Volvo's Recharge concept is a preview of its production plug-in hybrid. The company is getting serious about electrification. (Volvo photo)
It's shortly before the Los Angeles Auto Show, which has its press days Wednesday and Thursday of this week. I've skipped LA before, but not this year -- it's intensely green, and they're rolling out (and letting me drive a bunch of exciting electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars). Normally, these companies would wait for the Detroit show in a couple of months, but there's just too much happening.
Here's what I'm all jacked up about:
Tesla. The pioneering green automaker will be bringing its converted Toyota RAV4 battery EV to Los Angeles, though I'm not sure we'll get to ride in it there. The car was put together well enough, apparently, for Toyota to greenlight it for production. The Toyota/Tesla relationship is deepening. CEO Elon Musk is in Tokyo, where he presented CEO Akio Toyoda with a special-edition Tesla Roadster. Both companies say they have much to learn from each other.
Fisker. The somewhat secretive automaker is finally showing off the first Fisker Karma produced on the production line at Valmet in Finland. That doesn't mean Fisker is giving rides in its groundbreaking chariot -- I hear that won't happen until December. The Karma is a plug-in hybrid with some similarities to the Volt, but it offers much higher performance -- zero to 60 in less than six seconds, and a top speed of 125 mph. Yet it also offers what the company says is "achievable annual average economy of 100 mpg," and carbon emissions of 133 grams per mile.
Honda. After years of naysaying on electric battery cars, Honda's new management is getting it about EVs. The automaker, an early adopter when it comes to hybrid cars (remember the first-gen 70-mpg Insight from '99?) is now planning to field an urban commuter EV in the U.S. in 2012, and a plug-in hybrid, too. Both will be in LA.
Mitsubishi. The I-MiEV, a small Smart-sized two-seat EV, was an early battery contender. It has been something of a hit on the Japanese market, but the first-generation model is now a bit behind the curve when it comes to battery technology. So in LA Mitsubishi will be showing a renamed car that has grown considerably. It's Mini-sized now, we hear, and slated for U.S. release.
Coda. The company recently lost its hard-charging CEO, Kevin Czinger, just as it prepares for California-only sales. The car is a small five-passenger EV, based on a Chinese car but electrified in California (where the company is based). Coda has a number of advantages in its sedan: Longer battery life, plus a sophisticated thermal management system. Its challenge is to stand out from the pack, which will take a still-evolving marketing plan.
Volvo. Another also-ran when it comes to battery cars, Volvo has also been bitten by the bug recently. It will be giving rides in its C30 battery car, which I've sat in and photographed but never taken around the block. Like Honda, Volvo is also preparing a plug-in hybrid, and that one is definitely slated for production as a gas car (U.S.) and diesel (Europe).
There's more. The Chevrolet Volt will be in LA, as its release is imminent. And I'm really looking forward to a reunion with the Wheego LiFe, another Smart-sized (and looking) contender. The last time was in Atlanta, and I was the first reporter in the driver's seat. Now it's coming soon to a city near you.
I will be reporting extensively from Los Angeles, so stay tuned.
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