The Volt May be First, But E-Flex is the Key
BMW Introduces New, More Fuel-Efficient 1 Series; Fuel Consumption Improves By Up to 24%

2007 NAIAS Recap

The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit marks the beginning of the global auto show season, and often serves as a positioning venue where automakers introduce concepts as well as production models of new cars.

Crossover vehicles were a common thread throughout the show. However, hybrids were more in evidence, although not in the form of a new production car. Tier 2 Bin 5 compliant diesel announcements began to pile up, and several automakers introduced more gasoline direct injection versions. Herewith, a quick recap of the “greener” announcements from the major automakers.

General Motors set a high bar for the show with its opening announcement of the Volt plug-in series hybrid concept and the E-Flex architecture. (Earlier post.) The Volt offers an all-electric range of 40 miles before requiring a recharge. Drive less than that, and your fuel consumption is zero. At maximum range (640 miles), the fuel consumption of the genset is approximately 50 mpg.

GM also introduced the 2008 Malibu, and confirmed that the hybrid version of the Malibu will arrive later this year with the start of production. (Earlier post.) The automaker also highlighted the already introduced Saturn VUE (SUV) and Aura (sedan) Green Line hybrids. All three of those vehicles use the same GM Hybrid System, a Belt Alternator Starter system with a Cobasys NiMH battery pack. The Aura Green Line sedan will deliver at least a 25% fuel economy improvement over the non-hybrid Aura XE for a premium of less than $2,500, according to GM. (Earlier post.) GM did not announce specs for the Malibu hybrid.

Also on display on the GM stand was the Saab BioPower Hybrid Concept, making its US debut. The vehicle combines fossil fuel-free bio-ethanol fuel (E100) capability with electric-only propulsion by utilizing the advanced 2-mode hybrid system that General Motors is co-developing with DaimlerChrysler and BMW Group. (Earlier post.) GM also had its other upcoming two-mode hybrid SUV models on display.

Ford also unveiled a plug-in series hybrid concept: the Ford Airstream. The Ford Airstream Concept is powered by a new hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain Ford calls the HySeries Drive. The Ford Airstream Concept can travel 25 miles in battery mode—depleting the battery’s state of charge to about 40%—before the fuel cell begins operating to recharge the vehicle’s 336-volt lithium-ion battery pack. (Earlier post.)

Ford also introduced a Mustang-based E85 concept muscle car—the Ford Interceptor. The Ford Interceptor uses a Ford Racing 5.0-liter V-8 “Cammer” engine running on E85 (85% ethanol blend). (Earlier post.)

Mazda announced it will begin selling its hybrid version of the Tribute SUV in the second quarter of the year. The Tribute is based on the Ford Escape. (Earlier post.)

Toyota leaned toward power and performance at this show, introducing a crew-cab version of the Tundra full-size pickup with the promise of an E85 version of the Tundra to come, the Lexus IS-F high-performance luxury sedan and the Lexus LF-A high performance sports-car concept. On the hybrid side, Toyota showed its FT-HS hybrid sports car concept. (Earlier post.)

DaimlerChrysler. MercedesBenz emphasized its Vision GL 420 BLUETEC&mdasha Tier 2 Bin 5 full-size diesel SUV targeted for introduction in the US in 2008. The V8 diesel engine delivers 216 kW (290 hp) and generates 700 Nm (515 lb-ft) of torque, with an expected fuel consumption of 9.8 liters per 100 km (24 mpg).

Detroit was also the venue for the US premiere of the new smart for two (earlier post), also to be available in the US in 2008.

The Chrysler Group introduced a Jeep Trailhawk BLUETEC concept vehicle, and announced it is offering its new mid-size Avenger sedan with a flex-fuel engine option.(Earlier post.)

Honda also leaned into the high-performance sports car mode with its introduction of the V-10 Acura “Advanced Sports Car Concept. The company had on display its FCX Concept fuel cell vehicle, the basis for a production model still scheduled for introduction in 2008, and also unveiled the design of the next-generation Accord.

Nissan unveiled an advanced design study, the Nissan Bevel Concept. A Bevel would feature a small, efficient 2.5-liter V6 combined with a hybrid drive unit. (Earlier post.)

Volkswagen/Audi each had on display a Tier 2 Bin 5 BLUETEC diesel. Audi confirmed it will introduce its Q7 3.0-liter TDI SUV in the US in 2008 as well. The Q7 3.0 TDI will be Audi’s first model to showcase Tier 2 Bin 5 compliant BLUETEC technology. (Earlier post.) Volkswagen had on display its concept BLUETEC Tiguan introduced earlier at the Los Angeles Auto Show. (Earlier post.)

Mitsubishi confirmed plans to develop a next-generation common rail turbo-diesel engine to be applied in a new Lancer in 2010. The Mitsubishi turbo-diesel announced at the NAIAS for the US will be based on the 2.0-liter, Euro-5 compliant engine that MMC is developing together with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for the European market. The new engine will incorporate a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) and NOx trap catalyst system and will meet Tier 2 Bin 5 emissions requirements, according to Mitsubishi. (Earlier post.)

Hyundai concentrated primarily on the introduction of its new Veracruz crossover, but also introduced the Helion—a three-door sport crossover powered by a 3.0-liter diesel engine.


fyi CO2

While Toyota appears to be resting on their '06 hybrid laurels, the greenest dud must be the Ford Mustang-based E85 concept muscle car—the Ford Interceptor. The Ford Interceptor uses a Ford Racing 5.0-liter V-8.


Wow, Toyota really dropped the ball on this one. I'm glad to hear that Chevy has seemingly picked it up though.


They just go with what they think people want to buy. If it takes several years through the pipeline, this is what they thought people wanted to buy several years ago. Except for the E-Flex Volt, which took only a year to do. This one is current.


The ford interceptor is far froma dud. Its introducing muscle far fanataics to the idea of biofuels and THAT is a good thing.


Hi Wintermane,

While I agree its a good thing to introduce the uneducated muscle car fanatics (the educated muscle car fanatics know all about various exotic fuels, some of which are more pure from bio sources) to bio fuels, one could do that without with bio-butanol at 85 percent right now.


Ah yes, it is auto show season. I can't wait till the next one, when they'll unveil some of their ideas.

_Gm has got to get their BAS on all models. CD option for more 6, and 8 cylinder engines are another place to focus. Get supercharged/turbo DI engines from Saab (and Euro + domestic performance divisions) over to other divisions, for downsized engines.

_DaimlerChrysler somhow managed to include a VVT function in an old fashioned pushrod engine. Perhaps you can teach an old god new tricks.


Perhaps you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Rafael Seidl

Allen XL Z -

muscle car fanatics would surely argue that you were right the first time :-)

As for VVT, you can add a vane cam to a camshaft regardless of where it is positioned in the engine. See here for more details:;site=a4e/lng=en/do=show/alloc=3/id=6110

If your base design drives both intake and exhaust valves using a single camshaft, it is possible to apply a system by Mahle and Mechadyne involving two concentric shafts. The outer one features oblong transverse holes for the bolts that connect the inner rod with its cams. Note that all cams need to be separate parts that are mounted in order, so this is a built rather than a forged construction. Using a vane cam at either end, it is possible to achieve dual VVT on a "single" shaft.

I don't know if this is what DCX used, but I suspect the working principle is similar.

A variation on this concentric theme implements continuously variable lift but obviously only for either the intake or the exhaust valves, i.e. you need dual (overhead) camshafts per cylinder bank.

Source: MTZ Special "Drivetrains with Future", Oct 2005. No electronic version available, pls email [email protected] or call +49-611-7878151 / fax +49-611-7878423 for a reprint.


Rafael Sidl,
True, but IP/licensing issues, and reminant "designed by us for us" mentality still exist at Chrysler's concept, and engineering divisions. Some of it may also be to adapt to change, while not completely ditching the past (and market segment of speed/power fanatics).


Is it just me, or does Diamler Chrysler seem to be completely ignoring the hybrid boom as well as the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle boom? They have absolutley nothing in either category. What's up with that??? I know they certainly have a strong leaning towards deisels, and that's all well and good, but it seems like they aren't even trying other options. Why couldn't they explore a deisel/hybrid combination? Is anyone else seeing the same with DC?


Schmeltz - DCX is doing some hybrid work on Smart for Two


Yes, you are right. I forgot about the Smart. However, it is hard to count the Smart as a "mainstream" sort of vehicle, being that it will only be sold at select Penske dealerships in some of the major cities. Other than the Smart that you just mentioned, I don't know of any other DCX offerings in terms of hybrids, FCV's, or otherwise. I fear for DCX in that it may be left in the dust soon. Like I said, if they want to be all about deisels, that's fine, but either offer a deisel in everything they make, or investigate some sort of deisel hybrid, or something. I would be cool with DCX being "The Deisel Company", if they would attack it all out that way. Become the Deisel experts, and market their vehicles in that fashion. As it currently stands, they seem to have a reputation in that regards, but it is not very strong yet. VW sells more deisels in the U.S. then Mercedes and Chrysler do together. I think DCX was suprised at how well their Deisel Jeep Liberties were selling when they came out. But I think we can agree, DCX needs to make a significant advance in the fuel efficiency market, or be left behind to die. I sincerely hope that never happens.

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