From green hybrids and electrics to heavy-duty trucks for backcountry roads, this year’s show has it all
By Nadin Abbott
Photos by Thomas E Abbott
December 30, 2011 (San Diego)--The San Diego International Auto Show is presented by the New Car Dealers Association of San Diego. It’s a cool way for San Diegans to see what’s new in vehicles--and it is among the largest car shows in the nation. For those who are interested in more ecologically sound cars and even trucks, we are seeing more and more hybrids, flex fuel vehicles and electrics across most classes. The technology has come a long way in a short decade, making it both more compact and efficient.
Scroll down for highlights from the show—including our video of a test drive on a rugged Jeep track.
Coda rolls out electric model
Coda is a privately held company based in Southern California. (http://www.codaautomotive.com/we-are-coda/) The company unveiled an electric vehicle at the San Diego Show.
This four door sedan was designed to the highest quality standards. It has a range of 150 miles per charge and was designed to tolerate extremes in weather with no problems with the battery pack, which is a critical point since batteries do not like extremes in weather. These batteries will be just as efficient regardless of the weather. Part of the reason is CODA’s Active Thermo-Management system. This allows the battery to remain at optimum operational temperature regardless of the weather.
The vehicle’s frame is built in China, but the electronics and other critical components were designed in the United States and final assembly and testing is done in the United States. The vehicle charges from a 220 volt wall chargers that will require a separate outlet. It also qualifies for tax credits from both the Federal and State Governments. In fact, all electric vehicles do.
Visitors to the Auto Show can test drive this vehicle while the show runs. Marvin K Brown in Mission Valley will receive the first shipment by February. (http://www.mkb.com/)
Ford showcases new SUVs and trucks, including hybrids
Doug Davis from Ford Motor Company shared the latest in Ford’s hybrids and trucks. First in the order was the redesigned Escape. It is the best selling small SUV and it comes in both hybrid and standard engines. He emphasized that the Escape does deliver better mileage than it’s competitors, and that the body was redesigned for the 2013 model. This concept SUV is on display at the show. He also explained the Eco-Boost technology that is not just present in the Escape but the heavy duty Ford 150 truck.
This technology allows for engine turbo charging increasing fuel efficiency. In effect it allows for the fuel efficiency of a smaller engine, but the power of a big block engine. For example, the engine in the F-150 allows the truck to have the power and torque of a V-8, but the fuel efficiency of the V-6. It still has the capacity to pull 11,000 pounds, but will emit 20% less carbon monoxide and 20% less emissions. This is part of Ford’s commitment “to the planet.” The F-150, depending on configuration, has a fuel efficiency of up to 21 MpG.
Focus Electric Vehicle
The Ford Focus was the first electric vehicle introduced to the American market. It is capable of charging in three to four hours with a 240 Watt wall plug. Ford has partnered with Best Buy to install these plugs, and once charged the Focus has an efficiency rating of 100 miles per gallon equivalent.
MPG-E is the new measure used by companies to tell consumers how efficient this vehicle would be if gas operated. It is a convenient way to know how far it would go on a gallon of gas.
We asked Ford about the concerns among the blind community, since these cars are very quiet and may pose hazards to pedestrians. He told us that automakers are working on a sound that will let the blind know a car is there. He also emphasized that drivers of these vehicles should still be aware of their surroundings, since all pedestrians will not hear it.
See a video of the Jeep Rubicon in action by clicking here.
Jeep Rubicon brought back the Jeep experience. This means a ride in a current year Jeep over an obstacle course built inside the Convention center. This highlights the Jeep’s capabilities. (View my video, shot from the front seat) Suffice it to say, even over the roughest parts of the ride, the vehicle handles quite smoothky. What impressed me the most is that the Jeep is capable of going over a thirty degree embankment at five miles per hour and will not tip over. This makes it a very impressive vehicle for the back country.
Toyota rolls out a hybrid Camry
According to Christ Petscher, Toyota Product Specialists, Toyota has been the leader in Hybridsforsome years and this year they did not disappoint. They brought the well known Prius class vehicles, which included their plug in Hybrid. This vehicle is capable of plugging to a regular 110 volt wall socket, or the optional 240 Volt socket. It has a standard Synergy drive and it can run on an all electric system for fifteen miles. After that the synergy drive kicks in. It is capable of reaching an impressive 87 MpG.
The regular Prius is capable of 50 MpG. They also had the Prius V, which is a hatchback. It is a slightly lager vehicle, and this one
has a still impressive 44 MpG. The regular Prius has a cargo capacity of 21.5 cubic feet, while the V has a cargo capacity of 34.3 cubit feet. He also mentioned that the Prius C is coming out soon. It will still be a four person vehicle, but the two rear doors are not that obvious, why it looks like a two person car.
The larger Camry is also available in a Hybrid configuration, running at 14 MpG.
All these vehicles are still produced in Japan, but due to the Fukushima earthquake,
Toyota is considering production in the US. There were some serious issues with the
Toyota is considering production in the US. There were some serious issues with the
supply chain and backups after the quake hit.
Keep on trucking with the Tundra and Tacoma
Moving on to the trucks, both the Tundra and the Tacoma are built in San Antonio. The Tacoma has a towing capacity of up to 65,000 pounds, depending on configuration and an 18 MpG. There is a version that is four cylinder, which can push that mileage to 25 MpG. It comes with a 5.5 feet bed.
The Tundra is Toyota’s full-size truck, with a bed at either 6.5 feet or 8 feet. Mileage for this is up to 17 MpG with the two wheel drive, dropping to 16 MpG in the four wheel drive. As a full sized truck it has the capacity to pull over ten thousand pounds. Of note, Toyotas are also the official vehicles used by the San Diego Lifeguards.
Chevy Volt-made in America
Chevrolet had the Volt on the Floor, the first Electric Vehicle in the United States. The Volt is a nice looking Sedan, that can be charged from a regular wall plug at home. This will take ten hours to charge, while the optional 240 volt will take four hours. It does have a 35 mile range exclusively on electric per the EPA. Once the battery is drained, it has an under the hood generator that also has a nine gallon tank. This allows the Volt to have an effective range of 370 miles. On just electric it has an MpG-E of 94 miles.
Just like other Electric Vehicles it does deal with the problems of heat and cold with a liquid heating and cooling management system. In extremely cold temperatures the generator will start to heat the battery up to optimal operating temperature. There is also an optional 240 volt charger, that will charge the car much faster.
The Volt is produced in plants around Michigan. Per Ford media page (http://media.gm.com/media/us/en/chevrolet/vehicles/volt/2011.html) they invested into eight plants in the state. This means American Jobs.
Tahoe hybrid now available
While not at the show, Chevy is producing a Tahoe that is a hybrid Electric. Unlike it’s gas cousin it was redesigned to make it more aerodynamic, reaching 20\23 MpG, while sacrifices 200-300 pounds in towing capacity. Like it’s cousin the Silverado, both still can carry eight passengers. In this case consumers will gain better mileage for a tad of a sacrifice in the towing capacity. In other words, they will remain extremely versatile vehicles that will serve most needs.
The Nissan Leaf is now in it’s second year of production. Like all vehicles in it’s class it will ideally plug to a 240 volt charging station. It can also use 110 volt or a DC fast charger that can take it all the way to 80% of charge in thirty minutes. This car averages 100 miles per charge, and it takes about eight hours to take it from no charge to fully charged. It does have an efficiency rating of 99 MpG-E, which makes it a very impressive vehicle for city driving. Like all other electric vehicles, the Leaf has not run into any efficiency hits in cold or hot weather.
As to the trucks the V-8 Titan has an 9,000 plus pound towing capacity, depending on trim. It has an MpG of 13\18 and it comes with different bed options.
Lastly we come to the true luxury models in the Hybrid world. First the Infinity M-35 H. This is a luxury Sedan; there is no way to miss that in the wood trim and leather seats. It is also a sports Sedan with an engine rated at 360 Horse Power. It has a regenerative system and it has pretty decent mileage for it’s class.
Crossover GX-35 has backup safety feature
We were also introduced to the Crossover GX-35. It was introduced to the market at the Los Angeles Auto Show. While not hybrid it has a few very impressive features. Chief among them the Backup Collision Intervention System. It is essentially a Radar\Sonar unit that will detect people behind the driver as he backs the vehicle. It will warn the driver, and it will also apply the breaks, preventing an accident. Also while parking it has a set of cameras giving the operator a three hundred and sixty degree view.
It also has a capacity for eight passenger, and the middle row also adjusts five inches. This allows for more or less leg room in different rows. This makes it an extremely versatile vehicle for passengers of all sizes.
Finally we come to the Escalade Hybrid SUV. This vehicle has an impressive mileage for it’s class, at 20\23. Like many other Hybrids at low speeds the electric motor takes over, and at speed the gas engine takes over. The gas engine also has an active fuel management system.This means that the engine will only run as many cylinders as it needs, saving gas.
This vehicle is capable of towing up to 5,800 pounds, which makes it a nice vehicle. It also has a few other nice features, such as navigation screen that will also let the driver know what energy source he or she is using.
On the security side the side mirrors also have a blind spot detector, called a Side Zone Alert System. It will essentially do a check of the blind spot for vehicles, people or motorcycles. This should reduce accidents and replaces the well known small mirrors many of us have been known to use. Oh and yes, the side mirrors do fold in, protecting them from damage while parked. It does have a rear camera standard, and for those of us who are short, the pedals adjust. It will also memorize different settings for different drivers, making readjusting the seat and pedal positions fairly easy.
If you are in the market for a new vehicle, or just want to know what is new, the show is the place to find out. You will also be able to test drive many vehicles as well as ride the Jeep Experience. In addition the show has a collection of Hollywood vehicles, including a “Mater” (with the hood) from Cars. There is also has an area for the kids, and plenty of rescue vehicles for both children and adults to look at. In addition, check out the largest collection of street legal bumper cars in the United States.
The show runs through Sunday at the San Diego Convention Center downtown.
The hours are:
Thursday and Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Parking is available under the Convention Center for ten dollars.
Adults: (+13) $12.00
Military (W\ID) $9.00
Seniors (62+) $9.00
Children (7-12) $ 8.00
Children (1-6) Free
Discount coupons are available at local dealerships, participating Taco Bell Restaurants, and San Diego 7-11 Stores. Family day is Sunday, January 1, 2012; children 12 and under free with an adult.