By Suzanne Maxx
Innovation, technology, and “ECO” are the themes driving the LA Auto Show, now open to the public through December 1st.
Both “eco”nomy and “eco”logy continue to be in focus and more traditional brands are moving into the alternative “ECO” drive space. Leaders and original “first movers” like; Tesla, Nissan, Toyota, and Mitsubishi, have carved out this market in the USA and continue to build on their innovative brands, by not just improving their staple vehicles, but adding more. Their competition grows from Porsche, GM (again), BMW, Mercedes, Ford, Fiat, Honda and more OEMs- all with alternative, “ECO” vehicles using a wide spectrum of energy options (see AltExpo blog).
The area where there is the most “play” (besides the literal gaming vehicle the Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo to be experienced on a PlayStation) is in the growth of the plugin hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid technology in the SUV, sports and luxury markets from traditional OEMs. U.S. sales of plugin electric vehicles were up 147 percent between August 2012 and August 2013. The advantage of the PHEV is the flexibility and freedom that comes with the option to choose your source of energy – both a personal and collective freedom is found driving a PHEV.
There is the option to be spontaneous to drive a long distance (without range anxiety), and also the option to plugin and charge from renewable energy which has the “ECO” advantage. There are many new PHEVs in this transition period with infrastructure still ramping up. PHEVs allow traditional fossil fuel or electricity from a renewable energy source. The PHEV choices now include new sporty SUVs that are PHEVs; most designed with an onboard generator, or dual engines.
Porsche, was actually the first with the hybrid automobile, the Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid from 1900(!), and with a variety of hybrid and PHEVs now; the 918 Spyder a mid-engined sports plug-in hybrid , the Cayenne luxury crossover, the Panamera S E-Hybrid luxury four-door sedan and the Macan compact crossover SUV— making its world debut at the LA Auto show.
With the new Panamera PHEV, you can either stop and plug in after your initial all electric 22 miles, or allow it to charge when driving with innovative ways to recoup energy, and not just from regenerative braking – it generates energy by simply driving this fast vehicle.
Nissan’s Pathfinder, arguably the best SUV ever made, is now a PHEV. With mileage of 25/28 this PHEV improves on the old Pathfinder’s MPGs. (Okay, I’m slightly Nissan biased here, as what I have witnessed with this vehicle is sustainable over time in the realm of maintaining working order, doing its job, and lasting over decades with minimal repair.) The new Pathfinder Hybrid is powered by a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine combined with a 15-kilowatt electric motor for a total output of 250 hp.
The Pathfinder is likely to lead the sporty “ECO” PHEV, SUV market. The older traditional OEMs are moving at a pace that might help the larger population adapt, with many people being more comfortable with gradual change. However Nissan has lead this “ECO” “Shift” driving down a path with vehicles for the early innovative adopters with the all-electric, Leaf. Now Nissan’s trustworthy staple SUV as a PHEV, the Pathfinder crossover looks to be a win for Nissan. The vehicles are now made in the USA, with the new Tennessee plant ramping up production to meet the rapid demand of “ECO” vehicles, that many people are call for, and this supports our “eco”nomy. It is respectable for an OEM to manufacture in the country sold, and Nissan is a leader in this regard.
The good old traditional USA Ford is becoming a serious new contender. As predicted at the AltCar Expo earlier this year, Ford has taken the lead in sales in plugin hybrids in October with 2,179 Fusion Energi and C-MAX Energi vehicles sold. This fall, Ford launched one of the first dealership training programs for better public adoption of EVs – (it may be working), a lead all OEMs could follow for better sales and to benefit the public.
The amount of vehicles that Ford is offering in diverse classes moves it fast forward (see our blog on the LA Auto Show 2012 which features Ford/Lincoln’s series of hybrids and PHEVs).
It isn’t just that the Ford’s C-MAX series with C-Max Energi and Fusion models are becoming rapidly popular by the mainstream consumer – they also drive well, and are affordable– plus they are demonstrating leading “ECO” values, not just with the vehicles themselves, but with their company’s new approach to “Teaming Up” for “ECO”.
It is inspiring is to see large corporations “Teaming Up” to go a deeper shade of green like global icons Ford and Coca-Cola. Most people think of these corporations’ brands around good ole’ America virtues, with traditional staple products made in the USA. It’s surprising to think of Ford leading alternative vehicles like the C-MAX Fusion Energi, and Coca-Cola with not just its Odwalla brand of juice successfully produced by Coca-Cola for the masses, transported in electric refrigerated trucks, but also their R&D with “ECO” plastics and fabric. They are “Teaming Up” with Coca-Cola’s innovative PlantBottle bio-based fabric made up of 30% plant-derived material and 100% recyclable bottles to be used in the production of Ford’s Fusion Energi. But both companies have other surprising commonalities besides their willingness to grow and change – which is not an easy task for corporations of this size. They both are demonstrating their commitment to environmental stewardship for the sustainability of our planet. Both have bold corporate sustainability programs with emission targets, funds designated, climate action plans, and partner programs for stewardship for our future.
The 2nd Generation PlantBottle Technology will be 100% plant based. Teaming-up for “green” the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance was created with Ford; World Wildlife Fund, The Coca-Cola Company, Danone, H.J. Heinz Company, Nestle, Nike, Procter & Gamble and Unilever. The synergy of these type of efforts could benefit these companies, and potentially us all.
The United Nations UNFCCC now ending in Warsaw began to see the light of this possibility with victories with countries starting to “Team Up” for change with REDD+ and with “Losses and Damages” on climate change (will blog on COP19 next).
Chevy is getting up there too with the PHEV Volt and the all-electric Spark. The Spark may catch fire, in a good way, by spreading through Hertz’s leading programs that allow all people to rent many of the leading hybrids, PHEVs, and EVs. This is a great way to really test out these new vehicles with the Altima, Leaf, Volt, C-MAX, and now the Spark in their arsenal of vehicles available to rent. Hertz too is “Teaming Up” with other brands to better promote.
Volkswagen had half of the new all electric vehicles debuting at the LA Auto show with eGolf, and their luxury division’s Audi, rolled out the Audi A3 e-tron. The two other EV debuts were BMW’s i3 and Cadillac’s ELR– both claiming to rival Tesla. Tesla, Honda, and Toyota continue to have power stances in their respective vehicles and classes. This was the first year Tesla joined the LA Auto Show for Press Days, and they had the Model S at the Ride and Drive. Tesla’s strong leadership into new territory inspires innovation – radically changing the transportation game. Tesla’s EVs are so far ahead of the rest of the traditional OEM’s with their vehicle offerings including the original roadster, and now the Model S. Tesla is now taking orders for its all electric Model X SUV.
Tesla’s lead is complimented now by other OEMs trying to compare their brands and vehicles to Tesla. Tesla’s been the game changer, as I attested to in this test drive of the Model S year ago. Both the Cadillac ELR and the BMW claim to present rivalry. In all ways, Tesla is outside the box with their standard for innovation, technology and being all electric with its own built EV infrastructure for charging along freeways to handle distance. Tesla also markets electric power train components, including lithium-ion battery packs, to other automakers, including Daimler and Toyota. Their entrepreneurial independent lead has changed the auto industry, raising the bar for what a vehicle could be – they welcome others as Tesla’s Elan Musk wants EVs to dominate. Tesla focuses on pure battery electric propulsion technology, even for larger vehicle segments and real-world ranges greater than 200 miles. The “ECO” advantage is not just about saving money – it also gives our planet cleaner air, creates more freedom, with better security, by being more energy independent. Elon Musk is indeed a pioneer for the planet – he was acknowledged with the 2010 Automotive Executive of the Year Innovator Award for hastening the development of electric vehicles throughout the global automotive industry.
There are now enough OEM’s with alternative models to give hope to the concept of a more secure, healthy planet independent of fossil fuel, and the many negative repercussions of continuing to choose this source of energy for our future. We at WTN still stand firm with Elon Musk and others – that electric charging to a renewable energy source is the ideal way to go. But the hydrogen fuel cells like the Hyundai’s (with the Tucson hydrogen fuel cell crossover, unveiled at the LA Auto Show), bio-diesel, and natural gas are some of the other energy modalities considered “ECO” that WTN chooses not to focus on. These energies each have side effects or repercussions that may not be in our best interest long run, considering the whole cradle to cradle cycle of “ECO” with our energy and our planet’s resources, but still probably better than fossil fuel. For example the Hydrogen Bubble we predict will burst with the combustion aspect of hydrogen, as well as the fact it is a highly energy intensive process to produce hydrogen from electrolysis of water or the dirty alternative from fossil fuels, and, natural gas is still a fossil fuel, and has water and air quality issues when it is sourced from shale gas with sloppy production practices – the debate around hydraulic “fracking”, and bio diesel has environmental impacts as it still burns fuel, which produces CO-2.
“Teaming Up” to “green” isn’t just a World Team Now concept. Companies are just coming together to brand around the environment they are also co-branding around innovate technology, for the health of both products, people and our planet. Mercedes-Benz and Google are “Teaming Up” on hardware – the automaker is developing an in-car integration for Google Glass. Innovative technology is used not to just better direct drivers, but to also prevent accidents and aide people with automated self-driving vehicles. Technology that allows vehicles to communicate with other vehicles is being developed. People buying EVs or PHEVs represent a growing eco-consciousness. Technology can help bring the world to a place where we are better stewards of the earth and now days this means connected technology. Aware of this, the organizers of the LA Auto Show created the Connected Car Expo. It was a one-day conference and three-day expo on connecting the car to its greater environment – the driver, other autos, and the home or office for enhanced safety, comfort, entertainment, and most importantly realizing the full ecological value of EVs and PHEVs. The connectedness to the greater surroundings means collaboration with other manufactures and interests so headlines like “Ford Teams Up to Save Energy with MyEnergi Lifestyle” appear. This teaming is with unlikely companies such as Eaton, SunPower and Whirlpool, Infineon, and Nest Labs.
The Public Days’ Ride and Drive grew with many vehicles this year to test out what is green and innovative. Some the Technology demo-ed;
- Adaptive-cruise control
- Automatic park-assist
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Front-crash mitigation
- Radar-based object detection systems
Ford has branded their take on this as the MyEnergi Lifestyle. The Ford solution to off peak charging – value charging – is available on all Ford plug-in vehicles with the MyFord Mobile app.
More innovation competed at the LA Auto show with the fast pitch competition for innovators with concepts to take to the connected auto market. The FASTPITCH Competition winner, Estify, was announced by Robert Herjavac of ABC’s “Shark Tank”. Estify won with a platform to streamline collision repair. With innovative and green technology, “Biomimicry & Mobility 2025 – Nature’s Answer to Human Challenges” was another of the many interesting events> Contests and awards such as; “ Innovation Car of the Year”(There was a tie for the winner by two light weight vehicles) and “Green Car of the Year”– the Honda Accord.
At the LA Auto Show, together the innovation, technology, “Teaming Up” for “ECO” make this event that not only drives the transportation section but is indeed inspiring change for all – reaching an expected 900,000 thousand people who plan to actually attend.
I left with both a tear and laughter upon seeing the “Puma”, a vehicle that is the antithesis of our “ECO” – it gets an ideal 14 MPG (more realistically 7 MPG) and is priced at over a million dollars.
This vehicle, The Puma is named after the threatened species. We are thankful vehicles like these are rare, and if they make all people laugh or cry they will help us all from becoming an endangered species.
But with more and more hybrids, PHEVs and ideally straight EVs, we could all benefit from being aware of “ECO” and choosing to be better stewards of our resources in our homes and with by we choose to drive.
© World Team Now (WTN) 2013. All rights reserved.