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Automakers' Green Strategy Switching From Hybrids And EVs To Small Gas Engies

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On: Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 9:42AM | By: Chris Weiss


Automakers' Green Strategy Switching From Hybrids And EVs To Small Gas Engies

Hybrids and electric vehicles are great at making headlines. Because they're new technology, these vehicles make headlines on technology blogs and magazines that could care less about the latest small turbocharged gas engine. Problem is, while everyone likes reading about new technology, not everyone is as quick to buy it, especially when it proves more expensive. Automakers are starting to respond to consumer apathy to hybrids by putting more emphasis on building efficient gas vehicles.

According to the Detroit News, the expense of equipping cars with batteries and electric motors combined with the increasing fuel economy of small gas engines has convinced some automakers to spend more resources on increasing the efficiency of gas cars. A few auto retailers quoted in the article explained that hybrids start a nice conversation about eco-friendly automobiles in showrooms, but the conversation often ends in the customer deciding that hybrids are too expensive.

Perhaps the most visible example of the ability of hybrids to win headlines and hearts but not buyers is the Chevy Volt. After launching in December of 2010, the Volt practically swept the 2011 awards circuit, winning notables like the North American Car of the Year and the Green Car of the Year. Yet Chevy has had nothing but problems selling the car. It only sold about three-quarters of the 10,000 models it plannned to unload last year, and the latest indications are that dealers are reluctant to even stock the model. GM has stepped back from its original 2012 Volt production goals, moving toward a more modest stance of 'meeting consumer demand.'

At around $32,500 after a maximum federal tax credit, the Volt is double the price of efficient models like the Cruze, which gives drivers up to 42 mpg for a base of $16,800. For many consumers, the fuel economy advantages of the Volt pale in comparison to its hefty premium.

Smaller, more efficient engines offer the potential for great fuel savings with much lower costs than hybrid and electric powertrains. Detroit News' article compares the $10,000 cost of adding a big rechargeable battery to about $2,500 per vehicle for developing a more efficient engine.

Ford has been one of the leaders in moving toward small, turbocharged engines with its expanding Ecoboost line. The automaker recently announced that it will expand the availability of Ecoboost engines to four new models in 2012. It says that Ecoboost engines provide up to 20 percent better fuel economy while delivering the power that drivers want.

While better gas engines may be a more economical solution in the short term, automakers aren't abandoning hybrid and electric powertrains altogether. In order to prepare for a more electrically driven future complete with stricter emissions regulations, automakers still need to add more battery power to their fleets. For instance, Ford plans to launch five hybrids and EVs this year and, despite poor first-year sales of the Volt, GM is already working on its second plug-in hybrid: the Cadillac ELR.




Comments

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Stephy21 | 11:05AM (Tue, Feb 14, 2012)

I think automakers should defiantly wait on the Hybrid technology cause their has been some proven problems with them and now i think people are scared that it might happen in every electric vehicle. Introducing better efficient gas vehicles would most likely be the safer way to go for now until they improve the hybrid technology and the price comes down on them as well.


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Sami18 | 11:11AM (Tue, Feb 14, 2012)

i think this is a much wiser choice for automakers cause the hybrid technology is expensive and in this economy most people cant afford that.



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