Mariner Hybrid on Sale as Honda Unveils Improved Hybrid System
July 13, 2005
Ford Motor Company began selling the new Mercury Mariner Hybrid on July 11th. Ford's second hybrid sport utility vehicle achieves 33 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, a fuel efficiency improvement of about 40 percent over the standard four-wheel-drive Mariner. Ford plans to build 2,000 Mariner Hybrids for the 2006 model year, but will eventually build 4,000 per year. The manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for the vehicle starts at $29,840, which is $7,800 higher than the starting MSRP for the standard Mariner, although the hybrid includes a number of premium standard features. Ford expects to sell most of the Mariner Hybrids online, although buyers can also place their orders at dealerships. See the Ford press release and the Mercury Mariner Hybrid Web site.
Meanwhile, American Honda Motor Company, Inc. announced on July 5th that it will introduce a new hybrid system in its 2006 Civic Hybrid. The new hybrid system combines a more efficient motor assist system with an advanced engine to achieve a drive system that is smaller and more powerful than the current model while increasing fuel efficiency by about 5 percent. The new electric motor produces 50 percent more power while staying the same size, and the new battery pack produces 30 percent more power but is more compact. The engine includes an electronic valve timing system that allows it to operate in three modes, including one optimized for low engine speeds and one optimized for high engine speeds. The third mode kicks in while decelerating and stops combustion in the engine by sealing all the valves shut. This third mode will also allow the new Civic Hybrid to achieve a first for a Honda: It will cruise at low speeds on electric power alone. See the Honda press release.
Honda is also introducing new fuel-efficiency improvements to its standard Civic. Like the Hybrid Civic engine, the new Civic engine employs an electronic valve timing system, but uses it to delay the closure of the intake valve under low engine loads. Such an approach—referred to as a modified Atkinson cycle—allows the throttle to open wider and avoids the energy losses caused by the engine trying to suck air in through a small throttle opening. With such innovations as a drive-by-wire throttle, a variable-length intake manifold, and lightweight components, the new 1.8-liter Civic engine is lighter, more powerful, and up to 6 percent more fuel-efficient than the current Civic's 1.7-liter engine. See the Honda press release.