San Diego has its fair share of environmentally conscious drivers purchasing zero-emission fuel-efficient vehicles.
For those new to clean car technology, or looking to make the leap into the market, we’re providing you with a detailed overview of the zero-emission car movement and the key players who make up this space.
Many energy efficient vehicles provide great savings for owners. With average miles driven per household around 15,500 for two cars (how much are you regularly paying per gallon?) there is a huge opportunity for savings. Environmentally conscious drivers were the first to take notice of these savings.
The Toyota Prius was the first mass-produced and successful hybrid vehicle, first sold in Japan in 1997.
By 2013, the Prius family of models reached global sales of 3.8 million vehicles.
The Prius has often held the crown as the most efficient vehicle at 50 mpg by use of a hybrid electric and gasoline engine. The commercial success of the Prius and applications of lithium ion batteries sparked interest from many other car manufactures to developing in this market.
While the Prius had brought commercial interest to the mass production of electric vehicles at a time when society became greatly aware of both environmental concerns and their own environmental impacts, the electric vehicle actually has its roots in the 1800’s.
The first hybrid electric-gasoline car was released in 1911 by Woods Motor Vehicles but was basically a commercial failure. The first fully electric vehicle had been built in 1837 by Robert Davidson and powered by Galvanic cells, versus current Lithium ion cells.
The invention of the lead-acid batter in 1859 lead to the eventual production of other attempts at electric vehicles, which continued to commercially fail due to the efficiency of internal combustion powered engines, which used gasoline.
By the 1960’s the American Big Three manufactures began to test models based on lithium batteries. As a societal push towards clean-energy emerged, the progression towards fuel-efficiency and zero emissions began to have a commercial opportunity for success. This lead to the production of successful commercial hybrid vehicles.
With the success of Prius, the Chevy Bolt and all-electric Nissan Leaf then followed. The Chevy Volt debuted as a factory built model in 2010 with a lithium-ion battery pack and hybrid engine that now supports an estimated 62-mpg. The Nissan Leaf then followed, which is a fully electric engine with a range of 75 miles and a fuel economy of 115 mpg equivalent with zero emissions.
Mercedes-Benz began to get involved with the introduction of the electric Smart Car, which had originally begun design in the late 1980’s. An all-electric model was introduced in 2009, largely through the Car2Go Service, which is popular in downtown San Diego. Using a lithium ion battery as well, these vehicles have an electric range of 63 miles or fuel equivalent of 87 mpg.
Mercedes-Benz then decided to become a key player in the low emissions and high fuel efficiency luxury market. The use of BlueTec cutting edge designed diesel engines reduced emissions and lowered fuel consumption. The focus on fuel-efficiency and reduced nitrous oxide emissions lead to their success as the current leader in fuel-efficient luxury vehicle technology. As Road and Track declared,
“ THE NEW MERCEDES-BENZ E250 BLUETEC IS A PROPER MID-SIZE LUXURY SEDAN. IT MAKES NO SACRIFICE TO FUEL ECONOMY, REALLY, BUT IT GETS AN EPA-RATED 45 MPG ON THE HIGHWAY. THAT’S SPITTING DISTANCE FROM THE BEST-PERFORMER PRIUS’S 48AND IN OUR EXPERIENCE, DIESELS USUALLY OUTPERFORM THEIR EPA NUMBERS, WHILE HYBRIDS UNDERPERFORM IN THE REAL WORLD.”
With an increasing demand in the luxury market for clean car technology, Tesla has come along and truly captured this segment. With their first production of the Telsa Roadster, and now commercial success of the Model S, Tesla has been able to produce the first all-electric luxury consumer vehicle sports car.
Powered by Lithium-ion batteries and the engineering success of Elon Musk’s team, Tesla has been able to design a vehicle with thousands of individual lithium-ion battery cells commonly found in electronic devices to reduce the cost and weight of standard designs. While driving range will continue to increase with design enhancements, the Tesla is certainly a vehicle to admire for its beauty and innovation.
While hybrid engines and zero-emissions may be a new to some drivers who still desire the sound and feel of a gasoline powered engine, it’s important to recognize the innovation that is occurring in the auto industry. There is now more selection for consumers between lower end hybrid vehicles to sports cars and luxury sedans.