By on October 9, 2010

So far, if you wanted to save gas and if you didn’t want to suffer a coronary from range anxiety, you bought yourself a hybrid. The problem: They are expensive. You choose to pay Big Car instead of Big Oil. Don’t despair: Ye olde ICE still has a lot of fight in it.

Daihatsu plans to launch the e:S minivehicle next year in Japan, which can travel 30km on a single liter of gasoline. That’s about 70 mpg (non-EPA.) According to The Nikkei [sub], the car is comes with an idling stop system, and exhaust gas is recirculated to power the engine. The minivehicle is likely to sell for less than 1 million yen in Japan, or around $12,000.

Suzuki is likewise working on even more fuel efficient minivehicles, in response to “louder consumer calls for better fuel efficiency,” says President Osamu Suzuki.

These low powered cars with pint-sized engines will likely never appear on U.S. shores.

But subcompacts are turning out ever increasing mpg numbers. Nissan’s Micra gets 26 km per liter (around 60 mpg, non-EPA.) It’s cheap, and no wonder that it sold 22,000 units since launched in July, five times more than expected.

Mazda is working on a subcompact to be launched next year that promises a mileage comparable to hybrids.

With all the growth being in emerging markets where the price of a car plays a huge role, focusing on simple, low cost, fuel efficient offerings doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

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16 Comments on “Move Aside, Hybrid. Here Comes The ICE...”

  • avatar

    My informal count showed about 60% of the small number of post-collapse new cars in Ireland to be Nissan Micras.

  • avatar

    It would be nice if we could get something like that here, maybe with a little more power for our highways.

  • avatar

    and exhaust gas is recirculated to power the engine

    Err? Do you mean waste heat recovery? I can’t see why – it costs lots and only make a large difference to engine that run constant load, for stop start like cars regen braking and idle shut off gives most bang for the buck.

  • avatar

    I’d rather have a much safer car that gets 30 MPG than drive a beer can.

  • avatar

    Fat lot of good this does in America. It looks like hybrids like the Prius are the only alternative here. Of course, outside of the US, very small cars – kei cars in Japan, city cars in Europe – are already popular.
    I wonder about the kei cars – you’d think they would be terrible, but Japan is a mountainous country that does have highways, yet many people find them acceptable. Of course, they are no doubt much more popular in Tokyo than in rural areas, but as to the question of whether they CAN do the duty to be the only car for someone – it looks like it in Japan. I am skeptical that the US is so special that these couldn’t be useful here. Perhaps they can. I don’t expect they’ll ever be allowed, though.

    • 0 avatar

      My wife is from Hakodate, a small city in Hokkaido. We lived in Tokyo for seven years and visited her hometown often. I saw just as many, if not more, kei cars in Hakodate as in Tokyo.
      Many people in Hakodate use kei cars for commuting to work. Commuters in Tokyo use mass transit for commuting. A bigger car for weekend trips seems more popular there.

  • avatar
    Mr. Gray

    It seems like a lot of people wouldn’t buy a small car because they think it’s not safe, but bigger cars are not necissarily safer. I think it has more to do with how the chassis reacts to impact than the overall mass of the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      The problem isn’t the mass of the vehicle you are riding in.  It’s the mass of the OTHER vehicle which collides with yours.  Micro Car vs Huge Honking SUV is not going to be pretty for the micro car.  If everyone drove around micro cars then you would be correct. 

  • avatar

    It is a cool trick how the American Establishment can place the word “Big” in front of a productive entity and the infantile sheeple will fall in line and feel angry about that productive entity…It is both shocking and laughable to outsiders! There are two ways to get “Big”…Produce things that a lot of people want or get your government to steal for you…One is called Freemarket and the other is called Fascism.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Independent of lefty outrage, Americans like versatile vehicles that keep total costs reasonable.  The problem is the high fixed cost of insurance and taxes on each car vs. the relatively low marginal extra cost of fuel for a bigger vehicle.  Additional barrier is big family vehicles are relatively cheap to insure compared to smaller ones that attract less safe young drivers.  Just costs too much to have separate small cars around for commuting if you also need a larger cars to carry the whole family plus related stuff.  Yes, many people who drive SUVs could probably use a more efficient minivan, but many small cars are just too small for people with kids, dogs, and stuff.

  • avatar
    slow kills

    Most American drivers seem to enjoy driving amazingly slowly and accelerating at an imperceptible rate.  You’d think they’d love a car that facilitates their chosen driving style.

  • avatar

    I’d rather have a VW Lupo 3L: better mileage, less weirdness.

  • avatar

    There are a lot of advances that could greatly boost fuel economy of ICE

  • avatar

    Microcars have no problems climbing mountains. This isn’t the 70’s.

    The challenge in America is that all cars are expected to climb grades going at a steady 70 mph, towing a boat, in summer.

    30 km/l is definitely doable with microcars. Suzuki already sells cars capable of that on the highway. With more modern engines, they can probably hit that on the Japanese 10-15.

    Exhaust gas recirculation? Such as comes on all new cars? Or are they saying that they’re recapturing energy via a pump driven by the EGR?

  • avatar
    Brian P

    I think the “exhaust recirculation” comment is something that was misinterpreted (or lost in translation) at some point.
    EGR in the conventional sense has been around for decades and it’s for reducing NOx emissions, most certainly *not* to “power the engine”. Some direct-injection strategies use much larger percentages of EGR partially for the purpose of reducing pumping losses (so the intake stroke doesn’t have to pull against as much vacuum).
    Recovery of energy from the exhaust can take the form of heat recovery (new Prius does this to help give more interior heat in conditions when the engine seldom runs). There is also BMW’s “Turbosteamer” system that used it to power a small turbine that I believe they used to charge the battery (in place of the standard alternator – which is a power drain on the engine). And back in WWII, some aircraft engines had exhaust turbines (think: half of a turbocharger, but instead of spinning a compressor, it’s geared to the engine).

    • 0 avatar

      The aircraft application was the Curtiss-Wright turbo-compound engine, which gave the DC-7 and Super Constellation a speed boost until turboprop and pure jet planes became the norm. The three-foot flames out the exhaust pipes were fun to watch at night. (Anyone remember the Shelley Berman riff on that subject?)

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