All manner of exotic electric and plug-in hybrid concepts will be on full display at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, but the show’s more important story is the emergence of practical compact hybrids.
Small stylish, full-featured and fuel-efficient small cars were previously built for Europe but not the U.S. Yet, cars like the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Cruze are starting to arrive in America. That trend is starting to merge with production of hybrids, previously offered only in Japan and the U.S., now showing up in Europe.
The result could be a global wave of small hybrids for global markets, which makes sense considering the common push by global regulators to reduce carbon emissions and increase fuel efficiency. They’re not glitzy or especially powerful—but they could represent the first set of mainstream cars that are less expensive and far more fuel-efficient than anything else on the road today.
The “CH” stands for compact hybrid. First shown at the most recent Detroit Auto Show, the Toyota FT-CH is the leading candidate for beating the Toyota Prius’s 50-mpg average fuel economy. The display of the four-door compact—nearly two-feet shorter than the Prius—in Paris is a homecoming of sorts. It was styled at Toyota’s European Design and Development Center in Nice, France. Like other small and stylish European models heading west, the FT-CH is geared toward a younger hipper crowd.
Honda Jazz/Fit Hybrid
Honda is presenting the new hybrid version of its Jazz supermini at the Paris motor show.
While the Jazz, sold as the Fit in the United States, shares the same hybrid system with the Honda Insight and CR-Z hybrids, it’s small platform—tweaked to improve aerodynamics—is likely to surpass the other Honda hybrids in terms of fuel economy. It’s another candidate for the 50-mpg club. In addition, the Honda Jazz Hybrid promises the lowest CO2 output of any automatic car in the B-segment.
Japan’s Nikkei business newspaper reported that the Fit Hybrid would sell in Japan for 1.5 million yen, or about $16,750. That’s about $2,000 more than the conventional Fit, but about $3,000 less than the Honda Insight, which was supposed to make hybrids affordable but never quite accomplished that feat.
The Jazz Hybrid goes on sale in the UK in early 2011. It’s still uncertain if the small hybrid will make it to the United States.
Ford C-Max Hybrids
On the eve of the Paris show, Ford last night announced that it would sell conventional and plug-in hybrid versions of its C-Max European-style small van. It’s a step up in size from the FT-CH or Fit, but still small by U.S. standards, especially for a family vehicle.
Ford’s Valencia Plant in Spain will build the C-Max hybrids, the company’s first hybrid models for European customers. The C-Max hybrids will be launched in Europe in 2013, and will arrive in the U.S. the following year—although we will get only the Grand C-Max seven-seat model, not the shorter five-seat C-Max version.
The C-Max conventional and plug-in hybrids will use Ford’s powersplit architecture—in which the electric motor and gas engine can work together or separately to power the wheels. Production of a plug-in hybrid version of the C-Max confirms Ford’s commitment to vehicles that draw electricity from the grid, while offering driving range similar to conventional gas-powered vehicles.
The small platform, seven-seat configuration, and plug-in capabilities will be a powerful combination. When it arrives in the U.S., the Grand C-Max plug-in hybrid will likely become the most fuel-efficient seven-seat vehicle on the market.