The PNGV (The Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles) project was started with the goal of creating a car that would get 80 miles a gallon. The project has come under criticism from some environmental groups who argue that the Detroit automakers are dragging their feet as Japanese car companies introduce vehicles with these higher mileage systems.
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FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Cars are often the targets of antipollution crusades, and traditionally, car makers and the Environmental Protection Agency are on opposite sides of the fence. But in 1993, the Clinton administration brought Detroit’s three auto makers together with the federal government in the partnership for a new generation of vehicles known as PNGV
PRESIDENT CLINTON: (September 29, 1993) Our long-term goal is to develop affordable, attractive cars that are up to three times more fuel efficient than today’s cars — three times.
Goal: an 80-mile-per-gallon car
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The goal of PNGV Was to build a clean-burning, 80-mile- per-gallon car in ten years. Carmakers have long tried to use batteries to boost fuel efficiency. This 1914 electric Sedan was owned by Henry Ford’s wife, Clara. The big challenge has been making an economical battery that can run a car as long as a tank of gasoline and be quickly recharged. Detroit’s only recent foray, the battery-powered G.M. E.V. One, was recently suspended after failing to generate much consumer interest.
SPOKESMAN: This might not be that far off.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So the PNGV Auto makers pursued a hybrid, combining a battery with a conventional engine. The hybrids use an electronic system to switch between the two sources for the best performance and efficiency, and use the engine to recharge the battery.
BILL POWERS, Vice President, Ford Motor Company: What you see here is basically a modern small diesel engine, which would be the internal combustion part of our process.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Ford vice president Bill Powers said his company’s concept or experimental car, called the Prodigy, has numerous other modifications– cameras instead of rear-view mirrors to lessen wind resistance, and aluminum instead of steel, all of which could bring an eventual production model close to the 80-mile-per-gallon target.
BILL POWERS: We wanted the package of a Taurus, which we consider to be a mid-size family sedan. Yet this is almost 1,000 pounds lighter.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The PNGV companies and their experimental cars– Ford with its Prodigy, GM the Precept, and Daimler-Chrysler with the ESX 2, came to Washington late last March for a progress report. Although production cars are still some years off, Daimler- Chrysler’s Jim Holden was upbeat.
JIM HOLDEN, President, Daimler/Chrysler: We can eventually create new vehicles with the size and the features our customers want, and the remarkable fuel economy that we’ve put on display here, and with your support, we’re working very hard to do just exactly that.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: However, none of the three carmakers in the partnership will be first to bring a hybrid car to the market. That distinction goes to Japan’s Honda.
ANNOUNCER: Introducing America’s first gasoline-electric hybrid, the Insight, from Honda.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The Insight made its American debut late last year. A two-seater powered by a small gasoline engine and battery system that achieves about 70 miles-per-gallon. And this fall, Toyota will be first to offer a five-passenger hybrid. The company has already sold about 30,000 Prius models in Japan. Toyota’s John McCandless showed us a Japanese street version of the gasoline electric sedan, which he said should get about 50 miles-per-gallon.
JOHN McCANDLESS, Toyota: And as I pull away from the light here, I pull away on electric power. As I put my foot down, and I accelerate, the internal combustion engine starts. It has regenerative braking so when I stop here, or slow down for a light, the power generated by the brakes goes back into the batteries.