All vehicles sold in the United States have to meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for mileage and emissions, and while different manufacturers put their emphasis in different areas, overall fuel efficiency has increased while emissions have decreased substantially since Congress passed the first major Clean Air Act in 1970, requiring a 90% reduction in emissions from new automobiles by 1975.
In the last decade or so, electric and hybrid cars have been added to the mix by manufacturers, or as in the case of Tesla, which is slated to go into production this year, companies have been created specifically to design and build all-electric cars.
According to a January report from the Sierra Club, while the growth in sales of electric vehicles (EVs) rose from 52,000 in 2012 to three times that in 2016, EVs still make up only about 1% of total U.S. auto sales. The Chevy Volt, Ford Fusion Energi and BMW i3 have seen the highest percentage growth of the existing models offered.
Sales of hybrids, which combine gasoline engines and electronic features, as well as those that take a plug-in charge, totaled more than 420,000 last year, according to Green Car Reports, about 2% of total sales.
Regarding many late model gasoline-powered cars, terms frequently heard are turbocharged and CVT, for continuously variable transmission. Traditionally, turbocharged engines were used in racing environments where the engine calibration was tailored for maximum output as opposed to the reason that manufacturers are using them today, which is to meet ever-increasing fuel economy mpg regulations.
As explained by Carfax.com, a CVT is an automatic transmission that instead of using fixed gears uses two pulleys connected by a steel band, with the diameter of one of the pulleys continually adjusting as needed to provide an optimal gear “ratio” to transfer power to the car’s tires. Kelley Blue Book notes that one out of every four new cars sold in the United States comes with a CVT, which makes a car lighter and more fuel-efficient, but they are found on smaller cars because they cannot handle the torque made by large engines. Some drivers, however, miss the sense of shifting gears, while others complain about the droning engine noise created during aggressive acceleration.
Regardless of where the car is on the spectrum, from simple transportation to an elegant driving experience, the major demands of today’s buyers are for technology and safety.
Mike Abrahams, general manager of Honda of Westport, explains, “Drivers, especially parents who are buying cars for their kids, are more and more aware of what is out there — the lane drift warning, braking technology, side airbags. People are anticipating technology, too — cars are becoming tech-mobiles. Honda provides an online tech tutor as well, where drivers can get videos of how to fully engage with the technology built into cars. You still get a paper owner’s manual, but many people find the videos more helpful.”
Regarding fuel efficiency, he notes, “When people enter the dealership, they have the assumption that the cars have good mileage; Honda has always been a manufacturer with a perception of fuel efficiency. The Civic and CLV are available with a 1.5-liter direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder, which delivers better fuel economy. While it doesn’t seem logical, the turbocharged engine produces more power and more efficiency.”
Honda offered a hybrid Accord for the first time in 2017; the electric and gasoline-fueled car gets about 49 miles per gallon.
Customers entering Miller Motorcars in Greenwich are seeking the driving/riding experience offered by luxury high-end automobiles. The dealership offers nine British, Italian and French nameplates: Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Bugatti, Ferrari, Maserati, McLaren, Pagani, and Rolls Royce. Evan Cyglar, director of marketing at Miller Motorcars, notes that virtually all of their vehicles sold today include a turbocharger (which looks similar to a hair dryer), which captures the gases from the exhaust system and forces them back into the engine, which creates greater efficiency.
What has dramatically improved over the last three or four years, and what customers are seeking, he agrees, are the safety features. “Lane departure warnings, blind spot reminders, safety braking, and backup cameras are increasingly standard, as is the ability to plug into smartphone technology,” he explains.
The operations of the dealership itself are heavily going green. Earlier this year, the Miller Motorcars state-of-the-art service center in Stamford put 660 rooftop solar panels into operation, which will “greatly reduce the consumption of fossil fuels for electrical and heating use,” according to Cyglar.
To celebrate and introduce the new system, Miller Motorcars Service, 186 Magee Avenue, Stamford, is conducting an open house on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Representatives of Direct Energy Solar will be on hand to answer questions about the installation of solar panels in general. RSVPs are requested to [email protected] by April 20. Miller Motorcars also installed all-new LED lighting, which combined with solar, eliminated 62% of its electric usage, Cyglar says.
Bailey Vanneck, general manager of Miller Motorcars, concludes, “We are so proud to have made the switch along with being sustainable and caring for the environment. It will pay off over time and we now can see the results. The more businesses that decide to make the switch, the better it will be for all of us.”