Posts Tagged ‘car’

2010 Geneva Motor Show

March 4, 2010 3 comments

Amidst the photographers and journalists, the 2010 Geneva Motor show opened up to display the usual hot rods and wildly designed concepts by high-end motor companies. Lamborghini, Bentley, Lotus, Jaguar, and Maserati were among the many to display their latest high-performance automotive artwork. Yet there was another breed of vehicles on display today: the average-Joe’s, the grocery-getters. Many of the major auto makers unveiled new models of highly reliable and fuel-efficient vehicles that the average middle-class person would take to the store. What was different, however, is the amount of emphasis being put on new and efficient power-trains for these working-class heroes.

What really got me is how many new models are being designed with hybrid and diesel engines. Diesel cars have been limited to just a handful of models available in the US, up until now. Among the new models to be featured with more efficient engine options was the 2011 Volvo S60, which has a number of different engine options. One of which includes a 2.4 liter, 5 cylinder, twin-turbo diesel. The neat thing about this setup is that the S60 accelerate from 0 to 62 MPH in just 7.8 seconds, while still getting a preliminary figure of 47.9 miles per gallon. This is a good indication that diesel cars are now being designed for performance while achieving the fuel economy of a hybrid. If, however, you would really like to squeeze more miles from your gallon, the S60 will be available later in the year with the 1.6 liter DRIVe 4 cylinder inline diesel, boasting an impressive preliminary 65.7 miles per gallon and lower CO2 emissions. If you like your gas engines, it will be available as well with a 3.0 liter petrol engine that gets 27.7 miles per gallon, which is a 10% improvement over the previous model… (I’d get the diesel).

Among the other models showing alternative engine options were the 2011 Kia Sportage, offering two gas and two diesel engines, and the 2012 Ford Focus Wagon, offering both types as well. The grocery-getters are not the only ones sporting alternative powertrains, however. Porch unveiled the 2011 Cayenne in both hybrid and turbo configurations, Porche’s first hybrid model featuring a full parallel hybrid-drive system. Of course when we talk about high-end performance with fuel-efficient technology, Tesla Motors had get their new model in there as well. Now partnered with TAG Heuer, Tesla showed their new roadster, including the limited edition TAG Heuer one-fifth second stopwatch. The Tesla Roadster “still accelerates faster than any other supercar, yet is twice as efficient as a hybrid” (Source: Tesla press release).

I sure hope that more diesel cars make their into the US. I just don’t understand why people are buying gas hybrids for more than they could buy a diesel that gets better mileage. We need more than two available models here if we want anybody to buy them, which I know that they would, I would. And where the heck is that hybrid diesel?

Photo courtesy of Autoblog


Maybe I Was Wrong About Hybrids

I used to think that hybrid vehicles were a waste of time and energy. It made sense to me that a car that used an electric motor directly inline with the engine would never be efficient and would pretty much always be limited to the efficiency of the engine. If you’re new to the workings of gasoline hybrid technology, I’ll try to bring you up to speed. We’ve all heard of hybrid vehicles by now, they have a gasoline engine that is assisted by an electric motor and a bunch of batteries. There are two types of hybrids, series and parallel. Series hybrids have an electric motor mounted directly to (or basically on the same shaft as) the gas engine. The Toyata Prius and Honda Civic hybrids are the two best examples of these. Parallel hybrids have an electric generator mounted to the engine for the sole purpose of generating electricity for the electric motor that drives the wheels. Big diesel locomotives are a perfect example of this type of hybrid, which in my opinion, is the best type. For more information on hybrids, check out this Wikipedia page.

My big problem with hybrids was the fact that there have never been any commercially produced of the parallel type, they have all been series. This means that the engine still has to run at varying engine speeds depending on the speed of the vehicle, which is inefficient because gasoline engines are most efficient at a set speed and load. Upon researching the Prius, I came across the technical page explaining the Hybrid Synergy Drive. I now realize that vehicles that use this type of powertrain can function as both series and parallel hybrids. They accomplish this with two motor/generators that are connected to the engine and each other by a type of clutch and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). With this setup the engine can run independent of the wheels for the sole purpose of charging the battery, acting as a parallel hybrid. It can also function as a series hybrid by using one of the motors to assist the engine in acceleration and provide regenerative braking. The CVT in combination with the two motor/generators allows the engine to run mostly in it’s most efficient speed and load range. It seems to me, now, that the new technology added to these hybrids has utilized much more of the potential efficiency of gasoline engines, without the extra baggage of a full-out split parallel hybrid.

Despite this great new technology, I still don’t think that gasoline engines are the way to go. Diesel engines are far more thermodynamically efficient than their gasoline counterparts, we’ve known this for a long time. It’s all about the combustion process, compression ignition will always be more efficient because higher compression generally gives higher efficiency. A good running car with a four-cylinder diesel engine gets better mileage than one of the newer gas hybrids. I think we need a vehicle that features a small diesel engine coupled to one of the newer hybrid drive systems. That, in my opinion, would be the ideal hybrid.