Concept cars can range from conventional to racy to downright wild. This year's auto shows in Detroit and Chicago offered a little bit of each. Honda and Lincoln gave show attendees a taste of the conventional, while Chevy focused on racy designs for younger buyers.
For their part, Volkswagen and Smart took aim at the future with a pair of unusual pure electric vehicles. However, if there's a common theme, it's hybridization. Even conservative automakers like Cadillac and Lexus rolled out hybrid powertrains.
Click on the picture below to see our slideshow of 17 appealing concept-car photos:
Lexus's LF-LC concept is the result of the company's effort to build "a future hybrid sport coupe." Lexus hasn't said much about the vehicle's powertrain, but the LF-LC is notable for the sculpted 3D spindle grille and its use of technology, including twin 12.3-inch LCD screens in the interior.
For a close-up look at GM's Chevy Volt, go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller. In the trip sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is taking the fire-engine-red Volt to innovation hubs across America, interviewing engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students as he blogs his way across the country.
Just some observations to bolster my belief that car MPG will hover around 40-50 MPG for a long time:
1. It is interesting to compare the MPG of the Prius (51/48 city/hwy) to 2 cars that have IDENTICAL engine + drivetrains: the Prius V (44/40) and Lexus CT200h (43/40). Note that even though the engine is the same ultra-efficient one - MPG is much lower. You are seeing the effect of less optimum aero drag and higher weight.
2. The advantage of hybrid technology is strongest for city driving, but helps a bit for hwy too. Chevy Cruze Eco (28/42 MPG), Hyundai Elantra (30/40). Note that hwy MPG is about the SAME as the latter 2 hybrids...but of course city MPG is much lower.
So....it seems reasonable to say that ~55 MPG, maybe 60 MPG is the ASYMPTOTE for MPG of small Prius-like cars, and unless a big aero drag reduction is added, won't change anytime soon. Then....the CAFE standards (including larger vehicles) will probably have many cars in the 40-50 MPG range....no higher.
However, if 85% of all cars were in the 40 - 50 MPG range, that would be a really great mid-range goal for the USA.
Good point about the asymptote, Kevin. David Cole, who used to head up the automotive engineering program at the University of Michigan, has a graph showing that as we approach that asymptote, the amount of funds invested in boosting mpg will border on the ridiculous. In other words, we appear to be reaching the limit and continued funding of the increases will not pay off.
folks, whomever is saying that "Even after all the years the Prius has been out....no other manufacturer has even matched the MPG figures for it.", needs to do some research (and actually talk to real hybrid drivers).
TODAY, I STILL own 2 - Honda Insights (2000/2001)
The lifetime MPG AVG is 68.1 on the 2000 @ 150K
The lifetime MPG AVG is 67.1 on the 2011 @ 70K
This next week, the 2000 will have it's FIRST BRAKE job and change of SPARK PLUGS.
Both cars stay outside all year and look like brand new. The difference being the materials (aluminum and plastic).
don't have 2 separate motors/powertrains in the vehicle (electric/gas).
stick with the BASIC stuff (like using the clutch/flywheel assembly as both a generator and electric motor) anyone asked what it costs just to replace the on-board computer in the PRIUS, ESCAPE, etc.? is it even a warranty item?
stick with materials that are relatively inexpensive, light-weight, strong and don't rust (aluminum, plastic, composite)
the lexus lf-lc is looks great....seems that lexus parts are thoroughly enhanced, the interesting part is the latest lcd screens. This article kept my interest on my vehicle, next time I'll check discount auto parts from jcwhitney's site... can't wait to have mods/upgrades on my lexus!
Kevin, You make a lot of good points. You mentioned the high MPG in Europe but cite the negatives of small size, performance, etc. That may be the case with some of the higher efficiency cars but approximately 50% of the cars sold in Europe are diesels. Every manufacturer selling in Europe has at least one diesel model in the lineup and quite a few of those models have performance and economy that would surprise many. The BMW 3 series diesel outperforms its gas burning stablemate while returning close to 40 MPG. The same comparisions can be seen across many car lines. There probably is a perception issue with diesels in the US - most people remember the earlier generation smelly, smokey diesels and GM's fiasco in the late 70's early 80's, but one look at the latest offerings on the market should dispel that negative perception.
Alexander: The obvious example in the racing world is a NASCAR stock car. Remove all of the decals and you wouldn't be able to differentiate between them but I think you're talking about the new Dallara DW12 chassis that Indycar uses. It is basically a spec chassis that all the teams use. They then build the car with their (limited) choice of engine and other components
Volkswagen AG is developing a lithium-air battery that could triple the range of its electric cars, but industry experts believe it could be a long time before that chemistry is ready for production vehicles.
Californiaís plan to mandate an electric vehicle market isnít the first such undertaking and certainly wonít be the last. But as the Golden State ratchets up for its next big step toward zero-emission vehicle status in 2018, it might be wise to consider a bit of history.
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