To highlight how much fuel-economy improvements automotive design engineers are still wringing out of internal combustion engines, just spend some time in the Eco version of Chevy's Cruze compact car.
I had a week with the car, equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive, and in nearly 500 miles of Interstate and mountain driving I logged 37 mpg on the car's trip computer—right on the EPA highway mileage number (26 mpg, city). The 6-speed manual transmission version is listed as 28 mpg (city) and 42 mpg (hwy). The engine in both versions is a 1.4-L (138 hp, 148 ft-lb torque) four cylinder.
But you don't have to take my word for it. Automotive Traveler magazine's Richard Truesdell drove the manual version (I assume) from California to New Jersey and achieved 40 mpg for the trip.
Base price for the Eco on the sticker I have is $18,175. Add a $525 connectivity package (cruise control, USB interface, Bluetooth, leather steering wheel and shifter, etc.), automatic transmission ($925), compact spare tire ($100), and destination charge ($720) and the total is $20,445.
Previously, I had driven the luxury LTZ model (nice stitched leather, sport suspension) of the Cruze with the automatic and pulled 30 mpg in limited suburban driving. I was impressed with the handling and pickup for a compact car, with similar performance in the Eco.
As an ex-aero engineer, I was impressed with the aerodynamic and other features the GM engineers have designed into the Eco to improve mileage from the standard Cruze. These include:
Lower front grille air shutters to regulate engine airflow to cut cooling drag
Front fascia air dam
Mid-body aero panels
Low rolling resistance tires, also used on the Chevy Volt range-enhanced electric vehicle
Engine-wise, there is variable valve timing (four valves/cylinder) and the air conditioner is decoupled from the engine for less load when not in use
Here's a video of GM engineers explaining some of these features:
The Eco also had one of the best manually adjusting seats I've seen. It is movable eight ways, including front and rear tilt, and height adjustment. The car is fairly quiet and the body style allows a deep trunk. All in all, the Cruze is a fun, economical, and practical package.
(In case you're not familiar with the Cruze, it's the car that our favorite ex-Cylon, Grace Park'scharacter, Kono, in the new Hawaii Five-0 TV series drives with some aplomb.)
I paid less than $22K for my 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid hatchback a year ago, with bluetooth and all that. Much nicer and roomier car than the Cruze, and normal long-wearing tires too. This month I did a Portland / Salt Lake City round trip of 1600 miles at 70-75 mph on the cruise control, no hypermiling, and got 48 mpg. Beats flying.
Yes, but aside from current acquisition costs, a hybrid would get vastly superior city driving fuel economy. Hybrids typically get higher fuel economy in city driving than they do on the open road, which is actually logical, if you think about it.
I do NOT like the idea of having to lug around two power trains. I also do not like the idea of battery-powered electrics potentially creating a lot more demand on the power grid. But it's very hard to deny that for city driving, where non-hybrids waste a huge amount of energy in brake heat and idling at red lights, having a battery to recylce the energy makes a whole lot of sense. Very slow stop and go traffic should not be where most of the gasoline gets used, in an ideal world.
The Cruze Eco is a bigger threat to the Jetta/Golf TDI diesels. It has nearly identical passenger and cargo space and mileage that all but matches the TDI diesels. But another contender is the Hyundai Elantra which has similar, impressive numbers.
These newer designs are still burning so much fuel that on the highway, the Prius has roughly 75-80% lower fuel costs. In city and traffic jammed freeways, the Prius burns less than 50% of these new designs. But they are competitive with the hybrid sedans like the Ford Fusion and Camry Hybrid.
In contrast, the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight have awesome mileage and the new Honda Civic Hybrid looks to have similar fuel efficiency improvements.
2005 Jetta (last Mark IV year), $15,500 out the door, taxes, title, registration. Lifetime fuel mileage 29.1 MPG (as of last month 103,666 miles, 3556.672 gallons, $9,408.60). Highway mileage @ 75 MPH = 31-32 MPG
@ 65 MPH = 34-35 MPG. Yes, I am anal. I have every receipt(or at least written record when the machine was broken) and an Excel spreadsheet. Compared to the hybrids, I'm still driving for FREE !!
The ~$20K difference in cost between the Eco CRUZE and the VOLT could pay for a lot of gas! Or...you could pay an additional ~$30K and put up solar panels to charge the Volt and eliminate the use of gas altogether. I'd like to see a financial analysis of these 3 scenarios: super-efficient conventional car, hybrid, solar-charged EV. Sadly, the ROI break-even of the solar-charged EV will be 30-50 years...assuming the car lasts that long.
Pure electric cars like the Leaf are early-adopter products just like the latest smartphones, tablets, or any other electronic product. They are at the beginning of the cost-volume curve. Early adopters buy EVs because of the exciting technology and the desire to participate in its arrival.
Are you expecting me to be impressed? My Ford Galaxy (large 7-seater like a Chrysler Voyager) has been giving me 50mpg from a regular 1.8l diesel engine for the last four years. (That's 40mpg for your smaller US gallons). I'm just in the process of ordering a smaller 7-seater (VW Touran), which based on the emmisions figures, should return about 70mpg from a 1.6l fancy diesel engine (56m per US g).
Thing I find odd is that GM is now presenting vehicles in the US market that it has had in the European market for 10 years! There are also some very respectable diesel engines from Ford, GM, BMW, Audi, etc. that have as much acceleration as a gas engine, are as quiet as a gas engine, drive just like a gas engine, and give 25% more 'gas' mileage per gallon.
Why don't we have those here?
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.