Anyone who by now hasn’t acknowledged that the vehicle market is drastically changing must be living under a rock. Alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs), such as hybrids, ethanol, and electric-powered vehicles are not the wave of the future — they are already taking over today. This means “green” vehicles are coming with standard and even luxury vehicle amenities, along with a gas tank that promises to save you money everyday.
By now, most of your clientele is also becoming earth-conscious and seeking less impactful means of traveling. From a business perspective, there has never been a better time to break into the green vehicle market and do your part to preserve the earth’s expendable resources. Your clients will thank you and so will the environment.
The Hybrid-Electric Vehicle (HEV) The hybrid electric vehicle is one of the most popular vehicles on the AFV market today. Most vehicle manufacturers are giving consumers at least one option in a hybrid model, some of which can be easily used in your luxury vehicle fleet (see chart on page 74).
A petroleum electric hybrid, like the Toyota Prius and Lexus LS 600h, most commonly use internal combustion engines and electric batteries to power an electric motor, or rechargeable energy storage system (RESS). Although many hybrids are more fuel efficient than most regular gasoline vehicles, some are barely a step above in fuel economy and emissions, and also come with a pretty hefty price tag. It is a good idea to thoroughly research what type of vehicle will work best with your fleet and fuel budget.
Diesel and Biodiesel — What’s the Difference? Diesel is known for having better fuel economy than regular gasoline and for producing 20% to 40% less in greenhouse gases when burned. This results in significantly lower carbon dioxide emissions per mile. Not only that, diesel is less expensive than gasoline. One major drawback to diesel, however, is that it contains higher quantities of sulfur, which is bad for the environment. The government has regulated the use of diesel to be restricted to an ultra-low sulfur content, which also drastically lowers the lubricity of the fuel.
In response, biodiesel, a renewable fuel made from vegetable oil and animal fat, can be added to regular low-sulfur diesel to increase lubricity and fuel efficiency. Any diesel vehicle can benefit from biodiesel without any major engine modifications.
Today’s diesel carmakers are responding to the AFV market with models that would benefit and look fabulous in any fleet, including the Mercedes E320 sedan.
Flex Your Fuel Flex-fuel vehicles, or FFVs, alternate between two separate fuel tanks, which usually contain gasoline and ethanol or natural gas. In the U.S., most flexfuel systems can run on up to an 85% blend of ethanol (E85) and have been implemented into some SUVs, lightweight trucks, and sedans.
Although automakers like General Motors and Ford are attempting to garner attention and sales for their lines of flex-fuel vehicles, the companies still face an uphill battle. A limited amount of E85 fueling stations and inconsistent distribution systems have prevented the vehicles from receiving as much consumer awareness as other AFVs.
But change does seem to be on the horizon. According to Automotive Digest, vehicle manufacturers are promising to double flex-fuel production by 2010 and President Bush has requested that E85 be available at more fueling stations.
WHICH TYPE OF ALTERNATIVE FUEL IS RIGHT FOR YOUR FLEET? BIODIESEL: A type of renewable fuel made from vegetable oils or animal fat. It can be produced locally and when burned reduces pollution in the air, such as particulate matter and carbon dioxide. Biodiesel contains no petroleum but can be blended with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. For more information, visit www.nationalbiodieselboard.com.
ETHANOL: A clean-burning, high-octane fuel made from grains, such as corn. A percentage of the ethanol is blended with unleaded gasoline to create a fuel with less harmful emissions. The two most common blends are E10, which is approved for use in any U.S. vehicle and does not require engine modifications, and E85, which is used in flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs). For more information, visit www.ethanol.org.
NATURAL GAS: A colorless, odorless, and shapeless form of fossil fuel that is clean burning and emits lower levels of byproducts into the air. Normally, natural gas is used to heat homes, for cooking, and generating electricity. Natural gas is found under the earth’s surface and comes from the decay of ancient organisms, such as plant and animal matter. There are currently about 1,300 natural gas fueling stations across the U.S. For more information, visit www.naturalgas. org.
PROPANE: Sometimes referred to as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), propane is a clean-burning fossil fuel that when burned in an engine produces fewer toxic and smog-forming air pollutants. It usually costs less than gasoline. Although no new passenger cars have been available for use with LPG in the past couple of years, most vehicles can be retrofitted to run with the fuel and it is readily available to the general public. For more information, visit www.npga.org.
HYDROGEN: This form of energy is still being explored as a viable addition to the alternative-fuel vehicle market. It can be used in fuel cells to power electric motors or burned in internal combustion engines (ICEs). When used in fuel cells, hydrogen produces no air pollutants or greenhouse gases. Currently, the cost of hydrogen-fueled vehicles is extremely expensive and it contains much less energy than gasoline or diesel on a per-volume basis. For more information, visit www.eere.energy.gov.
FORD INTRODUCES THE FIRST-EVER HYBRID LIVERY PACKAGE It can be tough to sell some of your clients on the green dream if it means less interior space and amenities. The answer may be the 2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid, the industry’s first OEM-sponsored hybrid livery package. The mercury mariner provides the following features:
Powertrain/Functional • 2.3L 4V I4 Atkinson Cycle engine • 330V sealed nickel-metal hydride battery • Available intelligent AWD system • Brakes — power 4-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock braking system (ABS) • Electric power assisted steering (EPS) • Electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT) • Permanent magnet electric motor • Regenerative braking system
Exterior • Hybrid-unique 16” aluminum wheels with brushed aluminum center cap • Roof rails • Tires — P235/70R16 A/S BSW
Interior • 6-way power driver’s seat • Auto-dimming rear view mirror • Audio — AM/FM, MP3, satellite ready, 6-disc CD player with 4 speakers • Auto lamps • Compass and outside temperature read out • Dual automatic temperature control • Mini-size spare wheel and tire • Visors — cloth driver and passenger with dual illuminated vanity mirrors
LIVERY PACKAGE (OPTION CODE 47L) The following items are included in the Livery Package (Option Code 47L) • Heated front seats • Premium leather seating surfaces • Lumbar controls • Energy Flow Navigation System • Reverse sensing system • Roof rack with satin inserts and black cross bars • Heated mirrors • Body-color exterior mirrors • Cargo area cover • AC 110V power outlet
NEW SUV HYBRIDS COMING SOON! Although Chevrolet and GMC have been forthcoming with announcements about their new hybrid SUVs, exact specifications have not yet been released on the 2008 hybrid models of the Suburban and the Yukon.
Here’s what we know so far: • Both of the hybrids will feature a number of aerodynamic enhancements to assist in fuel efficiency, including a lightweight aluminum hood, an air dam, and assist steps with flared fronts. • The hybrid models will tout Vortec V8 engines and deliver 300 horsepower. • Both models are expected to arrive at dealerships in late 2007.