By on December 19, 2012

TTAC Commentator kurtamaxxguy writes:

Hello, Sajeev.
I drive an ’09 Subaru Forester XT. The general design is good, but Subaru’s are not particularly economical and the XT requires premium fuel to avoid engine overheating.

It would be great if an “e-assist” capability could be added to this car, so that at least when I am decelerating, engine braking via a motor-alternator / battery storage system could store some energy, and use it to assist the vehicle during acceleration.

Are there actually any companies you know of attempting this? Or is that sort of thing simply too complex to add to an existing vehicle?

Unfortunately, Subaru is driving very slowly to the fuel efficiency party, and, sadly, the other small CUV’s I’ve looked at don’t offer any hybrid or e-assist capability with AWD, a necessity up here in the NorthWest.

Sajeev answers:

As someone who promotes creativity/entrepreneurship outside of his gig at TTAC, I’ll try to not be a cynic: someone’s actually made a business out of what you propose. And not to (intentionally) turf for the guy, but he posted elsewhere that he’s trying to sell this kit for $1000. Ish.

So after you spend that $1000, this will be labor intensive retrofit: it simply must be a universal system that will need tweaks to implement on your Subie. If you can’t DIY, expect someone with an hourly rate to experiment for a long time to make it work.  Or a sympathetic friend that’ll take their sweet-ass time.  And the cost/downtime/stress associated is not worth it for the average person.  Questions to ask yourself:

  • How much will it cost to install on your Subie?
  • When exactly do you reach the break even point?
  • Should you assume gas prices remain constant?
  • Will it work as promised on your vehicle?
  • Is it worth your time and money?

Especially considering you can buy a Ford Escape 4WD Hybrid, according to this reputable source. And it won’t take premium.  If that’s what you really want.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

 

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65 Comments on “Piston Slap: And Hybrids For All?...”


  • avatar
    Wagon Of Fury

    If he was that worried about fuel economy, he wouldn’t be driving the XT (turbo engine). As for the comment about overheating…. nonsense. It may prefer higher octane for max performance, but of course the ECU will dial timing etc back for lesser fuel.

    That said, I wish SOA would hurry and bring over the turbodiesel from the EU model lineup ~45mpg

    • 0 avatar
      d524zoom-zoom

      I have to ask a question.

      I see these types comments regularly and wonder why a diesel is a good alternative for this situation. In my area (St. Louis) diesel is always more expensive per gallon (10-20 cents). Can someone explain please why most here want diesels for a DD.

      Thanks

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-Iron

        Simple calculation-how much does it cost to go 100 miles?

        If a gallon of gas is $3.50 and diesel is $4, but it only takes 2.5 gallons of diesel ($10) vs. 3 gallons of gas ($10.50) then the diesel costs less.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Diesel fuel itself has more energy per unit than gasoline. So for starters, if utilized correctly, can create more power per unit of liquid fuel than gasoline. So more energy for your money. Using the fuel in a compression fired engine makes for better thermal efficiency as well.

        In Europe and many other countries, the use of small diesel engines in small cars which can achieve better fuel consumption figures than many gas/electruic hybrids, at less cost.

        These vehicles haven’t really proliferated in North America mainly due to EPA emission standards which make it harder for diesels to certify without expensive emissions equipment, adding significant cost to the vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        Math for you, I’m using fuel prices near me based on the internet

        Subaru Forester XT highway mileage = 24mpg
        Forester diesel Mileage = 45 mpg

        Cost per mile $3.19 regular = .132
        Cost per mile $3.59 premium = .149
        Cost per mile $3.95 Diesel = .087

        Your fill-ups will cost more, but your gas dollar per mile would drop by 1/3 with the diesel engine. Plus, Torque!

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        duffman13 – Not a terribly fair comparison considering that the 2.0D makes a measly 147hp and the XT makes 225hp. One gets to 60mph in over 10 seconds and the other is probably in the low 7 second range.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      What makes you think that the Forester would get 45 miles per US gallon when the Jetta TDI is only rated for 30 city, 42 highway, and bell curve is centered around 39mpg on fuelly? The Forester has more aero drag (frontal area and drag coeff), more rolling drag (heavier vehicle, meatier tires), and has full time AWD. On a 60mph drive through the midwest, the Forester diesel would probably get 45mpg, but I’d expect mid-30s fuel economy as what you’d have to use to calculate your payback over the gasser version.

      And gas dropped to $3.05 here today. Diesel is sitting at $4.05.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        This was meant for your other post, but it doesn’t have a reply funcion, so I’m doing it here instead.

        The OP was concerned with mileage, not speed and talking about their current model, so I find it to be an apt comparison. Plus, while the HP numbers aren’t there, the 2.0D has 258 ft-lbs of twist, so the car should have a decent amount of very driveable scoot.

        And even taking into account the refigured 36mpg diesel, the diesel is still a better propostion on my current fuel prices at .109 per mile. the mileage would need to be 29mpg or Diesel would have to be $4.75/gal with the gas price identical to make the cost per mile equal, and that’s considering the owner is cheaping out on regular gas for his vehicle that takes premium.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        @ duffman13 “The OP was concerned with mileage, not speed”

        In that case, I might as well suggest he walk intead of driving. Hey, speed is not important.

    • 0 avatar
      Lemmy-powered

      Wagon of Fury, Duffman

      Are you sure those 45mpg figures you’re finding on the internet are not miles per IMPERIAL gallon? Don’t forget that your US ratings are based on a unit of volume measurement that only the US uses…

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Yes, good point.

        1 US gal= 3.78 L
        1 imperial gal= 4.55 L

        So that 45 imp mpg becomes 36 US mpg.

      • 0 avatar
        LeadHead

        Also keep in mind that the way they calculate fuel economy in Europe is vastly different. Many European vehicles with the same engine/fuel type have vastly blown-up fuel economy ratings when compared to the American equivalent – even when figuring Imperial vs. US Gallons.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      Regardless. It may or may not make sense, but either way it is a very simple math problem.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Get a used Prius – or other small, high-mpg car – for the days you don’t need AWD?

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “for the days you don’t need AWD?”

      Which is all of them, if you live somewhere civilized with dependable snow removal….

      I live in the Midwest, and I haven’t found a day when my Prius can’t get me where I need to go. But I live in town, where we have dependable snow removal. It was the same when I lived in the Appalachians, with hills and stuff. :-)

      The Prius is a FWD vehicle with good TCS+ABS, which makes it a pretty good snow car — just so long as the snow doesn’t get too deep.

      This Prius is far from bring the right tool for every situation, but it really is very very practical as small FWD passenger cars go.

  • avatar
    lon888

    Love the photo for the article! Typical asshat Hummer driver.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I too enjoyed the image but in what universe should a hybrid car be given a premium parking space? In my mind this sign should be mocked on a daily basis.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        that hybrid keeps the price of gas down, helping all you gas guzzler drivers happy.. that hybrid should be cherished and not envied when it comes time to fill up the 30 gallon tank in your F150

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        Because the owner of the property who is providing *all* the parking spaces has decided that they want a premium space for hybrids?

        Isn’t that their prerogative?

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @bikegoesbaa:

        As much as I sympathize with your argument, property owners often do this for LEED points. LEED is a voluntary and imperfect certification, but it’s popular and has done quite a bit for energy efficiency of buildings — but stuff like this can often smack of gaming that system a bit.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        People can do as they please with their property, its the thought process I can’t comprehend. So if I put up a “Hummers only” in my shopping plaza, aside from being funny, how will people react?

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I know its the Northwest, but there are other AWD wagons available other than Subarus. Like Sajeev said, if you really want a Hybrid, get an Escape Hybrid.

    My recommendation would be to go with the regular 4 cylinder Escape as the fuel mileage is still very good, but your overall running costs over the lifetime of the vehicle will be much less, depending if you keep it long enough to replace a battery pack or other expensive hybrid only component.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Another thought… You’re ready to spend some money, anyway, why not just get a new car? The Mazda CX-5, even with AWD, should give you a 20% bump in fuel economy and they are extremely nice vehicles.

  • avatar
    ant

    I think toyota makes a hybrid with all wheel drive as well.

    Id also just like to note that all wheel drive is rather over rated when it comes to driving in the snow.

    The vaaaaaaaast majority of folks who buy all wheel drive cars for better winter traction would be much better served just buying a 2nd set of snow tires for their regular car.

    From where I sit, (18 wheeler) 4wd just means you’re MORE likely to end up the ditch.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      The Highlander and Lexus RX hybrids have an AWD option. Mileage isn’t that great by hybrid standards, but is still better than a turbo Subie. On the other hand, Mazda CX-5 diesel might be worth waiting for.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Agreed,

      Over confidence by SUV drivers with 4wd or AWD not only causes you to end up sliding into the ditch, but because of the high center of gravity, they end up flipping over.
      Seen it too many time in the hilly, snowy and worst of all icy Northeast.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      You obviously dont live in the mountain west. Many jurisdictions require chains on 2wd vehicles, winter tires or not. If you have to “chain up” in order just to go to the store, 4×4 or AWD becomes very attractive, regardless of higher costs.

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        That is truly stupid legislation, why not just mandate studded or other proper snow tires (not any M+S crap) and only require chains when it is deemed necessary?

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        MeaCulpa, the states around here let 4wd or awd go without chains, when the signs say “chains required”, only with real ice and snow tires, ones that carry the “snowflake on the mountain” symbol on the side wall, That means that many studded tires don’t cut it. Other times they post “approved traction tires required” which means the tire must have the “snowflake on the mountain” symbol.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        “. . . only with real ice and snow tires, ones that carry the “snowflake on the mountain” symbol on the side wall, That means that many studded tires don’t cut it.”

        Commercial tires? I’ve never seen a studdable car or truck tire lacking the winter rating.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      It’s not even that all-wheel drive is overrated, but that people overrate their own driving skill with all-wheel drive. People get overconfident and drive too fast because their car can move from a stop, but are too stupid to realize that the laws of physics still apply to handling and braking. Hence, a lot of people who aren’t experienced winter-time drivers end up in ditches.

      I do agree that most people would be better served with snow tires than purely all-wheel drive, because snow tires would actually improve handling and braking, typically. Also, it’d be good if your snows are narrower and have smaller wheel sizes than your normal tires (cheaper too!).

      That said, nikita has a point. If you live in or visit mountain regions, such as the Sierras in California/Nevada, you will sometimes deal with chain checkpoints in the winter. An R1 chain control in California requires either chains or snow tires. An R2 chain control in California requires either chains or AWD/4WD with snow tires. R3 means chains on everything, but usually they’ll close the roads rather than declare an R3. Snow tires means an M+S logo, so many all-seasons will qualify.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        No the M+S logo don’t mean diddly squat any more, it needs the “snowflake on the mountain” to be qualified as approved traction tires.

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        In over 40 years of mountain driving I dont remember an R1 actually being in force, they seem to default to R2 as soon as a few snowflakes fall, frustrating. We have had a few R3, but since I dont have chains for all four wheels, I dont drive under those conditions.

        Up on I-5, the “Grapevine”, because big rigs just get blown off the road when it is icy, they shut it down to everyone rather than posting chain restrictions, also frustrating.

        BTW, M+S tires qualify, but the legal minimum tread depth is 5/32, not the 2/32 for normal conditions. Experience has taught me that 5/32 is a valid limit.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Assuming u can choose your own gears it would make far more sense to add electric propulsion or a start stop system to reduce consumption. The vehicle is already using almost no fuel decellerating in gear…having it idle instead would use more fuel than regular consumption. In hybrid cars that disconnect the drive train under deceleration they also turn off the engine to deal with this. At best its a slight gain…really only BC it increases the amount of energy available for acceleration under e power after the stop.

    If u must persist install a start stop instead. It will still be too expensive to save you actual money but u will use less gas and is attainable unlike adding ev propulsion.

    Your car just isn’t ever going to be economical to run btw. Awd costs (tires etc) and SUV Aero profile make your quest a fools errand. The SUV hybrids that aren’t premium brands are pretty awful to drive also…so abandon the class entirely if u want low running costs and a decent drive.

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    I am surprised Sajeev did not mention that you dump that old turbo Forester and get a Panther! No really, get gently used Town Car and then get a company like XL Hybrids to make it a hybrid and viola the best of both worlds!

    I am only half joking….

    Seriously, does any one remember the people from Middle Tennessee State creating a universal hub motor system to make any car a mild hybrid? i believe the only hurdle is that the price would be about 3000 dollars due to parts.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I wouldn’t go tinkering with a 2009 car. If you’re hot to retrofit a hybrid system to a vehicle, do it on something older and more depreciated, with no risk.

    Q: If you tweak your Subaru, what will the modifications do to its resale value?
    A: It will drop like a pimped-out Civic.

    BTW, your Subaru will not overheat on cheap gas. What will happen is the ECU will dial back the ignition timing and the engine will simply produce a little less power.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    You could opt for a Ford Escape hybrid, which is about the same size as the Forester, but I don’t know how much of a mileage increase you’re going to see.

    The new Impreza mated to a CVT will supposedly net you 36 mpg highway, but only under ideal circumstances. Expect more like 32 to 34ish highway in winter and 30 all around.

    The hybrid retrofit idea is a money losing proposition no matter how great your potential fuel economy increase might be.

  • avatar

    I want to know what the ef’s up with that hybrid only parking. Is that legal?

    • 0 avatar
      DrSandman

      I saw electric-only parking last night at Dulles airport (WashDC), with a Tesla S and 2 Volts parked and charging. How is that any different? The technocrats that seek to shape our lives want to incentiveize behaviour that they deem socially acceptable.

      First time seeing a Tesla S in person, though. Nice Merlot color and shapely in the flesh. My eye preferred it to the Maserati “4-door,” though I confess it was dark.

      • 0 avatar
        notapreppie

        Similar to the theocrats that would do the same. Only instead of using positive reinforcement, the religious “right” use negative reinforcement.

        Edit: I’m referring to the vocal minority of course. The majority of theists are good people that genuinely follow the teachings of their chosen deity. Sadly, they aren’t the ones making noise (or laws).

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        In my experience any group with a “crats” attached to it is generally very bad for society as a whole.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Lots of mad cash to be made in the Metro DC area. I’d bet those three cars were not owned by a ‘crat of any ilk. Besides Dulles is DC’s only major international airport; yes there a smattering of international flights out of Reagan. If you can afford to fly international, you can afford an electric.hybrid car.

    • 0 avatar
      notapreppie

      If it’s on a private lot, they can do whatever they want with the parking so long as they don’t violate ADA or civil rights laws (i.e. accessible handicap spaces and no racial segregation).

      I’ve seen “expectant mother”-only spaces and LEV-only spaces, hybrid-only spaces. Walgreens around here have 1-3 vehicle chargers and those spaces are designated for plugin-electrics only.

      • 0 avatar
        rodface

        Plenty of private parking lots have “compact only”-labeled spaces that are routinely used by drivers of large autos.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @rodface, my favorite “compact only” spaces are at the Coronado Mall in Albuquerque. Trees have been planted in the parking lot to green up the space and to compensate for the space taken up by the trees, the space in front of each tree has been designated as “compact only”. You have to “love” the # of Suburbans, Tahoes, Expeditions, Excursions, and Sequoias parked in those spaces with their rears hanging out in the aisle. Especially when I’m circling the parking lot in a legitimate compact car (my wife’s 2005 Pontiac Vibe.)

        Stay classy BOF SUV drivers!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “the space in front of each tree has been designated as “compact only””

        Sequoia is a type of tree, why shouldn’t it be able to park there?

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Now you’re reminding me of an article in Car and Driver regarding the worst car names of all time. (It was published back in my college years when C&D was actually still somewhat relevant and funny.) Basically the point was could you picture a Chevy Corsica in the Mediterranean? An Edsel Bermuda in the Caribbean? How bout a Ford Granada in Granada? A Lincoln Versailles parked outside the famous palace?

        Although thank god that most SUVs still have NAMES!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Ford Granada in Granada hehe.

        Thanks for the tidbit, although I could see an Edsel in Bermuda, but of course it would be the only one in a thousand square miles.

        I could also see most versions of the Cadillac Seville in Seville, Spain (bustleback not so much).

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        @PrincipalDan: nothing wrong with the Suburbans. It’s the parking lot management at fault. If I were the owner, I would either:
        1) enforce the rule by actually towing the SUVs, OR
        2) remove the signs

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Look at the bottom of the sign. It’s an Ikea parking lot.

      They can restrict vehicle access however they want.

      Lots of places offer motorcycle parking at reduced rates or closer to the door. Has that ever been effectively challenged?

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Yeah, like IKEA is going to make one of their employees “the parking lot sheriff”. All it would take would be one person crying on the news; “I went to IKEA and my vehicle was towed, I’m never shopping there again, and other people shouldn’t shop there”. Yep, a motorcycle parking spot SHOULD be cheaper’ it’s half the size of a car parking spot. Close to the door? YMMV.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    The best way to convert your Forester into a hybrid is to trade it in on something that was designed to be a hybrid from the beginning. Of course, if you do that now, you will lose so much in the transaction that it will take you decades to break even. The cheapest thing to do is keep the Forester until it wears out and replace it with a hybrid. By then, there should be many to choose from.

  • avatar
    A Caving Ape

    AWD is NOT a necessity. It’s not. It just isn’t. Please believe me. A FWD anything, outfitted with a good set of studless snow tires, will get you through anything the PNW can throw at you. Eventually the limiting factor is ground clearance, but when looking at FWD vs. AWD versions of the same car it doesn’t matter. So if you wanna save gas, get a FWD car.

    I personally drive an AWD car because it’s fun, but I spent my first few years as an avid snowboarder (30+ trips per season in addition to other mountain driving) in a Jetta. It never let me down.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Thankyou, thankyou! The only time I didn’t keep driving in the 80s Civics with snow tires was when the snow got too deep for the car.

      Nothing under 8″ was an impediment.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Civics drive well in the snow as do Saturn SLs as I found out, although with the latter I say beyond 6in of snow on the ground its doable but you’re pushing it.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        My ex-gf’s Mini Cooper’s combination of a smooth underbelly and minimal ground clearance allowed it to get high centered on just a few inches of snow. AWD probably would have allowed it to travel another 6 feet or so before the rear wheels left the ground too.

        Many of the late ’70s and ’80s econoboxes I drove in highschool could do improbable things in the snow. The combination of FWD, 70 hp, 2,000 lbs, and 165/80R13 all season tires was unstoppable, at least as long as the car wasn’t a station wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        True, the brand was rather irrelevant. Just the FWD and some decent snow tires did the trick.

  • avatar
    Herm

    speaking of hybrids and 4wd, an easy way to do it is have a standard FWD car with a small electric motor driving the rear wheels as needed.. it would recharge the battery thru brake regen as needed. This is called a thru-the-road hybrid, I believe the French have fielded an example.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    “enforce the rule by actually towing the SUVs”

    Exactly.
    You do it a few of times, and people will notice.
    Of course you’ll have to add the warning: “Unauthorized vehicles will be towed at owner’s expense”.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    If it’s not on a military base and it’s not illegal in the civilian world who’s going to enforce it? Will a name tag wearing retail employee call the tow truck? Will the tow truck haul away the alleged offender? Will a lawyer get involved? Park in the Flag Officer’s or E-9′s spot on base you will get towed. Thier base stickers show their ranks. You can legally; and I say gleefully tow someone illegally parked in a handicapped spot. What’s next? Whole Foods reserving spots for organic boxers/panties wearers?

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      Is it illegal for me to park my Hummer on your front yard? Thats your property, not a public space. Its up to you. Same story here. Its up to you who can park what where on your land. Well, you and any zoning laws prohibiting lawn parking. You post a sign, someone ignores it, tow away. You have respect for private property, except you hate hybrids more?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I’ve seen my neighbors ticketed for parking in their own yards here in pinko California. The left hates private property. As for stores with hybrid only parking, enforcing them is a question of how much contempt they have for their paying customers. I’m guessing it isn’t as much as the left has for its citizens.


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