Monday, February 15, 2010

Where Are the High-MPG Small Hybrids?

It was once thought that the great promise of gas-electric hybrids was to offer new levels of fuel efficiency. In other words, adding even a modest battery pack and motor to a compact or subcompact car could boost the fuel efficiency of a small car from the mid-30-mpg range into the 40- or 50-mpg range. The original two-seater Honda Insight delivered 70-mpg in real world mileage for many of its drivers. Where are the next generation of small high-mpg hybrids?

2011 Honda CR-Z

The Honda CR-Z is small and relatively affordable, but will only manage a fuel efficiency rating in the 30s.

Automakers are now searching for the best technical and economic approach to small hybrids. Honda is the single carmaker that has shown an interest in smaller more affordable hybrids�yet the Civic Hybrid and 2010 Honda Insight have had trouble finding customers. In fact, Honda Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo recently told Bloomberg that the 2010 Honda Insight might have compromised too much size in the name of efficiency. The company will soon introduce another small hybrid, the two-seat Honda CR-Z, followed by a gas-electric version of the Honda Fit.

�SThere are plenty of people who think that the current Fit meets their needs already⬝ with its fuel efficiency, Kondo said. �SA hybrid version might seem expensive. Our engineers are really struggling.⬝

Toyota Tries to Get Small with Hybrids

Toyota is showing off its Toyota FT-CH�the CH stands for compact hybrid�on this year�"s auto show circuit. The company has also hinted at a smaller version of the Prius, and plans to unveil the Lexus CT 200h, a premium compact hybrid, at the upcoming Geneva auto show. If Toyota delivers on its promise of more hybrids throughout its entire lineup, at some point it will need to get small.

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