16.1.2013 The latest green car news from NAIAS
The first two press days of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) have now come to a close – an impressive 59 brand new vehicles have been introduced so far.
There have been a full range of vehicles on display, ranging from head-turning wacky concepts to more 'everyday' vehicles that will be seen on the roads in the near future.
Fuel efficiency and low emission powertrains have been important issues for most major car manufacturers, reflecting an increased public interest in greener motoring. Both concept and near-launch models are beginning to incorporate new efficient technologies, mostly including different levels of drivetrain electrification.
A highlight for the green car enthusiasts was a display of the upgraded 2013 version of the all-electric Nissan LEAF. Efficiency has been improved through a series of tweaks, including aerodynamics and powertrain efficiency. Faster charging and improved styling are likely to attract new customers to the LEAF.
However, the most interesting announcement was that the LEAF's price tag will be cut by 18% for the US market, down to $28,000 (£18,000), likely to be the result of the car now being manufactured in the states. Nissan have confirmed that the new LEAF will be manufactured in the UK later this year, and have said the price will also be lowered here.
Joining the SUV craze, Nissan also announced their new concept car, the Resonance. To keep emissions low on this heavier vehicle, a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain has been used alongside Nissan's next-generation CVT transmission system. A 2.5 litre petrol engine works with an electric motor, powered by a lithium-ion battery pack.
Major players in the electric car revolution, Tesla, showed off their next model – the Model X. Due to be available to the US market by next year, there have been hints from Tesla that this vehicle will not be sold in Europe as it is thought to be too large for European tastes. If it does come to the UK market, it won't be until 2015 at the earliest.
The Tesla Model X can achieve a sub 5.0 second 0-62 mph time using its dual electric motors that power the four wheels drive system. The unusual 'falcon' doors are confirmed to make production, and are both eye-catching and intended for maximising accessibility.
Although not planned for Europe, Volkswagen will start producing the CrossBlue six-seater SUV in 2015 in the US. It will use a plug-in diesel-electric hybrid powertrain, with a 2.0 litre engine and a pair of motors – one driving each axle. The CrossBlue will be capable of 0 to 62 mph in 7.2 seconds, and the electric only range will be 21 miles. VW claim that average fuel consumption will be around 130 mpg.
Volkswagen has nearly finished development work on their super-budget and super-efficient £5,400 version of the Up! city car, aimed at the Chinese market and potentially ready for 2015. It will be built in China, but use locally sources materials, and intended to make motoring as affordable as possible.
Other manufacturers have been announcing new electric and hybrid cars as well as upgrades to existing vehicles, many relating to improved efficiency. Volvo plan to completely upgrade 8 out of their 9 existing models for example, with most of their model ranges due for external makeovers and new engines.
The buzz around the show in Detroit so far reflects the pace at which the car industry is moving forward, not just in the US but globally. Jim Seavitt, chairman of the 2013 NAIAS commented: "You walk on to the show floor, and immediately sense a renewed feeling of confidence in the automotive industry. It's clear that the industry is back, and the global manufacturers have saved their best for Detroit."
Although the public event does not start until 19th January, press and industry visitors have been in record numbers. Seavitt continued: “For two days, people around the world have seen a steady stream of exciting images and news coverage representing a new day in the automotive industry... it's been a very good couple of days."
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