Green Car Journal logo

Since the launch of Green Car Journal in 1992, it’s been clear to me that environmental compatibility isn’t just a passing phase. Today, the most forceful drivers of change are the need to mitigate carbon emissions and reduce mankind’s potential impacts on our global climate. But long before that, there were other imperatives already prompting a rethinking of mobility and how it was affecting our collective lives.

Urban areas were often choked with smog, the result of far too many vehicles on the road,  with levels of tailpipe emissions that would be unthinkable today. Major cities across the country were in non-compliance with air quality standards. Smog alerts recommending limited outdoor activity were an unfortunate and regular occurrence in major cities and regions. I lived this growing up in the greater metropolitan L.A. area, as the smog from Los Angeles migrated some 50 miles eastward and stopped at the San Gabriel Mountains two miles from my home, causing the mountain range to magically disappear in the haze every summer.

Still, there were bright spots amid the haze. California launched its Low Emission Vehicle Program in 1990, mandating cleaner vehicles in the years ahead. Part of this landmark program was the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate that helped accelerate electric vehicle research and development, and ultimately drove auto manufacturers to get serious about vehicle electrification.

An important part of Green Car Journal’s mission over the years has been to explain the benefits and characteristics of ‘green’ cars of all types, regardless of their approach to better environmental impact. In the end, the goal has always been to present an overview of the directions, technologies, and fuels being explored, dive down into specifics, and enable readers to make up their own minds on what’s important based on what they learn.  

A complementary part of this has been the Green Car Awards, starting with the magazine’s annual Green Car of the Year® award first presented at the L.A. Auto Show in 2005. Green Car Journal editors conduct significant research every year to review the universe of new models to consider as the ‘best-of-the-best’ that exhibit commendable environment performance. Through an extensive vetting process, the field is narrowed down to five finalists for each award category. The goal has remained the same since that first award program in 2005 – recognize vehicles that significantly raise the bar in environmental performance and exhibit environmental leadership.

When it comes to positive change, leadership is important. A new direction acknowledging the automobile’s impact on our environment is important. New and better choices that speak to our future are important. These are among the compelling reasons why the Green Car Awards exist.

In the early years of the Green Car Awards, there were relatively few truly worthy vehicles to be considered. But change, though slow, has been ongoing. Now our cities and streets benefit from an ever-growing number of vastly more efficient, lower emission, and environmentally positive vehicle choices powered by advanced or electrified powerplants. Today, ‘green’ cars have come into their own through design, innovation, and consumer desire. That last part is crucial. Auto manufacturers have done a good job of bringing an increasing number of advanced and electrified vehicles to market. They have invested heavily, even subsidizing some models’ real cost along the way, to make them approachable to buyers.  But a serious and sustained desire for these vehicles had been lacking…until now.

Thankfully, the tipping point for ‘green’ cars is now behind us. While not all new car buyers are in the market for a high efficiency, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or electric vehicle, the numbers are no longer small, and they’re growing significantly. Interest and demand are up. Consumers are eager to know more and they want to understand which vehicles, and manufacturers, are leading the field. And we’re proud that our annual Green Car Awards help deliver this critical information.

2017-honda-hrv-front-1The advantage of a year-long test vehicle is that we’re better able to sample how it performs under all types of road and weather conditions, plus the sometimes challenging situations that life throws at everyone. In hilly Southeastern Ohio on the edge of the Appalachian range, our long term Honda HR-V conquered snow and ice covered roads with sure-footed traction, with its all-wheel drive system and traction control finding grip when grip was hard to find. Honda’s excellent anti-lock brake system delivered above average stopping power when the road surface was slippery. Combined with linear and positive steering response, those qualities provide for a very confidence inspiring winter driving experience.

Winter conditions can take a toll on fuel economy. The worst winter mpg we achieved was around 28 mpg and we were able to push efficiency into the mid to upper 30s with relative ease. Honda’s intuitive ECO Coaching system helps the process along with visual cues that change color with throttle position and speed.

2016 Honda HR-VThe HR-V’s interior makes longer road trips quite comfortable. With the front seats all the way aft to accommodate my 6 foot, 2 inch frame, rear seat leg room is a bit compromised, but that’s to be expected in any compact SUV. In addition to its 60/40 split seat folding design and ability to deliver a flat cargo floor, the Honda’s Magic Seat configuration allows the bottom seat cushions to fold up out of the way to handle taller cargo.

Driving any compact SUV can be an education since not all competitive models achieve the high standards SUV drivers expect in comfort, performance, functionality, and convenience. Our 10,000 mile experience with Honda’s HR-V has scored high marks in all subjects and has definitely made our Dean’s List at the end of its freshman year.

2016-honda-hrv-side-view

2016-chevy-impala-bi-fuel-34-front-lead

  1. Alternative fuels have been an important focus at GM over the past 25 years. The 2016 Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel is the latest model to offer the ability to seamlessly run on compressed natural gas (CNG) or gasoline. Natural gas is the cleanest-burning of all fossil fuels and emits fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventionally powered vehicles. Plus, natural gas is an abundant resource in the U.S. and costs significantly less per gallon equivalent than gasoline.

2016-chevy-impala-bi-fuel-instruments

  1. Gas or CNG? Dual fuel capability solves the range anxiety that occurs with vehicles running solely on an alternative fuel. Impala drivers can choose to run on CNG or gasoline with a dashboard switch. The system seamlessly switches to gasoline once CNG is depleted. Fuel gauges are provided for both fuels.

2016-chevy-impala-bi-fuel-apple-carplay

  1. Connectivity is well looked-after in the Impala Bi-Fuel, which offers OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity and Wi-Fi hotspot plus wireless smartphone charging. Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system and Apple CarPlay integrate smartphone functions onto an eight-inch color touchscreen that allows calling up features like music and navigation apps.

2016-chevy-impala-bi-fuel-filler

  1. Fueling convenience is provided with both the gasoline fuel inlet and CNG pressure fitting located behind a common fuel filler door. Fueling with natural gas at a CNG pump takes about the same amount of time as refueling with gasoline.

2016-chevy-impala-bi-fuel-vvt-powerplant

  1. Bi-fuel operation requires the Impala’s 3.6-liter dual-fuel V-6 to be equipped with hardened valves and valve seats to enhance durability when running on CNG. Special regulators, filters, and high pressure fuel lines are also used. Driving range is an EPA estimated 119 miles on CNG and 368 miles on gasoline.

ron-cogan-capitol-hillThere are many outspoken and polarizing proponents of the various fuels and technologies at play today. This has been the case for several decades now and isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon. Many electric car enthusiasts do not see a future for internal combustion or even hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Hydrogen proponents point out that fuel cell vehicles make more sense than battery electrics since hydrogen generally offers greater driving range and fuel cell vehicles can be refueled in under five minutes, while battery electrics cannot. Biodiesel enthusiasts point out the obvious benefits of this biofuel and even as this fuel gains momentum, wonder why support isn’t stronger. Natural gas advocates see huge and stable supplies of this clean-burning fuel now and in our future, without the truly significant commitment to natural gas vehicles this should bring. And those behind internal combustion vehicles achieving ever-higher efficiency simply wonder what the fuss is all about when conventional answers are here today.

So in the midst of all this, where are we headed? Simple. In the right direction, of course.

As I was writing about these very fuels and technologies some 25 years ago, it wasn’t lost on me that the competition for dominance in the ‘green’ automotive world of the future would be hard-fought and long, with many twists and turns. As our decades-long focus on the ‘green car’ field has shown us, the state-of-the-art of advanced vehicles in any time frame is ever-changing, which simply means that what may seem to make the most sense now is likely to shift, and at times, shift suddenly. This is a field in flux today, as it was back then.

When Nissan powered its Altra EV back in 1998 as an answer to California’s Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, it turned heads with the first use of a lithium-ion battery in a limited production vehicle, rather than the advanced lead-acid and nickel-metal-hydride batteries used by others. Lithium-ion is now the battery of choice, but will it remain so as breakthrough battery technologies and chemistries are being explored?

Gasoline-electric hybrids currently sell in ever-greater numbers, with plug-in hybrids increasingly joining their ranks. Conventionally-powered vehicles are also evolving with new technologies and strategies eking levels of fuel efficiency that were only thought possible with hybrid powerplants just a few years ago.

What drives efficiency – and by extension determines our future path to the high efficiency, low emission, and more sustainable vehicles desired by consumers and government alike – is textbook evolution. Cars are adapting to meet the changing needs of future mobility and the imperative of improved environmental performance. Some of these evolutionary changes are predictable like lightweighting, improved aerodynamics, friction reduction, and enhanced powertrain efficiencies. Other answers, including the fuels that will ultimately power a new generation of vehicles, will be revealed over time.

So here’s to the cheerleaders who tell us quite vocally that their fuel, technology, or strategy is the answer to our driving future. One of them may be right. But the fact is, the evolutionary winner has yet to be determined.

PrintFor 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-i8-award-winner

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.

jeep-grand-cherokee-ecodiesel-winnerThe 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.

ford-f-150-award-winner

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.

WANADA_AutoShow_Logo_NoTag

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71Chevrolet’s all-new 2015 Colorado midsize pickup seeks to fill a potentially hot market replete with buyers interested in the functionality of a truck but requiring a bit smaller package for better maneuverability in urban areas. Starting at an MSRP of $20,120, the Colorado is available in four-door extended cab or crew cab models to fit varying needs, offering a standard six-foot pickup bed with a short five-foot bed also available on a short bed crew cab versions. Rear seat room is very tight in the extended cab and reasonably comfortable in the crew cab.

Power choices include two fuel efficient engines, a 2.5 liter four-cylinder and a 3.6 liter V-6.  The four-cylinder is rated at 200 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque, with approximately 90 percent of the peak torque available from 2,000 rpm to 6,200 rpm. The V-6 engine is rated at 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is estimated at 18 city/26 highway mpg with the V-6 and bumps up to 20 city/27 highway mpg with the four-cylinder. A new clean diesel option is coming with the 2016 Colorado, which will be offering a new 2.8-liter Duramax engine featuring an expected 181 horsepower and a sizeable 369 lb-ft of torque coming on at a low 2,000 rpm. Fuel efficiency promises to be outstanding for a pickup.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71

Aluminum blocks and forged-steel crankshafts, along with dual-overhead camshafts with variable valve timing, direct injection, and jet-spray piston cooling are shared by both of the current gasoline engines. The Colorado's trailering rating is up to 7,000 pounds with the V-6 engine and heavy-duty towing package. All models come with a standard six-speed automatic transmission with auto grade braking and a tow/haul mode. Extended cab 2WD WT models equipped with the 2.5-liter engine are available with a six-speed manual transmission.

The Colorado features triple-sealed doors inlaid in the body sides for improved aerodynamic performance and a quieter interior. To help keep overall mass down, lightweight materials such as an aluminum hood are used. It also has active aero grille shutters, designed to enhance aerodynamics when closed. Electric power steering improves efficiency by eliminating the energy used by an engine-driven hydraulic pump.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Interior

With nearly the capacity and features of the full-size Chevrolet Silverado pickup, this mid-sized pickup offers not only better fuel economy, but enhanced maneuverability including  a short turning radius of 41.3 feet, great on city streets or backing a trailer into a camping spot.

The Colorado may be a pickup, but it offers the advanced electronics so desired by consumers today. Safety is also top-of-mind with forward collision alert and lane departure warning plus a standard rear-vision camera.

2015 Honda FitThe road to higher efficiency is an appealing one these days and driving a small car is one way to get there. While it’s true that not everyone is in the market for a small car, the appeal grows if small means efficient and highly functional but not constrained or boring.

This is the theme with Honda’s third-generation 2015 Honda Fit, which offers a more aerodynamic look and additional interior space while retaining the previous version's overall physical footprint. Honda designers have clearly gone the extra mile in not only offering a thoroughly modern small car, but innovating ways to bring greater interior functionality than should be expected in this size package.

2015 Honda Fit

Helping achieve this is the Fit's ‘Magic Seat’ rear seat setup that offers four modes for carrying passengers, cargo, or both. In the Utility Mode, it can carry 52 cubic feet of cargo. Fold down the right sides of the rear and front passenger seat in the Long Mode and you can carry items up to 7 feet, 9 inches in length. In the Tall Mode there’s nearly 4 feet of room available top to bottom. Remove the front head restraints, fold back the front seats, and you can relax, or even sleep, in the Refresh Mode.

Beyond this refreshing small car functionality, perhaps the Fit’s most important change is a new and more fuel-efficient powertrain. Its new direct-injected, 1.5-liter, four-cylinder Earth Dreams engine produces 130 horsepower, 13 more than the engine it replaces.

2015 Honda Fit

A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but most will be fitted with a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) that has shift paddles and a Sport mode that provides seven selectable ‘gears’ to increase the fun factor. This CVT comes with Eco Assist and an ECON button for more fuel efficient operation. All models also feature Honda's Eco Coaching function that prompts drivers to achieve maximum fuel economy.

With the 6-speed, the Fit achieves EPA estimated numbers of up to 33 mpg in the city and an impressive 41 mpg on the highway, achieving desirable efficiency with a gasoline engine that only comes with a hybrid in some other models. Not only do drivers save on gas, but also on purchase price since the 2015 Fit offers a base MSRP of just $15,525 that makes this model approachable for most new car buyers.

2015 Honda Fit

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.

the-icct-logo

 

volvo-drive-e-carsLike most automakers. Volvo is downsizing its engines to make them more fuel efficient. Future Volvo models will be all be powered by a family of Drive-E four-cylinder, 2.0 liter gasoline and diesel engines – no more five and six cylinders. The new engines, developed by Volvo in Sweden, will offer higher performance than today’s six-cylinder variants. They will also be 100 pounds lighter, more compact, and reduce fuel consumption by 10 to 30 percent.

The first new two-liter, four-cylinder Drive-E powertrains will appear in 2015 Volvos. These T5 and T6 gasoline and D4 diesel engines will all use the same architecture that includes an aluminum block, dual overhead cams, 16-valves, and continuously variable valve timing. They can be machined and assembled on the same production lines. All Drive-E models feature start-stop and brake regeneration.

volvo-drive-e-engine-wideExcept in the U.S, the new S60 sedan, V60 wagon, and XC60 crossover will be available with three engines. The T5 and D4 will also be available in the new Volvo V70 wagon, XC70 crossover, and S80 sedan. We will not get the diesel engine here in the U.S. Rather, customers can choose between the new Drive-E engines and some current engines until Volvo transitions solely to Drive-E.

The T6 is both turbocharged and supercharged, using a Roots-style blower supercharger that fills in the bottom end torque to lend the feel of a large, naturally aspirated gasoline engine. The mechanically linked compressor starts functioning immediately at low rpms, while the turbocharger kicks in when airflow builds up. Power is impressive, with the T6 producing 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft torque. The T5 is turbocharged only and is rated at 240 horsepower with a torque rating of 258 lb-ft.

2015-volvo-v60Friction-reduction in the T5 and T6 includes ball bearings on the camshaft. There is also high-speed continuous variable valve timing and intelligent heat management with a fully variable electric water pump. Other innovations are built in, with the Drive-E diesel featuring i-ART (intelligent-Accuracy Refinement Technology) with pressure feedback from each fuel injector instead of a traditional single pressure sensor in the common rail. Each injector has an intelligent chip on top that monitors injection pressure. Using this information, the self-adapting i-ART system ensures that the ideal amount of fuel is injected during each combustion cycle.

The diesels also feature refinements such as an advanced twin-turbo, reduced friction, and a smart valve on the cooling system for a more rapid heat-up phase after a cold start. Featuring a very high 36,750 psi rail pressure, the D4 produces 181 horsepower and 295 lb-ft torque. Drive-E engines are mated with either a new eight-speed automatic or an enhanced six-speed manual tuned transmission, though U.S, models will probably come only with the automatic. Both FWD and AWD will be available.

volvo-s60While official fuel economy numbers are not yet available, Volvo is estimating 36.8 mpg for a Volvo S60 T6 with the new 8-speed automatic and a 0-62 mph (0-100 kph) time of 5.9 seconds. The Volvo S60 D4 with a manual transmission should rate in the 62 mpg range.

Drive-E engines are ready to be used with an electric motor in hybrid Volvos. Because of the compact size of the four-cylinder engines, the electric motor can be located in front or at the rear. The battery pack would be located in the center of the car.

2015 bi-fuel CNG Chevrolet ImpalaWhile drivers in many other countries can choose from dozens of passenger car models operating on compressed natural gas (CNG), that’s not the case here. We have one: Honda’s Civic Natural Gas.

That changes with the coming 2015 Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel Sedan. Like the Civic, the alternative fuel Impala comes straight from the manufacturer – in this case Chevy – without the extra step of fuel conversion by an outside vehicle modifier. Current natural gas pickups and vans from Chevy, Ford, GMC, and Ram are sent to aftermarket suppliers for installation of natural gas components.

CNGBiFuelChevyImpalaReveal04.jpg

The new bi-fuel Impala will be able to run on either gasoline or CNG, addressing the range anxiety issue associated with dedicated vehicles that run exclusively on an alternative fuel. It also allows owners to use the least expensive fuel at the time of fill-up. The system seamlessly switches from natural gas to gasoline if the CNG tank is depleted. Drivers can also choose to run on their fuel of choice with a dashboard switch. Total range with both fuels is an expected 500 miles.

Making a bi-fuel Impala requires changes to the 3.8 liter V-6 engine so it can burn either fuel, plus the addition of regulators, filters, high pressure gaseous fuel lines, and a CNG fill receptacle. A large CNG tank is added in the trunk and does reduce cargo capacity. The system is factory-engineered and fully warranted.

2015 bi-fuel CNG Chevrolet Impala

For the eighth consecutive year, Green Car Journal is honoring environmental leadership in the automotive field with its annual Green Car of the Year award. The winner will be announced at the L.A. Auto Show.

This year’s finalists include the Dodge Dart Aero, Ford C-MAX, Ford Fusion, Mazda CX-5 SkyACTIV, and the Toyota Prius c. This ‘greenest’ field-of-five – representing not only the five finalists for the 2013 Green Car of the Year award but also Green Car Journal’s distinguished ‘Top 5 Green Cars for 2013’ – underscores the evolving auto industry’s increasing focus on efficiencies and tailpipe/CO2 emissions. It's also proof-positive that auto manufacturers are listening to the needs and desires of today's new car buyers. 

Green Car Journal has documented the 'greening' of the auto industry for over two decades, from a time of mere concepts and demonstration programs to today, when the number of environmentally positive production vehicles available to consumers is just short of amazing. And today it's not all about hybrids, which have become the de-facto answer to environmental progress in recent years. The answers being presented by major automakers encompass everything from a growing field of efficient gasoline-electric hybrids to high-efficiency gasoline and clean diesel vehicles, vehicles running on alternative fuels, and cars using plug-in electric drive.

This shift toward diverse 'green' vehicles is significant on many levels, providing excellent new car choices for buyers who want to drive cleaner and more efficiently while still experiencing the joy of driving. It’s also important to the imperatives of today, from reducing tailpipe and CO2 emissions to decreasing dependence on oil and thus enhancing our energy security.

The 'Top 5 Green Cars for 2013' illustrate the growing choices consumers have for going 'green.' The high mpg Dodge Dart Aero and Mazda CX-5 SkyACTIV show that conventionally-powered, internal combustion vehicles can indeed compete with the efficiencies of hybrids. Toyota's Prius c continues this automaker's tradition of offering all-new, high mpg hybrid models under the Prius name. The Ford C-MAX and Fusion illustrate how mainstream models can present drivers multiple high-efficiency choices – with the C-MAX offering both hybrid and plug-in hybrid iterations, and the Fusion offering these power options, plus fuel-efficient EcoBoost variants.

Importantly, all are affordable mass-market products that provide drivers full functionality and mainstream appeal, paving the way for making a difference in fuel use and overall emissions in daily driving. This availability is an important component of the Green Car of the Year program, since vehicles with great environmental credentials can only make a difference in decreasing CO2 and tailpipe emissions, reducing petroleum use, and improving overall environmental impact if they're available for new car buyers to purchase and drive.

The 2013 Green Car of the Year will be selected by a jury comprised of the nation's top environmental leaders, including Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, Ocean Futures Society president Jean-Michel Cousteau, Natural Resources Defense Council president Frances Beinecke, and Global Green USA president Matt Petersen, plus Tonight Show host and auto enthusiast Jay Leno and Green Car Journal staff.

Which of these ‘Top 5 Green Cars for 2013’ will be selected as Green Car Journal’s 2013 Green Car of the Year? Stay tuned for news from the L.A. Auto Show on November 29,

 

Natural gas pickup choices are growing with the addition of a CNG powered pickup from Ram Truck. The dual-fuel Ram 2500 Heavy Duty CNG pickup, offered exclusively as a Crew Cab 4x4 model on a 169-inch wheelbase, is designed to run on either compressed natural gas or gasoline.

The transition from natural gas to gasoline is handled automatically. Unlike the natural gas pickup offerings from Ford and GM that are available to both fleets and consumers, the fully assembly line-built Ram CNG pickup will initially be offered exclusively to fleets at an MSRP of $47,500, plus a $995 destination charge.

To run on both fuels, the Ram HD CNG’s 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 is modified with redesigned cylinder heads, CNG compatible valves and valve-seat materials, a second CNG-specific fuel rail and CNG injectors, new spark plugs, and a new powertrain control module. A pair of 4.6 cu.-ft. CNG tanks located in the 8-foot pickup bed hold the gasoline gallon equivalent of 18.2 gallons. They are fueled through a CNG filler connection located next to the standard gasoline fuel neck, accessed through the Ram’s fuel filler door. An 8 gallon gasoline tank adds 112 miles of range to the pickup’s 255 range on natural gas.

Keeping track of fuel level is straightforward with a CNG-specific gauge adjacent to the conventional gasoline gauge in the instrument cluster. The CNG pickup’s considerable functionality is retained with a 1,580 lb. payload rating, 7,650 lbs. of towing capability, and a 4 ft., 8-in. usable cargo bed length.

 

Powered by propane autogas (LPG), the Maxximus LNG 2000 has set three new world records at South Georgia Motorsports Park, according to Fisher Island, Florida-based Centaur Performance Group. These latest record attempts follow additional world records set in January with the car running on liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The project, headed by financier Bruce McMahan and Indianapolis-based designer Marlon Kirby, set its latest records on LPG with the car achieving 0-60 mph in 2.6 seconds, 1/4 mile ET of 10.28 seconds, and 1/4 mile speed of 134 mph. The records set in January running on LNG were 0-60 mph in 1.96 seconds, 0-150 mph in 9.21 seconds, 1/4 mile ET of 9.63 seconds, and 1/4 mile speed of 159.9 mph. The car was driven by Marlon Kirby. The company points out that these achievements make the Maxximus the fastest powered supercar ever created using both LNG and LPG.

The Maxximus LNG 2000 uses self-pressurizing fuel tanks and is capable of running on propane autogas, liquefied natural gas, or compressed natural gas with on-demand adjustments. The car features a carbon fiber body.

Massive power is provided by a 1600+ horsepower twin-turbocharged, all-aluminum 7.0-liter V-8 with gaseous fuel injectors, boost reference gaseous regulators, and cryogenic chilled intercoolers. Amazingly, Centaur says the Maxximus is also 50-state emissions legal.