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Ford Expands Customer Choice – Lowers Manufacturing Cost

original post at Clean Fleet Report

The new Ford Fusion gives car owners unprecedented choice in powertrains and fuel economy. The Ford Fusion can be offered with an efficient EcoBoost engine or as a hybrid with better mileage than any midsized sedan or as a plug-in hybrid that allows many trips to use zero gasoline.

Classic styling, smooth driving, and excellent fuel economy come together in this new five-passenger midsized sedan. Market research revealed that 2 out of 3 U.S. shoppers, before buying, consider a midsized sedan, SUV, or liftback. One out of three buy a midsized sedan, according to Ford. The stakes are high. Safety and reliability perceptions are always a factor.

Ford saw Toyota Camry and Honda Accord sales decline starting when oil prices went over $100 per barrel, accelerate during the Great Recession, and take another hit during Japan’s earthquake and Thailand mudslide disasters. A shift from sedans to liftbacks and SUVs, both with more cargo flexibility, has been another factor. Fuel economy and car lifetime operating costs are important to many buyers.

The new Fusion Hybrid offers a breakthrough 47 miles per gallon (mpg) city and 44-mpg highway. The overall 46-mpg is 4 mpg better than the new Toyota Camry Hybrid. The Fusion has a plug-in hybrid option, the Camry currently does not, but Clean Fleet Report predicts that one will be announced this year. Long term, Ford threatens to leapfrog Toyota’s hybrid leadership with a broad offering of pure battery-electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and hybrids. Unlike Toyota, all 2013 Ford hybrids will use lithium batteries while Toyota primarily stays with nickel metal hydride batteries.

Ford is now in a race with the Renault-Nissan Alliance to be first to sell 100,000 cars in one year with lithium batteries and electric motors. Either or both will achieve this in 2013. In the process they are driving down the cost of lithium batteries, electric motors, and advanced power electronics, making hybrid and electric cars more affordable.

2013 Ford Fusion Energi Plug-in Hybrid

Arriving this fall, Fusion Energi is anticipated to deliver more than 100 MPGe, a mile per gallon equivalency metric for electrified vehicles. This is 8 MPGe more than the Chevrolet Volt and 13 MPGe more than the projected efficiency of the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid model. Many Volt owners tell me that in real world driving their first 40 miles are electric mode before the gasoline engine engages.

The Fusion Energi is expected to deliver 20 to 30 miles in electric mode, provided the driver stays below 62 miles per hour. The average American drives 4 trips daily with 40-miles per total. City streets and stop-go freeway are much of that driving. The Energi will support Level One and Level Two charging. Go fast, or use most of the lithium battery storage and the Energi drives like a hybrid with its electric motor and 2 liter, 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine working together. An electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT) helps fuel economy.

We will learn more about electric range, motor and battery specs as Ford starts sales in Fall 2012. Sales will start shortly after sales of the Ford Focus Electric and the Ford C-Max Plug-in Hybrid crossover. Ford is expected to make battery packs but use different cell chemistry for pure-electrics, plug-in hybrids and hybrids. Compact Power, a subsidiary of LG Chem, will supply the lithium-ion tri-metal cells and packs for the 2013 Ford Focus Electric.

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Ford Fusion Hybrid interior 37k Ford Fusion Hybrid and Plug in Hybrid for Best Sedan MPGThe Fusion Hybrid – 2010 North American Car of the Year – continues to innovate with new lithium-ion batteries that save 50 percent battery weight, 30 percent size, and generate more power than previous nickel-metal hydride batteries, while raising maximum speed under electric-only power from 47 mph to 62 mph. Even with a smaller battery-pack, however, the Hybrid and Energi only offer 12 cubic-feet of trunk space. The non-hybrid fusion is over 15 and the back seat can be lowered for much more cargo.

Fusion Hybrid also features an all-new 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine, significantly downsized from the previous 2.5-liter unit while maintaining performance standards. This innovative powertrain is anticipated to deliver best-in-class fuel economy of 47 mpg in city driving and 44 mpg on the highway.

Fusion Hybrid fuel economy stands to outperform the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid by 4 mpg city and 5 mpg highway and the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid by 12 mpg and 4 mpg, respectively. The Fusion Hybrid is one of the top 10 hybrid cars.

2012 Fusion Achieves 32 MPG and Optional AWD

Fusion brings the broadest selection of fuel-efficient powertrains in the midsize car segment. It offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid alternatives, a pair of EcoBoost™ four-cylinder engines, a normally aspirated four-cylinder engine, an automatic start stop system to shut off the engine at stationary idle, front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive (AWD) applications, and a choice between automatic and manually shifted six-speed transmissions.

The 1.6-liter EcoBoost outperforms many larger 6-cylinder engines with non-hybrid fuel efficiency of 26 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, 32 mpg combined. The 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine – paired with a paddle-shifted six-speed SelectShift Automatic™ transmission, available 19-inch wheels and tires, and all-wheel drive with the ability to send additional torque to the rear – is the Fusion performance option.

Safety Technology and Telematics

The all-new Fusion offers an unprecedented portfolio of driver assistance and convenience technologies based on sensors, cameras and radar that enable the car to see and respond. Fusion can help drivers maintain proper lane position, adjust vehicle speed to changing traffic conditions, identify suitable parking spaces and help park, even aiding drivers backing out of parking space where visibility is obstructed.

Ford Motor has taken customer choice to a new level by reinventing the popular midsized sedan with powertrain options including efficient EcoBoost engine or 46 mpg hybrid drive system or plug-in hybrid drive system. The Lincoln MKZ adds to customer choice with a premium hybrid with the same powertain as the Fusion Hybrid. With customer choice Ford also maximizes utilization of the same manufacturing line with most parts common to all versions. With its growing offering of electrified vehicles and volume manufacturing, Ford is lowering the cost of lithium battery packs, electric motors, and electric powertrains.

Kia Optima Hybrid – Car Review

from original post at Clean Fleet Report

It’s an ideal California day for this test drive of the Kia Optima Hybrid. As the day warms, we will be able to open the sunroof, even though it is January. The sky is so clear that we can see the Farallon Islands 26 miles from shore. The drive will combine city streets, freeway acceleration, hill climbing, and navigating curves over steep cliffs descending to the ocean. It will be interesting to compare this to my test drives of other midsized hybrids including the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrid.

My wife joins me on this drive. As we approach the car we admire the distinctive styling, the butterfly shaped grill, and the black roof contrasting with the satin metal body. I easily sit because the drivers seat has automatically slide back for added room. When I touch the start button the driver’s seat returns to the position of my previous drive – nice touch. My wife and I both enjoy the wide comfortable seats. The Optima Hybrid is a four-door, five-passenger, midsize sedan. Three can sit in the backseat, or the armrest can be lowered giving added comfort for two.

Test Driving the Kia Optima Hybrid

Kia Optima Display 41k Kia Optima Hybrid Car Test Drive and ReviewThe model I’m driving has the Premium Technology Package. The backup camera adds to the safety. The navigation system includes a bigger screen and voice controls. Dual 12-volt adaptors are handy for portable electronics. I use the special adapter for the Apple iPod/Pad/Phone and my playlist and album menus appear on the bigger screen. With a button push, the moonroof for front and backseats opened, letting the filter sunlight stream inside. I select a favorite playlist and away we go.

The car defaults into Eco mode, instead of making you select the mode like other hybrids. Going quite slowly, the Optima Hybrid stays in EV mode, but quickly leaves it. It’s easier to stay in EV mode in a Ford Fusion Hybrid and much easier in a Toyota Camry Hybrid. In city driving, the 2.4L gasoline engine and electric motor work together. The hybrid car battery is a 270V, 5.3Ah, LG Chem lithium polymer battery.

Kia Shift 43k Kia Optima Hybrid Car Test Drive and ReviewThe sedan easily accelerates on the freeway. On an 8 percent grade, the Optima Hybrid accelerated to 80 without working. Electronic steering is responsive as we reach windy curves overlooking dramatic cliffs to the ocean. I pull the shift to the left and power shift down to avoid breaking. For fun, you can shift manually or have the automatic take care of it for you. Our drive is rewarded with an invigorating hike.

Like other sedan hybrids, the trunk size is a bit small and the back seat does not lower if you want to load lots of cargo such as work projects, school sports, or luggage. There is a pass-thru slot when the backseat armrest is lowered.

The Kia Optima Hybrid has a suggested price of $26,500 plus $750 freight. The model that I drove had an extra $5,000 of options.

Midsized Hybrid Car Comparisons

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is quite similar to the Kia Optima Hybrid, although I think that the Kia’s styling is a bit more distinctive. The Sonata has a 5-star NHTSA rating; the Optima Hybrid is not yet rated. Both have roomy interiors. The Sonata has 11 cubic feet of trunk space to the Optima’s 10. It’s worth comparison-shopping the two cars.

Toyota Camry Hybrid LE achieved much better fuel economy in my test drive. It is rated 43 city mpg, 39 highway and 41 combined versus 37 combined for the Optima Hybrid. It has 13 cubic feet of trunk space to the Optima Hybrid’s 10.

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid is available as a conventional hybrid and as the Energi Plug-in Hybrid. The Fusion Hybrid is rated at a record setting 47 mpg city, 44 highway and 46 combined 46 mpg – far better than the 26 mpg of my Optima Hybrid test drive or its 37 mpg rating and far better than the 2012 Fusion Hybrid’s 39 mpg combined. The new Fusion Hybrid will have more interior space than the Optima Hybrid and 15 cubic feet of trunk space. The downside is that you won’t be able to order the Fusion Hybrid until the fall, probably not get delivery until 2013, and pay more than the Optima Hybrid.

Toyota Prius Liftback offers as much interior room as a midsize sedan plus the ability to lower the backseat for much greater cargo. Many prefer the classic look of sedans; others like to proudly display their fuel economy with the Prius look. The Prius will save hundreds each year at the pump and can cost a bit less than midsized hybrid sedans.

Kia Takes Market Share

In 2011, Kia and its sister company Hyundai continued their strong growth, taking market share from Toyota, Honda, Ford and several others. This Kia hybrid is made in Korea and has benefitted from availability at a time when Japanese makers have suffered from the earthquake and nuclear meltdown problems in Japan and floods in Thailand.

The Kia’s 10-year / 100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty will appeal to many. It may well achieve the same top ratings as the similar Sonata Hybrid. Availability, reliability, and safety will appeal to drivers who have had problems with their last Toyota, Honda, Ford, etc.

The Kia Optima Hybrid is a beautifully designed midsized hybrid inside and out.  It has all the electronic goodies that most need. Although its fuel economy is not best in class, it is good. With a 10-year warranty, buyers get good value for their money. Take one for a spin. You’ll enjoy the drive.