Plugins are range anxiety on wheels. Hybrids are expensive, and usually come with a payback time longer than the average lease. In some cases, longer than your life. Lugging a big battery and two engines around can defeat the purpose. Hybrids are also expensive to develop. In Europe, the strategy has been to improve the old ICE as much as possible. Midsize automakers in Japan go the same route, with sometimes surprising results. Their gasoline-powered cars beg the question: Why go to the hybrid trouble at all?
Next year, Mazda will release a compact car with a 3liter /100km (78 mpg) consumption, “making it the most efficient car of its size in the world,” says The Nikkei. [sub]. Mr. Piech will chuckle, or get mad when he hears that. His Lupo 3L hit the 3 liter mark in 1999, but it didn’t sell. The lightweight space-age materials made it too expensive. Mazda is going the same route, hopefully with more success. They developed a gas engine that is 15 percent more efficient than the current design and a new diesel mill that is 20 percent more efficient. Mazda also trimmed 100kg in weight from the body.
If coming in as advertised, the new Mazda would beat Honda’s Insight hybrid. It uses 3.33 l / 100km (70.6 mpg). Mazda hasn’t set a price yet, but promises it will be competitive with other compacts. Eyeing potential in emerging markets, with their growing middle classes, the company plans to sell its new engines to foreign automakers.
Suzuki will introduce a new Swift this fall with a 10 percent better mileage and no price premium.
Later this year, Fuji Heavy will equip its Subarus with engines that are 10 percent more fuel efficient. As a further savings measure, the larger models will get CVT transmissions.
Daihatsu said they will release a gas-powered minicar with the same fuel efficiency as a hybrid next year.
Mitsubishi Motors will launch a fuel-efficient compact next year. Production of some of the new cars will be moved to emerging markets.
Says the Nikkei: “Fuel-efficient models are becoming the top-selling car type worldwide. Hybrids are catching on in Japan and other rich nations but not in developing countries. Lacking the resources to develop their own hybrids, midsize automakers are focusing on tapping emerging-market demand with better gas-powered models.”