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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Setting the record straight

Corrections department:

I got an e-mail from Loren Beard, a chemist for DaimlerChrysler whom I misrepresented as an engineer in my post on the biodiesel tour last week. It sounds like I was a bit harsh on the Jeep Liberty--I'll let Loren set the record straight:

I read your post on April 11. Thanks for taking the time to listen to our ideas. I'd like to make just a couple of points.

1. I am not a DaimlerChrysler Engineer, but am a DaimlerChrysler Chemist.
2. If I appeared "inordinately" proud of the Liberty, it reflects the pride I have in my colleagues for the work they have done in bringing this very customer-friendly vehicle to market.
3. Before you compare the Liberty diesel to the Escape hybrid, you should be aware of a few things. The Escape has a rated towing capacity of 1,000 pounds. The Liberty can tow 5,000 pounds. The off-road capabilities of the Liberty diesel and Escape hybrid are worlds apart. 21/26 is actually best-in-class for a vehicle this size with these capabilities. Within the industry, and people who follow it, there is a huge debate about the EPA stated fuel economy numbers for hybrids. Since the principle value of a hybrid is in its ability to recapture energy lost to heat during breaking to charge the battery, these vehicles tend to show much lower fuel economy on highway cycles, where driving is steady state, and the electric motor and battery are just added weight, while the downsized engine is working harder and less efficiently. Hybrids are at their best under cyclic city driving under fairly low load conditions. Evidence: The biggest practical market for hybrid vehicles is the growing mass transit bus fleet, which, due to its cyclical driving patterns is experiencing very big fuel efficiency gains with hybrids.
4. I was at OU to talk about diesel and biodiesel. This is not my only area of interest. We are also looking into hybrids, and have recently announced a joint venture with GM to develop a generation of hybrids which will leap-frog the Prius-type technology. Different customers have different needs. If a customer wants a small SUV, with some 4WD capability - maybe to get out of a snow-drifted driveway in Oakland County in March, needs limited (or no) towing capacity, then the Escape hybrid might be their car. If you want tow a boat to Cheboygan, and then drive some of the sand/mud roads up there, or if you want to deal with a truly nasty snow storm, you might want to consider the Liberty diesel. A typical suburban commuter may experience very big fuel economy benefits from a hybrid passenger car, and we will offer one soon.

Keep up the good work, and thanks again for taking an interest in our new Jeep.

I'll add, also, that although DC doesn't yet warranty running the Liberty on 100% renewable American-produced fuel, it is certainly possible, which is not the case with the Escape. Please note that Loren did not endorse this addition!