March 24, 2012

CAFE 2025: a real shot in the arm, or just a babycino?

So tax me. But tax me fairly, and tax me transparently. And let me see where my tax dollars went.

From 2012, the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standard for passenger cars and light trucks is to be tightened progressively, until it reaches its goal of 160g CO2 per mile in 2025. Since most of us haven't yet learned to think in terms of g/mi, the 2025 standard is widely quoted as "54.5mpg". This is a long-overdue improvement on the 27.5mpg where CAFE has been stuck since 1990.

That looks great, but there's a veneer of make-up on the cheerful face of the automotive industry, and if you look a little more closely, you can see the wrinkles underneath.

One size does not fit all.
For starters, here is one loophole so large you can drive an SUV through it: The CAFE standard is size dependent; that is, the requirements are more lenient for larger cars than smaller ones, and more stringent for passenger cars than for light trucks. Bafflingly, "light trucks" are considered to include SUVs despite the fact that SUVs are overwhelmingly used as passenger cars. (Tell me: what is the "utility" in a BMW X5? And would it ever see any off-road use?)


2011-2025 CAFE standards in miles per gallon.
Model Year Passenger Cars Light Trucks
"footprint": 41 sq ft (3.8 m2) or smaller (e.g. 2011 Honda Fit) "footprint": 55 sq ft (5.1 m2) or bigger (e.g. Mercedes-Benz S-Class) "footprint": 41 sq ft (3.8 m2) or smaller (e.g. Nissan Juke) "footprint": 75 sq ft (7.0 m2) or bigger (e.g. Ford F-150)
CAFE EPA Window Sticker CAFE EPA Window Sticker CAFE EPA Window Sticker CAFE EPA Window Sticker
2012 36 27 28 21 30 23 22 17
2013 37 28 28.5 22 31 24 22.5 17
2014 38 28 29 22 32 24 23 18
2015 39 29 30 23 33 25 23.5 18
2016 41 31 31 24 34 26 24.5 19
2017 44 33 33 25 36 27 25 19
2018 45 34 34 26 37 28 25 19
2019 47 35 35 26 38 28 25 19
2020 49 36 36 27 39 29 25 19
2021 51 37 38 28 42 31 25 19
2022 53 38 40 30 44 33 26 20
2023 56 40 42 31 46 34 27 21
2024 58 41 44 33 48 36 28.5 22
2025 61 43 46 34 50 37 30 23


Rose-tinted numbers.
Here is another problem: The CAFE standard uses some obsolete and half-forgotten old standard that is favoured by the car industry because it yields very optimistic, that is high, MPG numbers. This is plainly greenwashing, and very annoying, and so far most of the media coverage has been complicit, quoting the 54.5mpg number without any caveats.

The nation will not reach a true average of 54.5mpg in 2025. Not even close. For instance, the smallest passenger cars are required to average 61mpg by 2025 under CAFE, but that corresponds to only 43 mpg according to the current EPA sticker, which does closely reflect real-world fuel efficiencies. That's a 42% difference, or something which would earn you a FAIL on a grade school math test.

That's the numbers for the smallest cars. For the largest "light" trucks, CAFE requires 30 mpg in 2025, which actually comes down to a real-life 23 mpg, so the rosy-tinted number is larger than the actual fuel efficiency by 30%.

That's like jeans manufacturers selling me, CelloMom, a "Size 29" pair of jeans. Dude: I know (and freely confess) that my waist does not measure 29 inches. I don't need the slim-washing. It only serves to make ordering jeans online nearly impossible, since you can never tell how much larger the real waist is on a size 29 pair of jeans. Might as well have fun and call it "Size Rose", or "Size Giraffe": it would be just as informative.

A standard with no teeth.
Last but not least, the CAFE standard is habitually ignored by many car manufacturers, who simply choose to pay the imposed penalty for non-compliance. That is to say, you and I, the people who buy those cars, pay our part of that penalty, because you can be sure that this "cost of doing business" gets passed on to the consumer.

This is the part I like least about the CAFE standard as it stands. Who knows how those car manufacturers decide to distribute the burden of non-compliance. I might buy the smallest gas sipper in their line and still get socked with a hidden tax that may or may not be smaller than what my friendly neighbour pays on his 12mpg truck. It's all convoluted in the murky pricing policies of the car maker.

$10,000 alt-technology tax credit.
There was a $7,500 tax credit for the purchase of electric vehicles in 2011; there is now a proposal to raise that tax credit to $10,000 and to extend it to any vehicle running on alternative technologies such as hydrogen fuel and compressed natural gas - anything but oil.

I think it's great that the White House is supporting the development of alternative technologies for transportation. But this approach is too black and white: the distinction between reward (i.e. the tax credit) and punishment (at the pump) is too sharp.

So tax me.
As a consumer, I don't mind being taxed. Really. Cars are cheap in the US, anyway. But I want to be taxed by the government, not by the company that makes my car.

But tax me fairly.
The scientific consensus is that global warming is occurring, and that it is tied to human activity. Aside from that, whatever your own opinion of global climate change may be, CO2 emissions is a one-number handle for how fast each of us is using up the planet's finite fossil fuel reserves. You can argue about how much there's left, but it's certain that it will run out at some point. Make no mistake: this resource is not renewable on a timescale less than millions of years.

Since this is really all about keeping CO2 emissions down, then, as the consumer, I want to see an arrangement based on those CO2 emissions. Let the consumer who buys an EV and can prove that the electricity powering that EV comes from wind or solar (truly zero emission), have that $10,000 tax break.

And let the person who really wants an Escalade with high CO2 emission have that choice, but impose a vehicle sales tax on him so that in effect he is supporting the purchase of the low-emission vehicle.

And tax me transparently.
Let all vehicles get taxed (or supported) at a level determined by their total CO2 emission, counted well to wheel (or coal-mine to wheel, or wind to wheel, as the case may be). I want to see a clear delineation of the vehicle tax (or tax break) for a given level of CO2 emission, so that I know exactly what is due to me (or how much I pay extra) as a consequence of my emission choice.

If I manage to buy a car the size of a Ford Expedition but with the gasoline consumption of a Chevy Volt, I want to be taxed at the same level as the Volt. What really counts is the CO2 emissions, not the size of the car.

And show me what happened with my tax dollars.
You can set this up so that it's revenue-neutral (where is the $10,000 per car tax credit to come from when the nation is $16tn in the hole?).

But you could be bolder and set it up so that there is a net revenue, that you can use to build a high-speed rail network and other public transportation alternatives, hedges against the time when oil runs out, as it will sometime, whether or not we close our eyes to that certainty.

We need to start building the 22nd century equivalent of the interstate highway system. Yes, Detroit as we know it may find its demise unless it retools itself; isn't that called progress? For instance, in 2012 would you want to be working for a company that manufactures typewriters? Or card punchers? Or magnetic tape? There are plenty of better opportunities in the 21st century communications industry.

My choice is preserved - indeed, broadened.
I like freedom of choice, and I like being able to see clearly the consequences of each choice. A progressive and transparent taxation on car sales is what's needed to put firm and steady downward pressure to CO2 emissions, even more than gas prices, which after all may fall as well as rise.

It would make it more likely that I can buy "sub-compact" city cars like the Toyota Aygo or the VW Up! As a consumer, I want my choice to broaden: I want to still be able to buy that Escalade, or that Expedition, if my purse and my environmental conscience so allow. But if I am gentle on our environment, and frugal with our finite resources, I want to be rewarded for my choice.

It is a myth that cars with seriously lower emissions have to be hugely more expensive. If you stay with the same model you drive now, but outfit it with a smaller or smarter engine, you can still enjoy the space and safety features you're used to, but at a much higher fuel efficiency. Car manufacturers have been selling cars like that to everybody except Americans. A car with a smaller engine is cheaper, and the price difference might easily be enough to offset a new car sales tax.

In Europe, the average emission in 2010 was 140g/km, or the equivalent of the CAFE standard in 2018, and the European Energy Agency (EEA) is tightening the target average for 2015 to 130g/km, roughly corresponding to the CAFE standard of 2022. So CAFE is 7 - 8 years behind on the EEA requirement.

Here's the reality: Global car manufacturers have met the CAFE requirement for 2013 years ago: those gas sipper versions of your car have already been designed, built, sold and driven around for years. Time to get them stateside.

For we need to start now. If you wait till the price of gas becomes acutely painful, it will already be too late.


March 19, 2012

Review: 2012 Mazda 3 / Mazda Axela

CelloDad suggested checking out the Mazda 3, so off I went, cello in hand, to the Mazda dealer. The Mazda 3 comes in sedan and hatchback versions; and for the sake of climate control for the cello, I was more interested in the hatchback.

This is a good-looking car, although the lines could be cleaner to my taste. At least the front has a cheerful appearance. However, as with many other cars, the bottoms of the side windows lie on a line trending up towards the back of the car; it just seems to be the unfortunate fashion right now. I went to sit on the back seat and sure enough, if I were any shorter (or an average child younger than 12 not using a booster seat), I would have to crane my neck to see the road surface in the car's lane. Meaning the bottom of the window is too high for road-trip fun.

The unfortunate who has to sit behind CelloDad won't have too much leg space, either, since tall dad needs to scoot the passenger seat way back so his legs fit under the glove compartment. All in all it's pretty claustrophobic back there.

In the driver's seat it's roomy enough, and everything is within reach of my short arms, always a plus. The dealer didn't have a standard-transmission hatchback on the lot (manual transmission is only "standard" outside the US), so I had to be content with trying the gear box in a 2010 sedan. I found the stick a little sticky. But perhaps it a moot point: this is one of those models where the automatic version comes with a smart, electronically controlled transmission that gets slightly better mileage than the manual version. That may explain why there are no manual-transmission examples on the dealer lot. (Also, as always, the auto version is more expensive than the one with standard transmission).

I went around to the back and stuffed the cello in the trunk. It fits exactly, thanks to a small space between the wheel well and the rear (bafflingly, only present on the right-hand side of the trunk; I'm not sure what's behind the wall on the left-hand side). Then again, this is the 3/4 cello; a full-sized cello wouldn't fit in the trunk like that.

Under the hood, I would have a "choice" of two engines, both running on regular unleaded: either a 2.5L, 167hp engine (20 / 28 mpg) or one of Mazda's new(ish) SkyActiv engines, that gets a gratifyingly high fuel efficiency thanks to a larger-than-usual compression ratio in the cylinders, 12:1 in this 2.0L version (152hp, 27 / 38 mpg).

Consider this: The SkyActiv engine delivers 9% less power, but gets 35% better fuel efficiency, and is $2500 cheaper than the standard 2.5L engine: why think about that choice? Here is one clear example of how going with less power under the hood saves you money both in the purchase and in the operation of the car.

But if you care to look a little farther afield, you will see even better options.

The Mazda 3 hatchback is sold around the world outfitted with a bewildering array of engine options, carefully tuned to the local market. In Japan, where it is called the Mazda Axela, it comes only with gasoline engines. I can see the need for offering diesels in Europe, but you wonder why they bother to keep both the 1.5L and the 1.6L gasoline engines instead of consolidating and streamlining the collection: surely the latter would result in savings in design and inventory management.


Mazda 3/Axela Sport Hatchback

104HP 1.6L gasoline (31mpg) £ 14,995
110HP 1.5L gasoline 15.6km/L JC08
114HP 1.6L Diesel (46mpg) £ 17,195
142HP 2.0L gasoline 4WD 11.2km/L JC08
149HP 2.2L Diesel (40mpg) £ 20,095
150HP 2.0L gasoline (27mpg) £ 19,195
152HP 2.0L gasoline [27/38 mpg] $ 19,300
167HP 2.5L gasoline [20/28 mpg] $ 21,800
183HP 2.2L Diesel (41mpg) £ 21,195


MazdaSpeed / MPS
263HP 2.3L gasoline (23mpg) £ 23,395

As is often the case, the two versions sold in the US require the most gasoline to run, with the possible exception of the four-wheel drive 2.0L sold in the UK. And of course the sporty MPS version, called the MazdaSpeed in Japan, that delivers 263hp.

This lineup really shows the attraction of diesel: the 2.2L, 183hp diesel version delivers more power than either US version at a significantly higher fuel efficiency, even compared to the SkyActiv model (which Mazda doesn't even offer in the UK).

For an apples-to-apples comparison, let's consider the 1.6L gasoline engine (31 mpg, 104hp), and compare that to the 1.6L diesel version (46 mpg, 114hp), both for sale in the UK. Over the 150,000 mile lifetime of the car, you would need 1580 fewer gallons to run the diesel. At today's diesel prices of around $4.25 per gallon, that's a saving of $6700, more than the price difference of the two cars (£2,200, $3,500). Diesel in the UK costs about twice as much, so the choice there is doubly clear - especially if you factor in the fact that the diesel engine runs cleaner and therefore gets hit with a lower annual road tax.

If the Mazda 3 hatchback with the 2.2L, 148hp diesel engine were made available in the US, it would cost a lot less than suggested by the UK price tag (which includes all sorts of vehicle taxes). Considering that diesel engines in general have a proven record of longevity, the diesel might just be the better option in the long run.

That is to say, if the cello player is also the driver, and has no children. Then the cello can occupy the back seat; it has no need to look out of the window anyway.


Mazda 3 hatchback, Same-Model comparison, different engines

Mazda 3 5-dr (US) Mazda 3 5-dr (UK)
Type i Touring
SkyActiv 2.0L
2.2L Diesel
Year 2012 2012
Emissions rating EURO 5 "E"
MSRP $19,300 £ 20,095
(US$ 31,800)
CelloMom Rating
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 27 / 38 mpg  
Avg. quoted   139 g CO2/km
Avg. actual   45 mpg

SkyActiv 2.0L DOCH
4-cyl VVT

2.2L Diesel DOCH
Power 155 hp @ 6000rpm 148 hp @ 3500rpm
Gears 6-spd man 6-spd man
Fuel regular unleaded diesel
Length, mm(in) 177.4 in (4506 mm)  
Width, mm(in) 69.1 in (1755 mm)  
Height, mm(in) 57.9 in (1471 mm)  
Weight, kg(lbs) 2896 lbs (1314 kg)  
Trunk volume, liters(cuft) 17.0 / 42.8 cuft  
Turning radius, m(ft) 34.2 ft c-c  
Top speed, kph(mph)    

March 14, 2012

The coveted "Zero Emissions Vehicle" label.

Talk about green hype. There is no doubt that zero tailpipe emissions helps keep down smog, one of those nasty side effects of operating millions of cars in a tight space like a metropolis. I hope by now you've realised that even most electric vehicles (EVs) are not really zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) unless they're powered by sun, wind or water.

But the ZEV label gets bandied about anyway: it sounds so - green. It's pleasing to the green-leaning ear, and pleasing to regulators who want to keep smog down in their large cities, and so what if the coal-powered electric plants powering the EVs still emit soot and carbon dioxide elsewhere.

Let us be clear about it: zero is zero. It is not low. It is not very low, and not even ultra-low. It's zero. Zilch. Nada. 0, the unique and magical number.

Let me be brutally clear about it: Zero is like pregnant. Either you are pregnant, or you are not pregnant. You can't be partially pregnant. Similarly, either you have zero emissions, or you don't have zero emissions. If you cause even a teeny puff of greenhouse gas emissions, even far away from your tailpipe, you don't have zero emissions.

But the ZEV label is so highly coveted that, pretty much meaningless to begin with, it is now plastered on cars that have a highly dubious claim on the label. That's greenwashing for you.


While all literature on electric vehicles jubilantly proclaim "Zero Emissions", I propose they really ought to be labeled "Emissions Elsewhere Vehicles".

Owners may present the proper paperwork proving that their electricity is obtained from sources emitting no greenhouse gases to get an upgrade to the "ZEV" sticker. This sticker entitles them to a hefty tax rebate, zero-toll lanes on all toll roads, tunnels and bridges, preferred parking spots at malls, and other perks that turn regular drivers green with envy. Maybe green enough that they also get a car like that.


There are now lots of wannabe-ZEV cars that sport the PZEV label, some of them brazenly stuck on the rear. It stands for the mathematically ridiculous "Partial Zero Emission Vehicle". Some of these cars don't even do all that well on fuel efficiency.

That's like wearing those fake leather jackets that are basically vinyl plastic treated with a synthetic "leatherette" smell: ugh. Or a fake Rolex watch. It would be fairly simple (and a great hack on your green-snob neighbour) to add stick-on letters to make the label read NRZEV, for "Not Really a Zero Emission Vehicle".


As any child can tell you, excluding is mean, and not tolerated on most playgrounds. Why shouldn't even the largest trucks and SUVs be allowed to play? Let them have the DNZEV label; I bet that would help sales. Even if the label would mean "Definitely Not Zero Emission Vehicle".


March 8, 2012

Is a natural-gas car a cents-ible choice?

The Obama administration is proposing a $10,000 tax credit for consumers buying a car running on alternative fuels. That includes electricity, hydrogen, and natural gas. It so happens that I was at the local Honda dealer yesterday, getting answers to my questions about the reality of ownership of a car running on compressed natural gas (CNG). Such cars are cleaner to run, and the price of natural gas, already low, is going down.

Cries of pain are heard at gasoline stations all around the nation as the price of a gallon of regular unleaded is close to $4 again. It's time to get used to it: 2012 is the year that oil consumption of OECD countries is surpassed by that of non-OECD countries. China is ready to add 125 million cars to its roads in the next five years, and all those extra cars will compete for the same pool of oil with everybody else's cars on the planet.
Remember Economics 101? Supply same, demand up: price up.

So the proposed tax credit for alternative technology vehicles comes at a good time (also, it's an election year). Its generous nature can be taken as a sign of the administration's outlook on the price of gasoline: it is not optimistic.

On the other hand, natural gas is starting to look more and more attractive. Whatever your opinion of modern fracking methods, they are effective at unlocking the vast reserves of natural gas in ancient North-American shale deposits, and that success is reflected in the steadily declining price of gas. Natural gas that is, mostly a mixture of methane (CH4) and ethane (C2H6).

Never mind, for now, how a natural-gas engine works. First let's look into some practical issues. Such as price, and where to get fuel.

Several auto manufacturers are fielding natural-gas cars, but because I was just at the Honda dealer I'll use as an example the Honda Civic, which comes in various flavours, including a hybrid version and one running on natural gas. The natural-gas version starts at $26,155, and I will compare that to the basic Civic (MSRP $15,805). This is not strictly an apples-to-apples comparison, as the CNG Civic has a 110hp engine whereas the conventional gasoline engine in the basic Civic gives 140 hp. On the other hand, the CNG version comes packaged with some bells and whistles such as Bluetooth capability that are extra-cost options on the basic Civic.

Personally, I'm not into bells and whistles, so I'm comparing the simplest conventional Civic, the version I would normally gravitate to, to the simplest CNG Civic. Let us ignore the $10,000 tax credit (which for now is only a proposal, anyway), and see if the purchase of a CNG makes sense.

My first question to my friendly dealer: where do I fill up?

My dealer's face lit up; he was happy to inform me that if I buy Honda's optional navigation system (for an additional $1500), it can direct me to the nearest CNG filling station. Recharging the pressurised gas tanks is a matter of minutes. However, in the demo it turned out that I live about 25 miles from the nearest station. Oops.

A car is for my convenience: if I have to drive 25 miles to fill it up, that is not convenient.

However, the heat and hot water in my house are fuelled by natural gas. One option would be to install my own filling station, which is just a pressuriser hooked up to my existing gas supply line, and I can fill up right on my own driveway. I can buy such a device for around $5,000 including installation.

Between the price difference with a conventional Civic, the navigation system, and the charging system, I would be paying about $17,000 more to own the CNG Civic. No wonder there aren't that many of those on the road, despite the fact that a CNG car puts out significantly less emissions: no soot particles, no SOx, and about 20% less CO2.

But the rising oil prices, and the declining natural gas prices, might just put a different slant on that. So let's do the math and see how it works out. (By the way, never take a blogger's word for it: Always check my math - I would be grateful for any corrections, for one - and that way, at the end you can input the numbers that are appropriate to your situation, and come to your own conclusions).

First issue: the fuel efficiency of the CNG car. Here, as with EVs, there is a "gasoline gallon equivalent", or GGE, which is easy on the brain but is pretty much meaningless until you figure out how to convert that to the therms reported on your home utility bill. 1 GGE = 127 cuft. natural gas = 1.27 therms.

Last month, our house used 150 therms for which we paid $150, so household gas costs us about PCNG = $1 per therm. (Remember, this is a rough estimate, I'm happy to get within 10% of the actual number).

Okay. The brochure says the CNG Civic gets 31MPGGE (miles per GGE), so each mile I would drive this car would cost me

($1/therm) * (1.27 therm/GGE) * (GGE / 31 mile) = $0.04/mile

That sounds good! especially compared to the cost of driving a mile in the conventional Civic which gets 32 mpg on average:

($4 /gal) * (gal / 32 mile) = $ 0.125 / mile

So the per-mile cost of running the CNG car is only a third that of a conventional car. But is that difference enough to offset the higher purchase price?

A few nitty-gritty details: I'm going to call the price of gasoline Pg (in $/gallon) and the price of natural gas PCNG (in $/therm). Both prices can and will change over the lifetime of the car. I take the "lifetime" of the car to be 150,000 miles, the current average mileage at which US cars are retired from service. And I will call D the difference between the total purchase price of the CNG and that of the conventional car. For my personal case with the Civic, D = $17,000.

The cost difference C between driving 150,000 miles in the two kinds of cars is

C = 150,000 * [  (Pg / MPG) − (1.27 * PCNG / MPGGE) ]

Fill in the numbers: For the Civic I was looking at, MPG=32mpg for the conventional version, MPGGE=31mpGGE for the CNG version, so at the current gasoline price of $4/gallon, it's C = $15,000 cheaper to run the CNG Civic than its conventional brother, over their average lifetime: that's almost enough to cover the D = $17,000 price difference.

If gasoline were to cost $6 / gallon, the CNG car would be more than $22,000 cheaper to run: that's $5,000 more than the price difference, even if the tax credit never made it into law.

The break-even price, or the price of gasoline at which owning the CNG costs as much over its lifetime as owning the conventional car (C = D), is:

Pgb = MPG * [ (D / 150,000) + (1.27 * PCNG / MPGGE) ]

So for our example, without tax credit and having to install your own charger at your house (D=$17,000) Pgb = $ 4.90. If the price of gasoline rises above that, you would be better off with the CNG car.

Now: If you did get the full proposed tax credit (D = $7,000) then Pgb = $ 2.77. In that case it would make financial sense to buy the CNG Civic right now, since regular unleaded is at $4/gallon, higher than Pgb. And if the price of gasoline were to rise to the $6/gallon level, you would come out ahead big time. IF, that is, the price of gas remains low. As a caveat: it has been volatile in the last decade; for instance, in late 2008 it was more than 4 times higher than is it now.

My last question to the Honda dealer: has he ever actually been behind the wheel of a CNG Civic? (I wanted his opinion on the handling of the CNG with its 100hp, versus the 140hp in the conventional Civic). But he had to admit that he had never done so: the one remaining CNG at the dealership had only a little bit of gas in its tank, and it would have to be put on a truck and hauled 25 miles away for a recharge. My mercantile instincts, never far from the surface, came bubbling up, and I told him that if I ended up buying a CNG car and installing a charging station at my house, I would be willing to sell him my locally compressed gas.

If you do live close enough to a public CNG charging station, you can buy a recharge at about $2.40 per GGE. That's more than what you pay if you used your own charging station, but then, you don't have the expense of installing the charging station.

If you got this far in this post, you should now be able to figure out how the comparison shakes out in that case. You can also include the effects of any tax credits or rebates. More than that, you can put in numbers for your choice of CNG car, as well as your own estimates for how gasoline and gas prices will behave in the next decade, and make up your own mind as to whether or not CNG makes sense for you.



You may also like:
1. Is Energy from Natural Gas Cleaner than from Coal?


March 6, 2012

Review: Honda Fit Shuttle / Fit Shuttle Hybrid

The Honda Fit can be seen more and more often on US roads. It's hard to argue with its distinctive jazzy styling, the sparkling choice of colours and, best of all, its 35mpg fuel efficiency (for manual transmission). But let's face it, with a length just over 4m there isn't much room for growth.

For those who love the Fit but are looking for space to stow a full-sized cello, the introduction of the Fit Shuttle is good news. The Shuttle is the wagon version of the Fit, and I suppose with the additional foot in length it's fit to shuttle your crew plus sports equipment and musical instruments around their various venues.

The extra length goes not only into a much larger cargo space, but also into more leg space for the passengers. The cargo space is thresholdless, and the second row of seats fold flat to give six feet worth of flat-bottom storage space that could probably sleep two, as long as you're not too tall. The total width is nearly 1m, or just about twice the width of a standard sleeping mat.

The Fit Shuttle, introduced in Japan in June 2011, comes with either the 1.5L gasoline engine familiar to US Fit owners, or a 1.3L hybrid that gets 59 mpg according to the JC08 standard. The latter tends to overstate such things; I estimate its real-life on-the-road fuel efficiency to be around 42-45 mpg. Accordingly, the dashboard lighting is a cool blue, which is the new green.

Even in Japan the introduction of the Fit Shuttle saw a few months' delay following the devastation of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Rumours are rife on whether or when the Fit Shuttle will make it to US dealers. My guess is that we will keep waiting for a while. Even in Europe they still have to make do with the regular Fit, (with either a 1.2L or a 1.4L gasoline engine).

When it does come here, I hope Honda will make the passenger-aid option available, where the passenger seat turns out towards the side, making it much easier to get in and out of the car. I know a number of people who would be grateful to have that option.


Honda Fit / Fit Shuttle / Fit Shuttle Hybrid.

Fit Fit Shuttle Fit Shuttle
Type 1.5L man 15C FF Hybrid-C
Year 2012 2012 2012
Emissions rating ULEV-2    
MSRP $ 15,175 ¥ 1,610,000
$ 19,700

¥ 1,810,000
$ 22,128

CelloMom Rating      
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 27 / 33 mpg    
Avg. quoted 29 mpg 44 mpg (JC08) 59 mpg (JC08)
Avg. actual 34 mpg 32 mpg 42-45 mpg est.

1.5L 4-cyl

MF6 (100V)
Power 117 hp
117 hp
87hp 5800rpm
Gears 5-spd man CVT auto CVT auto
Fuel Reg. unleaded    
Length, mm(in) 4105mm (161.6in) 4410mm  
Width, mm(in) 1694mm (66.7in) 1695mm  
Height, mm(in) 1524mm (60.0in) 1540mm  
Weight, kg(lbs) 1132kg (2496 lbs) 1140 kg 1190 kg
Trunk volume, liters(cuft) 20.6 / 57.3 cuft    
Turning dia, m(ft) 10.5m (34.4 ft)    
Top speed, kph(mph)