After musing a bit about how the New England Patriots somehow bumbled their way into the Super Bowl, my thoughts turned to a couple, perhaps, under appreciated developments coming out of the recent auto shows—specifically what I learned at the New England International Auto Show earlier this month.
In a seemingly routine presentation about Buick's 2013 Encore a small, five-passenger luxury crossover, Lloyd Bierman, marketing manager, noted the vehicle will have active noise cancellation to quiet the cabin from engine and powertrain noise. The Bose amplifier, which comes standard on the car, even if the premium sound system is not opted for, is used to generate "opposing noise" to cancel offending sounds.
Bose spokesman, Kevin Doak, tells me the Active Sound Management system is currently on the Cadillac Escalade and Infiniti M series and will also be on the 2013 Cadillac ATS and XTS as a means of blocking low frequencies from the engine, transmission, and other powertrain components. Three microphones in the cabin monitor sounds and then proprietary algorithms create an opposite signal sent to the rear-shelf woofer and in-door speakers. The result is lighter-weight noise reduction than with heavier mechanical components such as insulation, mass dampers, and active engine mounts.
Over at the Ford stand, the big news was the company's push into electric propulsion. First up was the long anticipated Focus Electric. In a briefing with Julie D'Annunzio, the company's manager for global electrified fleets, she noted the car will be built on the standard Focus production line—so the company can quickly adjust the production ratio of gasoline and electric Foci based on market demand. The car can carry five passengers up to 84 mph with a range up to 100 miles (however, cost is put at just under $40k, before any incentives or rebates). The 23 kWh Li-ion battery pack is liquid cooled, and the onboard 6.6 kW charger provides for a 3 hour charge time at 220V (full charging takes 18 hours at 110V).
But perhaps the most exciting news was the all-new 2013 Ford Fusion line, which will come with gasoline (featuring EcoBoost (direct injection, turbo) technology), hybrid, and plug-in hybrid powertrains. The EcoBoost version will provide 37 highway miles per gallon, the hybrid 47 mpg in the city, and the plug-in, called the Energi, will have a 500 mile range and get 100 mpg (equivalent). The latter figure formulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is based on miles driven divided by the energy used in terms of gasoline and electricity. D'Annunzio noted that the Energi's range (and ability to carry five passengers) betters the Chevy Volt
Finally, D'Annunzio noted that by the end of 2012, one third of Ford's models will achieve 40 mpg highway mileage.
And while Toyota did not have a formal presentation, its highlight was the widened availability of its hybrid powertrain. On display was the Prius v (for versatile), which the company claims has the cargo space "of a small SUV" and the subcompact Prius c (for city) with an EPS city mileage of 53 mpg, "the best of any vehicle without a plug," and an MSRP of under $19,000.
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