What’s New at the New York Auto Show

by Dennis Machicao

After many years, I decided to go to the New York Auto Show to see what is new and especially in the way of Green Cars. Being a car buff myself, I had a good time. The usual fantasy cars where there, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Lotus, Bugatti, Aston Martin with beautiful designs and prices in the stratosphere, some as much as 1 million dollars plus. They where nice to see, fantasy-worthy and certainly not “green”.

Getting back to reality, it seems that the auto industry is making significant strides in limiting the use of fossil fuels. Each major brand, Ford, Chevrolet, Honda, Kia, Hyundi, Mazda, Toyota and so on had one or more models in their line-up that were hybrid, plug in electric, NGV (Natural Gas Vehicle) or with one form or another technologies that would save energy. There is a wider variety of models to choose from that can be classified as a green vehicle.

Even the well to do can feel that they are contributing to the wellbeing of the environment. There was a car company that I never heard of called Fisker. Their vehicles were very sporty and sleek looking with all the interior amenities. What really caught my eye was that each model had a roof that was a solar panel. I thought how futuristic that this car runs on solar power. In asking one of the personnel in the exhibit about the car, she told me that these cars were indeed electric that you have to plug them in to charge the batteries and the solar panel was only to cool the interior of the car and run some of the electronics. Oh. And at a price from $102,000 to $115,000 the well to do can feel they are not contributing to the dependence of fossil fuel. Of course if I owned one of these cars I would definitely not consume any energy because at those prices, I would be scared to drive it least I needed to take out a mortgage to just pay for the insurance.

Again, back to reality. Mazda had a technology called Skyactiv Technology, an ultra-low compression clean diesel engine that offered 40 MPG according to Mazda. If you feel you don’t want to plug in your car, these cars are for you. Ford touts that they have models for every green conscious consumer that are either full hybrid, plug-ins, battery electric or NGV, something for everybody. And talking about NGV, Natural Gas Vehicles, Honda had an impressive display showcasing their Civic that ran on natural gas. This Civic was voted 2012 Green Car of the year by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE).  At $27,655 this seemed like an affordable alternative to a gasoline powered car. The Civic also was available in a hybrid version, a combination of electric and gas. Another affordable alternative is the Nissan Leaf 100% electric, although smaller than the Honda Civic.

If this country is serious in have a serious energy policy to decrease the dependence on foreign oil, it seems to me that incorporating natural gas vehicles for both private and commercial use is the answer. With gasoline reaching $5 per gallon in certain places, natural gas is logical. It is inexpensive, plentiful, domestically obtainable and non- polluting.

With that in mind, I saw, in my opinion, the most impressive car company at the show. A car company that is on the cusp of freeing the U.S. of foreign oil in the near future. The company is called VPG (Vehicle Production Group). They have a vehicle, the MV-1 that is similar in silhouette to the London cab. If you ever rode in one you will know what I mean. They are extremely roomy inside seating 6 with an optional jump seat. MV-1 definitely satisfies American’s love of the SUV or Mini Van. But what is most impressive is that it is built as original equipment with a factory installed Compressed Natural Gas fuel system option. This option, I believe, is the wave of the future for vehicular transportation. Along with the expansion of this energy system, fueling stations have to be developed to accommodate these vehicles by integrating a natural gas fuel pump in existing gas stations.  It is inexpensive, plentiful, a domestic fuel source and Green by not emitting pollutants into the air. But if this wasn’t enough of a good thing, the MV-1 meets and exceeds the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act by manufacturing the MV-1 with a deployable integrated ramp for wheelchair accessibility. The ramp can be either electrically or manually deployed. And once inside, there is plenty of room for a fully assembled wheelchair. Very impressive indeed!  If you want to know more about the MV-1 go to vpgautoscom. Are you taxi fleet owners listening?

So overall, the New York Automobile Show made me realize that the automobile industry, although a late starter, is serious about the environment and dependence on foreign oil and that Green cars come in all kinds of fuel systems, designs, and price ranges. These are not concept cars but cars that are available now with engineering systems that will continue to be  developed and improved for the future.

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