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The all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox is a fresh and modern SUV sizPopular since its launch in 2005, the new-generation Chevrolet Equinox is considerably smaller than the two generations that came before it. This 2018 model crossover SUV is now 4.7 inches shorter in length and sits on a wheelbase some 5.2 inches shorter as well. Curb weight is reduced by about 400 pounds, an important consideration as automakers strive to shed weight in the interest of optimizing fuel efficiency. The Equinox is available in three trim levels – L, LS, LT, and Premier with either front- or all-wheel drive.

The Equinox is offered with a choice of two turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engines. Its base 1.5-liter engine is rated at 170 horsepower with 203 lb-ft torque and connects to a six-speed automatic transmission.  This engine delivers up to 26 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway in two-wheel drive. All-wheel drive models lose 2 mpg across the board. A 2.0-liter engine connects to a newer nine-speed automatic and produces 252 horsepower with 260 lb-ft torque, delivering 22/29/25 mpg with FWD and 22/28/24 mpg with AWD. Fuel-saving engine stop-start is standard on the Equinox.

The all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox is a fresh and modern SUV sizOptionally powering this efficient crossover is a 1.6 liter, turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, making the 2018 Equinox the only vehicle in its segment currently available with a diesel. This quiet turbodiesel provides 137 horsepower and 240 lb-ft torque with an impressive 39 highway mpg, definitely in hybrid efficiency territory without the need for hybrid cost or added complexity. It delivers an estimated 577 driving range between fill-ups and is B20 biodiesel compatible.

An array of advanced safety technologies is offered as optional or standard equipment, although many are only available with the uplevel LT and Premier trim levels. These include Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Rear Vision Camera, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Park Assist, Side Blind Spot Alert, and Lane Change Alert. A hands-free gesture liftgate is also available that opens with the simple motion of a foot. Intellibeam Headlamps switch to high beams when driving conditions become too dark, then revert to low beams when an oncoming car approaches.

2018 Chevrolet EquinoxAll models come with myChevrolet Mobile App plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. A built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot is available with the ability to connect up to seven devices to the Internet. A 7-inch diagonal touchscreen is standard. Available Surround Vision provides a virtual bird’s-eye view around the car on an optional 8-inch color touchscreen. Teen Driver technology mutes the audio until front-seat occupants are buckled and automatically turns on available advanced safety technologies like Side Blind Zone Alert, Forward Collision Alert, and Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking.

The Chevrolet Equinox offers buyers an excellent value and notable efficiency in a stylish and versatile crossover package. It has long been a popular model in the Chevy stable and this latest generation promises to keep this momentum going strong.

The all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox features a new “kneeling”

2018-jaguar-xe-drivingAt its introduction, the 2017 Jaguar XE became this luxury automaker's new entry level model, but don’t let that 'entry level' distinction fool you. Available as XE 25t turbocharged and XE 35t supercharged gasoline variants plus a 20d turbodiesel, this sedan delivers a lot for its reasonable price of entry. The latter is offered at $36,400, an approachable price for a highly-efficient sport sedan from a luxury brand.

Somewhat smaller than its XF sibling, the XE features a fluid and pleasing design that fits in well with Jaguar's modern lineup. Its muscular, coupe-like exterior and signature J-Blade daytime running lights show that Jaguar’s sophisticated DNA is ever-present in the model. Through design and execution, Jaguar’s intent was to reinforce that its entry-level model is a driver’s car, and they’ve done this quite well.

2018-jaguar-xe-cabinBeneath the skin, the XE features an all-new, modular aluminum architecture shared with the Jaguar F-PACE and XF mid-size sports sedan. Its bodyshell uses high-strength 6000 series aluminum alloy to save weight without compromising durability, all the while providing high torsional stiffness to support precise handling. Featuring a low 0.28 Cd drag coefficient, the aluminum-intensive XE is the most fuel-efficient Jaguar to date with the XE 20d EPA rated at 32 city/42 highway mpg and a driving range of 533 miles.

Jaguar’s 20d Ingenium diesel engine develops 180 horsepower and 318 lb-ft torque to provide sprightly performance. A low 15.1:1 compression ratio – at least by diesel engine standards – allows use of an all-aluminum engine to reduce weight. This engine connects to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. The XE is equipped with smart regenerative charging that uses kinetic energy from braking to charge the battery for maximum economy. It also features a stop/start system in bolster fuel efficiency, though we found the XE 20d's automatic start-up a bit rough for our tastes. Rear-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel-drive optional.

2018-jaguar-xe-shift-knobVariable exhaust valve timing shortens the emission system’s catalyst light-off phase to treat exhaust gases quicker after a cold start, while also improving diesel particulate filter regeneration. A cooled, low-pressure exhaust gas recirculation system reduces combustion chamber temperatures to inhibit NOx formation and selective catalytic reduction technology further cuts NOx emissions to very low levels. Computer controlled adaptive engine cooling only engages as required. A variable geometry turbocharger maximizes peak power for uniform low-speed torque and responsiveness that’s progressive and avoids turbo lag.

Driver and passenger are provided an inviting and accommodating cabin featuring comfortable seating, with leather upholstery accented by contrasting twin-needle stitching. A handcrafted feel is reinforced by a choice of textured aluminum, gloss black, and wood veneers.  The interior can be further enhanced with available ambient lighting in 10 colors.

2018-jaguar-xe-rearAdvanced driver assistance systems provide convenience and enhanced safety. Standard are lane-departure warning and autonomous emergency braking that provide audible and visible warnings if a potential collision is detected. If the driver takes no action, the system applies brakes to help reduce the severity of a possible impact.  Optional are lane keep assist and driver condition monitor, blind spot monitor and reverse traffic detection, park assist, surround camera system, adaptive cruise control with queue assist and traffic sign recognition, and adaptive speed limiter.

Jaguar’s XE delivers a premium driving experience at a surprisingly affordable price for luxury buyers. Add in the impressive 42 mpg efficiency of the XE 20d and it’s a combination that’s hard to beat.

eco-tires-leadThe tires we roll on have characteristics that can differ greatly. Carefully chosen, a new set of tires can make your time behind the wheel quieter and the ride smoother, while others can deliver a harsher ride and transmit an unacceptable level of road noise to the cabin. Tire designs and compounds can also greatly influence handling and performance, which is one of many reasons tire manufacturers devote so much time and resources to advanced tire development and then proving their prowess on the track.

Beyond a focus on ride quality, performance, and tire life, an important trend in recent years has been the continuing refinement of low rolling resistance (LRR) tires that aim to improve fuel efficiency. Such tires are used on virtually every electric and hybrid vehicle for obvious reasons. Many automakers also equip their conventional vehicles with LRR tires since every little bit helps on the way to achieving the best possible fleet mpg average for their model lineup. All are keenly aware of the challenges ahead in meeting the mandated Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirement of 54.5 mpg by 2025. Driving on tires with lower rolling resistance is a small but important part of the strategy.

goodyear-tire-manufacturingTire rolling resistance has the potential to positively influence urban fuel economy up to 4 percent and 7 percent on the open road. As a rule of thumb, a 10 percent reduction in tire rolling resistance will result in a one to two percent improvement in vehicle fuel economy. Hyundai presents a great example. The automaker’s Sonata Eco model gains about one mpg more in the city and three on the highway mainly through the use of LRR tires and smaller wheels, in this case 17-inch versus 19-inch on the standard model.

Drivers shouldn’t be surprised if fuel efficiency actually drops when worn tires are replaced with new LRR tires, even if they’re the same size, type, and brand. Simply, as tires wear their rolling resistance gradually drops, about 20 percent during the life of a tire as the tread depth and mass decreases. The payoff will come over time and not necessarily during the first miles running new LLR tires.

green-tire-treadVarious techniques are used to reduce rolling resistance. Reducing internal friction is one way that comes with no noticeable change in grip characteristics during braking and cornering. Another is changing the tread compound, which can change grip. This sometimes, but not always, means a tradeoff between fuel economy and performance.

Early LRR tires were noted for their harsher ride, a result of using much harder rubber compounds and stiffer sidewalls in an effort to reduce friction and flexing. Newer LRR tires use advanced compounding with silica-based or alternative oils to provide more pleasant ride characteristics. Early LRR tires also had reduced grip and wore more rapidly. This has changed significantly over time as tire technology has evolved.

nissan-leaf-tireEven so, the primary mission of LRR tires is minimizing rolling resistance and addressing safety considerations like wet weather handling and traction. Those looking for tires focused on high performance diving are not likely candidates for LRR tires.

Choosing replacement LLR tires for a Prius, LEAF, Volt, or other electric or hybrid can be relatively easy. Just replace the tires with ones identical to those that originally came with the car. Automakers producing 'green' cars spend considerable effort working with tire manufacturers in selecting the right LRR tire to maximize efficiency of a specific model. Still, there are quite a number of aftermarket tires developed for electrics and hybrids so choices are many.

SONY DSCFor example, Yokohama's AVID S33D LRR all-season tires for third generation Toyota Prius hybrids and other small cars reduce fuel consumption while retaining all-season traction.  Like the AVID, the Yokohama Geolandar G055 BluEarth tires we’ve been testing on a crossover vehicle feature the company’s advanced, lightweight Airtex inner liner that combines the elasticity of rubber with the lightness and superior gas-barrier characteristics of plastic to reduce tire weight and rolling resistance. This tire, like others in the Yokohama line, uses orange oil tread compound to enhance performance and decrease the use of petroleum in tire production.

Among other low rolling resistance tire options on the market is Goodyear’s Assurance Fuel Max, which uses a special fuel-saving tread compound that reduces rolling resistance by up to 27%. Goodyear claims this nets up to 2,600 miles worth of gas savings over the life of four tires. Michelin offers an array of GreenX tire options including Defender, Primacy, and Energy Saver A/S tires. Efficiencies are achieved through multiple strategies including the use of a more rigid tread block to lower rolling resistance and silica-based tread compound to keep tires running cooler. Toyo’s Versado Eco Touring all-season tires are designed to improve fuel efficiency for hybrid, electric, and other vehicles using naturally derived tread compound materials, a low rolling resistance design, and a recycled polyester casing to conserve natural resources.

michilin-geolander-tireWhile plenty of LRR tires are offered for a wide range of vehicles, it’s not always easy to choose since efficiency comparisons are not yet available. Traction, wear, and temperature resistance ratings are to be found but efficiency is glaringly missing, although there is hope.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed a tire label that would provide wet traction, tread wear, and fuel efficiency (rolling resistance) ratings on a 0-100 scale for replacement tires. It has also done extensive testing to generate data for such a label. While not yet implemented, this will be of real value to those shopping for tires that will deliver improved environmental performance in the future

vw-jetta-tdi-dieselVW and Audi are returning their Green Car of the Year® awards in the wake of Volkswagen Group’s admission that it deliberately deceived government authorities about emissions from the Audi A3 TDI and VW Jetta TDI. Concurrently, Green Car Journal has rescinded these Green Car of the Year® awards honoring the 2009 VW Jetta TDI and 2010 Audi A3 TDI diesel models. This is the first time this has occurred in the award program’s decade-long history.

The magazine points out that these models were selected as Green Car of the Year® for compelling reasons including high fuel efficiency, reduced carbon emissions, a fun-to-drive nature, and the ability to meet 50 state emissions requirements with advanced diesel technology. However, as VW Group has now admitted, its on-board software programming intentionally caused in-lab emissions testing to read significantly lower nitrogen oxide emissions than these vehicles actually produced on the road. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board emissions certifications used in the process of determining award eligibility were thus incorrect, and have since been declared invalid by these government agencies. This means both models would have been ineligible to be finalists in their respective award years.

In returning its award, Audi of America President Scott Keogh advised the magazine, “Audi has won hundreds of races and thousands of awards throughout its history. But we only want to win fair and square. Therefore, in light of recent developments, we believe the only right thing to do is to return this important recognition of environmental stewardship. We are determined to compete – and hopefully win – Green Car of the Year® awards the proper way in future years.”

2009-vw-jetta-tdi-engineGreen Car Journal points out that the award rescission and unfortunate news surrounding Volkswagen Group's wrongdoing should not cast a negative light on advanced diesel technology in general. Many diesel models from a variety of auto manufacturers meet EPA and CARB emissions standards, bringing with them higher fuel efficiency, decreased petroleum use, and lower carbon emissions – all important environmental goals. Many are also approved for use with renewable biodiesel fuel.

The annual Green Car of the Year® award recognizes the vehicle model that best raises the bar in environmental performance. Efficiency, EPA/CARB certified emissions, and overall environmental improvement are considered along with market significance, value, and widespread availability to consumers. Recent Green Car of the Year® winners include the 2015 BMW i3; 2014 Honda Accord, including gas, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid variants; and 2013 Ford Fusion, including gas, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid models.

cruze-diesel-frontChevrolet introduced the Cruze Turbo Diesel in 2014, the first diesel sedan from an American nameplate since the less-than-stellar diesel cars Detroit offered in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It’s a world of difference. Actually, GM brought the European Cruze 2.0-liter turbodiesel to the Cruze powertrain lineup here, a well-proved engine that accounts for about 40 percent of all Cruze models sold in Europe. The Chevrolet Cruze Diesel returns for 2015 with only minor cosmetic changes.

The 2015 model we test drove is easily recognized from the 2014 version by its revised grille and front fascia, influences that came from the Chevy Impala and Malibu. Inside, minor changes include revised cup holders, relocating the trunk-release button to the center console, and door lock buttons now on the door. Features include everything offered on Cruze LS and 1LT models, plus a sport-tuned suspension, 17 inch alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, leather-appointed seats, heated front seats, 6-way power-adjustable driver seat, remote vehicle starter system, and LED running lights.

cruze-diesel-engine-1Likewise, there is no change to the 2.0-liter ECOTEC turbodiesel four-cylinder from last year, an engine that produces 151 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of torque with at least 250 pound-feet of torque between a low 1,750 and 3,000 rpm. The dual overhead camshaft (DOHC), 16-valve engine has an overboost capability that increases torque to an estimated 280 pound-feet during short bursts of stronger acceleration for about 10 seconds. The Cruze Diesel can accelerate from 0-60 mph in about 8.6 seconds and you can feel this diesel’s expected low-end torque coming on strong within a few seconds of hard acceleration from a stop.  An Aisin AF-40 six-speed automatic transmission handles the car’s higher torque.

As expected, fuel economy is the Cruze Diesel's strong suit.  With an EPA-estimated 46 highway mpg, this means the thrifty Cruze can travel 717 miles on its 15.6 gallon fuel tank. City efficiency is an EPA estimated 27 mpg and 33 mpg combined. An aero performance package that integrates a lower front grille air shutter, mid-body aero panels, and front air dam help achieve its higher fuel efficiency.

cruze-diesel-rearThe version sold here in the States was adapted to meet more stringent Tier 2 Bin 5 emission standards as well as a wider range of driving conditions, including higher altitudes and colder weather. For example, ceramic glow plugs are used rather than conventional metal glow plugs to provide better cold starts. An engine oil heater is optional for cold climates.

Importantly, this diesel engine emits at least 90 percent less nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate emissions compared to previous-generation diesels. A diesel particulate filter (DPF) and urea injection are used.  The exhaust after-treatment system uses technology similar to that found in GM's Duramax diesel engines for heavy-duty trucks and vans. Those seeking an additional level of environmental performance will appreciate that the engine is B20 biodiesel compatible.

cruze-diesel-connectivity-displayConnectivity is enhanced with features like text message alerts for smartphone users with incoming texts through the car’s speakers, plus Siri Eyes Free for iPhone iOS 6 and iOS 7. Voice -controlled connectivity aims to mitigate distracted driving by helping keep phones in pockets and hands on the wheel. Popular available options include a seven-inch color touch screen and navigation. Expanding MyLink capability is OnStar with 4G LTE and a standard Wi-Fi hotspot to provide a mobile hub for staying connected. A three-month/three gigabyte data trial is provided.

The 2015 Cruze received a 5-star Overall Vehicle Score for Safety from the National Highway Transportation Administration. Standard safety features include 10 standard airbags. A rear vision camera, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Side Blind Zone Alert are available. Chevy’s best-selling model worldwide with more than three million sold since its 2010 launch, the Cruze is offered in LS, LT, RS, LTZ, and Eco models. Its base MSRP starts at $16,995 with the diesel model available at $26,485.

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Jeep's impressive Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel, the model that just drove away with Green Car Journal's 2015 Green SUV of the Year award at the 2015 Washington Auto Show, is one SUV that's sure easy to like. At least that's what we kept thinking during a recent 500 mile trip in a Grand Cherokee Limited test vehicle.

While not a small vehicle by any means, the Grand Cherokee is easy to maneuver and, for a 4x4, offers a surprisingly accommodating ride. Plus, the EcoDiesel variant is very efficient as far as full-size SUVs go, delivering fuel economy that tracked well with its 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway EPA ratings. Long-time SUV drivers will surely share that this is amazingly efficient for a full-size, full capability Sport Utility Vehicle.

jeep-grand-cherokee-front-leadThose considering a Jeep Grand Cherokee have a mind-boggling number of choices in models, powertrains, and option packages, with the base model starting at $30,000 and uplevel trim packages ranging up to $64,500. Our Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel test vehicle offered a base price of $36,395 but landed closer to $50,000 with the added Luxury Group, Adventure Group, and Unconnect packages, the latter offering desired electronics like premium navigation, HD radio, and SiriusXM Traffic.

On-board electronics is a big deal in most models these days and the Grand Cherokee is no exception. Electronics is well-looked-after with standard fare like remote start, 7-inch multi-view display, rear back-up camera and back-up assist, ready alert braking, tire pressure monitoring, and integrated voice command with Bluetooth.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee AltitudeThe Luxury Group package in our test vehicle upgrades the display to an 8.4-inch touch screen and also adds features like self-leveling Bi-Xenon HID headlamps and automatic high-beam headlight control, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, and Napa leather ventilated seats.

While buyers have other V-6 and V-8 gasoline engine choices, those wanting the best fuel economy combined with maximum towing capacity will naturally opt for the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6. Rated at 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft torque, this powerhouse-of-an-engine is sufficient to tow 7,400 pounds and delivers welcome performance.

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In addition to the Grand Cherokee Limited we drove, the 50-state diesel is also available in Overland and Summit versions. With full-time four-wheel-drive like our test vehicle, the model’s EPA numbers are 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined fuel economy – high numbers for a large vehicle with this level of functionality. Another positive is the EcoDiesel’s range of up to 730 miles between fill-ups. We completed our considerable road trip without fueling up, a welcome experience.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee’s diesel engine is supplied by Italy's VM Motori and was developed in collaboration with Fiat Powertrain Technologies. While VM Motori has had many owners – Detroit Diesel, DaimlerChrysler, Penske, etc. – it is now a 50-50 joint venture between GM and Fiat. Over the years, virtually every auto manufacturer has used VM Motori diesel engines at one time or another.

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Fiat's MultiJet II common-rail injection, water-cooled exhaust-gas recirculation Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR), and 16.5:1 compression ratio enable the 24-valve, dual-overhead-cam engine to meet stringent Tier II, Bin 5 and ULEV II emissions rules. It is designed to use Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) and is approved for B20 (20 percent biodiesel/80 percent petrodiesel). Other features include a water-cooled, variable-geometry turbocharger, 60-degree cylinder banks, chain-driven camshafts, and low-voltage ceramic glow plugs for quicker cold-weather starts.

There is an Eco Mode to maximize economy by controlling items like transmission shift schedule, idle speed, and interactive deceleration fuel shut off, the latter cutting fuel feed when coasting. Eco Mode is automatically engaged at startup. A button on the center stack can be used to disengage Eco Model when more sporty performance is desired. While engaged, Eco Mode directs the Jeep’s Quadra-Lift air suspension system to lower the vehicle at speeds above 55 mph, providing for better aerodynamic efficiency. On 4WD models in 4H, Eco Mode also alters the front-to-rear torque split to increase fuel economy.

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The model’s Selec-SpeedControl feature, which includes both Hill Ascent Control and Hill Descent Control, assists when ascending steep grades. Hill Descent Control helps monitor throttle, speed, and braking when traveling down a hill, while Hill Start Assist keeps brakes applied after removing your foot from the brake, allowing time to accelerate without rollback.

The 4x4 version gets Quadra-Trac II that offers all-speed traction control. An electronic limited-slip differential transfers up to 100 percent torque to the wheels when needed to lend year-round traction on wet or dry surfaces. As is the case with 4WD vehicles, shifting into low-range provides rock-crawling prowess.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit

We returned from our journey impressed not only with this vehicle’s functionality in carrying people and cargo, but its ability to do so in comfort and style. Plus, of course, there’s the Grand Cherokee’s all-important efficiency and impressively long driving range between fill-ups.

Those who need a full-size SUV that can handle any mission with complete confidence, while doing so in ways that require far less fuel than one would reasonably expect, should consider placing the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel on their short list. Its efficiency, capabilities, and general do-everything attitude earned it Green Car Journal's 2015 Green SUV of the Year for these, and many other, very good reasons.

ron-cogan-test-driverI was changed by the 1990 introduction of the GM Impact electric car prototype at the Los Angeles Auto Show, then again by the amazing array of electric, hydrogen, and ‘green’ vehicles I witnessed at the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show. I knew that ‘green’ cars would be important. So, for 25 years now, this has been my focus at Green Car Journal and also at GreenCarJournal.com, plus an additional six years while feature editor at Motor Trend.

Covering this field for 25 years lends an invaluable perspective that’s important to understanding not only where we’ve been, but where we’re headed. There’s plenty of ‘green’ car news to share these days so it’s important to place it in context…and yes, that comes again with perspective and having been there while this all unfolded.

It has been enlightening to document the early research and development of the vehicles we take for granted today. While there is no crystal ball for predicting the automobile’s future, I’ve long been fascinated by researching patents for advanced and alternative fuel vehicle technologies because this does reveal what automakers and their technology suppliers have in mind for the years ahead.

Several decades ago, many of these vehicles and technologies were but ideas to potentially pursue, the subject of technology deep dives I attended, or opportunities that allowed driving advanced technology test mules on the track at automakers’ proving grounds.

Two of these experiences come readily to mind – driving a Japanese-market Toyota model outfitted with an early gasoline-electric hybrid drive and a Geo Storm equipped with a prototype battery electric powertrain. These powerplants evolved to become the Hybrid Synergy Drive powering Toyota’s Prius and the electric drivetrain powering the GM EV1. The production versions were worlds better than the early prototype powertrains, lending the perspective to see just how far the technology had come.

Early developmental electric drive vehicles were often quirky and unexpectedly noisy in myriad ways, with high-pitched motor controller frequency noise and gear noise very apparent against a near-silent background devoid of internal combustion. The first natural gas vehicle prototypes often suffered from an annoying high-volume gaseous fuel injector clatter. Developmental hydrogen fuel cell vehicles sacrificed loads of space for large and cumbersome fuel cells and hydrogen storage. High efficiency diesel vehicles of decades past were unacceptably loud and emitted soot. Gasoline cars with high fuel economy were small, often lacking the creature comforts consumers expect and an illustration that sacrifice was required to achieve efficiency. Accomplishing extremely low tailpipe emissions often came at the expense of performance.

1996 EV1 The First Modern-day Electric Propulsion SystemDrive an electric, natural gas, hydrogen fuel cell, high mpg gasoline, or clean diesel personal-use vehicle today and they are quiet, usually quick, and ‘normal’ in all respects. A great many conventional internal combustion vehicles are now near-zero emission…not that you’d know it because they achieve this so seamlessly. We have great ‘green’ vehicles today because a lot has transpired over the past 25 years. Perspective.

I am confident that all of these vehicles, technologies, and fuels will play an important part in our motoring future. If the past 25 years are any indication, the vehicles we’ll be driving in the years ahead will be just amazing.

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.

alan-lloydThe 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.

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green-truck-of-the-year

The San Antonio Auto & Truck Show has a big interest in trucks. After all, we’re talking Texas. Now ‘green’ is gaining even more emphasis at the show with Green Car Journal’s inaugural Green Truck of the Year™ award.

Green Car Journal has presented its coveted Green Car of the Year® award in Los Angeles for the past decade, recognizing the best and the brightest vehicles with improved environmental performance. The Green Truck of the Year™ award program in San Antonio is a natural complement. Trucks are a high-profile part of the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show and Texas is the largest truck market in the nation, making this an ideal venue for this new high-profile award.

In selecting the program’s five finalists, Green Car Journal editors consider all potential truck models in the U.S. market, weighing environmental attributes alongside traditional touchstones that define what makes a great pickup, such as functionality, versatility, safety, value, and style. The 2015 Green Truck of the Year™ winner is selected from these five finalists by a Green Truck of the Year™ jury comprised of automotive experts and Green Car Journal staff.

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Trucks are no strangers to Green Car Journal. The magazine’s editors and writers have deep backgrounds with trucks, having served on staff at enthusiast truck publications during their careers. They have owned sport trucks, work trucks, custom trucks, and off-road trucks so they know what's important to truck buyers, just as they know the importance of 'green' features in the trucks of our future.

The 46th annual San Antonio Auto & Truck Show will take place on November 6-9, 2014 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas, with the 2015 Green Truck of the Year™ announced during the show's media day on November 6. Presented by the San Antonio Automobile Dealers Association, the show highlights the auto industry’s newest innovations and provides a ‘one-stop shop’ for evaluating the latest cars, trucks, and technologies. It is recognized as South Texas’ premier automotive event.

BMW will be debuting its Concept Active Tourer plug-in hybrid concept and clean diesel 328d model at the upcoming 2013 New York International Auto Show. Featuring a three-cylinder gasoline engine and electric motor, the Concept Active Tourer is expected to achieve up to 95 mpg. It features a composite glass roof using suspended particle device technology that allows a driver the ability to darken or lighten the roof at will.

For the near-term, the 328d speaks to the expanding clean diesel movement in the U.S. as automakers increasingly look toward this high-efficiency propulsion technology to meet federal mpg goals and consumer desires for more efficient vehicles.

Powered by a TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder engine, the BMW 328d delivers 180 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, a combination capable of propelling the four-door sedan from 0 to 60 mph in a sprightly 7.2 seconds. Fuel efficiency is expected to be upwards of 40 mpg. Actual EPA estimates will be revealed closer to the model’s launch.

This combination of efficiency and power is important to the brand, as BMW buyers have come to expect performance levels that support the company’s well-known claim, ‘the ultimate driving machine.’ Offering a four-door 328 sedan that accomplishes both well will position the 328d very competitively in an expanding clean diesel market in the States.

By mid-2013, Mazda will be offering a diesel engine sedan in the U.S. market, the first diesel car from an Asian manufacturer here in recent times. The Mazda 2.2-liter SkyACTIVE-D diesel engine will be available in the all-new 2014 Mazda6 along with a 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G gasoline engine, the latter coming first. Both engines can be mated with either the SkyACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic or SkyACTIV-MT six-speed manual transmission.

Compared to the 2.2-liter MZR diesel engine already powering Mazda models in other markets, U.S. bound Madza6 variants get the more advanced – and 10 percent lighter – 2.2-liter SkyACTIV-D diesel that develops greater torque.

Other improvements include a 20 percent reduction in internal friction and improved fuel economy. The SkyACTIV-D features a new two-stage turbocharger and a 14:1 compression ratio, much lower compression than typical diesels.

Mazda says this low compression ratio results in cleaner burning with lower nitrogen oxides, producing virtually no soot. This means no additional NOx aftertreatment is needed, as is the case with many other modern diesel engines.

The 2014 Mazda6 is first production vehicle to feature Mazda’s unique i-ELOOP (‘Intelligent Energy Loop’) braking regeneration system. Unlike virtually every other regenerative braking system that uses batteries to store electrical energy created during braking or coast-down, i-ELOOP uses a capacitor for energy storage. The recouped electrical energy is used to power all Mazda6 electrical systems.

Among its advantages is that i-ELOOP avoids the need for a dedicated electric motor and battery, making the system more efficient, compact, and lighter than traditional regenerative braking systems. Also, capacitors can charge and discharge rapidly and are resistant to deterioration even in prolonged use.