- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2006

Americans can have it all. Raw horsepower. Environmentally responsible vehicles. Sometimes they can have both in the same vehicle.

These are some of the vehicles and fuel-saving technologies that are making news and could be showing up at major auto shows around the country. Some are concepts that may or may not make it to America’s driveways. Others are production vehicles ready to hit America’s roads very soon.

The 400-horsepower Camaro concept was developed with a small block V-8 that could achieve 30 miles per gallon or more on the highway, according to Chevrolet, because of displacement-on-demand technology that shuts down some of the cylinders when full power isn’t needed.

At the Detroit auto show, the Chrysler Group showcased a Dodge Challenger concept car with a Hemi V-8 rated at 425 horsepower. Ford’s most powerful Mustang ever, the Shelby GT500 with a 5.4-liter supercharged V-8 rated at 475 horsepower, shows up in dealerships this summer. Aston Martin introduced its 480-horsepower Rapide. The 2007 Lexus LS 460 has an all-new 4.6-liter V-8 that produces 380 horsepower and 370 lbs.-ft. of torque.

Ford displayed the Ford F-250 Super Chief concept with a supercharged V-10 that could run on gasoline, E85 (an ethanol-gasoline blend), or hydrogen. In the hydrogen mode, that engine could provide 12 percent better fuel economy than a non-supercharged gas engine and 99 percent fewer CO2 emissions than a gas engine.

Americans may be surprised to learn there are approximately 6 million vehicles on the roads that are E85 compatible, according to the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition. One is the new Chevrolet Impala with the 3.5-liter, six-cylinder engine. The catch is that there are only about 615 fueling stations in the U.S. where you can pump the ethanol-gasoline blend.

Even something as exotic as hydrogen fuel cells may actually make it to America’s garages. Honda showed its FCX hydrogen fuel-cell concept vehicle that it eventually plans to produce.

And let’s not forget the diesel engine, which seems to be on the verge or a comeback in the United States, thanks to cleaner-burning, low-sulfur fuel coming later this year, along with improvements in engine technology that will allow the diesel engine to meet stringent new emission standards in 2009.

Mercedes-Benz confirmed that it will introduce three diesel models beginning this fall, with a fourth to be added in 2007. All will feature the same 3.0-liter V-6 engine which requires low-sulfur diesel fuel. The E320 Bluetecwill be the first to use this new emissions system, which has the potential to produce the cleanest diesel vehicles in the world, Mercedes-Benz says.

These four diesel models will qualify to be sold in 45 states. Bluetec eventually will permit Mercedes-Benz to sell its diesels in all 50 states, including California, New York and several other states that have adopted California’s clean-air standards.

Nissan plans to add diesel engines to the Titan pickup truck, but hasn’t announced a date. The Chrysler Group and BMW executives have said they will add diesels to their U.S. lineups over the next three to four years.

Gasoline-electric hybrids are still making news. In the realm of what could be possible, Ford showed its Reflex concept that is powered by a diesel-electric hybrid engine that would achieve 65 mpg on the highway.

In terms of what consumers can drive soon, Toyota introduced the 2007 Camry gas-electric hybrid with EPA estimated fuel economy ratings of 43 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. A hybrid version of the flagship Lexus LS 460 was also announced.

General Motors introduced vehicles with two different hybrid systems, the 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line and 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Two-Mode Hybrid.

The Vue is powered by what GM says is a more affordable hybrid system. GM says the system adds $2,000 to the cost of a vehicle, which is less than the $3,000 to $4,000 premium of other hybrid systems.

The V-8 Tahoe’s two-mode system means the vehicle can use the most fuel-efficient mode for driving in the city at low speeds and light loads, or the more efficient mode for times when full engine power is needed.

Maybe one day Americans really will be able to pull into their local gas stations and find not only gasoline and the rare diesel pump off in the corner, but more of a buffet of fuel choices.

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