as easy to refuel as a gasoline vehicle. Then I thought to myself, “Improving efficiency is everywhere, and there’s still plenty of innovation left in the internal combustion engine.” Additionally, electrification is finding its way into more models than ever before. Here are a couple highlights from the show that I thought were worth mentioning:
2014 Ford Fiesta
We’re already used to seeing subcompact cars that have great fuel economy. The Geo Metro comes to mind, a tiny General Motors sedan powered by a 1.0l or 1.3l inline three-cylinder engine. The Metro, which was rated at just 70hp or 79hp, was not known for being quick off the line, but did manage to do something remarkable in the mid-1990s, which was to break 40mpg. These kind of vehicles weren’t (and often aren’t) popular so much as they are necessary, especially in the face of rising gas prices.
The 2014 Ford Fiesta is also powered by a 1.0L i3 engine, called EcoBoost, with a good fifteen years of technological advancement and the addition of turbocharging. The new Ford Fiesta has lost some weight over this year’s Fiesta, which means that the 1.0L turbocharged i3’s 123hp and 148lb•ft of torque go that much further. Yes, the Ford Fiesta is still a subcompact built for fuel economy [no fuel economy numbers have been released yet, but it’s estimated near 40mpg], but it has the styling and just enough pep to keep things interesting.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid
For an automaker that gets its clientele out into nature, I’m kind of surprised to see how long it took for Subaru to finally electrify one of their vehicles, specifically the XV Crosstrek. Waiting to get into the game isn’t always a bad thing, and it can give a company like Subaru the chance to learn from the mistakes of other automakers who got into the game too soon and paid the price. Subaru executive vice president Tom Doll admitted as much at the 2013 NYIAS unveiling of the XV Crosstrek Hybrid, saying “…we’re not the first to market with a hybrid, but we sure made sure we did it right.”
Doing it right isn’t always easy to pull off because fuel economy and performance are pretty much always at odds with each other. If Subaru was going to market this successfully, the only way would be to make sure there were no drawbacks to choosing green over brawn. That being said, the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid is expected to perform just as well as the non-hybrid version. The 2.0L boxer four-cylinder engine will be mated to a 13.4hp electric motor and a constant-velocity transmission. Adding the hybrid components necessitated a complete redesign of the frame and added about 300lb to the weight of the vehicle. Of course, all-wheel drive is standard. Will 10% fuel economy gains be worth it?
Next Year’s NYIAS
I was a mite disappointed when I didn’t see Tesla Motors [because I was sick on press days] at the 2013 NYIAS. There were no hydrogen fuel cell vehicles or any other radical new technology. Still, it was worth the visit, even if only to see the advances being made in conventional vehicles and to see more automakers picking up vehicle electrification. Next year, I’m stocking up on orange juice and getting my flu shot so I can make it on Press Day!
Author B. Jerew is an ASE master tech turned auto journalist. He is a contributor for a number of well-respected automotive industry blogs, where he covers trends and developments in green automotive technology. He’s provided this “green” perspective on the 2013 NYIAS in association with My Car Lender, an industry-leading provider of financial services for car-shoppers in Pennsylvania and Maryland.