Dave Hermance

David Hermance

The 2010 Chicago Auto Show, which kicks off later this week, is the location for the inaugural presentation of the Hermance Vehicle Efficiency Award. The award recognizes the most efficient new car with the greatest consumer appeal. The award is given in honor of the late David Hermance, Toyota’s highly respected executive engineer of environmental engineering. Hermance was considered Toyota’s hybrid guru, and a spokesperson for efficient vehicle technologies for the entire auto industry.

The 2010 Hermance Vehicle Efficiency Award will be presented this Wednesday, Feb.10, to the new vehicle that represents Hermance’s vision, described by the award committee as “practical efficient design, as well as affordability for consumers and profitability for car companies.” The organizers hope the award will help consumers better understand the importance of efficiency—and place a high value on it when purchasing their next vehicle. Only cars and trucks currently available in showrooms today are eligible for the award. All powertrain and fuel options were evaluated on an equal basis.

“I’d like to leave the planet a little better than I found it. It’s going to be hard work.”

The late David Hermance
Toyota’s executive engineer of environmental engineering

The Hermance Vehicle Efficiency Award is given by a committee facilitated by BermanWorks, the media company behind HybridCars.com and the forthcoming new website, PluginCars.com, which launches April 2010. The Hermance Award was decided by a committee of industry experts who worked with and personally knew Hermance. During the judging process, the committee members repeatedly asked, “What would Dave do?”

“It’s been our privilege to work with some of the world’s leading automotive efficiency experts—all colleagues and admirers of the Dave Hermance—to develop this award in his honor,” said Bradley Berman, founder of the Hermance Award and HybridCars.com. The Hermance committee includes:

  • Lindsay Brooke, senior editor of Automotive Engineering International
  • John DeCicco, senior lecturer at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
  • John German, senior fellow and program director for the International Council for Clean Transportation
  • Robert Larsen, director emeritus for Argonne National Laboratory’s Center for Transportation Research.

When the award is announced, HybridCars.com will publish a set of short essays written by the judges about Hermance and the winning vehicle. The award will be presented a second time at the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Hybrid Symposium on Feb. 11 in San Diego, where approximately 300 engineers will be gathered to discuss electric-drive technologies.

Award as Tribute

Prior to joining Toyota in 1991, Hermance worked in emissions and durability testing at General Motors for 15 years. Hermance exhibited foresight and the willingness to take risks to create a mainstream market for a new efficient technology, even if the industry and the market did not seem ready.

Hermance was also an avid pilot, who enjoyed flying experimental aerobatic airplanes. He died on Nov. 25, 2006, when the experimental airplane he was piloting crashed into the Pacific Ocean. He was 59 years old.

Dave Hermance with the 2004 Toyota Prius

Dave Hermance with the 2004 Toyota Prius

After his death, the Los Angeles Times called Hermance “an engineering wizard with an environmentalist’s heart—an executive who championed hybrid gasoline-electric cars years before global warming entered the popular conversation.” In a 2004 interview with HybridCars.com, Hermance said, “I’d like to leave the planet a little better than I found it. It’s going to be hard work.”

Robert Larsen, a member of the judging committee, called Hermance “one of the most talented automotive engineers of his generation.” He added, “One way we seek to fill the empty space that Dave’s departure left in this world is to establish this award as a tribute to his memory.”