The volume of announcements regarding hybrids, electric cars and other green offerings at the Los Angeles Auto Show expands every year. However, this year’s media days held few surprises for car fans following the green scene. Carmakers mostly confirmed and reiterated commitments to bring previously announced alternative vehicles to market.
In opening comments, California Gov. Schwarzenegger said, “I remember that the first car show I went to, there were like three cars with alternative fuel vehicles here. Three. Then there were 10, then there were 15, then there were 20. And today we have here more than 50 cars that are alternative fuel vehicles.” Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights.
Chevy Volt Will First Sell in California
GM unveiled the production version of the Chevy Volt, and confirmed that the plug-in hybrid—with an anticipated 40 miles of all-electric range—would first be offered in California. Bob Lutz, GM’s marketing chief, said GM would build about 10,000 Volt models during the first year, and eventually ramp up to as many as 60,000 unit per year. GM expects the price of the Volt to be about $40,000, minus a $7,500 US tax credit.
Lutz was cautious about the size of the electric car market. He said that most Americans would not be willing to spend the premium of thousands of dollars for an electric car, and said the total market for plug-in vehicles by 2015 would be 250,000 to 300,000 units. That’s approximately 3 percent of the new car market, roughly the size of today’s market for gas-electric hybrid cars.
Toyota Will Test 150 Prius Plug-In Hybrids in US
Toyota repeated its previous announcements that it will test the Prius Plug-in Hybrid in the US early next year. The rechargeable Prius Plug-In will provide up to 13 miles of all-electric travel at speeds of up to 60 miles an hour before the battery charge is depleted and reverts to a 50-mpg conventional hybrid. Starting in January, the company will put the first 500 official Plug-in Priuses on American, European and Japanese roads. Approximately 150 will be with fleets and consumers in California, Colorado New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. Toyota will use research gathered during testing to help develop a retail model, which goes on sale in 2012.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV Geeks Out
The all-electric i-MiEV went on sale to fleet customers in Japan earlier this year, and retail sales there are slated to begin there early next year. The four-seater with about 75 miles of range and a top speed of 80 miles per hour is expected in the US in 2011.
Mitsubishi also announced that the PX-MiEV, a plug-in hybrid crossover SUV promising 120 mpg, will arrive in the US in 2013. Mitsubishi used LA to announce it will lease four of the EV subcompacts to Best Buy’s Geek Squad, in preparation for the US arrival of the i-MiEV.
The Chevy Cruze Promises Big Impact
Hybrid and electric cars may be getting all the buzz, but the car promising the biggest overall green impact could be the gas-powered Chevrolet Cruze, which goes on sale late summer 2010. The 2011 Cruze, unveiled in LA, gives GM an opportunity to compete against mainstream fuel-efficient sedans like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. Official fuel economy numbers are not yet available, but efficiency could exceed 40 mpg. The Cruze’s design, and fit and finish, are getting high marks from auto reviewers. Pricing info is not yet available.
Ford’s answer is the Fiesta, a subcompact car that also promises 40-mpg on the highway. More than 500,000 Fiestas have already been sold to customers in Europe and Asia. In the US, the Ford Fiesta goes on sale next year, to compete against the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit.
Audi A3 TDI Win 2010 Green Car of the Year
Clean diesels are playing second fiddle to electric drive vehicles at the LA Auto Show. The one exception is the 2010 Audi A3TDI, which was named Green Car of the Year. Last year, another clean diesel, the VW Jetta TDI, took the honors. Jurors cited the Audi A3 TDI’s rakish styling, upscale appointments, and 42-mpg highway fuel efficiency, which is a 50 percent improvement over the gas-powered A3.