London Motor Show Goes Green, Green, Green
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Most manufacturers are touting green “sub-brands,” from Ford’s ECOnetic line to the ECOmotive models from Spain’s Seat. And this seems to matter to buyers, at least according to the Clean Green Cars website. UK sales by manufacturers with the highest average CO2 emissions fell faster from January to June than did those for lower-emitting makes. It’s also worth nothing that cars with CO2 levels below 100 g/km are exempt from various annual taxes and from the pricey congestion charge to enter Central London on weekdays.
Small Car Launches
Easily the show’s most important global launch was General Motors’ Insignia—to be sold as a Vauxhall in the UK, an Opel elsewhere in Europe, and possibly the next Saturn Aura in the States. The midsize sedan and hatchback offer a drag coefficient of just 0.26, adaptive all-wheel-drive, adaptive headlights, and a camera system that reads lane markings and road signs too.
Just as important in this market was the UK launch of Ford’s new Fiesta, a super-mini that’s been a bestseller in the British Isles for more than 30 years. Ford heavily touted its Fiesta ECOnetic model, calling it the “greenest family car” on the market, with CO2 emissions of just 98 grams per kilometer.
Norway’s 17-year-old Th!nk launched its revised City model, to go on sale in 2009. Unlike the bulk of electric cars now sold in the UK, the City is both crash-tested and highway-certified—a “real car,” in other words. It has a top speed of 65 mph and can travel for 126 miles in urban use when fully charged. The present battery uses Zebra sodium-nickel-hydride cells, but Th!nk has new partnerships with US-based lithium-ion cell makers EnerDel and A123 Systems.
Hydrogen fuel-cell cars are few and far between. Honda is exhibiting its FCX Clarity sedan—now being leased to a few selected drivers in Southern California—deeming it the first fuel cell car built on a standard production line. At a much smaller scale of green, GM offered journalists the use of a dozen laptops powered by small fuel cells (only six remained by the end of the day). But the most startling fuel cell concept came from an unlikely carmaker: the diehard eccentric traditionalist Morgan Motor Company. Its LIFEcar uses a 22-kW QinetiQ hydrogen fuel cell, sized to power the very lightweight car at cruising speeds, plus up to 10 seconds of maximum acceleration from a bank of ultracapacitors rather than a battery.