Electric Cars at Un-Green NY Auto Show

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.


  • Armand

    I see the automakers are working hard at doing nothing…

    Future looks promising.

  • TD

    Noz. I think its becoming pretty clear that the automakers are betting that the price of oil will come down.

  • Hal Howell

    If that’s the best they can do, forget it. Nobody wants to drive an electric car that looks like a box! If they can make an ICE look exciting then they can make an electric car that looks exciting as well. The Saturn Sky is an example of an exciting 2 seater. If Tesla can make a car that looks as good as the Sky then so can the other automakers.
    Some think the Prius is ugly. I don’t, I think it actually has some style and certainly much better looking than the first Prius. Every automaker knows that style sells cars. I don’t care how many miles it drives, no one is going to spend thousands of dollars for a car that looks like crap. I like the Chevy Volt, if they will build it as the showed it. If they change it to look like a box, then it can sit on the car lot until its wheels rust off. Give us some electric cars that look like they belong in the 21st century and are practical and people will buy them.
    My wife drives a 2007 Yaris Liftback and loves it. It gets great mileage, didn’t cost an arm and a leg and looks “Cute”. Actually, it does. It looks like a SMART car and actually does as well as the “SMART” cars but has a back seat to boot and costs less! Way to go, TOYOTA! Now if the rest of the industry will only do the same. Produce cars that get great mileage, look like something I might actually WANT to drive and price it where the vast majority of us can afford them.

  • PW

    Wow is the box-shaped Denki Cube one ugly car. It looks like a cross between a UPS truck and a garden shed. The major car manufacturers can build better looking, efficient cars but they don’t.

  • steved28

    I just wrote Ford an old fashion letter a couple days ago. Actually put it in the mail! Being a long time Ford owner I told them how they lost my last sale, as I purchased an Altima Hybrid because it was available, and there offering was not. I also told them either me, or my wife, would definitely be purchasing a new vehicle in the next 2 to 3 years, and it WILL be a PHEV. I said weather it will be a Ford, is totally up to them.

    My point is that I think everyone has to take the ten minutes it took me, and write a letter. Let’s take back the market. Personally I think manufacturers (or anyone for that matter) weigh an actual letter as someone who is serious. Somehow I don’t think they log into this board for feedback.

  • TSBinLV

    I like the idea of writing an letter to Ford. I’m in the same boat as steved28.

  • Mike J

    Great post steved28. I will also fall in the same boat as you here becuase I will be looking for a 2nd car for my family here in the next couple of years and hope to get a PHEV.

    I see oil consumption was down 3.2% in the US last month despite the cold weather on the east coast. I think we should take advantage of this and add a $1.00 a gallon national tax on gas to get it up above $4.00 and end this maddness once and for all. Take the money from the tax revenue and give even bigger tax cuts for people who buy PHEV and use it to help to continue to fund alternative fule research.

    $4 gass to a car that gets 40 mpg is the same as $2 gas in a car that gets 20 mpg.

  • TSBinLV

    Maybe we should create a template letter and distribute it.

  • steved28

    Here is the letter I sent:

    Ford Motor Company March 15, 2008
    Customer Relationship Center
    P.O.Box 6248
    Dearborn, Michigan 48126

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I have owned and driven Ford vehicles for 30 years. Unfortunately, this year my hand was forced due to the lack of offerings, or availability form Ford, of a hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicle. In January, I purchased a Nissan Altima hybrid which I am very pleased. Within the next three years, either my wife or I (or both) will be in the market for a new vehicle once again. This vehicle WILL BE a plug-in hybrid. Weather it is a Ford or not is up to you.

    Sincerely,

  • steved28

    If Ford isn’t your bag…

    Chevrolet (800) 222-1020

    Ford (800) 392-FORD (or 800-392-3673)
    Ford Motor Company, Customer Relationship Center, PO Box 6248, Dearborn, Michigan 48126

    Honda (800) 999-1009
    Honda Automobile Customer Service, 1919 Torrance Boulevard, Mail Stop: 500 – 2N – 7D
    Torrance, CA 90501-2746

    Nissan (800) NISSAN-1 (or 800-647-7261)
    Nissan Consumer Affairs, P.O. Box 685003, Franklin TN 37068-5003

    Mercedes-Benz USA (800) FOR-MERCEDES or (1-800-367-6372)
    Customer Assistance Center, 3 Paragon Drive, Montvale, N.J. 07645

    Mitsubishi (888) MITSU2007 (or 888-648-7820)
    Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc., PO Box 6014, Cypress, CA 90630-0014

    Saturn (800) 553-6000
    Customer Assistance Center , 100 Saturn Parkway, MD-371-999-S24, Spring Hill, TN 37174

    Subaru of America (800) SUBARU3 (or 800-782-2783) | email
    Subaru of America, Inc., Subaru Plaza, P.O. Box 6000, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034-6000
    Attn: Customer/Dealer Services

    Toyota (800) 331-4331
    Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. 19001 South Western Ave. Dept. WC11, Torrance, CA 90501

  • TSBinLV

    I’m thinking I could throw together a website that would allow people to select one or more of the addresses you listed, insert their name, edit the letter (if desired) and print a letter for each selected address.

    I’m thinking this might be a popular idea.

    One technical note: You know that Ford makes a hybrid version of the Escape don’t you?

    Also, who do you think will offer the first commercially available plug in hybrid?

  • steved28

    Yes, I know about the escape, but they were, and I believe still are unavailable for all practical purposes. If they are serious about this, they need to ramp up production.

    Actually my wife currently drives an Explorer, and would really like an FEH, but they are only taking orders for the 2009 models now. I figure we can wait until 2010, but at that point I won’t settle for less than a PHEV.

  • Kevin Smith

    this is the most positive post i have ever seen on this site. thanks steve even from aussie i think you are doing a great job! if the website gets up and going, please put up the link

  • Rick Roman

    I hope the american auto industry will wake up and see our desprite need of plug in hybrids and pure electric cars. We also need to think on the larger versions like hybrid semi tractor trailers that haul everything that we as consumers rely on. Consumer goods especialy food, have doubled in the last couple of years. I think it would be great if didn’t have to import any oil. We are supporting the terrorist with money for bombs every time we fill up. Now if the government would give major tax breaks for hybrids, I believe that would boost our economy more than anything. We are ready to go green.

  • joe lyle

    Yes, I wish everyone thought green.

  • steved28

    Kevin and others,

    You can already go to this site
    http://www.pluginamerica.org/

    and get more info and take a pledge to go “plug in” in the future.
    They have a template letter, but I think it is better if one puts it in there own words. That way it doesn’t look like a form letter from an enviro group.

  • taylor day

    this car might work but there freakin ugly.

  • alexRmn

    it looks like a chevy astro..

  • Stephanie

    Steved28, how appropriate your comment is because I am looking for a FEH or MMH and couldn’t find either at any dealership in the Phoenix area. Not one dealership had a hybrid on their lot! So I called and the sales service person said that it was because they were in such high demand. I told her that as a customer I don’t care what the ‘problem’ is. That they lost a sale because I couldn’t find any hybrids! And I told them that it is their company’s responsibility to respond to their customers’ needs. Why does your CEO make millions of dollars if he can’t even supply a basic car to a customer. I also said that what happens to that customer-she goes elsewhere to find the next best car.

    Anyway, it’s sad that the American public WANTS to do the right thing and is held back again and again by the big bucks car companies that don’t care about us.

  • Coolyah

    The family of green cars are getting bigger and bigger each year. This is actually good news for everyone. At least, it’ll help lessen CO2 emissions without sacrificing innovations in auto body parts styling. Cool!

  • Brooke

    This car IS FUGLY! I agree with you Taylor 100%

  • Anonymous

    I was wondering why ford and chevy made cars in the 90′s that could hit 50 mpg and why can’t they do it now???? chevy metro and ford festiva,

  • Richard Poor

    It continues to strike me as eerily strange that given the documented success of the late, Toyota RAV-4EV from “Who Killed the Electric Car” and the apparently easy way a 40-50 HP generator could be added to make the car a PHEV, why is this not mentioned, not built, not anything?

  • dodadoo7

    Money. Money for the gas companies, taxes for the government. You can’t tax the sun, the wind, or alternative energy sources. THEY don’t subsidise alternative reasearch into alternative sources of energy because they make money off of the current status quo- Oil, natural gas, and coal. Until we make a stand, they will continue to bury patents that get 70 mpg and gently creep up the mpg to 30 and 35 mpg. There are many stories of people that developed engines and carborators that acheived 70 to 100 mpg, only to be bought off by the oil companies that have the patents in their files to be used when we revolt. It is getting close, but they will milk us for every dollar until they have to capitulate.

  • JAMES R MILLER

    Noted in the Dallas Newspaper: Coco Cola has Built/modified a Tractor trailer delivery truck to be a hybrid. They plan on producing 142 more!

  • Kate Robson

    I think nearest future is supposed to be filled with hybrid cars like Toyota Prius II. They cost less and are more reliable.
    Besides Toyota Prius parts are easy to find and try to find them for Cube Concept :)