For some people, it’s the moment they have been waiting for all year, for others, it’s a passing fantasy, and then it’s back to reality. But if you are one of the thousands of individuals shopping for a new car this year, or interested in the latest new auto gadgets and technology, the opening of the largest auto show in the US is a big deal. This year’s North American International Auto Show, opened on January 11th in Detroit Michigan, and included a 37,000 square foot Electric Avenue, showcasing the latest in electric vehicles and battery technology. While some of these electric cars are still just prototypes, many of the electric cars showcased this year will be in dealer showrooms as early as this spring. Why are there so many electric vehicles coming to market this year?
In the USA, sales of hybrids were brisk when gasoline was over $4.00 a gallon, but since we haven’t seen high gas prices since the summer of 2008, hybrid sales have been sluggish at best. Why the push then by automakers to introduce electric hybrids and pure electric models to their fleets? New found concerned for the environment? Maybe, but these are mostly bottom line companies, in many cases, companies trying to climb out of the “red.” So it is still likely that the bottom line is more important to them than carbon emissions. What is most likely driving many of these companies is the need to meet new US “fleet” requirements for miles per gallon which were introduced in 2009. The new requirements call for cars to average 39 miles per gallon by 2016, and for trucks, 30 mpg. By comparison, in 2009, the average mpg for cars in the USA was 27.5 and for trucks 23.1 mpg. Cars and trucks in the mix that use little if any gasoline help bring up the fleet average, and in order to get to the 2016 requirements automakers need to start now!
We could question however, why the average Japanese and European automobiles already meet a “fleet” average of over 40 MPG. Why can these countries do this in 2010 and yet many American industry executives insist that the US can’t possibly be competitive if it is “forced” to meet these new targets by 2016! Could it have anything to do with the high gasoline prices in these countries – in many cases more than triple or quadruple those found in the USA! Are consumers demanding more fuel efficient vehicles? Legislative change is important and can have a significant impact on our environment as well as consumer behavior; important reasons to pay attention to what is happening in Washington these next few months as a new climate and energy bill is debated. Separate and distinct from the climate change bill is a question we need to ask ourselves, if the cost of gasoline went back to $4.00 a gallon would consumers demand more fuel efficient vehicles from car manufacturers, would it truly impact our lives significantly?
Many of the electric cars on display in Detroit this year can be “plugged” into a regular electric socket for recharge. Office and residential buildings in places like Manhattan, LA and Chicago are installing “charge banks” in their garages in anticipation of a demand by many new electric car owners. If you live in a place like Minneapolis or Edmonton, Canada, the cold climate makes electric outlets for vehicles commonplace, most malls and office buildings already have these outlets and have had them for years. For more info on the Detroit show and some to the things they have to offer, check out the North American International Auto Show website.