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Published on November 10th, 2008 | by Nick Chambers

2008 LA Auto Show Green Preview: Electric & Alternative Cars

November 10th, 2008 by  
 

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.





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About the Author

Not your traditional car guy.



  • Hey have you heard about PlanetTran? They are a car service company that is all eco-friendly using only Toyota Priuses!

    http://www.planettran.com

  • Hey have you heard about PlanetTran? They are a car service company that is all eco-friendly using only Toyota Priuses!

    http://www.planettran.com

  • I’ll be there too, drop me an email in the near future so we can meet up. :p

  • I’ll be there too, drop me an email in the near future so we can meet up. :p

  • Nick Chambers

    Sure thing my friend.

  • I’m liking what I’ve seen from the auto shows this year I just hope we don’t lose focus now that the gas prices have come down.

  • I’m liking what I’ve seen from the auto shows this year I just hope we don’t lose focus now that the gas prices have come down.

  • I’m liking what I’ve seen from the auto shows this year I just hope we don’t lose focus now that the gas prices have come down.

  • LonnieB

    “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.”

    Nick,

    While I understand what you are saying (and I don’t totally disagree), one cannot discount the world of car enthusiasts. We dinosaurs love our muscle cars and the horsepower they put out.

    There will always be a market for high performance cars and trucks. The best thing the auto makers could do for this crowd (and it ain’t a small one, just check out any custom car show) would be to listen to them, then produce high performance cars that run on E85 (or “celluline”).

    The racing world has been using alcohol blends for decades. A high performer, purpose-built to run on ethanol, would sell. I, for one, would snap up an E85 powered Cobra or Challenger, and I know a whole bunch of gear grinders that would, too.

    Currently, my daily driver is an ’03 Mach 1 that I am planning to convert to ethanol soon. So the market potential is there, we just don’t have windbag politicians and double-dealing lobbyists like Big Oil does, and the hooker always beds the higher paying John!

    Production of such vehicles would stimulate public interest in, and therfore demand for, ethanol. Resulting in a proliferation of ethanol fueling stations.

    It has always been the stylish, sexy and powerful cars that have set the market trend. Detroit just needs to file for a divorce from their abusive spouse, Big Oil, and start dating alternative fuel studs!

    Admit it, you’d rather be seen driving an ethanol powered Mustang GT than a wimpy little Prius, wouldn’t you?

  • LonnieB

    “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.”

    Nick,

    While I understand what you are saying (and I don’t totally disagree), one cannot discount the world of car enthusiasts. We dinosaurs love our muscle cars and the horsepower they put out.

    There will always be a market for high performance cars and trucks. The best thing the auto makers could do for this crowd (and it ain’t a small one, just check out any custom car show) would be to listen to them, then produce high performance cars that run on E85 (or “celluline”).

    The racing world has been using alcohol blends for decades. A high performer, purpose-built to run on ethanol, would sell. I, for one, would snap up an E85 powered Cobra or Challenger, and I know a whole bunch of gear grinders that would, too.

    Currently, my daily driver is an ’03 Mach 1 that I am planning to convert to ethanol soon. So the market potential is there, we just don’t have windbag politicians and double-dealing lobbyists like Big Oil does, and the hooker always beds the higher paying John!

    Production of such vehicles would stimulate public interest in, and therfore demand for, ethanol. Resulting in a proliferation of ethanol fueling stations.

    It has always been the stylish, sexy and powerful cars that have set the market trend. Detroit just needs to file for a divorce from their abusive spouse, Big Oil, and start dating alternative fuel studs!

    Admit it, you’d rather be seen driving an ethanol powered Mustang GT than a wimpy little Prius, wouldn’t you?

  • Nick Chambers

    Tis true Lonnie. Believe it or not, I’m a car enthusiast too. The emotion I was trying to convey was that of desire for sexy cars but tempered by the reality of our current situation.

    In some ways I think that two things need to happen in this country (and the world?):

    1) We need to figure out ways to make sexy cars sustainable so that those of us that want them (and can afford them) can drive without contibuting to our problems.

    2) We also need to accept that perhaps some of us have been hornswaggled by the advertising of our consumerist culture to believe that we need a sexy car when really we could do fine with a Prius. This is mostly about accepting reality and having the willpower to conserve finite resources (including our own money).

    Believe me, I’m an American tried and true, so I don’t think we should be forced to do these things. We should, however, be encouraged to choose the right path. In some ways, our own economic situation is dictating things for us on its own right now, so I do believe that this time we’ll get there.

    Things always work better when the people collectively realize that what we’ve been doing is unsustainable. The next part is having the willpower to follow through.

  • LonnieB

    I have a vested interest in posting to this site (a great one, BTW)…research!

    I am not one to sit and say “We should do this, or that!”, yet remain still in my own efforts. So…pursuant to my beliefs and my desire to make a buck or two (not three though, because then it will be taxed! 😉 ), I am taking personal action to assure that future gearheads will have the option of piston-pumping horsepower without OPEC being part of it, and we can continue our love affair with fast, sexy cars.

    As I have mentioned (ad nauseum?), I am developing a plan to produce ethanol-powered crate engines, primarily for gearheads like myself, but also applicable to the general public.

    BUT…I am also planning to get certified in CNG conversion, sometime early next year, so as to not be locked into one technology (like our nation is).

    This is a personal effort, I know, but so was the first airplane and car. I firmly believe that once “celluline” becomes widely available, ethanol will be viewed in a much friendlier light, and my product will be in demand.

    But you are absolutely right about the direction mass produced econoboxes, commuter cars and even luxury cars will be going. And that’s okay. Not everyone views cars the way I do (That would suck, I wouldn’t be so unique!), and I am all for the advances in technology that will come with the various solutions.

    It’s just that, to me, the disappearence of muscle cars and hot rods would mean that the Apocolypse is nigh and the Four Horsemen drive Hybrids!

    Keep up the good work!

  • LonnieB

    I have a vested interest in posting to this site (a great one, BTW)…research!

    I am not one to sit and say “We should do this, or that!”, yet remain still in my own efforts. So…pursuant to my beliefs and my desire to make a buck or two (not three though, because then it will be taxed! 😉 ), I am taking personal action to assure that future gearheads will have the option of piston-pumping horsepower without OPEC being part of it, and we can continue our love affair with fast, sexy cars.

    As I have mentioned (ad nauseum?), I am developing a plan to produce ethanol-powered crate engines, primarily for gearheads like myself, but also applicable to the general public.

    BUT…I am also planning to get certified in CNG conversion, sometime early next year, so as to not be locked into one technology (like our nation is).

    This is a personal effort, I know, but so was the first airplane and car. I firmly believe that once “celluline” becomes widely available, ethanol will be viewed in a much friendlier light, and my product will be in demand.

    But you are absolutely right about the direction mass produced econoboxes, commuter cars and even luxury cars will be going. And that’s okay. Not everyone views cars the way I do (That would suck, I wouldn’t be so unique!), and I am all for the advances in technology that will come with the various solutions.

    It’s just that, to me, the disappearence of muscle cars and hot rods would mean that the Apocolypse is nigh and the Four Horsemen drive Hybrids!

    Keep up the good work!

  • Eakins or his circle of friends during Eakins’s lifetime.

  • Eakins or his circle of friends during Eakins’s lifetime.

  • Uncle B

    Not a question of “choice”! The remaining oil in the world will be sold to the highest bidder, by the owners of that oil – not us! To the people with viable money, not uncle sam’s sawbucks, but Euros, wans, guiders, pesos, and the like! America is bankrupt, don’t you read the papers? Obama may not get all the money he wants to borrow from China to save your ass from starvation and your country from collapse! They don’t think we are good for the loan, and we have nothing they want in exchange! We must convert, now. A monumentally smaller supply of methanol can be “grown” than is required just to keep us fed and alive! The amazing gall of you to suppose that the solution to overt, unsustainable over-consumption of gasoline is to do the same except with unattainable methanol, is remarkably the bigger part of the problem! May be reading this article will help you come to grips with reality and the end of the Golden Age for America – SEE:

    “The astounding Chinese have epoched the great GM, of U.S.A. in producing an Electric/gas/plug-in car! They are driving them in the streets of China as we speak, they will be retailed in the U.S.A. by 2011, they will cost half the price of a “Volt” and they are “On Order” for Israel! GM take a deep breath, your naughty parts have just been cut off by a Chinese high-tech competitor, and the “Volt” is still “Vapor-ware”!” See:http://www.cleantech.com/news/3983/chinas-byd-sells-first-mass-produced-plug-cars

    Sorry to pop your balloon, but it is OVER!In the following few years due primarily to scholastic achievements, Asian technologies will eat you alive and reduce you to peasant status – China has more post grad students with IQ’s of 130+than the U.S.A. has high school students, drop-uots accounted for! and More people speak English in China than in the U.S.A.! These Asians play hard and play for keeps, Yankee Doodle, and they are hungry! Very Hungry! Leave your big engines in dreamland, squat carefully getting into your Tandem, carbon fiber ultra light battery commuter car, and thank God your fat ass is not on an Asian dinner-plate tonight! P.S. Send your kids to school, even the President has told you this! In the real world dummies get nowhere, you should know this by now!

  • Uncle B

    Not a question of “choice”! The remaining oil in the world will be sold to the highest bidder, by the owners of that oil – not us! To the people with viable money, not uncle sam’s sawbucks, but Euros, wans, guiders, pesos, and the like! America is bankrupt, don’t you read the papers? Obama may not get all the money he wants to borrow from China to save your ass from starvation and your country from collapse! They don’t think we are good for the loan, and we have nothing they want in exchange! We must convert, now. A monumentally smaller supply of methanol can be “grown” than is required just to keep us fed and alive! The amazing gall of you to suppose that the solution to overt, unsustainable over-consumption of gasoline is to do the same except with unattainable methanol, is remarkably the bigger part of the problem! May be reading this article will help you come to grips with reality and the end of the Golden Age for America – SEE:

    “The astounding Chinese have epoched the great GM, of U.S.A. in producing an Electric/gas/plug-in car! They are driving them in the streets of China as we speak, they will be retailed in the U.S.A. by 2011, they will cost half the price of a “Volt” and they are “On Order” for Israel! GM take a deep breath, your naughty parts have just been cut off by a Chinese high-tech competitor, and the “Volt” is still “Vapor-ware”!” See:http://www.cleantech.com/news/3983/chinas-byd-sells-first-mass-produced-plug-cars

    Sorry to pop your balloon, but it is OVER!In the following few years due primarily to scholastic achievements, Asian technologies will eat you alive and reduce you to peasant status – China has more post grad students with IQ’s of 130+than the U.S.A. has high school students, drop-uots accounted for! and More people speak English in China than in the U.S.A.! These Asians play hard and play for keeps, Yankee Doodle, and they are hungry! Very Hungry! Leave your big engines in dreamland, squat carefully getting into your Tandem, carbon fiber ultra light battery commuter car, and thank God your fat ass is not on an Asian dinner-plate tonight! P.S. Send your kids to school, even the President has told you this! In the real world dummies get nowhere, you should know this by now!

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