The 2008 New York Auto Show, opening this week, will mostly focus on model redesigns—while pushing hybrids and other fuel-sipping models to the margins. There’s one notable exception: the show will feature a number of electric vehicles, including the Nissan Denki Cube, Subaru R1e, and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV.
In recent years, automakers have used major auto shows in Detroit, Tokyo, Frankfurt and Geneva to unveil their latest whiz-bang green car technologies and concept cars. Few of those so-called “game-changing” vehicles will end up in the dealership showroom in the next five or ten years—but the presence of next-generation hybrids, city cars, and clean diesels gives a signal that automakers are inching in a greener direction. The presence of electric vehicles in New York signals the same intent by carmakers to offer gas-free all-electric cars in the United States.
Nissan says it will launch a commercially produced electric car for fleet buyers in the U.S. in 2010 and for retail customers in 2012. If Nissan delivers on this promise, it could be the industry’s first manufacturer to bring an all-electric car to the mass market (since the demise of EVs a few years ago). “We think there’s a future and a customer base for electric vehicles,” said Larry Dominique, Nissan’s Nashville-based vice-president for product planning.
The company will show the hip, box-shaped Denki Cube Concept, which is capable of traveling 100 miles per charge and can reach a top speed of 75 mph. A recharge of the Cube’s lithium ion batteries should take about 8 hours. A Nissan official said the company’s new electric car would be “premium-priced, but not out of reach.”
Subaru will show its Subaru R1e two-seater, which is capable of driving at speeds up to 65 mph with a range of up to 50 miles between charges. The company will use the New York show to announce its planned deliver of two R1e vehicles to the New York Power Authority for evaluation. The Subaru R1e employs fast-charge lithium ion battery technology that allows a charge to 80% capacity within about eight minutes, without compromising the batteries capacity or longevity. Limited vehicle range and long charging times have been an obstacle to widespread market acceptance of electric cars.
The Mitsubishi all-electric i-MiEV has been making the rounds at auto shows for a number of years, and will show up again in New York. The iMiEV Sport drive system uses three permanent magnetic synchronous motors. One in-wheel motor is placed at each front wheel; a single motor drives the rear wheels. This time, the EV version will be accompanied by a gas-powered variant that may be more imminent. Unlike the electric car concept, the gas-powered i-minicar is a production model that has been selling in Japan since 2006.
Mitsubishi has previously announced that the all-electric i-MiEV will be mass-marketed by 2010. Having developed its own large-capacity high-performance lithium ion battery—in a joint venture with GS Yuasa Corporation—Mitsubishi is confident that the technology is ready for prime time.