BEV’s the New Sheriff in Town

Fuel efficiency, eco factors trump horsepower at auto show

2010chevroletvolt

The Chevrolet Volt, GM's latest electric- powered model, is expected to be released in late 2010.

Shhh.

Listen.

What you can expect to hear inside the cabin of a BEV is utter and pure silence – like a mobile library.

The experience of driving a BEV (battery electric vehicle … not Beverly) is intriguing. The lack of noise is a tad maddening because there’s the whole sitting and wondering for a millisecond if the car is on.

A few of these BEVs were available to drive on a test track inside Cobo Center at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Duh.

And then there’s an inquisitive thought that surfaces. Could it really happen? Will BEVs actually come to market? That’s question numero uno and numero dos swirling in my mind, and judging from the slathers of green uncloaked at the show, the answer looks to be yes.

Consumers will have the option of going green, greener, or greenest with picks that range from fuel-efficient to hybrid to BEVs.

Detroit auto makers and their Japanese counterparts backed up the talk this week with no-nonsense unveilings such as spruced up hybrids including a third-generation 2010 Toyota Prius that’s even more fuel-efficient than its predecessor (four words: 50 miles-per-gallon), and the 2010 Honda Insight that will be priced below $23,000, making it the most affordable hybrid come spring. Ford says it’ll produce a small battery electric car in 2011 that won’t use a single drop of gasoline. It’ll likely be a Ford Focus version.The automaker will follow up with a next-generation plug-in hybrid by 2012.

It’s nice having choices even if it means the task of swaying consumers to buy green may take some prodding, marketing, educating, and maybe even a little dose of oil price hedging. And it’s nice to see auto companies, namely Detroit’s, exuding much bravado over their green vehicles, thanks in part to stricter government fuel standards starting with 2011 model year vehicles.

Still, talk about strides. As independent auto analyst Erich Merkle describes this year’s auto show, “It’s the antithesis of the the horsepower war. This is really competitive zeal to see who can go further on a gallon of gas.”

To think five, four, or even three years ago, mum was the word on BEVs. There was a whole lot of skepticism on whether consumers would really pay a premium for hybrids, and of course that obscure car czar of Oz concluded Americans would never step in droves into small gas cars. Where’s that guy these days?

The electric-powered Chevrolet Volt, by the way, is expected to be charged up in time for sale by late 2010.

“(CEO) Rick Wagoner announcing that GM was producing the battery for the Volt was a serious statement,” said Mike Omotoso, senior manager of global powertrain for J.D. Power and Associates.

Point taken.

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