Alternative Fuel Vehicles Are Coming!! from "My Car, My Life"
Manufacturers Are Listening to the Public
If you listen very carefully while visiting auto shows and auto dealers this autumn to give the new 2011 models the once over and a few kicks of the tires, you’ll hear a faint, positive whisper: “The people have spoken!”
There is change happening in the world automotive market. Alternative powered vehicles are here – and more are coming! They aren’t just design exercises. They aren’t a passing fad. They aren’t teaser models like GM’s infamous EV1. Hybrids, electrics, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. They are here – NOW – and we’re only going to be seeing more of them.
Let’s all let out a collective: “Yay!”
Every manufacturer is putting at least one hybrid electric model in their line-up. Even names like Porsche, Land Rover and Jaguar are joining in.
Most manufacturers have all-electrics in the works. Nissan and GM have models they’re putting in garages and on the roads now. Volvo, Audi, Ford, Mitsubishi – they have models in the pipeline.
Now changes like this aren’t like adjusting the length of hems for the spring and summer season. Fashion designers have the “luxury” (though it is hard work and we respect that) of creating four collections a year – all from scratch.
For auto manufacturers, it typically takes 3 to 5 years to bring a new model to the marketplace. For some nameplates such as Audi or Mercedes, it takes 10 years to gestate an all-new model. And that’s when existing, proven technology is being used. The hybrids, electrics and hydrogen models we’re seeing and going to see have been decades in development.
Research Dollars Turning Into Real Vehicles
And that’s the truly big news here. Decades of development are finally paying off. Billions of dollars spent in research is finally going to see some return. The cries of “We want more!” that began in the 60s and 70s with the ecology movement and the teenage hippies who said never trust anyone over 30 have brought about change because this is the generation that is now calling the shots within the automotive establishment.
Auto makers have stopped seeing demands for higher MPG as onerous burdens. The CEO of Hyundai, for example, stood before a throng of auto journalists at the 2010 LA Auto Show and committed to bringing to market a line-up of vehicles delivering 40+ MPG – with that being the starting point. Those numbers, he promised, were going to increase steadily.
The automotive marketplace is extremely competitive. No one is willing to hand over market segments to a single manufacturer. Hyundai’s announcement was both a challenge and a line painted on the pavement – a starting line. The days of fighting change are over. It is now being embraced. Changes are being made. Consumers are getting choices…because they have been persistently asking for them. And the automobile manufacturers are finally able to show that they have, indeed, listened.
Now, if only shoe makers could create a hot, sexy, high-heel that was comfortable for 8 hours instead of 8 minutes, we’d really be seeing progress….
(And speaking of progress – two notes from the 2010 LA Auto Show:
• Jaguar is working with what MCML believes is a most exciting hybrid technology – diesel-powered micro turbines! These little guys are based on the same technology as jet engines, only a lot smaller – like only 14 inches in length. Two of them are used to power an onboard generator that charges the battery pack and will also power the four electric motors. This power plant configuration is called an extended-range electric meaning the battery pack is initially charged by plugging it in. This charged pack will carry the vehicle 60 to 70 miles. If the driver needs more range, the turbines kick-in, turn the generator and the battery packs are re-charged as they are being driven. They will continue to charge and, therefore, power the vehicle until the diesel fuel is expended. The overall range in the prototype Jaguar presented is 550 miles. Exciting stuff – especially when you see the prototype vehicle! Though the vehicle’s designer, the legendary Ian Callum, said it would not see production, the fully working technology driving it will.
• A spokesman from Honda proudly told MCML their hydrogen fuel cell powered Clarity is getting rave reviews from the select number of lucky owners. The only apparent road block to the broader use of the technology is availability of hydrogen filling stations. Honda is currently teaming with Shell to provide hydrogen. Shell is opening new facilities in the SoCal area and doesn’t appear to be backing away from its commitment. The only problem that has come up is pricing. Currently, Clarity drivers are able to fill-up AT NO COST! Shell has not been able to figure out how to effectively charge consumers for the fuel – especially since one facility uses water tanks on the roof to manufacture it.)
Update -- 2013: Fuel Cell Vehicles are Here!
Hyundai stunned the automotive world this LA AutoShow with their announcement of the "ready for market" Tucson CSUV powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. That's right! A fuel cell-powered vehicle is going to be offered to the public starting January 2014. It will be leased for $499/mo with $2500 down. Maintenance is included (not that there is any need with like, two moving parts) as well as all fuel charges. Roll-out will be to Southern California first, due to its existing hydrogen infrastructure. As the capability of delivering hydrogen as a fuel source expands so will the sales area.