Landfill-Gas Will Power GM Assembly Plants
John F. Martin for General Motors
General Motors employee Peggy Burnside inspects a 2012 Chevrolet Sonic as it rolls off the assembly line at the GM Orion Assembly Plant.
2012 Detroit Auto Show
The 2012 Detroit Auto Show is sadly drawing to a close, but the success of this year's show signaled the rebirth of the auto industry. This year the show had its highest opening day attendance in five years, with over 750,000 people expected to attend the show. The automakers also were in full force this year with over 500 vehicles on display, many of which that had their world debut at the show. With the curtain coming down on this year's show, here are some of the highlights.
Acura NSX Concept
The 2012 Detroit Auto Show marked the return of the Acura NSX, even if it was in concept form. Acura announced that the NSX will be powered by its new Sport Hybrid SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) hybrid system. A 3.5L V6 with a dual clutch transmission with built-in electric motor power the rear wheels, while two electric motors power the front wheels. The best part: Acura claims that the next NSX will be released within the next three years and it will be built in Ohio. Acura also unveiled show versions of the 2013 ILX and RDX at the show.
2013 Buick Encore
GM continues to revamp Buick's lineup with more stylish and exciting models like the Regal GS and Verano models. Buick is adding a new small crossover to its lineup named the Encore that will arrive in the first quarter of 2013. The 2013 Encore is almost 20-inches shorter than the Chevy Equinox and is powered by a 140-hp turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder. Even with its small footprint the Encore has room for five and has 48 cubic feet of storage space with the rear seat folded down.
2013 Cadillac ATS
Cadillac now has a true BMW 3 Series fighter, the ATS. The 2013 ATS is built on a new lightweight platform with a nearly perfect 50/50 weight balance. It's styling is similar to the larger CTS and XTS models, although it's a bit watered down compared to the CTS. Buyers can choose from three different engines: a 200-hp 2.5L four-cylinder, 270-hp 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder or a 318-hp 3.6L V6. Rear-wheel-drive is standard, but all-wheel-drive is optional.
2013 Dodge Dart
Chrysler finally has a compact sedan that on paper is competitive with models like the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. The 2013 Dodge Dart borrows its roots from Alfa Romeo. The Dart can be equipped with a 160-hp 2.0L, a 184-hp 2.4L or a 160-hp turbocharged 1.4L. Six-speed transmissions will be offered when it launches this fall, but in 2013 a new nine-speed automatic will be available. Chrysler has announced that the 2013 Dodge Dart will start at $15,995.
2013 Ford Fusion
One of the most popular production models to debut in Detroit this year was the all-new 2013 Ford Fusion. The all-new Fusion gets a face that some state "looks like an Aston Martin." The 2013 Fusion is poised to take over the midsize sedan segment with its stylish exterior and all four-cylinder lineup, including the hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions. The Fusion is also getting new technology like Ford's new Lane Keeping System that helps keep drivers from drifting out of their intended lane. Ford also gave a preview of the Fusion's brother the 2013 Lincoln MKZ with the MKZ Concept.
Honda Accord Coupe Concept
Honda gave us our first look at the all-new 2013 Accord with the Accord Coupe Concept, which is pretty much what the new coupe will look like. We have yet to see what Honda has in store for the Accord sedan, but the automaker has stated that its exterior dimensions will be smaller when it arrives this fall. The 2013 Accord also marks the return of the Accord hybrid, unlike the previous Accord hybrid that used a V6, the new one will use a four-cylinder plug-in hybrid setup.
2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe & Veloster Turbo
Hyundai chose the Detroit Auto Show to unveil the more powerful Veloster Turbo and a refreshed 2013 Genesis coupe. The Veloster Turbo adds some much needed power to the Veloster in the form of 201 horsepower from a turbocharged 1.6L. It also gets a more aggressive face and optional cool matte gray paint. The Genesis coupe is receiving a mid-life refresh that includes updates inside and out, but the biggest changes lie under the hood. The 2013 Genesis coupe is now powered by either a 274-hp turbocharged 2.0L or a 348-hp 3.8L V6.
Lexus LF-LC Concept
Lexus is set to introduce nine new or updated models this year, which will also feature Lexus' new design language that was previewed by the LF-LC concept. The LF-LC hybrid 2+2 sport coupe concept was designed by the automaker's Calty design studio in Newport Beach, CA, and continues the new design direction set by the CT and GS models. Maintaining the trend of concept cars with hybrid powertrains, the LF-LC is powered by an Advanced Lexus Hybrid Drive system that sends its power to the rear wheels. Lexus did not provide any specs for the hybrid, but it has been reported that the automaker is considering releasing a production version of the LF-LC concept.
2013 Nissan Pathfinder Concept
Nissan is revamping its Pathfinder SUV for 2013 and previewed the new SUV with the Pathfinder Concept. The 2013 Pathfinder is going to be more "car-like" than before and is switching to a unibody platform that will be shared with the Infiniti JX35. Thanks to its new platform the new Pathfinder will be around 500 pounds lighter and 25 percent more fuel efficient than the current model. It will also be powered by the same 3.5L V6 as the JX35 and will have room for seven passengers.
2012 Toyota Prius c
Toyota's Prius is the most popular hybrid and it's about to get even more popular with the introduction of the fourth Prius model, the Prius c. The 2012 Prius c is now the smallest Prius and sits at the opposite side of the family from the "versatile" Prius v. The Prius c is powered by a 1.5L four-cylinder engine mated to an electric motor with a CVT. It has a total output of 99 horsepower and gets up to 53 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway. Toyota hasn't released the official pricing other than stating that it will start under $19,000 when it's released this spring.
Car production isn't the greenest of processes, but in recent decades many automakers have at least made attempts to reduce environmental impact -- and General Motors is the latest to take a step towards improving it.
The automaker has announced a $24 million investment in the use of landfill gas at its Indiana and Michigan assembly plants.
GM says the new equipment has the capacity to generate more than 14 megawatts of electricity from landfill gas, preventing 89,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year from entering the atmosphere. That emissions savings equates to more than 18,500 passenger vehicles per year.
Landfill gas is a mix of different gases produced from the chemical reactions and effects of microbes on waste products. Between 40 and 60 percent of the gas is methane, while much of the remainder is made up of carbon dioxide, and traces of other gases.
Separating natural gas from the other gases makes it possible to be used in facilities such as GM's assembly plants.
Not only does this reduce the output of waste gases into the atmosphere, but also reduces the need for gas from fossil fuels. It's also cheaper than other fuels. General Motors expects to save a combined $10 million in energy costs each year at its facilities.
The Orion, Mich., plant has actually used landfill gas since 1999 to heat a portion of the paint shop. By the time the new equipment is installed, landfill gas will account for 54 percent of Orion's energy usage. At the Fort Wayne, Ind., facility, the gas will cover 40 percent of the plant's energy usage.
"...allows us to act as our own utility," explains Bill Mortimer, GM co-generation project manager. “Not only does this help us save on energy costs, but it limits the amount of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere.”
GM has previously explored other green energy technologies to reduce costs and emissions. At the automaker's Detroit-Hamtramck facility, which produces the Chevrolet Volt, a 264,000 square-foot solar array helps power portions of the plant, saving an estimated $15,000 per year.
Other automakers such as Honda and Nissan have also explored alternative energies at their factories -- such as solar arrays and wind turbines.
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