Electric Cars in LA Limelight

All but a handful of cars on the floor of the LA Auto Show, which runs through Nov. 30, have combustion engines—including quite a few diesels—but electric cars are getting their moment in the spotlight at the greenest of US auto shows.

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of both Nissan and French carmaker Renault, gave the keynote address to kick off the show’s media days. After nodding to the severe financial pressures facing all carmakers in the current market slowdown, he reiterated Nissan’s plans to offer an electric vehicle in the US and Japan in 2010 for commercial customers and large fleets, with showroom sales to consumers in 2012. Ghosn envisions as many as seven million pure electric vehicles being sold around the world by 2020—given the necessary investment from auto companies and governments. That figure would represent about 10 percent of the total market.

Ghosn pointed out that Nissan has experimented with lithium ion batteries to power vehicles since 1992, and now owns its own lithium ion battery company, through a joint venture. He envisions a lineup of electric vehicles shared by Nissan and Renault, from a small urban vehicle to a minivan, and even a 4×4 or sport utility. Each of these must be appealing on its own, he stressed, offering every capacity that standard cars do, with zero emissions as “the cherry on the cake.”

An exclusive HybridCars.com interview with Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning. Perry talked about the company’s design approach for electric vehicles, production capacity for batteries, and why all-electric cars are better than plug-in hybrids.

Ghosn also described Nissan’s partnerships with countries, states, and regions willing to share the costs of rolling out public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles—including the State of Oregon, as well as local utility Portland General Electric, which joined such locales as Israel, Denmark, Portugal, Japan’s Kanagawa Province, and the state of Tennessee. (A day after Ghosn’s keynote, California’s Sonoma County was added to the growing list.)

Ghosn did not reveal details about the design of any electric cars from Nissan, but a few days later, in an exclusive interview with HybridCars.com, Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning, confirmed that the company’s electric vehicles will be purpose-built and not based on existing models. “We want to make sure it’s iconic, as something different, unique and futuristic,” said Perry at the San Francisco Auto Show. “But not in a Blade Runner, George Jetson kind of way.”

Excitement about Mini E

Mini E at the Los Angeles Auto Show

The world debut of the all-electric Mini E at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Without a prototype or even a concept drawing of any of its upcoming EVs, Nissan was upstaged in LA by BMW, which showed the Mini E, an electric conversion of BMW’s popular Mini Cooper hatchback. The Mini E made its world debut amidst a crush of reporters and TV cameras. The car offers BMW a way to gather information on how drivers actually use electric vehicles, which it badly needs. The maker of ultimate driving machines has to come up to speed on EVs fast, as other automakers work toward rolling out electric-drive cars to meet increasingly stringent emissions laws in most major markets.

Some 500 Mini Es will be offered to carefully chosen consumers in California, New York, and New Jersey; more than 10,000 drivers have already applied to lease the cars, at $850 a month. The battery pack that replaces the rear seat links together 5,088 small lithium ion batteries (an approach similar to that used for the all-electric Tesla Roadster) for a total capacity of 35 kilowatt-hours. BMW quotes a range of more than 150 miles for the car, and 0-62-mph acceleration times of 8.5 seconds. A 150-kilowatt electric motor drives the front wheels through a single-speed gearbox, replacing the standard Mini’s engine and transmission. Each Mini E is supplied with a 240-Volt charger developed by long-time electric-drive pioneer AC Propulsion.

Judging from the car’s popularity on test drives—it was instantly booked, depriving dozens of disappointed journalists of the chance to drive it, including us—the idea of an electric car with sporty handling, sassy looks, and the backing of a major car company could be a real winner.

Another electric vehicle on display was the much-touted Chevrolet Volt, although its financially challenged parent General Motors had canceled its planned new-vehicle launches and media events. As a result, the Volt sat alone on its turntable within a large area sparsely populated with current GM vehicles.

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  • paul beerkens

    You make 500 cars and 10000 people sign up. This is so confusing. If there only was a way to find out if there is demand for vehicles like this. 😉

    Very brave of BMW to go for a “who killed the electrical car” style leasing program.

  • Picky McPicky

    So here we go again…An American Auto show in L.A…the cradle of Auto afficiandos and what does GM do?

    “Another electric vehicle on display was the much-touted Chevrolet Volt, although its financially challenged parent General Motors had canceled its planned new-vehicle launches and media events.”

    Why GM? Why? This is your chance to shine and instead…BMW steals the show with it’s Mini-E. 10,000 people sign up to pay a whopping $850 a month to be a part of a large scale research project? What does that tell us? Is Detroit missing the boat…once again?

    The Volt goes unpromoted and ignored. Shades of the EV-1? Is GM just giving up altogether? Do they see the writing on the wall? They won’t get their bail-out money it seems…have we seen the last of GM as we know it?

  • Picky McPicky

    One other thing…I haven’t paid much attention to auto shows press conferences in the past, but don’t you think that the backdrop for the keynote speaker is a little cheesey?

    A curtain, a foam board logo and a convention center standard steel frame costs about $200. Maybe, I shouldn’t complain…maybe we should applaud an industry for being austere for once.

  • Picky McPicky

    Interesting article on CNN Money titled:

    “Why Citibank got the Big 3’s Money.”


    There’s sentiment that supports my statements I made on other posts…It seems Congress too is tired of Detroits mistakes…

  • Bill Cosworth

    GM had a few people there here is something from You tube

    The Chevy Volt.


    I agree with GMs position in not advertising to conserve money in order to get though the tough times.

    They are doing it to protect american jobs not something to snear about.

  • Cindy Negroent

    Detroit made no more mistakes than Honda did making the Honda Ridgeline pickup truck Or Toyota making the tundra.

    Detroit makes mistakes but so does Toyota and Honda.

    The Banks are super greedy and I would give no money to them. They just take your money without giving you a product.

    Detroit also exercises fair trade practices and treats there workers well something Toyota does not.


    No matter how many mistakes Detroit makes.

    The biggest mistake is to support Toyota in buying into there fake PR, Bad labor practices.

    Also I would never get a Japanese car because we have a 600B trade deficit with Japan and we are not even allowed to sell cars there.

    Mistake is to buy Japanese and frankly I am tired of them.

  • Zack Freedman

    YA whats wrong with this site .

    This site is so anti-american.

    They are allways talking about foreign cars. I Am so tired of there stories bashing american products.

  • JH

    GM is not advertising the VOlt because as of right now it is the biggest piece of vaporware in the world…. the more mystery that surrounds it the better…..

    The volt will never be released….

  • Picky McPicky

    I am not anti-American. I am anti-mediocrity. Does Joe Torre continue to play a player that is batting beneath the Mendoza line or does he bench them and tell him to work with the hitting coach and work his way back into the line-up? Easy answer…he benches him.

    We are benching Detroit..Hey listen I benched Detroit in the 80’s…then, they made a mini-comeback and I bought a Jeep Grand Cerokee in the early 90’s. It was a huink of junk, but they did rope me back in. I was dying to buy American back then…and if that experience wasn’t so painful, I may have bought American again.

    Americans want to buy American, but are opting for the plastic, cheaper, me-too, asian models that the poster above referred to…Why?…maybe we want some value…and Detroit isn’t giving it to us…I don’t know the answer. All I know is that America isn’t buying American right now because we don’t like what they represent and what they have to offer.

    GM stated that it’s reputation would be forever soiled if they wnet into bankruptcy. If you ask me, they are doing themselves more public relations harm by begging for government entitlements and crying that they are running out of money.

    I read an article about people that are 6 months late on their mortgages, getting 3% interest rates to bail them out of foreclosure. The Times went to interview a family in need and found two expensive new German imports in their driveway, a 50″ flat screen and home theater system in their family room and nary a sign of hardship. There are similarities between that story and what is happening to Detroit. Detroit is like that family…Crying hardship, but unwilling to downsize to make ends meet.

  • $$$$’s & Sense

    GM, you want a plan to present to Congress in December. Here’s mine and it’s free!

    Here’s what GM needs to do. They need to discontinue Buick, Oldmoblie, Pontiac and GMC. They are just copy cats of each other and nobody cares about those brands anymore. Those are such Grandpa brands.

    Buick just severed their relationship with Tiger Woods (or maybe the opposite was true, who knows), but this could be the first sign of a Buick liquidation.

    GM should just concentrate on Chevy for the masses and Cadilac for the wealthy, just like Toyota does successfully with Lexus and it’s Toyota brands.

    Chevy stiil is Americana at its best, and can be marketed as a value conscious, eco friendly, fun, family brand.

    Caddies still have panache and are and can be equivalent to Mercedes Lexus, Inifiniti and BMW.

    Ford on ther other hand just needs to concentrate on the masses. get rid of the ugly big cars and concentrate on value.

    Chrysler is a mess. I don’t even know where to start with them.

    I agree with Pick. He has passion and some good ideas. Detroit is too fat and unfocused. I don’t know what GM even stands for anymore…to much confusion. They need to Trim the fat, fast.

  • sean t


    Did you read Bill C and Cindy N’s comments?

  • sean t

    I’m in for electric cars. I also like for the idea of regenerative braking. It saves the energy otherwise wasted.
    So, how about an electric car with regenerative braking (no ICE please), we already have the big battery on borad to store the energy from the braking action. In the long future, charging will be made fast enough.
    It’s my green dream, since I was a boy, forty-ish years ago.

  • Adrian

    I saw this website here, and read the comments below.

    For Zack and Cindy:

    For the first part of the discussion, I will remain neutral and just reveal facts that i’ve researched. How you decide to take them is up to you.

    You mention (as quoted:)

    “Also I would never get a Japanese car because we have a 600B trade deficit with Japan and we are not even allowed to sell cars there.

    Mistake is to buy Japanese and frankly I am tired of them.”


    “YA whats wrong with this site .

    This site is so anti-american.”

    This article states this:
    Nissan is planning on a EV sometime soon.
    BMW is going to be leasing an E-Version of the Cooper.
    And Chevy cancelled its “planned new-vehicle launches and media events.”
    The article is toned in a certain way, but boiled down to what happened at the LA show, these are the core facts.

    In the early 1970s, the USA came across the Oil Crises, demand for gas was high, and gas was hard to come by. During this time, Honda came into the car market in th US with its first gen. Civic:

    “…The car could achieve 40 mpg-US (5.9 L/100 km/48 mpg-imp) on the highway, and with a small 86.6 inch (220 cm) wheelbase and 139.8 inch (355 cm) overall length, the vehicle weighted 1,500 pounds (680 kg). …. . When the 1973 oil crisis struck, many Americans turned to economy cars. …. Reviews of American economy car quality were poor and getting worse due to spiraling costs for manufacturers. ” (1)

    Heres a similar vehicle, the chevy vega, a eco-car that was made around the same time:

    “The Vega was introduced as part of “Big Three” (GM, Ford, Chrysler) automakers entering a new subcompact car class in order to compete directly with the successful, but aging Volkswagen Beetle, as well as Japanese imports from Honda, Toyota, and Datsun. Its conventional four-cylinder rear wheel drive layout and unibody was similar to Japanese subcompacts, but somewhat larger for U.S. buyers. …. Problems :
    ” …The Vega ultimately would be doomed by poor reliability and several highly publicized design problems including carburetor fires, engine overheating problems, and premature body rust, which began to affect sales after 1974 even though most of those problems had been resolved by that time. Labor and management strife – including a three-week strike in early 1972 – also added to the car’s woes. The Vegas were built at the GM Lordstown, Ohio plant, at a line whose line speed greatly exceeded that of older plants, and eventually Lordstown came to symbolize the worker discontent and worker alienation of the auto-industrial age” (2)

    In 1996, GM Produced one of the first Electric massed-produced cars, the EV-1:

    “…. were available in California and Arizona as a lease only, as well as through a Southern Company employee lease program in Georgia, and could be serviced at designated Saturn retailers. They were discontinued after 1999 and subsequently removed from the roads in 2003 by General Motors (except for a few). The car’s discontinuation was and remains a controversial topic.” (3)

    In 1999, Honda produced the Insight, which got about 55city/60Hwy. It was the first Hybrid in America.

    In 2001, Toyota produced the Prius, which is still being produced.

    By 2009, Ford will come out with the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

    By 2011, Chevy will come out with the Volt.

    Again, These are just facts: of what has happened.. And what will happened.



  • Adrian (II)



    Now the second extremely biased part.

    If you don’t like the japanese cars, don’t buy them. If you don’t like the european cars, don’t buy them. Heck, if you hate them, buy a used one of each and destroy them together if it makes you happy.

    Maybe its just me, but I also don’t see how the trade deficit should decide your final motion to buy a car. I , for one, never considered that when buying any vehicle. And I understand the workers in china and/or japan being underpaid/overworked, and that’s wrong…. but they also got plants here in the US too, and I would be surprised if they did that here.

    These products exists because people want them. Its not because it was forced or required, but because of the will of the people to have something that they wanted to have for themselves.

    Its unfortunate that the whole house-bubble has affected everyone. I will reveal my ignorance to state that I don’t know much about the fine details, but from what I understand, houses got more expensive… people couldn’t afford houses.. foreclosures went up…. banks were in debt, and wouldn’t lend money…. no money, means loans got harder to get, and harder loans means harder to buy cars…. less new cars…. car makers don’t have profit….no profit = bankruptcy. This was also a double whammy for GM and the big three, because for the bast couple of years or so, Gas had gone up significantly, and (as it was in 1970 and early 1980’s) people were looking for alternatives. Thus, GM was hurt from few eco-cars available, AS WELL as the credit crunch. And now they want to bail out?

    Also, from my personal experience with cars:
    My Acura, 1987. 300,000 miles. Drove it across 4 states, 2,000.2 Miles. Needs a tune up, but other than that, it runs fine.
    My Mom had a 1995 Ford Taurus that costed her twice the amount the car was worth in repairs. She ended up selling it for about half what she paid. She told me the car drove her nuts because of the problems and repairs.

    I don’t necessarily hate the American car manufactures in any way… I just think the they (especially GM) got greedy with all that money, and they need to rapidly change their gears in terms of what the American people desire. I look forward to the day when the ford fusion hybrid comes out… and I certainly hope the Volt will become a real dream, if I ever had the money to spend it outright, I will tell you right here and now, I would buy that Vehicle.

    As saying such, I hope the the American car manufacturers can keep up with these hard times and make it through this economy, and that all of us can respect and maybe understand a little more from the other side of the picture, and learn more about it. Each day.


  • Jack Holleran

    I agree my Toyota Camry is a POS.

    Its always is costing me so much to keep running not what consumer reports said when I originally purchased it.

    GM does not have Oldsmobile any longer and Buick now has better quality than Lexus according to JD power associates.

    So shrinking GM is not the answer. I think the public eye on GM is very poor and negative because the Japanese car PR folks have done a good job brain washing Americans to sending there money over seas.

    I think GM does a good job not cloning anymore something Toyota does with a lot of there Lexus camerys.

    The Chevy Volt is going to be produced. Look at


  • Matt Urgren

    Go GM volt

    The volt is already running the mules in the test stage.

    It will be the first mass produced electric car.

    Oh the person here who said ford Taurus is bad.

    I owned one with over 300k on it and it cost me almost nothing to run.

    I would easy buy another American car because I have had no issues with them.

  • sean t

    A very good post. I like the English in writing as well, not like some others, which sound like my kid’s (she’s in year 3), well even worse because my kid’s writing does not contain hatred.
    I personally don’t hate American cars, just the way their CEOs set the (poor) vision. Enough said.

  • ZAP Alias

    It would seem that this car show will be much like the recent Paris Auto show which was also dominated by EVs and alternative powered vehicles to a large extent. It was they that seemed to receive all the attention and the limelight.

  • steved28

    Picky, not to beat a dead horse, your experience with Chrysler was certainly a bad one, and I don’t blame you for writing them off as a repeat customer. But to condemn the entire US auto industry over that experience is a bit short sighted. My wife had an Isuzu Rodeo in the early 90’s. Biggest POS ever made IMO. You want to talk transmission failures? How about at 24,000 miles. That was just the start. This car just fell apart around us. Ironically the only component that did not fail was the engine, a V6 made by GM. Isuzu will never see me walk through their doors again, but I don’t write off all foreign manufacturers. My Fords on the other hand treated me very well, and as long as they did, they had a repeat customer in me. They lost my last sale due to a void in their lineup.

    I do agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the bailout.

  • mdensch

    How does an innocent little article about electric cars devolve into a slug fest over U.S. vs. Japanese cars?

    This site just further demonstrates: too many people learned to type.

  • Jay

    I find it funny how many times Mark Perry says the EV is zero emissions. He must not be factoring in the coal plant that has to generate power to charge the battery.

  • aggieland

    lol mdsench. OK, going back to electric cars…

    I think the Volt concept is great, but the last I heard the Volt will list for about $40,000 if GM doesn’t get some incentives or tax breaks from the government (someone correct me if I’m wrong). I’m sure a lot of people will go out and buy it at this price, but

    1) I for one can’t afford a $40,000 car

    2) would Chevy have problems marketing a $40,000 car even if it’s great.

    VW made an $80,000 car a few years back (wasn’t released here, sorry I forgot its name) for the European market. It looked fine, and I’ll assume it performed well. The problem was who’s going to pay $80,000 for a VW. They had a nice looking car, but it had a big ol’ VW emblem on the trunk lid – just didn’t look right. Needless to say – the car didn’t sell well. They should have sold it as an Audi.

    When I think of Chevy I don’t think of a $40,000 car. The new Honda Insight is coming out in April 09, and everyone expects it to be under $20,000. That’s something practical that I can afford up front and will save gas. It’s just a matter of time before Honda and Toyota come in with a plug-in or EV around $30,000 OR if the car has to be sold at a higher MSRP they at least have the option of selling it as an Acura or Lexus, respectively. Should GM have made a new division name plate for the Volt?

  • Greg Smith

    I think the issue with the article is it read extreamly biased towards foreign cars.

    Is it puts the GM volt last and on the bottom when that car is actually being produced the other cars are not even real production cars.

    That does show some bias to the site in my book and it seems they have a lot of advertising from the Big 3 Toyota, Honda and Nissian.

    It didnt even show the volt interviews so yes I agree with the folks here why they are upset.

    Also another comment to Mick Picknoise and the group

    The best Electric car was the EV1 why you bringing up the VEGA?

    The EV1 engineers are now working on the Volt so it will be easliy the best electric car for the next 10 years.

  • mdensch

    The VW you are referring to was the Phaeton and it WAS sold in the U.S. For the reasons you cite, it couldn’t find a market here. (There are some great deals on them on ebay right now.)

  • Picky McPicky

    For all of you people that think they are buying an import or a domestic…this article from Automotive News from a few years ago should open some eyes. Sorry about the formatting of the tables..Can’t format tables on this message board. I also posted it also on the Ford Focus thread…………….

    The following are excerpts from an Automotive News Article…

    “For example, you may think that the Dodge Ram is an American vehicle, but it’s really not: Because Dodge is owned by a German company, DaimlerChrysler, and because its parts content does not reach the US threshold of 75 percent, it’s actually an import.

    And defining American made doesn’t always mean in America…the American Automobile Labeling Act (AALA) was an attempt to regulate what was called “Made in the USA,” by requiring that 75 percent of the parts content be from the US or Canada…..Canada???

    The Toyota Sienna is as All-American as it gets, despite its Japanese roots: the Sienna is assembled in the US, and 83 percent of its parts come from US or Canada. The next closest minivan is the Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan or Chrysler Town and Country: the popular “Stow and Go” models are built in Canada, they have a slightly smaller parts percentage, and headquarters is in Germany.

    Ironically, some of the more famous “American” cars are now getting caught in the AALA net. DaimlerChrysler – a German company that owns Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep – has such red white and blue stalwarts like the Dodge Ram or the Jeep Grand Cherokee on the “near miss” list. Not to mention such iconic American rides as the Ford Mustang, which is made of just 60 percent US/Canadian content. So, for all you import buyers out there, the next time you chat up your Yankee-doodle neighbor with the Dodge Ram, kindly point out that, according to NHTSA, your built-in-the-US import is more American than that All-American Ram grille. Or even that Impala bowtie.

    Jeep Liberty USA 74% IMPORT
    Dodge Ram USA 74% IMPORT
    Jeep Gr. Che. USA 73% IMPORT
    Lincoln Navig. USA 70% IMPORT
    Dodge Caliber USA 70% IMPORT
    Toyota Tacoma USA 70% IMPORT
    Honda Accord USA 70% IMPORT
    Honda Civic USA 70% IMPORT
    Honda Odyssey USA 70% IMPORT
    Chevy Impala CANADA 92% IMPORT

    Toyota, meanwhile, has increased their parts volume from the US/Canada tandem to 68.9 percent, up from 52 percent.

    Toyota Sienna USA 85% DOMESTIC
    Toyota Camry USA 80% DOMESTIC
    Toyota Tundra USA 80% DOMESTIC
    Honda Ridgeline USA 75% DOMESTIC
    Honda Pilot USA 75% DOMESTIC
    Toyota Avalon USA 75% DOMESTIC
    Toyota Corolla USA 75% DOMESTIC
    Honda Accord USA 70% IMPORT
    Honda Civic USA 70% IMPORT
    Honda Odyssey USA 70% IMPORT

    Indeed, quality, style and other on-the-street considerations seem much more important to car shoppers, even with all the clacking tongues on television. In fact, according to a follow-up report commissioned in 2001, NHTSA concluded that 75 percent of car buyers surveyed were not aware of the label. The study surveyed 646 people who had bought or leased new vehicles during the past 6 months, or were planning to do so within 3 months, and found that only 2 percent were “moderately or strongly influenced by the label because it identified the vehicle’s country of assembly.”

    Sure seems as though a good car – or a good price – trumps where the parts come from, who gets the profit or what the name on the grille represents.

    Ford F-Series USA 85% DOMESTIC
    Chevrolet Silverado USA 90% DOMESTIC
    Toyota Camry USA 80% DOMESTIC
    Dodge Ram USA 74% IMPORT
    Honda Accord USA 70% IMPORT
    Honda Civic USA 70% IMPORT
    Chevrolet Impala CANADA 92% IMPORT
    Dodge Grand Car. USA 83% DOMESTIC
    Nissan Altima USA 65% IMPORT
    Chevrolet Cobalt USA 75% DOMESTIC
    Toyota Corolla USA 75% DOMESTIC
    GMC Sierra USA 90% DOMESTIC
    Ford Focus USA 60% IMPORT
    Ford Explorer USA 80% DOMESTIC
    Chevrolet Malibu USA 80% DOMESTIC
    Honda Odyssey USA 70% IMPORT
    Ford Mustang USA 60% IMPORT
    Toyota Tacoma USA 70% IMPORT
    Chevrolet TrailBlazer USA 85% DOMESTIC
    Chevrolet Tahoe USA 67% IMPORT”

  • Bill Cosworth

    The first comment is nonsense from cash.

    HE is a plant from Toyota and Honda and they have there goons all over the internet.

    I have heard that Toyota and Honda are paying PR people to make sure the big 3 go under.

    They are posting things on-line and spending millions in Washington.

    I have to give it to them. This spend millions in Washington now. Kill off the Big 3 then make billions off the Americans later. Japan gets richer.

    A friend of mine who owns an automotive website says he traces the IP address from comments and a lot of the anti Detroit comments come from Japan.

    So in a weird way Japan has declared a war against the USA and wants now to finish us off.

    Not with bombs but with economic warfare.

  • Picky McPicky

    Bill Cosworth,

    ….and aliens are hiding in your attic performing brain scans and downloading their alien agenda while you sleep.


  • Picky McPicky

    Bill Cosworth,

    ….and aliens are hiding in your attic performing brain scans and downloading their alien agenda while you sleep.


  • Adrian


    In my comment, i used the VEGA as a
    *comparison* to the First Generation HONDA CIVIC for ****Eco-Friendly cars in the early 1970’s****, nothing more.

    Also, Im getting more and more confused by people saying the volt is a full-electric car, which it is not. It is an electric car, however, if you drive 40 miles one way and then charge it up. After that, the in-line 4 cylinder gas engine fires up like a regular car.

    If you want to know more or verify the facts, check out Chevy’s website itself, and watch their TV ad:

    ( http://www.chevrolet.com/electriccar/ )