Gas2 Week in Review, April 15: Automakers Show their Embrace of Alternative Power Sources
The top stories on Gas2 this week revolved around the various ways that automakers are making the slow but steady move toward alternative energy power and improved fuel efficiency. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers took to the floor this week at the New York Auto Show to reposition itself on CAFE standards; meanwhile, EV sales surged in Q1 2017 like never before. A story about an innovative battery pack system from a Finnish-American startup that creates a string of battery cells rather than one solid unit caught our readers’ attention. And both Cadillac and Ford hybrids made the Gas2 news — one an import from China, the other a police cruiser on duty here in the U.S. Here are those stories and more as our Gas2 Week in Review.
Mitch Bainwol, chief executive of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM), spent time this week at the New York Auto Show explaining that the Big Three automakers don’t want to roll back existing standards — really they don’t. What they want is a “rational, predictable, stable policy” that emerges from data analysis. His trade group has forecast doom and gloom if Obama-era CAFE emissions standards take effect. Bainwol’s comments build on a narrative that Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company’s CEO, exclaimed as soon as the Trump administration moved into the White House. Ford argued that those CAFE standards would force one million Americans out of work and cost consumers billions. As a result, Trump has pledged that the EPA will conduct a thorough, top to bottom review of the CAFE auto emissions program and come up with guidelines within a year. Bainwol attempted to clarify the AAM’ s position. “The talk of rollback is fallacious. What we are talking here is the nature of the slope. We will get to the Obama numbers (54.5 mpg). We will get beyond the Obama numbers. The question is when and how.”
Up nearly 20% here at the end of Q1 2017, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars are putting a significant dent in traditional gas-powered automobile sales. Differences also are beginning to emerge among these three categories of alternative energy vehicles. The popularity of hybrids is falling and giving way to plug-in hybrid sales, which rose in the first quarter of the year 23% to 109,292 vehicles. Plug-in vehicle sales have jumped 65 percent to more than 37,500 units. Although Ford CEO Mark Fields says no one wants to buy electric cars, green car sales jumped 61 percent from a year earlier to 9,212 units. A chart supplied by Autoblog really makes clear how consumers have embraced cleaner energy vehicles and how many automakers are now listening to consumer voices about the move away from combustion engines.
Why does a battery pack have to be one continual unit? What if EV drivers filled onboard containers with a number of lithium ion modules, each of which had an internal processing unit that would map out their various contact points? Well, that’s what TankTwo, a Finnish-American startup, is proposing. The company says that the most efficient arrangement of battery cells would link together in a configuration much like a string. This alternative to traditional battery placement could have many advantages. EV drivers could charge or swap the cells at a fueling station, paying only for the amount of battery they need. They could also add extra cells at a service station and get a credit for any cells returned when they are no longer needed. Swapping a full tank of cells would take about three minutes, with little need to worry about battery degradation or battery chemistry becoming obsolete.
Built in China, the first 100 Cadillac CT6 PHEV cars have been imported to the U.S. These hybrids feature an electric-only range of more than 30 miles from a 18.4 kWh battery — which is the same size battery GM uses in the Chevy Volt. Different in shape, the battery for the CT6 is more rectangular and fits between the rear seat and the trunk. Other differences with the Volt include the powertrain, engine, transmission… oh, yeah, and price. Read on to learn all the ways that the hybrid Caddy builds on the technology of its predecessors as well as the new technology of the Volt.
The first hybrid police cruiser in the U.S. is a Ford Fusion called the Responder Hybrid Sedan. A two-liter, four cylinder engine coupled to an electric motor and a small battery pack allows the vehicle to reach up to 60 mph briefly in electric mode or patrol silently for longer periods with the engine off. Once the driver prods the pedal, though, the gas engine springs into life to provide maximum acceleration as the car goes into “pursuit mode.” With reinforced suspension, added cooling capacity, regenerative braking, and reworked chassis, among other adaptive features, the Fusion Hybrid police cruiser is rated at 38 mpg in combined highway and city driving. Each hybrid car has the potential to save its police department up to $3,800 a year in fuel costs, reduced brake wear, and lowered maintenance costs.