2014 AltCar Expo
Those of us of a certain age remember with great fondness, gathering the family together on Sunday afternoons and going for a drive just for the sake of watching the scenery pass by through the windows of our huge family sedan. There was no particular destination, and there was no rushing to get there. It was purely enjoying the car as a means of recreation. And what huge automobiles they were—huge and completely fuel inefficient.
Back then fuel economy wasn’t such a big deal. Gas was costing like fifteen cents a gallon. You’d roll into the station, ask for a “dollar’s worth”, get nearly seven gallons of gas ($28 worth today), and cruise until your heart was content.
Then came the 1973 Oil Crisis; suddenly Americans actually had to pay attention to how much gas their cars consumed. Lines at gas stations became commonplace, Odd/Even rationing rules were put into place. (Cars with license plates ending in an odd number could buy fuel on odd-numbered days (March 1,3,5,7,9; cars with even numbered plates could buy gas on even numbered days March 2,4,6,8,10, and etc.). Further, a national speed limit of 55 miles per hour was imposed to reduce fuel consumption.
With scarcity of any good or service comes price increases, and Americans started to demand more fuel-efficient cars. Around this same time, the environmental effects of releasing long-buried carbon into the atmosphere as a result of burning gasoline became a significant issue as well. Today, while the gas lines have subsided, fuel economy and environmental responsibility remain significant concerns. Over time, the marketplace duly responded to these trepidations with a host of technological developments.
The Alt Car Expo, the nation’s leading forum for green car ride and drive, public education, and demonstration of the latest green technology vehicles, showcases a number of those technological innovations. Presenting an extensive array of green vehicles in one place, the AltCar Expo features electric, hybrid electric, natural gas, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles; offering a glimpse of the future of mass transportation in the United States.
Having been around since 2005, the AltCar Expo has seen tremendous growth in the alternative fuels segment of the marketplace. When the event started, apart from diesel-powered models, the only alternative fuel vehicle offered by any automaker was the Honda Civic Natural Gas. Further, there were only three hybrids on the market back then; Honda Insight, Toyota Prius, and Ford Escape.
Over the ensuing years, choices have expanded considerably. Reflecting this, the AltCar Expo has hosted the national debut of the Chevrolet Volt, the national reveal of the natural gas powered version of the Ford F-150, the global debut of Honda’s Plug-in hybrid and the kick off of the Nissan LEAF and Toyota RAV EV national tours. For 2014, there are some 17 vehicles on display, with 13 of them available for test drives. This includes the first public opportunity to test-drive the hydrogen fuel cell powered Honda FCX Clarity in Northern California.
The Expo also featured a number of alternatively powered trucks, in addition to an electric school bus. Organizers stress one of the oft-overlooked aspects of AltVehicles is trucks and buses could do a lot to alleviate emissions concerns because so many of them are on the road everyday. Further, fleet-oriented vehicles like these are perfectly positioned to run on alternative fuels because they are so closely monitored, return to the same location every day, and offer the added benefit of lowered operational costs.
What follows is an overview of the vehicles on display at the recent AltCar Expo held in Richmond, Calif. on March 14th and 15th of 2014. The next event will be held in Irving, Tex. March 27th through the 29th.
2014 AltCar Expo: Ford C-MAX Energi
A plug-in hybrid wagon, the Ford C-Max Energi offers the capability of running on electric power only—as well as a mix of gasoline and electric power. The Ford’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine produces 141 horsepower and 129 ft-lbs of torque. This engine is paired with a 68 kW electric motor supplied by a 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Total system output is 188 horsepower, which is transmitted to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. The C-MAX Energi is capable of traveling up to 21 miles on electric power alone. Recharging the battery pack from near depletion takes approximately 2.5 hours, using its 240-volt recharging system. The EPA says to expect 44 miles per gallon in the city, 41 on the highway, and 43 miles per gallon combined.
2014 AltCar Expo: Ford Escape EcoBoost
Ford was one of the first mainstream auto manufacturers to take advantage of turbocharging, variable valve timing, and direct fuel injection to extract the power of larger engines from smaller-displacement powerplants. In the case of the Ford Escape EcoBost, this means a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, capable of generating 240 horsepower and 270 ft-lbs of torque. Achieving these numbers previously required a V6 powerplant. Remarkably, even with this exceptional power output, the Escape EcoBoost is capable of achieving 22 miles per gallon in the city, 30 on the highway and 25 miles per gallon combined. The powertrain employs a six-speed automatic transmission and can be paired with ether front- or all-wheel drive.
2014 AltCar Expo: Ford F-150 CNG
The Ford F-150 CNG is a production model Ford pickup truck capable of being powered by compressed natural gas. The Ford can also be configured to run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). To get there, the company offers a gaseous-fuel prep package to enable the pickup to run on either CNG or LPG. The factory-installed option is offered with Ford’s 302-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 engine and is capable of producing 750 miles of range depending upon the size of the fuel tank. The conversion from gasoline to natural gas requires a new fuel tank, fuel lines, and fuel injectors. Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, the Ford F150 CNG returns 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 on the highway. The kit makes the F-150 one of eight Ford models capable of running on CNG/LPG.
2014 AltCar Expo: Ford Fusion Energi
A plug-in hybrid sedan, like the Ford C-MAX Energi, the Ford Fusion Energi offers the capability of running on electric power only—as well as a mix of gasoline and electric power. Also like the C-MAX, the Fusion uses Ford’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, which produces 141 horsepower and 129 ft-lbs of torque. This engine is paired with a 68 kW electric motor powered by a 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Total system output is 188 horsepower, which is transmitted to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. The C-MAX Energi is capable of traveling up to 21 miles on electric power alone. Recharging the battery pack from near depletion takes approximately 2.5 hours when using its 240-volt recharging system. The EPA says to expect 44 miles per gallon in the city, 41 on the highway, and 43 miles per gallon combined. The model’s range is estimated at 620 miles.
2014 AltCar Expo: Ford Focus Electric
The vaunted automaker’s first electric passenger car has been on the market since 2011. The electric Ford offers a total range of up to 76 miles on a single charge. Its 107 kW electric motor produces the equivalent of 143 horsepower. The Focus Electric is capable of a top speed of 84 miles per hour. Using a 240 recharging system, it takes four hours to recharge the Focus Electric’s 23 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. A single-speed direct drive transmission feeds power to the front wheels. The miles per gallon equivalent of the of the Focus Electric is estimated at 110 miles per gallon in the city, 99 on the highway and 105 miles per gallon combined.
2014 AltCar Expo: Honda Civic Natural Gas
Still the only natural gas powered sedan on the market from a mainstream manufacturer, the Honda Civic Natural Gas uses a version of Honda’s 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine configured to run on natural gas. Output is 110 horsepower and 106 ft-lbs of torque. The front drive powertrain is completed by a five-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 27 miles per gallon in the city, 38 on the highway, and 31 combined. More than just an economy-minded auto, the Honda Civic Natural Gas model can be had with leather upholstery, navigation, and heated seats. The Civic Natural Gas holds the equivalent of just over eight gallons of fuel, which gives it a highway range of more than 300 miles.
2014 AltCar Expo: Honda FCX Clarity
The first fuel cell electric vehicle to be offered for lease to customers in the USA, Honda’s FCX Clarity is most remarkable for how unremarkable its driving experience is. For all intents and purposes, an electric car, the FCX Clarity uses a hydrogen fuel cell to generate electricity to power the car’s front wheels with a 100kW (134 horsepower) electric motor. The Honda’s fuel tank will hold 171 liters of compressed hydrogen gas in its high-pressure hydrogen storage tank. The EPA says this is good for a maximum range of 270 miles. While Honda is offering a three-year lease on the car at $600 monthly—which includes insurance—you must take delivery of the vehicle in southern California.
2014 AltCar Expo: Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid
Offering all of the benefits of a gasoline/electric hybrid powertrain, along with the advantages of electric-only operation and plug-in recharging, the Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid aims to be the best of all worlds. Nicely equipped with the sort of comfort and convenience features you’ve come to expect from Honda’s flagship sedan, the Accord Plug-In is powered by a 2.0-liter gasoline fired internal combustion engine and an electric motor. Combined, they produce a total system output of 196 horsepower. This is routed to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. A 6.7 kWh lithium-ion battery pack stores electricity for the motor. The Accord Plug-In will travel up to 15 miles on electric power alone. The EPA says to expect 47 miles per gallon in the city, 46 on the highway, and 46 combined.
2014 AltCar Expo: Honda Fit EV
Combining the outstanding utility of Honda’s versatile Fit with the benefits of an electric powertrain, the Honda Fit EV uses a 92 kW (123 horsepower) electric motor good for 189 ft-lbs of torque. The Fit EV’s 20 kWh lithium-ion battery pack gives the Honda a range of approximately 82 miles as estimated by the EPA. The pack can be recharged from near depletion in about three hours using a 240-volt recharging station. Currently the Honda Fit EV is available for lease only in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. However, the lease payment also includes collision insurance (but not liability insurance).
2014 AltCar Expo: Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell
Initially limited to customers in southern California, the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell will be offered under a three-year lease for $499 monthly, which includes unlimited refueling. A $2,999 down payment is required to take possession of the hydrogen-powered Hyundai model. The company’s representatives say the fuel cell Tucson will offer a range of approximately 300 miles, and can be refueled from empty in about 10 minutes. Like the Honda FCX Clarity, the Hyundai uses a hydrogen fuel cell to generate electricity to feed its electric motor. The model’s range is quoted at 365 miles, and its top speed is said to be 100 miles per hour.
2014 AltCar Expo: Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL
Currently offered only for lease to customers in California (at $419.00 monthly, which includes insurance), the Mercedes-Benz B Class F-CELL is powered by an electric motor capable of producing the equivalent of 136 horsepower and 214 ft-lbs of torque. A 35 kWh battery is also onboard to capture regenerated electricity from braking. According to the spokespeople at Mercedes-Benz, the B Class F-CELL’s hydrogen storage tank can be replenished in approximately three minutes. The model is said to offer a range of up to 240 miles based on its fuel economy rating of 52 miles per gallon (equivalent) in the city, 53 on the highway and 52 miles per gallon combined.
2014 AltCar Expo: Motiv/Trans Tech SST-e Type A School Bus
Built on Ford’s E450 chassis, using the Motiv electric Powertrain Control System (ePCS), the SST-e is an all-electric school bus. According to its manufacturer, the ePCS allows the bus to be compatible with any battery currently on the market or available in the future. Additionally, one pack can be replaced without replacing all the batteries on the vehicle. The new all-electric SST-e school bus is available with four or five battery packs, providing districts with range options of 80 or 100 miles. Passenger capacity for the Trans Tech/Motiv SST-e all-electric school bus is up to 32 fully ambulatory students—or 24 ambulatory students and one wheelchair-bound student.
2014 AltCar Expo: Nissan LEAF
The first mainstream electric vehicle to come to market from a major manufacturer, the Nissan LEAF has found more than 100,000 buyers to date. With a range of approximately 84 miles on a full charge of its 21 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the LEAF is more than adequate for the day-to-day needs of the average motorist. Some four hours are required to completely recharge the pack with a 6.6 kW charger. However the LEAF’s quick-charge solution will get the battery pack to within 80 percent of capacity within 30 minutes. The 80 kW (107-horsepower equivalent) electric motor feeds a maximum of 187 ft-lbs of torque to the LEAF’s front wheels through a one-speed direct drive transmission.
2014 AltCar Expo: Smart Electric Drive
If you live in an urban area and are in need of strictly city transportation, the smart fortwo Electric drive might possibly be the solution you’ve been seeking. First of all, its size makes it perfect for negotiating all the hazards of city driving, as it will fit practically anywhere. The electric Smart car uses a 17.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack to store electricity for its 55kW electric motor. Some 96 ft-lbs. of torque and the equivalent of 47 horsepower are fed to the model’s rear wheels. Range is quoted at 68 miles. Recharge time is quoted at six hours, using a 240V system.
2014 AltCar Expo: Toyota FCHV-adv
Based on the previous generation Toyota Highlander, the FCHV-adv boasts a range of some 400 miles. While this model is not offered to the general public like the other hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at the Expo, the FCHV-adv is said to presage a production model Toyota plans for the 2015 model year. A total of 20 first generation fuel cell hybrid vehicles (FCHV) were placed in service in California with universities, corporations and government agencies. Toyota enlisted the University of California, Irvine, University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, Davis to test different aspects of consumer acceptance and market dynamics of fuel cell vehicles. FCHV-adv models were also placed with the California Fuel Cell Partnership, a public-private partnership organization to promote the adoption of hydrogen vehicles in California.
2014 AltCar Expo: VIA Motors VTrux eREV Silverado
Said to be the world’s first extended-range electric pickup truck, the VIA Motors VTrux eREV Silverado is capable of running some 40 miles in all-electric mode before switching on its gasoline-fired internal combustion engine. The 4.3-liter V6 generates electricity to recharge the 22 kWh lithium-ion battery pack to feed its 150 kW (201-horsepower) electric motor. Total range is said to be 300 miles on a single tank of fuel. While the gasoline engine can be used as a generator to recharge the battery pack, the eREV powertrain can also be recharged using a 240v charging station. What’s more, it can even export alternating current to run power tools and other electrically-powered accessories.
2014 AltCar Expo: ZEROTRUCK
Organizations in need of something in the 12,000-19,500 lb GVWR range, might want to consider the ZEROTRUCK electric drive system. The first USA-built class four electric truck offers a range of up to 70 miles, a recharge time of two hours, and utility, dry freight, stake bed, tow, sweeper, and refuse body options. The ZEROTRUCK’s 150 kW (200 horsepower) electric motor is said to be good for 480 ft-lbs of torque. The standard duty model can handle a payload of 6000 pounds, while the heavy-duty chassis is good for 7,000 pounds.