Introduced as an all-new generation pickup last year, Ford’s F-250 Super Duty achieves important weight savings of 350 pounds with its military-grade aluminum cab and pickup box. Less weight contributes to greater fuel efficiency and also adds to payload capacity, important to everyone but especially to those with heavy-duty hauling or towing needs, or commercial fleet operators where this truck often finds use.
Also important to tradesmen and fleets is an ability to haul and tow heavy loads. The F-250 Super Duty offers 6.75- or 8.0-foot pickup beds and can handle payloads up to 4,200 pounds. The model is rated to tow up to 18,500 pounds when properly equipped. Regular, SuperCab, and Crew Cab versions are available to meet diverse needs.
The F-250’s standard powertrain is a 6.2-liter SOHC V-8 engine that’s E85-capable, making the F-250 a flexible fuel vehicle capable of running on gasoline or E85 ethanol from the same fuel tank. This 385-horsepower engine connects to a TorqShift-G six-speed automatic transmission. The ‘G’ version of Ford’s TorqShift transmission has a higher first-gear ratio to enable better launches and improved acceleration from rolling stops. The TorqShift-G’s downshifts are faster than those in the regular TorqShift and are engine speed-matched. The quality of upshifts has also been improved.
A 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V-8 with a TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission is optionally available. This powerful diesel engine delivers substantial hauling and towing power with 440 horsepower and a stump-pulling 925 lb-ft torque that comes on strong at a low 1,800 rpm. No fuel economy figures are provided by Ford for either engine since vehicles over 8,500-pound GVWR are not rated by EPA. The minimum GVWR rating for the F-250 Super Duty is 9,900 pounds.
Standard equipment includes trailer sway control, AdvanceTrac with roll stability control, SOS post-crash alert, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Several option packages are available. Basic power necessities such as power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, and other niceties are bundled in the F-250’s Power Equipment group. Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system with navigation and an 8.0-inch touchscreen are included in other option packages.
Safety options include a rearview camera and blind-spot warning system. An Ultimate Trailer Tow package includes a 360-degree camera system with trailer reverse guidance, a rearview camera, and a rear camera in the center high-mounted stop light to provide a clear view of the bed. An STX appearance package is optional. Depending on configuration, the F-250 Super Duty is priced from $33,150 to $36,745.
For a decade, Green Car Journal has been recognizing vehicles that significantly raise the bar in environmental performance. With automakers stepping up to offer ever-more efficient and ‘greener’ vehicles in all classes, the magazine’s awards program has naturally expanded to include a greater number of awards for recognizing deserving vehicles.
This prompted the recent suite of Green Car Awards presented during Policy Day at the Washington Auto Show in the nation’s capital – the 2015 Green SUV of the Year™, 2015 Green Car Technology Award™, and 2015 Luxury Green Car of the Year™.
BMW’s gull-wing i8 earned the distinction as the 2015 Luxury Green Car of the Year, outshining competitors Audi A8 L TDI, Cadillac ELR, Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, and Tesla Model S. Aimed at aspirational buyers who value superb styling and exceptional performance combined with the efficiency of plug-in hybrid drive, the i8 is unique among its peers with an advanced carbon fiber passenger body shell. It also features a lightweight aluminum drive module with a gasoline engine, lithium-ion batteries, and electric motor. The i8 can drive on battery power for 22 miles and up to 310 miles on hybrid power.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel rose to the top as the magazine’s 2015 Green SUV of the Year, besting finalists Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, Lexus NX 300h, and Mazda CX-5. Offering excellent fuel efficiency for an SUV of its size, the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel’s 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 offers up to 30 highway mpg and is approved for B20 biodiesel use. An Eco Mode optimizes the 8-speed transmission’s shift schedule, cuts fuel feed while coasting, and directs the air suspension system to lower the vehicle at speed for aerodynamic efficiency.
The Ford F-150 was honored with the 2015 Green Car Technology Award for its milestone use of an all-aluminum body. Competing for the award were advanced powertrains in the BMW i3, BMW i8, Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel, Ford F-150, Honda Fit, Kia Soul EV, Tesla Model S, VW e-Golf, and Volvo Drive-E models. The F-150’s aluminum body enables the all-new 2015 pickup model to shed up to 700 pounds for greater efficiency and performance.
While the Green Car Technology Award has a history at the Washington Auto Show, the first-time Green SUV of the Year and Luxury Green Car of the Year awards could not have existed just a short time ago. Simply, SUVs and luxury vehicles were seldom considered ‘green,’ and for good reason. An SUV/crossover’s mission was to provide family transport and recreational capabilities, while aspirational/luxury vehicles were expected to deliver the finest driving experience combined with high-end appointments and exceptional design. Both categories held few environmental champions and ‘green’ was hardly an afterthought.
The evolving nature of ‘green’ cars has brought about a fundamental shift in which environmental performance is now important in SUVs and luxury vehicles. Even so, not all models in these classes are created equal. The challenge has been finding the right balance – the ‘sweet spot’ – that finds SUVs and luxury vehicles delivering the efficiency and environmental qualities desired without sacrificing the conventional touchstones – quality, safety, luxury, value, performance and functionality – that consumers demand. This year’s winners of the 2015 Green Car Awards clearly achieve this balance.
Presenting these important awards at the Washington Auto Show is compelling considering its reputation as the ‘Policy Show,’ a result of the show’s proximity to Capitol Hill and the influence that Washington DC has in driving a more efficient generation of vehicles to market. The 2015 Washington Auto Show has also expanded in recent years, receiving accreditation from the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobiles (OICA) as one of the five top tier auto shows in America. This year’s Washington Auto Show featured more than 700 vehicles from over 42 domestic and import auto manufacturers, plus a Green Car Awards exhibit showcasing 15 finalist vehicles within the show’s Advanced Technology Superhighway exhibit area.
It is an exciting time to be involved with the auto industry, or to be in the market for a new car. The auto industry has responded splendidly to the challenge of new emission, fuel economy, and safety standards. The public is offered a greater than ever selection of vehicles with different powertrains, lightweight materials, hybrids, and electric drive vehicles across many platforms. We see increasing numbers of clean diesel vehicles and natural gas is making a resurgence, especially in the heavy-duty sector.
The positive response by the auto industry to the ever-tightening pollutant emission and fuel economy standards includes tactics such as the use of aluminum in the Ford F-150 and the increased use of carbon fiber by BMW, among many innovations introduced across many models and drivetrains. These evolutionary changes are a major tribute to the automobile engineers who are wringing out the most they can in efficiency and reduced emissions from gasoline and diesel engines. I view this evolutionary change as necessary, but not sufficient to meet our greenhouse gas goals by 2050.
New car ownership is currently down in Europe and is leveling off in the U.S. For global automotive manufacturers, however, this trend is offset by the dramatic growth in places like China and India. The potential for dramatic growth in the developing world is clearly evident: In the U.S., there are about 500 cars per thousand people, compared to about 60 and 20 in China and India, respectively.
How can these trends be reconciled with the environmental and health concerns due to climate change and adverse air quality in the developing world? The evidence for climate change accumulates by the day. Hazardous air quality in many major cities in China has drawn global attention, providing a visual reminder of how far the developed world has come and how much environmental protection needs to be accelerated in the developing world. Damaging air pollution is increasingly seen as a regional and even worldwide challenge. Dramatic economic growth in many developing countries is generating pollution that knows no boundaries. Air pollution from China, for example, fumigates Korea and Japan and is even transported across the Pacific to impact air quality in California and other Western states.
It will take a revolutionary change to provide personal mobility without unacceptable energy and environmental consequences. As a recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) document states, it is likely that a major shift to electric drive vehicles would be required in the next 20 to 30 years. Electric drive vehicles, coupled with renewable energy, can achieve essentially zero carbon and conventional pollutant emissions. The NAS report also predicted that the costs of both battery and fuel-cell electric vehicles would be less than advanced conventional vehicles in the 2035-2040 timeframe.
This transition will not occur overnight and we will be driving advanced conventional vehicles for many years to come. In a study for the International Council on Clean Transportation, Dr. David Greene calculated that the transition could take 10 to 15 years, requiring sustained investment in infrastructure and incentives in order to achieve sustained penetration. While this investment is not inexpensive, it is projected that the benefits of this investment will be 10 times greater than the costs.
So where do we stand today on electric vehicles? We are seeing an unprecedented number of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicles across many drivetrains and models. There were about 96,000 plug-in electric vehicles sold or leased in the U.S. last year and more than 10 new PEV models are expected this year. While the sales fall short of some optimistic projections, it is an encouraging start after many years of more hope than delivery. The FC EV is expected to see significant growth after the initial limited introduction of fuel cells in the 2015-2017 timeframe by five major automobile companies.
It will take many years of sustained increasing penetration into new car sales to make this revolution a success. It is indeed a marathon and not a sprint. The challenge is how to ensure sustained sales of electric drive vehicles in the face of the many attributes of advanced technology conventional vehicles. Electric drive vehicle drivetrains have an affinity with the increasing amount of electronics on board the vehicle, which might ultimately yield very interesting, capable, and competitive vehicles.
I have little doubt that if we are serious about our energy, environmental, and greenhouse gas goals the revolution in technology will occur. All the major automobile companies seem to recognize this in their technology roadmap, which includes advanced conventional vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, battery and fuel cell electric vehicles.
In conclusion, the next 20 years promise to be equally as challenging and exciting as the last 20 years. I have little doubt that the automobile engineers are up to the task ahead, but whether we have the political fortitude to stay the course to achieve the necessary air pollution and GHG reductions is far less certain.
Dr. Alan Lloyd is President Emeritus of the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). He formerly served as Secretary of CalEPA and Chairman of the California Air Resources Board.
Illuminating the road ahead is a crucial element in driving. It’s also one that has long benefitted from technological innovation. To this end, Audi celebrates the evolution of automotive lighting with its Sport quattro laserlight concept car. The high performance, two-door, Plasma Red coupe harkens back to the iconic 1983 Sport quattro even as it’s abundant advanced technology and design cues point to the future.
The laserlight concept is named for its future lighting technologies. Two low-profile trapezoidal elements are visible within the headlights. An outer one generates low beam light using matrix LEDs and an aperture mask, while an inner element produces laser light for the high-beam.
Laser diodes are significantly smaller than LED diodes, only a few microns in diameter. They can illuminate the road for a distance of nearly 1,640 feet, approximately twice the lighting range with three times the luminosity of LED high beam lights. This technology is finding use in the 2014 R18 e-tron quattro for track duty.
Motivating the laserlight concept is a 4.0-liter, bi-turbo V-8 TSFI (turbo stratified fuel injection) engine and a disc-shaped electric motor located between the engine and transmission. The V-8 produces 560 horsepower and 516 pound-feet torque, with the electric motor contributing an additional 148 horsepower and 295 pound-feet torque. A modified eight-speed Tiptronic transmission is mated to the quattro drivetrain with a sport differential at the rear axle.
Electrical energy is stored in a 14.1 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, sufficient for 31 miles of all-electric driving. When the V-8 and electric motor are working together, the Audi Sport quattro laserlight concept can accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in 3.7 seconds. Top speed is 189 mph. This impressive performance comes with an equally impressive 94 US mpg fuel economy. This is achieved in part through its electric plug-in operation in addition to a cylinder on demand system that deactivates four cylinders of the V-8 under partial load. Also helping is a start-stop system and several levels of regen braking to enhance driving dynamics.
Drivers can switch between three different modes. In EV mode, just the electric motor operates with sufficient high torque power, even outside the city. The active accelerator pedal indicates the transition by a change in pedal resistance so a driver can intentionally influence the mode selection. The Hybrid mode provides optimal interplay between the V-8 and the electric motor for best fuel-savings, and additionally incorporates environmental and route data. A driver can choose the Hold and Charge modes to ensure sufficient electrical energy is available for electric-only driving at their destination. There are different levels of regenerative braking to enhance the driving experience.
The laserlight’s multifunction sport steering wheel has buttons to control the hybrid drive, start-stop function, vehicle handling system, and the car’s virtual cockpit. Key information is shown on the large Audi TFT display in high-resolution 3D graphics. A cutting-edge Nvidia Tegra 30 processor handles the graphics.
Nearly all functions can be controlled from the further-developed MMI mounted on the center console. Its large rotary pushbutton, which also serves as a touchpad, can be pushed in four directions. It’s surrounded on three sides by four buttons that control the main menu, submenus, options, and a back function. The intuitive layout is similar to a smart phone with all frequently used functions accessed lightning fast.
Lightweight design plays a major role in the Audi laserlight concept’s dynamic performance. A combination of ultra high-strength steel sheet and structural elements of cast aluminum is used in the occupant cell. The doors and fenders are made of aluminum, with the roof, engine hood, and rear hatch and other components made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). Thus, the concept weighs 4,079 pounds including the weight of the large battery pack.
Race car designers go to extreme measures to make competition vehicles as light as possible. Lighter is faster. It’s simple physics; less horsepower is required to accelerate a light vehicle compared to a heavy one. So on a given amount of horsepower, a lighter race car will be faster than one that weighs even a few pounds more. It also takes less energy to slow the car, providing better braking performance. A lighter car will generally handle better, too, since there is less mass working on the chassis through the corners.
Lighter vehicles are also more environmentally friendly since they require less energy to move from point A to point B. Shaving a few hundred pounds off a car design can yield major improvements in fuel economy. In addition to improved mileage, electric vehicles will see longer range between charges if they can be made lighter.
Trimming pounds off a production car is not as easy as it seems, however. Today’s road worthy vehicles must feature hundreds of pounds of federally mandated safety equipment that wasn’t required or available a few decades ago. Equipment like antilock brake systems, multiple airbags, advanced computer controls, and crash mitigating high-strength body structures all add weight to a vehicle design. Pile on the comfort and convenience equipment that most new car buyers expect in a modern car or light truck and the extra bulk adds up fast.
That’s why vehicle designs like the new BMW i3 and i8 are so intriguing. These models are revolutionary for mass production vehicles, featuring clean sheet designs that found BMW designers throwing traditional materials and production methods out the window, resulting in lightweight electric-drive cars with maximum strength for safety.
For example, the i3’s primary body and chassis structure are composed of two separate units that form what BMW calls the LifeDrive architecture. The primary body structure is the Life module and the Drive module incorporates the powertrain components. The passenger cell module is made from Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic, or CFRP. This is the first ever use of CFRP in a mass production vehicle. Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic is every bit as strong as steel yet is 50 percent lighter. When you can trim half the weight off something as large as a body structure, you are talking major weight savings.
Aluminum has been used as a lightweight material in the transportation industry for many years. The i3’s rear Drive module that houses the electric drive motor, rear suspension, and optional range extending gasoline engine is made of aluminum. While both are light and strong, Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic is even 30 percent lighter than aluminum. Materials throughout the i3 were selected for their weight saving properties and for their sustainability characteristics.
Beneath the flat floor (there is no transmission tunnel) of the i3 is a space-saving 22-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that tips the scales at 450 pounds. Power is delivered by a hybrid synchronous electric motor. The motor produces 170 horsepower with 184 lb-ft torque and can spin up to 11,400 rpm. The compact electric motor offers immediate torque and weighs just 110 pounds. With a curb weight of just 2,700 pounds, the i3 is nimble and great fun to drive. As in racing, automakers strive to save weight because it gives them a competitive edge. Sometimes, less is more.
It’s hard not to wear a broad grin while driving Audi’s 2014 A6 TDI. One of a growing array of upscale TDI models in the Audi stable, the $57,500 A6 TDI presents a compelling case for premium mid-size sedan buyers to go clean diesel. Time behind the wheel illustrates the well-balanced nature of the A6 TDI, which artfully blends luxury, comfort, performance, and efficiency in a very desirable package. Plus, it’s just fun to drive.
The A6 TDI’s 3.0-liter turbocharged direct injection V-6 is surprisingly quiet and smooth, dispensing with the two inherent challenges that diesel as a whole has faced in attracting U.S. buyers in the past. Ride quality, handling, and overall driving characteristics are excellent. The A6 TDI is powerful, with strong low-end torque pressing you back in the seat with ease while delivering 240 hp and an impressive 428 lb-ft torque. All this power is channeled to the highway via an 8-speed tiptronic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive. Acceleration from 0-60 mph is achieved in a quick 5.5 seconds.
This level of power-at-the-ready does not sacrifice efficiency as one might expect, particularly in highway driving as the model achieves a rather impressive 38 mpg. Total driving range of over 700 miles is possible. The TDI clean diesel’s inherent efficiency is bolstered with other efficiency measures including a relatively lightweight chassis and aluminum body panels, plus a start-stop efficiency system that shuts the engine down under specific conditions such as extended idling or at stoplights. The engine restarts instantly when a driver releases the brake pedal.
Driving performance and efficiency are just part of the story with the Audi A6. This model makes a point of enveloping driver and passengers in a luxurious and accommodating interior, paying great attention to detail throughout the cabin with a curved wraparound dash, fine leather, and high-end materials. Instrumentation and controls are well placed and intuitive.
Infotainment and connectivity features are extensive with MMI Navigation plus and Audi connect, which offers Google Earth mapping and in-vehicle Wi-Fi connectivity for up to eight wireless devices. Available are an array of sophisticated features including night vision assistant, heads-up display, and Audi pre sense plus, the latter system helping to detect imminent collisions and initiate protective measures.
The A6 TDI presents a very upscale exterior with sharp lines and unmistakable Audi design cues, among these Audi’s signature LED lighting technology. Add in efficient and responsive TDI power and the package gets even more compelling.
Lightweighting vehicles is a big deal. The lighter the car, the less relative energy required to move it down the road. This thinking has been influencing car design and manufacturing for some time now as automakers strive to make models with higher fuel efficiency, but the momentum has increased because of the much higher mpg that will be required from automakers in the years ahead. Now, each and every part of a car is examined for lightweighting potential and new answers are emerging all the time.
Take the new ultra lightweight car door solution devised by ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel and mining company and supplier to many auto manufacturers. In a world where lightweight aluminum, plastics, and other materials vie for roles once exclusively played by steel, it’s no wonder that steel companies have a vested interest in illustrating how advanced steel can continue to dominate.
ArcelorMittal’s lightweight car door example demonstrates that using steels and technology currently available, a 27 percent weight and cost saving can be achieved without compromising safety and structural requirements. But it gets better. The company also points out that its global research and development team has identified that even greater door weight savings of up to 34 percent is achievable with new advanced high strength steels and technology that will emerge during the next few years.
How important is this? The current 27 percent weight reduction of a baseline C-segment door using high strength steels and ultra-high strength steels decreases weight from about 40 pounds to 29 pounds. Considering that automotive weight savings is typically measured in grams, this is a significant weight reduction for a single automotive application.
It’s a given that it will take more than just better powerplants to reach the 54.5 mpg federal fuel economy standard set for coming years. To this end, automakers are exploring every part of an automobile for ways to eke out greater efficiencies.
An interesting new exploration is taking place at General Motors, which is testing an industry-first thermal-forming process and proprietary corrosion resistance treatment for lightweight magnesium sheet metal. GM’s aim is to enable its suppliers to use the process and provide magnesium sheet in lieu of steel and aluminum that trims pounds from vehicle mass.
This is no small thing. Magnesium weighs 33 percent less than aluminum, 60 percent less than titanium, and 75 percent less than steel. Despite its advantages, there have been challenges and automakers have found it difficult to make strong and non-corroding magnesium sheet metal panels through traditional methods. GM’s has now overcome this with a new, patented process that heats the magnesium to 842 degrees F to allow molding it into precise, rigid shapes. GM has used this process to develop a production-ready magnesium rear deck lid inner panel that’s undergone rigorous testing without any issues.
The U.S. Automotive Materials Partnership estimates that 350 pounds of magnesium will replace 500 pounds of steel and 130 pounds of aluminum per vehicle by 2020, achieving a vehicle weight reduction of 15 percent. This weight savings would lead to a fuel savings of 9 to 12 percent.