2008 LA Auto Show: Top 7 Hybrids
Hybrids will take center stage at 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show, which opens to the public on Nov. 21. Thirty hybrid models will be on display—revealing the diversity of options coming to the market, including small affordable hybrid cars, luxury hybrids, sporty hybrids, hybrid crossover SUVs, hybrid pickups, and even a Toyota Camry Hybrid concept that runs on a combination of electric power and compressed natural gas.
The show will also feature a number of other “alternative” vehicles, including clean diesel, natural gas, electric, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. We’ll report on all of these options—but for now, we focus on the seven most newsworthy hybrid models from LA.
1Honda Insight Hybrid Concept
The 2010 Honda Insight will make its US debut in Los Angeles, after an unveiling at the Paris Auto Show last month. The new 2010 Honda Insight, which hits showroom in April, is highly anticipated by hybrid fans because of the car’s heritage as the first hybrid in the US. It was the only mainstream vehicle to surpass the 60-mpg mark. Moreover, the original two-seat version has been reborn as a practical four-door model—and at the affordable price of about $19,000. At that price, the Honda Insight could immediately become one of the most popular hybrids on the road. Honda aims to sell 100,000 units in 2009. No definitive word yet on fuel economy, but it’s expected to hit the mid- to high-40 mpg range.
2Ford Fusion Hybrid & Mercury Milan Hybrid
Ford will use the Los Angeles show to unveil its first hybrid sedans: the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid. The company gave the 2010 Ford Fusion a new more muscular look, but it’s the Ford hybrid engineers who will be flexing their muscles. The Fusion Hybrid and Milan Hybrid can travel as a fast as 47 miles per hour, and as far as eight miles, solely on electric power. That’s impressive, but it’s the fuel economy—approximately 39 miles per gallon in the city—that will turn heads (and hopefully drive the sales that Ford so desperately needs). The pair of hybrid sedans arrives in Spring 2009.
3Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid & GMC Sierra Hybrid
Production of the auto industry’s first full-hybrid pickup trucks, the Silverado Hybrid and Sierra Hybrid, begins in December of 2008 with delivery to dealers expected in early 2009. You might not be overwhelmed by the idea of a large 332-horsepower V8 vehicle from The General—or the combined fuel economy of 21 mpg—but that is a 30 to 35 percent improvement over the conventional pickups. And for customers who need a full-size truck with plenty of power and towing capacity, it’s a nice step up in efficiency. Moreover, it represents the migration of hybrid technology to one of the most popular vehicle segments in the US. Price is just under $40,000.
4Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
Hyundai will launch its first hybrid, a gas-electric version of the Sonata, in Los Angeles. Earlier this year, the company announced that the Sonata Hybrid will reach the North American market in 2010—and will use next-generation lithium ion batteries. The LA Show will be an opportunity for Hyundai to confirm details about the Sonata Hybrid, such as fuel economy (expected in the low 30-mpg range) and price (anybody’s guess at this point). The introduction of the Sonata Hybrid means that the field of moderately priced full-hybrid sedans—Prius, Fusion, Camry and now Sonata—is really starting to heat up.
5Toyota CNG Camry Hybrid
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is a clean fuel, and there’s a strong domestic supply in the United States. Awareness of the energy security benefits of CNG has been gaining momentum recently, thanks to T. Boone Pickens and his Pickens Plan. Given the American public’s lack of familiarity with natural gas as a transportation fuel, and the current lack of refueling access for mainstream consumers, CNG advocates will be fighting an uphill battle. (As Pickens acknowledges, CNG is better suited to the needs of truckers.) Nonetheless, Toyota built the Camry CNG Hybrid—as a concept vehicle only—to demonstrate the flexibility of its hybrid system to accommodate different fuel sources. That’s especially important for many global markets, where CNG is more commonly used to power cars.
6Honda CR-Z Hybrid Concept
The Honda CR-Z Hybrid Concept has been making the auto show rounds for a couple of years now. So, there’s nothing especially new to report about the car, which was designed to show that small can be sporty and futuristic. But the fact that the company continues to show the vehicle indicates the seriousness of its focus on hybrid small cars—while allowing diesel and other strategies to prevail for larger vehicles. Honda’s small hybrid strategy—combining the benefits of great mileage and affordability—is making company execs look like the smartest kids on the block.
7Lexus RX 450h
By most standards, the Lexus RX 400h SUV hybrid, has been a smash success. Significant numbers of Lexus SUV buyers have opted for the “hybrid upgrade,” making the Lexus RX 400h almost as popular as the Ford Escape Hybrid and Toyota Highlander hybrid—despite the steeper price tag. Now, the RX will get an update—and the name will change to RX 450h. Lexus promises better efficiency, more power, and more luxury features. Combined with a new, more efficient inverter, the total system output will be 295 horsepower, 27 more horsepower than the current generation RX hybrid. The RX 450h hybrid will have its own unique styling features, including an exclusive grille, hybrid badging including blue-trimmed Lexus logos, unique front bumper, a special 19-inch optional wheel design, blue-tinted headlamps and tail lamps, and optional LED headlamps. The 2010 RX 450h will reach dealerships nationwide in the spring.
Other hybrids on the show floor include:
- BMW 7-Series Hybrid Concept
- BMW X6 Hybrid Concept
- Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
- Chevrolet Volt (Plug-in Hybrid)
- Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
- Chrysler Aspen Hybrid
- Ford Escape Hybrid
- GMC Yukon Hybrid
- Honda Civic Hybrid
- Lexus GS 450h
- Mazda Tribute Hybrid
- Mercury Mariner Hybrid
- Nissan Altima Hybrid
- Saturn Aura Hybrid
- Saturn Vue Two-Mode Hybrid
- Toyota Camry Hybrid
- Toyota Highlander Hybrid
- Toyota Prius