2008 LA Auto Show Green Preview: Electric & Alternative Cars

Much of the attention surrounding the upcoming 2008 LA Auto Show (Nov. 21-30) has been directed at cars like the 2010 Ford Mustang and the 2009 Nissan 370Z. Yet, while glitzy, fast, and heart-poundingly desirable, these types of cars already seem like relics of a different era — a weird and surreal window on the past. To celebrate them feels mostly cheap and material, and does a disservice to the reality of our current world.

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Given announcements last Friday that the American auto industry is on the brink of extinction, it seems to me that the more important cars at the show are the ones that, if they’re smart, the American auto industry will quickly turn to as the future of transportation. In honor of these sentiments, it’s only fitting for Gas 2.0 to do a preview of the cars and technologies you care about, and leave the relics to the pros.

I’ll be covering the LA Auto Show during press days on November 19-20, so stay tuned to Gas 2.0 for live coverage. Until then, check out the small taste of what’s to come below.

Mini E: Starting later this year, Mini will give about 500 people in New York, New Jersey, and California a chance to test out this new all-electric Mini through an exclusive lease program. The vehicle has a range of about 150 miles on a single charge and carries a 204 hp (150kW) electric motor that can get it from 0-62 mph in 8.5 seconds. Here’s hoping the E lease program goes well and they decide to offer the car to the general consumer market. The E will be making it’s public debut at the LA Auto Show and I may have a chance to actually drive one.

Toyota/Scion iQ: This 4-seat, fuel-miserly, mini-wonder for city folks has already been released in Europe, but initially it was questionable if Toyota would also release this car in North America. According to reports, it now seems that Toyota is set to debut the iQ to the American market at the LA Auto Show under its Scion badge. With a fuel economy of around 55 mpg using a diesel engine, an ultra low emissions rating, and a parking-friendly tiny profile, this may just be the world’s ultimate crowded-city car.

Volkswagen Concept R Diesel Roadster: It seems that VW has been teasing us for years with the Concept R. But, given current worldwide concerns, the Concept R may actually get turned into a production car this time around. Rumor has it that VW will debut this roadster at the LA Auto Show. While no true specifics are known, Edmunds.com speculates that the diesel version could go from 0-60 mph in under 6.9 seconds and have a fuel economy similar to that of the VW Polo 1.4 TDI (60-70 mpg).

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Toyota Camry Hybrid: As one commenter on Jalopnik put it, “A metallic gold Toyota hybrid is the automotive equivalent of tweed.” Yet, even with that initial gut reaction, this is perhaps one of the most important announcements of the 2008 LA Auto Show. Toyota has offered few details, but the concept CNG Camry is one of the first hybrid-electric cars from a major auto manufacturer to run on anything other than straight up gasoline — and it seems like it could be nearly production-ready.

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid: This may be the only car from an American auto manufacturer debuting at the 2008 LA Auto Show that highlights what strides the American auto industry is taking towards improving fuel efficiency. Ford claims it will get 38 mpg in the city and do better than the Camry Hybrid on the highway (>34mpg). The Fusion Hybrid will also show off some new technologies, including the ability to travel at speeds up to 47 mph on electric power alone, and will use the new SmartGauge technology (see below).

2010 Ford SmartGauge with EcoGuide: I’ve always hated the Prius LCD Display. I thought they could have done so much more with it, but instead we got an unintuitive and complicated mess. So when I saw what Ford had done with the SmartGauge I thought, “Finally, a car company has hired a real GUI designer.” The SmartGauge is truly beautiful. It can change its appearance on the fly, is fully customizable, and provides meaningful information to help drivers conserve fuel. Follow the link above to see a video of it in action.

2025 Race Car Design Challenge: The 2008 LA Auto Show design challenge resulted in 9 entries that try and guess what the not-so-distant future of racing will look like. Your first reaction might be to blow this off as some sort of worthless endeavor, but in reality many of the technologies that eventually end up in production cars have started on the racetrack. The design challenge entries include a sail-backed electric racer from Mercedes, a hydrogen salt flat racer from BMW, and the “Bio Runner” off-roader from Volkswagen.

Sources: As noted in the text.

Image Credits: From manufacturers or the 2008 LA Auto Show website.

 

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.