After reading the headlines from this year’s North American International Auto Show, you would think the only worthwhile green news—other than the upbeat sense that the auto industry is in rebound—was about electric cars and other plug-in and hybrid models, sprinkled with some new sleek small cars. But, as the man on the TV says, “Wait, There’s more!”
While this site, and our sister site PluginCars.com, focus on electricity as the killer app of cleaner more efficient automotive technology, it’s important to acknowledge the role of all technologies that can help us use less oil, or none at all.
In one of his 17 paragraphs on the show, the Wall Street Journal’s Dan Neil mentions that diesels have made a breakthrough as Volkswagen introduced its new midsize, to-be-built-in-America Passat with a 43-mpg (highway) turbodiesel, and Mercedes showed a V6 diesel for both its flagship S-Class and the redesigned C-Class, which will bring its total diesel offerings to six models. (Mercedes will offer a four-wheel-drive diesel S-Class sedan, the 2012 S350 Bluetec 4Matic, in the U.S. this summer that the automaker says gets 35 miles per gallon on the highway.) Add comments from both Mercedes and Audi that they intend to least double stateside diesel models and you have the making of minor movement on the oil-burning front.
The other new technology news that didn’t seem to make many headlines was on the fuel cell front. Mercedes presented its B-Class F-Cell and announced plans to lease 70 of them in Southern California as the last step before commercialization of the next generation in 2015. Company executive also launched the B-Class F-Cell on a solo tour of the world. While focusing mostly on its new Prius family of hybrids, Toyota also reiterated its plans to sell a fuel cell vehicle in 2015 in Japan, in the U.S. and Germany. That news was joined by an announcement in Japan of a consortium of 13 automakers (including Toyota, Nissan and Honda) and energy companies that were combining forces to build 100 stations to provide the infrastructure needed for the 2015 launch.
Just ahead of the auto show Hyundai joined the “2015” chorus, announcing its third generation of fuel cell vehicles and looking ahead to “mass production” in 2015.
The only thing missing was a sighting of a wave of CNG passenger cars heading for our shores—that is, until Honda unveiled its redesigned 2012 Civic and announced that a version running on compressed natural gas, the Honda Civic GX, would expand to nationwide availability. In September, Elmer Hardey, Honda’s senior manager of alternative vehicles, told HybridCars.com, “We’re considering doubling sales [of the Civic GX] in the next two- to three-year horizon.” With the redesign, the Civic GX will be offered for the first time with nicer amenities, such as a navigation system and premium stereo package.