US carmakers plan low-pollution vehicles

Feb 10, 1998 01:00 AM

Jan. 6, 1998 America's two largest automakers have escalated their race to build low-pollution vehicles, with Ford Motor Co. saying all sport utility vehicles (SUV's)it makes in the 1999 model year will have emissions as clean as most cars on the road .
General Motors meanwhile, said it may be ready to produce a hybrid-electric vehicle by 2001 and a fuel-cell electric vehicle by 2004.
"We're going to give it our best shot,'' said GM Vice Chairman Harry Pearce. "We're deadly serious about it.''
The American automakers are scrambling to show they have technologies to produce low-pollution vehicles after Toyota Motor Co. announced last fall that it would become the first automaker to market a hybrid gasoline-electric car with its Prius in Japan.
Also, a recent anti-global warming agreement reached in Kyoto, Japan, has put automotive emissions in the forefront. The agreement, if ratified by the Senate, could force automakers to produce more lower-emission vehicles.
Ford says the SUVs and the Ford Windstar minivan it sells will beat emission standards for trucks and emit only half of the smog-forming hydrocarbon emissions produced by typical vehicles in the SUV class. "This commitment means that one in every five vehicles Ford sells in the United States -more than 800,000 vehicles- is expected to be the greenest gasoline-powered sport utility or minivan available nationwide, as clean as most cars now on the road,'' Jac Nasser, president of Ford automotive operations, said in a statement. "Why are we doing this now? First, because we know how to do it dependably, and at an affordable cost,'' Nasser said. "And second, we think it's what our customers increasingly want.'' Ford also planned to show off a prototype, lightweight vehicle called the P2000 DIATA that gets 63 miles to the gallon.
GM has said that starting this autumn it will offer nickel-metal-hydride batteries to users of its EV1 electric car in California and Arizona. The battery will nearly double the driving range of the cars between recharges to 160 miles.
GM also said it has the technology to build "hybrid'' cars, including a "series'' hybrid which uses an engine-powered electric generator and nickel-metal-hydride battery. It also showed off a "parallel hybrid,'' which uses an electric motor and engine powered by fuel.
GM also said it may produce a fuel-cell vehicle that runs on electrical energy created from a hydrogen-oxygen chemical reaction, and a compressed natural gas vehicle that runs with a turbo-charged engine.

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