In lieu of resolutions, here’s the best and worst of what happened in a tumultuous year, often dubbed “brutal” by an auto industry that saw sales shrink from 16 million annually to 11 million. But lots of good things happened, too.

  1. The President stepped up. Using his executive authority and the power of the Clean Air Act, President Obama mandated that cars would get much cleaner between 2012 and 2016, good news for both global warming and mandated fuel economy (which will reach 35.5 mpg by the end of 2016). +5
  2. Celebrities still don’t get it. One of my favorite posts of the year showed mealy-mouthed famous people, many of whom spout green clichés, getting in and out of huge SUVs. Does it surprise you that Fergie drives a Hummer H2? That David Beckham has a Cadillac Escalade? It is nice to know that Adrian Grenier, who drives all manner of gas-guzzlers, including an Escalade, on Entourage, actually pilots of Prius in real life. Method Man from the Wu Tang Clan gave up his luxury SUV this year, but that’s because it was repossessed for non-payment of taxes. Tiger Woods removed an SUV from circulation, but that was also inadvertent. -8
  3. Green cars got fun to drive. Drill this into your head: EVs have full power available at zero rpm, which means they take off like bats out of hell. Audi just showed off its e-tron, which goes zero to 62 in less than five seconds, and we also were tantalized by such forthcoming rockets as the Tesla Model S and Fisker Karma. Even the Ford Focus, Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt proved to be EV hot rods. The Kepler Motion hybrid, shown in Dubai, offers a ridiculous 1,183 horsepower. +3
  4. People are still buying gas guzzlers. Everytime I think we’ve turned the corner on SUVs and their ilk, oil prices go down and consumers line up to buy big trucks again. Their reasoning—“I like to sit up high,” “I tow a boat,” “I have two dogs”—seems as threadbare as ever. In reality, off-roaders and four-wheel-drive (pretty useless in most parts of the country) are associated with “freedom” and “individuality,” though I’ve never understood how or why. -10
  5. We’ll be able to plug in. EVs can’t happen unless there are also charging networks, but fortunately that’s happening. Companies like Better Place, Coulomb, Aerovironment and the Car Charging Group are all busily trying to get infrastructure built, and far-thinking auto companies, including Nissan and Tesla, are helping them. +9
There’s lots of other stuff, of course. But let’s go out and party. 2009 is almost over!

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