Thursday, November 20, 2008

News From the L.A. Auto Show - Part 2

This is the second posting in a 5-part article regarding the Los Angeles Auto Show. Read Part 1 here.

Upon arriving to the show I first visited the Ford area. There was lukewarm-to-moderate press interest in the Ford showroom area. Ford has only one hybrid vehicle available now -- it is the 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid, a mid-size SUV that gets 34 mpg in the city, 31 on the freeway, about 500 miles on one tank. Compared to most standard SUV's, that's a 10-20 mpg savings. The hybrid system uses a NiMH battery that recharges when you brake. Starting list price is at $29,305. I like how they have made the seats from recycled materials and plant-seed material, and you get a basic warranty of 3 year/36,000 miles. By law, they have to give an 8-10 year (depending on where you live) warranty for the high-voltage battery, electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) and the DC/DC converter. Like many hybrid (gas/electric) vehicles I saw today, it would have been better if the fuel tank also accepted E85 in case we move toward more non-corn alternative fuels, such as cellulosic ethanol (made from the cellulose of switch grass, prairie grasses, or corn stalk waste). But I found this SUV to be the best buy-now option if you want a hybrid SUV.

The 2009 Mazda Tribute Hybrid is essentially the same vehicle as the Ford Escape Hybrid. Mazda is a Ford company, and it's Tribute was painted the exact same color at the show as the Escape Hybrid and looked nearly the same as the Escape Hybrid ... weird . But the Tribute Hybrid is currently only available in California and under a limited run, so who knows if they will continue producing the vehicle.

Again, speaking about E85, another thing interesting about this show is that I did not see any overt attempt to tout product with flex-fuel or E85 options from any manufacturer. While some vehicles will have that standard now, especially among GM vehicles, I thought this was a clear sign that the most innovation is coming in electric, fuel cell, and clean diesel -- not flex-fuel.

Another area of innovation interest that surprised me was in emissions -- lower or near-zero emissions. This is an innovation area that has not been widely talked about in the media.

For Mazda, it has two Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles (PZEV), which are vehicles that are "90% cleaner than the average new 2004 automobile" -- as stated by GreenCar.com. Says GreenCar.com "a PZEV must have near-zero evaporative emissions and its emission control equipment must carry a 15-year/150,000 mile warranty. To be rated as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (AT-PZEV), an automobile must meet all the above criterion for a PZEV rating and additionally must make use of "ZEV-enabling clean technology” such as alternative fuels, electric drive, or other advanced technology systems. " PZEV vehicles have come about due to California's more strict emissions standards. The 2009 Mazda3 and 2009 Mazda6 both are PZEV vehicles. All Mazda vehicles' basic warranty is for 3 years/36,000 miles.

Part 3 ...

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