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

Chevrolet Silverado 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 Sonata

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

Toyota 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

Honda 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

Lexus RX

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:


  • Will S

    Thanks for the roundup. A few promising ones there, though the Sierra and RX 45h stick out like sore thumbs in terms of fuel economy. It’s clear the days of conspicuous overconsumption are over for the vast majority of car buyers, few of who will have the money to buy a car the way they used to.

  • Buster

    About time,

    With battery technologies improving, as well as the ability to rejuvenate batteries to better than new now, all the needed support for battery powered vehicles is finally coming together at the same time. When people see cost of replacing batteries, they will be shocked, so with this new rejuvenator radiant pulse wave technology, now you won’t have to replace batteries.

    Battery-Busters

  • Paul Rivers

    Any time there’s a mention of replacing batteries, even if it isn’t one of the typical hysterical ones from someone who thinks hybrid batteries constantly wear out (they don’t – at least not any more than the transmission or engine wears out) I feel obligated to provide info on battery replacement. From:
    http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/2008/09/toyota-lowers-price-on-prius-replacement-batteries-says-business-slow—for-now.html

    “The carmaker isn’t doing much business in replacement batteries though – with some 500,000 Priuses now on the road in this country fewer than 300 battery packs have been replaced, and many of those were batteries damaged in accidents.”

    “In dollars…that’s a new price of…$2,588 for the present generation batteries.”

    Or from:
    http://www.hybridcars.com/service/consumer-reports-hybrids-are-very-reliable-25189.html

    “Hybrid cars outscored other vehicle segments for reliability, according to the Consumer Reports Annual Car Reliability Survey, released on Thursday. Nine hybrid models were included in the survey of 1.4 million subscribers of Consumer Report. All the hybrids earned above-average predicted-reliability ratings.

    Some consumers have expressed concerns about reliability of hybrid batteries and other components. “We haven’t actually seen that,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Division. “They all get **better** reliability than their regular counterparts. They seem to be very reliable.” “

  • Cal

    Love that new Honda Insight, but doesn’t it seem like it should be getting higher that the mid 40s mileage?
    I was looking forward to these as an alternative to the Aptera that I’m currently waiting for but if the Insight mileage is that low, I think I’ll stick with the Aptera.
    Of course, nothing compares to the Aptera’s 300 mpg mark.

    The Silverado is missing the mark too. I have a Dodge Cummins P/U and consistently get 25 on the hwy. So it’s really tough to justify the cost of the new Silverado hybrid for sure.

  • Bryce

    What is wrong with the Camry’s nose there. It has already been proven by consumers that they want grills, even though they are not really necesary. Good thing it is just a concept.

    I am looking forward to the Insight and the Fusion hybrid. Should be nice vehicles. I wonder how each will be priced. : )

  • Craig

    I don’t understand the anger towards hybrid pickups. Frankly, there are still a TON of people that NEED pickup trucks. Anything to make them more efficient is welcome. If you can make them more efficient while maintaining the power levels that users need and expect, more the better.

  • Fred Slate

    The anger about pickups is from city people that just see them being driven by people in suits, not people that need to haul stuff. The anticipation of higher future gas prices is causing plenty of people to forget about the truck altogether. Now there is another option.

    The open question I have is whether people who don’t really need it will use the increased mileage as an excuse to get a full sized hybrid pickup.

    I’m considering an Escape hybrid. But the inside looks the same size has a conventional camry station wagon. Station wagons are out of fashion, but are more efficient SUVs. So I’ll get at the Escape for how other people judge it, not out of a functionality, cost analysis.

  • Paul Beerkens

    The anger about hybrid pickups as well is that a lot of people think they need a pickup. Very few people actually do. Also a lot of people who need a pickup only need it a couple of times a year. A rental would be a good option in those cases.

  • Bill Cosworth

    Wow the fusion hybrid is nice.

    Now that Ford Quality is better than Toyota should outsell the Camey.

  • Bryce

    the escape is actually on a car base platform and not a truck one, making it, and just about all other small suv vehicles, station wagons, or as the called now, crossovers.

  • Gerald Shields

    Actually, I thought that GM and Chrysler wasn’t going to be at the show due to it’s issues. Did they change their minds?

  • Samie

    Why hate on trucks? I love that they are attempting to increase efficiency in trucks. Maybe we will see CNG in trucks but as for the Toyota CNG Camry Hybrid will I hope they run it into a wall, wrong approach. But anyways people actually do use trucks despite the annoying big shot contractors or the those who have some weird complex before you rule all people into your stereotypes check for some actual ware on the truck and that they have a actual hitch. Not very one is trying to overcompensate, some actually use trucks for work or for hauling things….

    Go Honda Insight!!!!
    Interesting to see what the Prius Club thinks about some real competition for once.

  • Will S

    I don’t thing anyone *hates* trucks, but sees them as being little more than a bubba image machine vs. something that is actually *needed* for people to carry out their work duties. Hauling truly heavy items (deck materials) from Home Depot is a rare event; I have materials like that delivered for a minor price, or rent one of their trucks, still saving $1000s per year in gas costs. Towing boats, campers, cycle/quads, etc are *wants* that are a part of America’s addiction to oil. We can’t make progress towards energy independence if we still try to justify a 19mpg hybrid truck for anything but heavy work vs. play.

  • mdensch

    Gary Shields:

    GM and Chrysler will be at the show but they won’t be offering splashy product previews because of the high cost of bringing in the foreign press. They are holding off until the Detroit show in January.

    The hybrid trucks will be in LA but aren’t really news as they basically use the same system as the Tahoe.

  • John K.

    I find people’s reaction re full-size pickups funny: the freedom loving “liberals” who are pro-choice re abortion, drugs and sexual behaviors say “Nyet! Nyet!” (or should that be “Nein! Nein!”?) Whereas the “conservatives” who are supposed to be “narrow minded,” say “Leave them alone. Let them buy what they want w/their money. It’s none of your business.”

    What I want is a Honda Civic *Coupe* hybrid. I’d LOVE it if it were CNG or a PHEV. I’d REALLY LOVE it if it were both: a CNG PHEV! I’d NEVER send another penny to OPEC (for fuel). Honda could make a CNG hybrid Civic right now since they currently offer both hybrid Civics and CNG Civics. Just combine the two. Add a plug in a year or two when Li ion prices fall low enough.

    ETA: I’d also LOVE a PHEV version of the Ford Fusion. Eight miles at under 47 mph of pure electric driving would mean that many urban commuters would not need to use gasoline during their commute IF the Fusion was a PHEV. Ford, please add the plug ! ! ! Ford would be able to steal the thunder away from GM and the Chevy Volt.

    For me, if Ford made the Fusion a CNG PHEV, that would be GREAT!

  • Fred Slate

    If the Fusion engine doesn’t kick in until 47 mph, I predict that there will be a third party plug-in kit available withing 1 year. Load trunk with more batteries and hack the computer.

  • John Acheson

    John,
    With your current ride or any car or truck for that matter,
    if you don’t want to send your money to certain places,
    simply do the research and vote with your wallet,
    not your automobile!

    For example,
    a US Bank teller the other day in a Northern CA town,
    firmly stated that local Arco buys all American oil
    and if the refineries, trucks and gas stations
    are owned by hard working Americans or
    citizens paying taxes to your country,
    then you can actually help by sending
    your money to the network of choice.

    GPS and website can help you find
    the gasoline infrastructures that you choose.

  • Brittany Powell

    I think these cars are the best it may not pick up its speed untill it reaches 47mph that would be the car i would buy. The cars are the best and if you do’n’t think so you don’t know what your missin, they ride nice and they are the best to show off. So go out and buy one.

  • Brittany Powell

    Yeah Right I would Buy This car if i had the money.

  • Brittany Powell

    Gerald Shields yes they did change their minds