Tag: Green Vehicles
by Zach McDonald: HybridCars.com
This week, Volkswagen will launch the Eco Up! compressed natural gas vehicle in Europe. Yet another variation on the ever-versatile Up! small car platform, the Eco Up! requires just 2.9 kilograms of natural gas to go 100 kilometers—equivalent to more than 55 mpg on gasoline. The car represents one of several powertrain configurations Volkswagen has explored using in the Up!, joining the plug-in electric e-Up!, as well as diesel, hybrid and fuel cell models that have been shown off since VW unveiled its New Small Family (NSF) series back in 2007.
For Volkswagen, the Up! platform is yet another illustration of the company’s “all of the above” strategy for limiting emissions and increasing the fuel economy of its global lineup. The car is not destined for the United States—where consumer-driven natural gas vehicles are relatively rare—but it could appeal in other countries like Pakistan, India, Brazil and Argentina, where CNG-powered cars make up a significantly higher share of the market. Volkswagen estimates that natural gas cars will make up 4 percent of the market in its native Germany by 2020, or roughly 1.4 million vehicles.
Were the Eco Up! to come to the United States, it could might provide some stiff competition to the Honda Civic GX, which is currently the only natural gas model on the market here. But where the Civic GX gets a combined 31 mpg in fuel economy, the Eco Up! rivals the efficiency figures of hybrids like the Toyota Prius.
Of course, with CNG vehicles, gas mileage numbers are just the beginning of the story. As a transportation fuel, natural gas is estimated to burn about 25-percent cleaner than gasoline, at about two-thirds the cost (depending upon market conditions.) Billionaire energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens has spent the better part of the last five years promoting natural gas as a more sensible, cost-effective auto fuel than gasoline in the U.S., but has so far been unsuccessful catalyzing a major shift among consumers.
Still, CNG’s undeniable economic advantages as well as its popularity overseas make it an intriguing alternative to gasoline, diesel and batteries, and according to VW, the possibilities for natural gas go far beyond the abundant international reserves that promise to keep prices relatively low for the foreseeable future.
Volkswagen believes that biomethane—which can serve as a renewable substitute for the fossil-fuel form of natural gas—could be the answer to lowering the fuel’s carbon footprint even further. “When 20-percent biomethane is added to the natural gas at the refilling station, this by itself reduces CO2 emissions by 39 percent,” said the company in a press release announcing the Eco Up! “When fueled with pure biomethane, the cars emit up to 97-percent less CO2.”
Currently, VW says biomethane is available at more than a quarter of the natural gas filling stations in Germany.
Will the United States ever yield a significant market share to consumer natural gas vehicles? Depending upon how high gasoline prices rise in the coming years, there could be room in the market for any car that promises to save drivers more than half of their fueling costs. In order for that to happen though, an infrastructure of CNG filling stations will have to emerge—as well as broader availability of vehicles like the Civic GX and Eco-Up! Whether or not the latter happens is squarely in the hands of carmakers like Volkswagen.
It is quite fitting that HSH Prince Albert of Monaco was the one to put the Fisker Karma through its paces at the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix. His Serene Highness is known for his commitment to the environment and has always expressed a strong interest in encouraging innovative solutions for environmental protection and sustainable development around the world.
According to Henrik Fisker, it was actually the Sovereign Prince that was the inspiration behind the development of the Karma. Fisker commented: “The Fisker Karma project has a distinct Monaco link. Prince Albert was one of the people who inspired me to create the Fisker Karma. When I met him at the Top Marques Show in Monaco in 2006 he commented that he would love to see a fuel-efficient luxury car, and from that small seed grew the concept of what became Fisker Automotive and our focus on premium EVer cars that deliver pure driving passion.” We want to thank both the principality of Monaco and Prince Albert for not only being the inspiration, but also a great support for our groundbreaking automotive green initiative,” continued Fisker.
Visitors to the world’s most prestigious motorsport event were among the first to see the first Fisker Karma off the production line as it made its European driving debut on the famous street circuit. On Saturday 28 May 2011, before official race qualifying began, the first European production version of the Fisker Karma, the world’s first true Electric Vehicle with extended range, took to the streets of Monaco, completing a couple of laps.
The Fisker Karma is the first American-designed and engineered luxury vehicle specifically developed to appeal to world markets, inspired by Henrik’s paradigm of Responsible Luxury. It is the only luxury sedan in the world that meets future fuel consumption and emission requirements, making it suitable for any international city. It is the only true Electric Vehicle with extended range where its rear wheels are powered using two rear-mounted 201.5 horsepower (150 kW) electric traction motors that draw energy from the lithium-ion battery pack for up to 50 miles (80 km.) The gasoline engine drives a 175 kW electric generator to power the motors and there is no mechanical link between this engine and the drive motors.
The Fisker Karma is unique in that it can operate in two separate modes: Stealth and Sport. Stealth Mode maximizes efficiency, giving it the greatest range on battery power before having to activate the gasoline engine-driven generator to sustain the battery charge. In this mode, the Karma is capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds and tops out at 95 mph. In Sport Mode, the gasoline engine drives the generator to provide enough electricity for 403 total system horsepower, which accelerates the Karma from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.9 seconds, topping out at 125 mph.
The Fisker Karma was designed to be a true driver’s car. Its proprietary aluminum space frame gives it the necessary rigidity and strength that enable world-class ride and handling characteristics. It is the first production car that has been specifically tuned to run on standard 22-inch aluminum wheels, giving it that final air of sophistication.
Fisker plans on delivering vehicles to all current deposit holders during the 2011 model year. We invite you to come in for a test drive as soon as the first vehicles hit showrooms. Follow us on Twitter and join our Facebook community to stay in the loop of the latest updates.