Skip to toolbar

Fuel Economy: How Traditional Car Models Compete With Hybrid Vehicles

In recent years a greater emphasis on MPG during car shopping has emerged. Between fluctuating gasoline prices, a broader selection of hybrid vehicles, and the promise of plug-ins and battery electric vehicles, and mandated increases in CAFE standards, fuel economy is becoming an important vehicle characteristic for many consumers.

Makers of ICEs are looking to accentuate the efficiency of many of their “traditional” models to meet federal requirements and better compete with hybrid vehicles. This includes the addition of a turbocharger, which enables manufacturers to use smaller engines while increasing fuel economy by up to 20 percent. Turbochargers reduce emissions as they burn exhaust gas as fuel, and also provide additional power for acceleration.

Honeywell, which makes turbocharger equipment, put out a study claiming that 80 percent of consumers who understood a turbocharger’s impact on fuel economy would be interested in buying a turbocharged vehicle.

Honeywell’s press release adds “According to the Department of Transportation, nine out of the ten most popular vehicles purchased in the recent ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program were equipped with smaller and more fuel-efficient versions of conventional technology engines.”

This overall trend towards the importance of fuel economy when designing vehicles is significant not only for its immediate impact on emissions, but also because it forces everyone — both hybrid and conventional automakers — to continue to up the ante. Hopefully the 35.5 mpg requirement for vehicle fleets by 2016 will be a floor upon which automakers will seek to distinguish themselves.

“Fuel economy as a feature” has a growing audience that auto manufacturers (such as with the Ford Focus) are tapping into. This affinity for higher MPG ratings — and therefore the desire to buy hybrids — is similar to the desire for other vehicle features, such as the imposing size of the Hummer, the power to do 160 mph, or the roar of the Harley. It does not have to be grounded in economics or reality, it just has to be something people want.

Over the years much analysis has been written about how hybrids don’t make economic sense because the added cost may not be offset by fuel savings. Just like turbochargers, the economics don’t have to add up to a fast payback, and that will carry over to plug-in hybrids as well. For some middle aged couple with kids off to college, the hybrid plate is just as important as the Porsche, Jaguar or Maserati name is for another type of consumer.

For those who believe in the importance of reducing emissions, oil imports and trips to the gas station, diesel vehicles should have equal mindshare even though they have been eschewed by American buyers. As an example of luxury meets diesel turbocharging, there’s the new BlueEFFICIENCY Diesel SUVs from Mercedes. Europe has always been way ahead of the U.S. in embracing diesels, but that may slowly be changing.

Appearing courtesy of Matter Network.

[photo credit: Flickr]

Have any Question or Comment?

9 comments on “Fuel Economy: How Traditional Car Models Compete With Hybrid Vehicles

Arch Mott


A turbocharger does not “burn exhaust gas as fuel”, it uses the pressure of exhaust gases to turn a turbine to increase compression of incoming fuel/air mixture.

Jamie Ouye

What is ICEs and what are the CAFE standards and where can I find them? I also agree with Arch Mott’s analysis of turbochargers. I have never seen turbocharged engines being boasted as more fuel efficient. As a matter of fact, the turbine spools and releases in a burst of compressed air burns more fuel faster than normal. It is done to create a high temperature that allows the engine to accelerate the car faster than normal. It is true though, that if put the gas pedal to the floor trying to get the same car without a turbocharger up to the same speed in as few seconds as possible you would use more gas.


ICE stands for Internal Combustion Engine and CAFE for Corporate Average Fuel Economy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the following explanation of CAFE:

First enacted by Congress in 1975, the purpose of CAFE is to reduce energy consumption by increasing the fuel economy of cars and light trucks. Regulating CAFE is the responsibility of NHTSA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). NHTSA sets fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks sold in the U.S.; EPA calculates the average fuel economy for each manufacturer.

You can find more information about CAFE on the NHTSA website at:

Ceylon and Arch are right, but this conversation should go much further:

For any vehicle what are :

Life cycle impacting?

Carbon summary emission calculations?

recycling content?

toxicity concentrations? and

enthropic impact?

Touring around in a Hummer or an Escalade in hybrid versions does NOT make the consumer impact friendly. Both are still tooling around in 2.5T+ GVW monsters.

What are energy costs associated to build complex vehicles?

How green are the factories? How efficient the process, emissions, even sales?

Diesel TDI engines with new scrubbers have 1/3 the moving parts of standard ICE and better mpg, lasting longer. Cars that are lightweight, smaller, w/more aerodynamic functions and material selections are better as LC green critical considerations. Even the Tesla is Lith-Ion HEAVY.



Take the base Lotus Elise, add a 1 ltr. TDI with aux. elect. regen. motor, two small batteries. No motors to adjust seats, mirrors, spoilers etc, and lots of fused Alu-CF panels.

This vehicle moves two passengers extremely efficiently at low consumption- and with Aluminum CF construction, recycling (according to BMW) can approach 95%+.

See the whole cradle to grave picture. Ride your bicycle!

Don’t know if you picked up today’s announcement AUTOSHOW, about the new VW 1L, and Zero Bluetec by Mercedes, but, hmmmm, exactly as predicted: Diesel, lightweight, Hybrid with augmentation.

235 MPG. easy.

finally! Q

I wonder if history will repeat.

In the past, when drivers traded up for better fuel economy they offset the fuel savings with more driving…and bigger cars.

What we really need is for people to face the fact that they should drive a lot less.

Actually we´ve said many times that turbochargers would be a great improvement in flex vehicles, as ethanol requires higher compression rates than gasoline and therefore you lose a little power when in ethanol mode.

Problem is that in the US the ethanol business is not being led in a positive way, since it´s corn based (terrible energy output) and depending on a lot of subsidies that do not go well with the public.

Pity since ethanol has been responsible for Brazil obtaining its fossil fuel import independance: something that the US tries to attain for years.

Nice Posting! Whatever may be the features added to traditional models they can not compete hybrid models.


The New Breed of Cars « Green Bandwagon says:

[…] propulsion system. The presence of the electric powertrain is intended to achieve either better fuel economy than a conventional vehicle, or better […]

Comments are closed for this post !!