Hybrid vehicles have the spotlight but automakers see alternatives


sanctus
#1
By Steve Mertl

VANCOUVER (CP) - Green is this year's colour at this week's Vancouver International Auto Show but the road to Earth-friendly motoring turns out to be a twisty one.

Automakers have greeted the federal government's new program of rebates for lower-emission vehicles and tax levies for gas guzzlers with a mixture of praise and bemusement.

While gasoline-electric hybrids get the biggest breaks, industry executives question which cars get the break and point out other fuel-saving technologies potentially have a much bigger impact.

"We don't think there's a silver bullet," says Lindsay Duffield, president of BMW Canada.

"You'll have some manufacturers saying it's going to be ethanol E85 and some hybrids and some diesels."

And there are still gains to be made with conventional internal-combustion engines, says Duffield.

The government's "feebate" announcement apparently caught the industry off guard

Small hybrids get the biggest rebate - $2,000 - which when combined with provincial rebates in several provinces helps erase the price premium hybrids carry.

Despite their current sexiness, hybrids account for only about one per cent of the 1.5 million cars and trucks sold annually in Canada.

For example, of the top-selling 25,542 Escape SUVs Ford sold last year, 617 were hybrids.

European automakers have been leery of hybrid technology, compared with their North American and Japanese competitors.

While BMW is collaborating with DaimlerChrysler and General Motors on hybrid technology, Duffield believes the cost-benefit equation is doubtful for consumers.

"Your average customer's not going to pay a huge premium," he says, adding that if you subtract the rebates, drivers will never recoup the extra cost in fuel savings.

The business case seems shaky too, Duffield says, until volumes rise to the point they are as profitable as their conventional counterparts.

Toyota, which made an early and strong commitment to hybrids that now runs to six models, mitigates the cost issue to some extent in its luxury Lexus line, where Hybrids now make up 20 per cent of sales.

Lexus also pitches its hybrids for their performance virtues - superior acceleration through its electric-motor assist - as well as fuel economy and eco-friendliness.

Lexus Canada director Stuart Payne says the government's rebate program won't be a huge factor in the higher-priced segment.

"But I think it's going to play a larger effect on some of the lower (priced) smaller cars, the (Toyota) Yaris, for instance and the Prius," says Payne. "We'll see a lot of switching from regular gas Camrys to Camry hybrid."

The low-priced segment shows up the program's flaws, says Duffield. The fuel-economy cutoff chosen by Canada Revenue Agency arbitrarily eliminates many fuel-efficient vehicles.

"A thousand dollars on a $15,000 car is huge," he says. "In that end of the market, it's certainly causing a lot of controversy and a lot of issues."

The man who puts together Ottawa's EnerGuide fuel-rating guide wouldn't comment on how the cutoff was determined.

"A line in the sand had to be drawn," said Charles Crispim, senior manager for the EnerGuide vehicle program at Natural Resources Canada.

General Motors is covering its bases with two kinds of hybrid systems, as well as flexible-fuel vehicles that can use low-emission ethanol blends and electronics that seamlessly disengage half the cylinders in V-6 and V-8 engines during steady driving.

The latter low-cost solution has likely saved more fuel than the entire fleet of hybrids currently on Canadian roads, says Matt Crossley, GM Canada's director of engineering and product planning.

The Europeans see as much, if not more promise in clean-diesel engines, which can deliver 30 per cent better fuel economy and lower carbon dioxide emissions.

Thanks to lower taxes on diesel fuel and diesel-powered cars, roughly one in two cars sold in Europe are diesel models - in some countries much higher.

Stringent new diesel-fuel standards in North America now make modern diesels - no longer the pokey, smokey cars of the past - a realistic alternative for Canadian and American drivers, says Arden Nerling, marketing services manager at Mercedes-Benz Canada.

"All the things that people may have not liked about diesel don't exist anymore," says Nerling.

Mercedes is sharing its BlueTec diesel technology - which includes things like a more sophisticated catalytic converter to clean tailpipe emissions - with its corporate partner Chrysler.

BMW plans to offer its European high-performance diesels here in the upcoming model year.

"Obviously diesel technology is proven," says Duffield. "We know that is a winner and that will work well."

Domestic automakers also see a future for diesel cars here but point out Canadian diesel fuel and emission standards now eclipse Europe's, which means some tweaking will be necessary for vehicles to comply.

Fuel pricing and taxes also affect buyer decisions.

"It's really the economics that drive some of those choices," says GM's Crossley.

"I think hybrids have the lead in North America. I think there may be a place for both."

The last word goes to Crispim, who drives a Volkswagen Jetta diesel.

"I think we'll definitely see a big increase in diesels in the future," he says.

"We've got long distances between cities. There's no better place for a diesel-type application than Canada."

Copyright 2007 Canadian Press
 
lysyfacet
#2
well we have to start somewhere for saving the environment. These hybrid cars is a great start, but theres going ot have to be alot more then just that.
I'm going into the Environmental Field more from an engineering standpoint, but i'm looking forward to learning the different ways we can save and protect our environment. But definitely a great start to improving the quality of air around us
 
L Gilbert
#3
No friggin way I'll buy a hybrid. 99% of them are grimly ugly, too expensive, and I cannot see why I can't just buy an electric I like. And then there's these Smartcars ( http://www.thesmart.ca/index.cfm?ID=4720 ) which are excrutiatingly ugly.
 
lysyfacet
#4
aww yes the smartcars. My buddy has one actualy, i wouldn't buy one, cause like u said above, they aren't attractive at all.
Whereas the hybrids, well Tim Hortons has the roll up the rim to win and the toyota hybrid is up for grabs, maybe u'll get lucky and then u could see it for something u like
 
L Gilbert
#5
I'd sell it. Electric or I stick with the Dakota. Might try making my own fuel for it sometime, but for the moment I add acetone to the gas. Boosts efficiency.
 
lysyfacet
#6
yeh...thats what i'd do with the car if i won it. I'd probably look into getting the dodge charger. Something about that car just catches my attention. Its got a very strong look and the engine is great for the price. I want the SRT engine.
 
Liberalman
#7
Once you get an electric car that can go three hundred miles between charges and be able to have it fully charged in less than five minutes, gas cars will be obsolete.


With carbon composite car bodies and the electric car that has fewer parts in it the price of the car will come down.

This technology is two years away
 
lysyfacet
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by Liberalman View Post

This technology is two years away

you say two years away, how are you so certain? They've been trying to improve and create the first reliable and full functional electric car for years now. What makes u think by two years they'll have it?
 
Libra Girl
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by L Gilbert View Post

No friggin way I'll buy a hybrid. 99% of them are grimly ugly, too expensive, and I cannot see why I can't just buy an electric I like. And then there's these Smartcars ( http://www.thesmart.ca/index.cfm?ID=4720 ) which are excrutiatingly ugly.

lol, so you don't like the Smart Car... I think it's kinda cute. Last January 2006 I bought the Peugeot 107, the first years road tax was free, but this year it is only 40, whereas the highest level is gonna be around 400 over here. And it ain't ugly!
 
#juan
#10
Quote: Originally Posted by Libra Girl View Post

lol, so you don't like the Smart Car... I think it's kinda cute. Last January 2006 I bought the Peugeot 107, the first years road tax was free, but this year it is only 40, whereas the highest level is gonna be around 400 over here. And it ain't ugly!

I don't know the Peugeot 107. Is it a hybrid? I looked at the Smart Car but I thought it just too small and too light for my liking. A few months ago I saw one of the smaller cars, a Nissan something or other, get hit by a larger vehicle. The little car was just flattened, and the two people in it were killed. I eventually bought a Toyota Camry hybrid.
 
lysyfacet
#11
Quote: Originally Posted by #juan View Post

I don't know the Peugeot 107. Is it a hybrid? I looked at the Smart Car but I thought it just too small and too light for my liking. A few months ago I saw one of the smaller cars, a Nissan something or other, get hit by a larger vehicle. The little car was just flattened, and the two people in it were killed. I eventually bought a Toyota Camry hybrid.

yeh personally, i wouldn't feel safe driving around in the Smart Cars expecially on freeways where 18 wheelers share the road. It doesn't really matter how many air bags are in that car, if u get hit by something that big and at that speed, you're done. I like larger and heavier vehicles.Feels safer!!
 
#juan
#12
Quote: Originally Posted by lysyfacet View Post

yeh personally, i wouldn't feel safe driving around in the Smart Cars expecially on freeways where 18 wheelers share the road. It doesn't really matter how many air bags are in that car, if u get hit by something that big and at that speed, you're done. I like larger and heavier vehicles.Feels safer!!

Yeah, there are eighteen wheelers out there, but the vehicles that worry me are the Ford F-250s that some of the more brainless cavemen try to drive like sports cars.
 
Libra Girl
#13
Quote: Originally Posted by #juan View Post

I don't know the Peugeot 107. Is it a hybrid? I looked at the Smart Car but I thought it just too small and too light for my liking. A few months ago I saw one of the smaller cars, a Nissan something or other, get hit by a larger vehicle. The little car was just flattened, and the two people in it were killed. I eventually bought a Toyota Camry hybrid.

This is it juan...
Last edited by Libra Girl; Apr 19th, 2007 at 06:12 PM..
 
TenPenny
#14
Hybrid cars have a fairly limited use, and are not the long term solution. The powerplants don't have the longevity that people require, and the real-world fuel economy gains aren't there.
Small, fuel-efficient diesels are a better short term solution - diesel is less-refined than gasoline, so you're burning a product that typically takes less energy to create.
I looked at the smartcars, but for only slightly more money, you can buy a car that is vastly more useful for a family of four, and gets nearly the same fuel economy. The only real reason the smart makes sense is in dense urban areas where space is a premium.
 
#juan
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by Libra Girl View Post

This is it juan...

Can I assume you drive this vehicle in France? I would drive that car, or the Smart Car in Europe without hesitation. I've spent enough time in Europe to know that generally, they are better drivers than North Americans.
 
darkbeaver
#16
Hybreds, smartcars, electric none of them do much for the environment. There dosn't seem to be any way out of the hydro-carbon fuel problem that will save the economic interests, and that's what we're really talking about saving (the economy) not the environment or people. Kyoto will fail because it's tied to the capitalist economic paradigm. Natural gas, oil, and coal are all at or near peak, and demand continues to grow. A state of constant eco-war will continue and grow untill it consumes everything and everyone. There is no technological fix to greed.
My fuel bills and environmental footprint could be cut by 90% if my retarded community would adopt mass transit, but the local chamber of commerce keeps protecting the auto industry, and the oil industry. Alternatives that threaten the economic model we're trapped in will not be tolerated or promoted.
 
Libra Girl
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by #juan View Post

Can I assume you drive this vehicle in France? I would drive that car, or the Smart Car in Europe without hesitation. I've spent enough time in Europe to know that generally, they are better drivers than North Americans.

No, I live in England for most of the year, and drive it there... I don't know about being better drivers than North Americans, lol, but, shhhhhsh... I'm a woman, so that makes me er... a better driver than 50% of drivers.



Just kidding!
 
#juan
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by Libra Girl View Post

No, I live in England for most of the year, and drive it there... I don't know about being better drivers than North Americans, lol, but, shhhhhsh... I'm a woman, so that makes me er... a better driver than 50% of drivers.



Just kidding!

There is more than a little truth to that. Without a doubt women are generally, more conscientious drivers than men. Men are better at parking....
 
Libra Girl
#19
Quote: Originally Posted by #juan View Post

...Men are better at parking....

Nonsense!

Oh well, maybe...

Oh, Ok then, I'll give you that one! lol
 
lysyfacet
#20
Quote: Originally Posted by #juan View Post

Can I assume you drive this vehicle in France? I would drive that car, or the Smart Car in Europe without hesitation. I've spent enough time in Europe to know that generally, they are better drivers than North Americans.

no arguments on this one, i've lived in poland, and i visit every year, and the drivers are alot more responsible. Altho it depends on the area u are in and stuff, but thats just like with Canada. I still would be hesitant driving a smart car or any small car for that matter on freeways who the 18 wheelers are also using.
And as for the Fords, i think you mean the Ford F150, and yes they do drive those very carelessly and pretend they are sport cars, which does make it dangerous for us in our "tiny" cars
 
#juan
#21
Quote: Originally Posted by lysyfacet View Post

no arguments on this one, i've lived in poland, and i visit every year, and the drivers are alot more responsible. Altho it depends on the area u are in and stuff, but thats just like with Canada. I still would be hesitant driving a smart car or any small car for that matter on freeways who the 18 wheelers are also using.
And as for the Fords, i think you mean the Ford F150, and yes they do drive those very carelessly and pretend they are sport cars, which does make it dangerous for us in our "tiny" cars

Believe it or not, Fords come in F-150, F-250, and F-350. I have nothing against work trucks but there are a lot of bozos who drive these things as commuter vehicles. An F-350 with the biggest engine option could get as low as 8 miles per gallon.
 
typingrandomstuff
#22
Ka Blam! Faster and Faster into that Utopia that we hope!
 
lysyfacet
#23
Quote: Originally Posted by #juan View Post

Believe it or not, Fords come in F-150, F-250, and F-350. I have nothing against work trucks but there are a lot of bozos who drive these things as commuter vehicles. An F-350 with the biggest engine option could get as low as 8 miles per gallon.

hey well i learned something new. I'm not very familiar with all the ford models and what not, i hear things and thats about all i know. I'm not a fan for ford. I prefer my subaru .
 
#juan
#24
Quote:

Once you get an electric car that can go three hundred miles between charges and be able to have it fully charged in less than five minutes, gas cars will be obsolete.

Hell, if that car could go 300 miles and be recharged in an hour, gas cars would be obsolete.
 
lysyfacet
#25
Quote: Originally Posted by #juan View Post

Hell, if that car could go 300 miles and be recharged in an hour, gas cars would be obsolete.

yep...they definitely would. But now just think, they will start charging you tones more for electricity, so if you really look at it, i don't think it will be any better money wise, but it'll definitely help our environment.
 

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