Green Update–>Hybrids Dominate in NY, the Leaf Emerges, Eco-Marathon Winner Gets 2,487.5 mpg

March 30th, 2010

2010 Lincoln MKZThe inexorable Green Force seems to be dominant once again in New York. The city’s Auto Show, opening Friday, will have an abundance of hybrids, electrics, and various “sardine cans,” as one of our readers refers to them. BNET says it’s “another smorgasbord of small cars, hybrids and electric vehicles, representing a bet that one of these days, Americans will get on board the global small-car bandwagon.”

It’s more than that. Hybrid power is quickly moving upmarket, and you have the spectacle of Ford bringing its hybrid Lincoln MKZ (above) to New York (a rebadged Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan with shark-bite grille), a lame attempt to revive a failing brand. Hard to say when this sort of behavior will end.

Since less than 3 percent of cars sold are hybrids (and half of those are Priuses), where’s the market? Well, the carmakers are pushing hard, despite the fact that consumer behavior seems to be going the other way. But the high-end guys—BMW, Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, Ferrari—are firmly committed to hybrids. Do they know something consumers don’t know?

Nissan LeafI think they do, and the green commitment extends way beyond the luxury, sporting brands. Nissan’s Leaf is coming to market late this year and early next, with prices starting at $32,780 (and you’ll get a federal tax credit to knock that down to $25,280 or even less with further credits in states like California, Georgia, and Oregon).

Three years of roadside assistance is included. You can buy 220-volt charging docks that, with a federal tax credit, will net-cost you all of $200. The company will begin taking orders in three weeks, says Autoblog.

Chevrolet CruzeChevy is showing off the Cruze in New York, and it might just upstage the Volt. The Cruze Eco model has a 1.4-liter inline Ecotec four (138 hp, 148 lb-ft of torque), a six-speed manual, and some aero-tweaking. Expected economy is reported as 40 mpg, pretty extraordinary for a non-hybrid. With three trim levels, the car will go on sale late this year.

And yet, the future is all around us. Look at the geeky winners of Shell’s Eco-Marathon Americas in Houston. A team from the Université Laval in Quebec won (as they did last year) by achieving a 2,487.5 mpg run. The car looks like a big shoehorn. All energy use—solar, gasoline, fuel cells, plug-ins—is “normalized to miles per gallon of 87-octane gas for the purposes of comparison.”

It is crazy and wonderful that events like this can get student teams energized to perform such incredible feats of engineering. They are beyond batteries, you might say.

Why do companies keep rebadging cars like the Fusion Hybrid as the Lincoln MKZ? Will an upscale trim level really sell this car? What’s your opinion?

—jgoods

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  1. | #1

    While I’m glad U.S. automakers have high hopes for green cars and hope that will pay off in the near future, I wish they’d stop playing badge games and just produce a great hybrid that will improve over time and give its maker some credibility in the green game, as the Prius has for Toyota. I’ve heard great things about Ford’s Fusion Hybrid, but that’s very new, and I haven’t ever been in one.

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