More Hybrid SUVs in 2005
by: Jenny McLane
It is common knowledge among car enthusiasts and car owners
that the bigger the vehicle, the bigger the amount of fuel it
consumes. With this in mind, several automobile producers have
begun diverting a big chunk of their efforts to producing more
hybrid 4x4s in the year 2005.
Taking on the Fleet First. The big three - Ford, Dodge and General
Motors have seemed to agree that 2005 is the perfect opportunity
to introduce the hybrid versions of some very popular vehicles.
Ford Introduces the Ford Escape Hybrid, the first vehicle to
combine SUV capability with the outstanding fuel economy and
low environmental impact of a full hybrid. "Full"
hybrid means it automatically switches between pure electric
power, pure gasoline or diesel engine power or a combined operation
to optimize efficiency and performance. The no frills Escape
Hybrid drives normally, performs superbly and offers all the
features you'd expect from the SUV leader. The Hybrid Ford Escape
features lots of room, comfortable seating for five, an adaptable
cargo area, 1000-pound towing capacity, and an optional Intelligent
4WD System which produces the same all-weather grip and off-road
competence available in conventional Escape models.
Full hybrids can achieve 50% or more improvement in fuel economy
during traffic induced stop-and-go type of driving, wherein
the electric motor is most efficient. The Escape Hybrid delivers
more than 75% fuel economy improvement in city driving when
weighed against a conventional V-6 powered Escape XLT. The Escape
Hybrid can travel more than 400 miles in city driving on a single
tank of gasoline.
Ford has already manufactured and sold the 4,000 units Ford
Escape Hybrid in 2004 and its resounding success has prompted
it to build a modest 20,000 more for 2005. Ford
wants to make sure it is not just a fad and people would see
the practical, economical and environmental impact a Hybrid
vehicle can induce. The Escape Hybrid costs $3,300 more than
the V-6 powered Escape.
Dodge and General Motors follow suit. Ford has been the first
to produce and set the bar in the large vehicle Hybrid market
segment and Dodge and GM cannot afford to lag behind. General
Motors and Dodge are not that far behind though. In the last
quarter of 2004, General Motors introduced electric hybrid versions
of its 2005 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. The
trucks were only available to those who are in Florida, California,
Nevada, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington. GM expects to produce
about 2,500 units in 2005 - 1,875 Silverados and 625 Sierras
- with the hopes of launching the vehicles on a national scale
by 2006. Dodge manufactured only 100 diesel-electric 2005 RAM
pickups, targeted for utility company fleets. The diesel will
produce better fuel economy, with an additional 15% mpg boost
over the conventional diesel Ram coming from the electric side.
Diesels are generally considered more environmentally
disastrous on the ecological front. The Dodge Ram Diesel
Hybrid is expected to sell for around $40,000 a somewhat larger
cost than the non-hybrid models.
Heftier Price Tags. Although the price tags may vary from state
to state, the average increase for the cost for a Hybrid option
may run well up to $3,000. The GM versions of the Hybrid engine
are soft-hybrids, which mean that an electric motor provides
a boost up on accelerations. The GM version of a hybrid large
vehicle has a stop-start system that turns off the gasoline
engine at traffic lights. It possesses a 120-volt, 2,400-watt
generator system that can provide power for electrical equipments.
The Silverado and Sierra hybrids also serves as power generators,
with two conventional, three-prong plug-ins that can be found
under the rear seat, two extra plug-ins can also be found in
the rear bed of the trucks. The four 120-volt, 20 amp electrical
supplementary power outlets can supply power for electric coolers,
electric ranges, sound systems video consoles and other electrical
equipments that can be lugged around. The power supply can be
utilized while the engine is running or even after the engine
is cut and the keys are taken out of the ignition. Ground fault
detection systems are installed in the power supply circuits
so that overloads and short circuits can be prevented. According
to General Motors, the new hybrid pickups could sustain enough
power to last for up to 32 hours non-stop before needing to
fill the tank again. This function new feature proved to be
very useful when GM loaned some of their new Hybrids to
hurricane stricken Florida when they were used for some relief
operations, they were vital in some areas were electricity was
incapacitated. The hybrid models of the Chevy Silverado and
GMC Sierra trucks are foreseen to develop fuel savings of up
to 10% over analogous trucks without the hybrid benefit.
How exactly do Hybrids get such Fantastic Mileage?
HVs (Hybrid Vehicles) are principally powered by an internal
combustion engine, much like any ordinary vehicles. However,
they also transform the energy that is normally wasted during
stop and go operations into electricity, which is stored in
a battery until the moment it is needed by the electric motor.
The electric motor is utilized to support the engine when accelerating
or doing some uphill driving and in low-speed driving operations
where internal combustion engines are least efficient. Some
Hybrid Vehicles also automatically shut off the engine when
the vehicle is idling and restarts the internal combustion engine
when the accelerator is depressed. This avoids exhausted fuel
when the vehicle is not in motion. Unlike all-electric vehicles,
HVs that are being produced today do not need to be plugged
into an external source of electricity to be recharged, the
energy provided by the engine and the braking force charges
Is it worth the fuss and the costs? It all boils down to one
thing, Large Hybrid Vehicles cost more than their non-hybrid
counterparts. Deciding on the advantages though is not that
hard. You get better mileage, companies save on fuel consumption,
electric motors are all the rage plus you get to help the environment.
Also, the hybrid SUVs pay for themselves in the long run,
costs may be cut through tax incentives and decreased fuel consumption
help to offset the price difference. Determining the cost-savings
ratio would be one factor many car manufacturers will keep in
mind while keeping close scrutiny in their products. Nevertheless
a large hybrid vehicle may just be the thing the future needs.
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