Green Update–>Porsche Diesels, Leaf Production, Mazda2 EV

LUMMA Porsche Cayenne Diesel

A diesel Cayenne (LUMMA version above) makes sense, right? It does in Europe, where the 2010 3.0 TDI has been a success. Its engine produces 406 lb-ft of torque, which could pull you out of most mud pits—or the Neiman Marcus parking lot.

So why not bring diesel power to the U.S. Cayenne—and the Panamera, too? Porsche is discussing the option, with the same V6 diesel for both cars, and may show them in Geneva in March. The Panamera S Hybrid may well come here also, using the present Cayenne S Hybrid drivetrain.

These moves are all part of Porsche’s plan to double its sales by 2018. Look for an entry-level sports car built on the Boxster platform and the Cajun (a junior Cayenne), to come perhaps in 2013.

The Nissan Leaf has finally arrived and, says Jerry Garrett, “Here comes the people’s electric car, America, ready or not.” Meaning, “not ready” for most of you, because of the lack of charging facilities. But Garrett likes the car and its driving experience, though range anxiety is still a real issue.

It’s a car for relatively short commutes, even in L.A., where there are more charging stations than most anywhere. Garrett reports that battery drain varies a lot with changing weather conditions. And you have to learn to drive a bit differently to deal with the range problem.

However, the Leaf just won the European Car of the Year 2011 award, beating out six conventionally powered cars. Nissan is experiencing some factory delays in producing the car—to be sure it gets things right, the company says—with full production due by April. Some customers waiting in line are not happy.

Mazda2Finally, Mazda plans to begin leasing a fleet of electric cars in Japan next year. Based on the Mazda2 (shown at right; called the Demio in Japan), the new EV is expected to have a range of about 124 miles. Though it comes late to the game, Mazda wants to lease first to government and fleet customers and collect data on their usage and experience.

That sounds smart and contrasts sharply with Nissan’s go-for-broke strategy. Electrics will, I am sure, find their niche, and it may very well be with corporate, government and fleet users—at least at first.

The problem with Mazda’s go-slow approach to EVs is that it will be very late to the party. Do you agree?

—jgoods

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