Automakers Emphasize Fuel Economy at the L.A. Auto Show
December 6, 2006
The Los Angeles Auto Show, which opened to the public on December 1st, is providing automakers with a prime venue to show how they will address fuel economy this year and into the future. General Motors Corporation (GM), for instance, showed up with four future models: the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid, the Saturn Aura Green Line Hybrid, and the fuel-cell-powered Chevrolet Sequel and Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell. GM announced at the show that it has established a "high priority program" to produce a plug-in hybrid version of its Saturn Vue Green Line, using its two-mode hybrid system with a lithium ion battery pack. Though GM would not put a production date on that vehicle, this year the company is rolling out its Saturn Vue Green Line "mild" hybrid, which uses a belt-driven starter and alternator system. That system will be available on two sedans next year, the Saturn Aura Green Line and the Chevrolet Malibu.
GM's heftier two-mode hybrid system will debut next year in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs, expanding in 2008 to the Saturn Vue Green Line and Cadillac Escalade SUVs and the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. The two-mode hybrid system is expected to yield significant improvements in fuel economy, including a 45 percent improvement for the 2008 Saturn Vue Green Line, compared to the non-hybrid Saturn Vue. Looking ahead to 2015, GM won the auto show's Design Challenge with its on-paper concept for a fuel-cell-powered "Hummer O2," which would feature algae-filled body panels that produce pure oxygen. For the present, though, GM is currently offering 23 vehicles that achieve an estimated 30 miles per gallon or more on the highway, up from just 14 last year. See GM's L.A. Auto Show Web site and the press releases on its L.A. auto show lineup, the plug-in hybrid plans, the two-mode hybrid version of the Saturn Vue Green Line, and the Hummer O2.
While GM had plenty to announce at the show, other car companies let their display vehicles do the talking. Ford Motor Company unveiled a fuel-cell-powered Explorer, developed as part of a DOE demonstration program and featuring a range of 350 miles. Ford also unveiled its redesigned 2008 Escape SUV, including the hybrid version. Honda displayed its FCX Concept, a sleek fuel cell vehicle that was first unveiled last year in Japan. The FCX Concept will be the basis of a 2008 vehicle to be marketed on a limited basis in Japan and the United States. In addition, BMW is displaying its Hydrogen 7, a limited-production sedan that burns hydrogen in an internal combustion engine. The Los Angeles Auto Show is open to the public through December 10th. See the Honda press release and the Ford press releases on the Explorer and the Escape, and for photos of all the vehicles, see the Los Angeles Auto Show Web site.