NEW YORK CITY — I have been to the New York International Auto Show
nearly every year since about 1990, and I can honestly say this was the greenest one ever. While there are no spectacular new model introductions — a hybrid Hyundai, though very cool, is still a Hyundai — the sheer breadth of the green cars on display from virtually every manufacturer was mightily impressive.
Of course Toyota, Honda and their ilk were showing green cars, but so were Porsche, BMW, Hyundai, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Mitsubishi and everyone else. If you don’t have a hybrid (and a battery car in the works), you’re not in the game today.
At the opening press breakfast, Ford’s savior, CEO Alan Mulally, offered a ringing endorsement of the electrification of the automobile, and pointed out that the infrastructure — networks of charging stations — was key to its success. Later that day he introduced Steve Ballmer of Microsoft live via video to announce a new partnership to promote home charging
. Consumers will tap into Microsoft’s Hohm network
to integrate charging into their busy schedules.
If you change an appointment, your plug-in Ford will know about it and alter its charging schedule. Nissan plans to incorporate similar technology into its Leaf battery car
. That stellar entry is due at the end of the year at a price, announced at the show, of $32,780 ($25,280 with the available federal income tax credit).
The show runs April 2-11, and in addition to the big guns from the big boys, there will be a range of small EVs from niche manufacturers. Among the cars I checked out were the Think City (which I test drove last week in Finland
), a Chevy Equinox converted to EV by newcomer AMP, and much more. Lacking funding, the smaller companies are either in the basement or on the fringes of the show.
Hyundai, which has grown spectacularly from modest roots in South Korea, is no longer a basement dweller — the company had a huge exhibit on the main floor. And they had cars to talk about, too, including a very neat hybrid version of the Sonata that actually gets better mileage on the highway (39 mpg) than in the city (37). “It’s for people who do a lot of driving, especially on the interstate,” said John Krafcik, a Hyundai vice president.
With lightweight lithium polymer batteries and a very aerodynamic body (.25 coefficient of drag), the Sonata is a very green prospect. It’s success will probably depend on pricing — people expect Hyundais to be affordable, so we’ll see if a sweet spot is found.
A whole other approach to green was seen at the very loud introduction of the Scion iQ, a tiny urban commuter car just 14 inches longer than the Smart Car (but with a back seat of sorts). Scion calls it a three-seater, because you can presumably squeeze someone behind the front passenger. The company’s marketing of the iQ will be relentlessly youth-oriented (hence the blaring techno music and fierce laser lights). Scion created a veritable Studio 54 inside the New York Auto Show.
There was a whole lot more, but I’m still absorbing it. Expect a part two, as the show opens to the public.
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