Dr. Charles Perry, MTSU’s Russell Chair of Manufacturing Excellence holder and the owner of numerous industrial patents, developed the relatively simple system with the goal of easy installation on just about any car. Now Perry seeks to bring the system to market, promising that proceeds from patent licensing will go to his Tennessee university.
A pair of small permanent-magnet brushless DC electric motors are fitted to this 1994 Accord wagon’s rear wheels, designed to fit around brake and suspension system components and function independently of the car’s powertrain and engine control unit. At speeds below 45 mph or so, the motors apply up to 200 lb-ft. of torque apiece directly to each rear wheel, augmenting power from the engine so that you burn less gas for every mile traveled. The motors are powered by way of a trunk mounted lithium-ion-phosphate battery pack. At highway speeds, the system shuts off entirely and becomes transparent, allowing the car to operate as Honda intended.
The whole installation is quite clean, even in this development model, and if Perry’s claims of doubling in-town fuel efficiency are true the $3,000 plug-in hybrid kit could become quite popular. Check it out for yourself:
Consumer Reports has named the Toyota Prius the overall best value for your new car dollars. The Prius edged out the Honda Fit, which held the title for the previous 4 years. Although the Prius ($24,200) starts at around $8,500 more than the Fit, testers felt the Toyota’s winning blend of low cost of operation and excellent overall quality were enough to place it on top.
Said CR Automotive Editor Rik Paul:
“The Prius may not be the most exciting vehicle to drive, nor the cheapest to purchase, but it’s extremely reliable, roomy, rides well, gets great fuel economy, and is inexpensive to operate.”
Much more than just a car’s purchase price goes into overall value. An oft-overlooked factor is resale value, where the Prius excels even as cheaper-priced cars like the Nissan Versa falter. Costs of daily operation and repairs are just as important: luxury cars do not generally make good value buys, owing to their poorer fuel efficiency and the sky-high cost of parts and labor as much as their higher transaction prices.
The 2013 Consumer Reports Best Value award winners by segment:
The Environmental Protection Agency has opened an investigation into official mpg ratings for Ford’s new 2013 Fusion Hybrid and C-MAX Hybrid after industry experts and some owners have been unable to duplicate the two cars’ lofty 47 city/47 highway/47 combined mpg ratings.
The news comes after testers at Consumer Reportsachieved just 37 combined mpg in the C-MAX Hybrid and 39 combined mpg in the Fusion Hybrid after thousands of miles of driving. The 10-mpg discrepancy in the C-MAX is the largest among all current production cars tested, CR says. Methods at the publication typically return lower numbers than official ratings, but a discrepancy this large has turned heads at the EPA.
Ford says owners of the pair of new-for-2013 hybrids have been quite satisfied thus far, with some claiming efficiency above the official 47 combined mpg rating. Because the two vehicles can operate for short distances at up to 62 mph on electric power alone, driving conditions may have a larger than normal effect on total efficiency.
Just last month, Hyundai-Kia lowered official mpg ratings and initiated a massive cash rebate program for owners of several 2011-2013 Hyundai and Kia models after the EPA found fuel efficiency to be widely overstated. Ford could face a similar situation depending on the EPA’s findings. It is not uncommon for real-world fuel efficiency to fall short of EPA numbers, especially for hybrid drivers, but the large discrepancy is cause for concern.
Among Honda’s blitz of new product info at the Los Angeles Auto Show were these juicy tidbits: the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid and Accord Plug-In Hybrid will achieve the best fuel efficiency in their classes. Putting Ford, Toyota, Chevrolet et al on notice, Honda has achieved efficiency nothing short of remarkable. 2014 Accord Plug-In Hybrid – 115 MPGe The 2014 Accord Plug-In Hybrid will go on sale in California and New York on Jan. 15, 2013 with a nationwide rollout in the months to follow. Pricing will start at $39,780 – a pretty penny to be sure, but this is a lot of car.
The EPA rates the Plug-In at 115 MPGe, handily beating the Toyota Prius Plug-In, Chevrolet Volt and upcoming Ford Fusion Energi. While the all-electric range is unremarkable at around 13 miles, the savings will stack up with a gasoline-only EPA rating of 47 city/46 highway/46 combined mpg once the EV range is exhausted. 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid – 49/45/47 mpg The dual-electric-motor 2014 Accord Hybrid will go on sale nationwide in Summer 2013. Honda hasn’t released pricing info, but we estimate around $28,000 to match the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid (both available now).
Mum’s the word on powertrain details, but the hybrid Accord’s 49 city/45 highway/47 combined mpg matches the Fusion Hybrid’s combined rating while offering better mpg in the city, where we tend to do most of our driving. These figures are also dangerously close to the Toyota Prius at 50 combined mpg, especially considering the Accord is roomier and figures to offer around 60 more horsepower. We’ll bring you complete details on the pair of advanced Accord hybrids closer to launch. The redesigned standard 2013 Accord is available now, priced from $21,680 plus destination.
A new comprehensive study of real-world car collision data conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute suggest that hybrid cars are not only more efficient, but better at preventing injuries as well. Looking at thousands of actual insurance claims, the HLDI concluded that cars like the Ford Fusion and Escape Hybrids and Toyota Prius scored significantly better than average for their segments in the frequency of “personal injuries per accident.”
A couple of factors could be at work here. Hybrid drivers may be more likely to drive slower and more conservatively, helping prevent the very severe accidents that lead to injury. But this alone cannot account for the difference when compared with other “conservative” cars. The other, and likely more important, factor is the extra weight that comes with electric motors, massive battery packs and the like. The 2009-2011 Fusion Hybrid, which was the study’s highest-rated midsize in preventing injury, is also one of the segment’s heaviest cars.
Data from cars with the worst injury protection supports this: led by the Toyota Yaris with double the average personal injury claim frequency, nearly all the worst-performing cars are tiny and light-weight. Large SUVs, minivans and crossovers tended to score the best, and the heavier the better.
But the one car with the lowest frequency of injuries per accident? The Porsche 911. Go figure.