Blog: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Kelli B. Kavanaugh is Model D's development news editor and writes a weekly column, Green Space, for metromode. In light of the North American International Auto Show, her blog will focus on the the automotive industry. But she is liable to write about any environmental issue that comes to mind.

Post No. 4

There is so much hype surrounding the Auto Show, it's kind of grody. But it is what it is, one of this region's biggest annual events and a major economic stimulus.

I pray that something -- expansion, remodeling, anything, please -- happens to Cobo Hall, as it is literally one of the most depressing public structures to which I've ever been. Can a new Joe Louis just be announced already, for god's sake?

Also, an elevated walkway to the Sheraton is one thing, but to the Renaissance Center? Um, that's a really, really long walkway. And isn't there a People Mover stop at both places? Just sayin'.

</end rant>

Anyhoo, when it comes to green technologies at the show, there were many and myriad. I definitely get the impressions that no manufacturer wants to put their eggs in one energy basket, which is reasonable, but I wish I felt more of a sense of urgency, like a full-on race to the future (or maybe that's the AXP vibe rubbing off on me!).

I sorted through the green technologies presented at the show and divvied them up roughly into four categories: plug-in hybrids, guilt-free luxury, standard engine fuel efficiency and diesel. I'll tackle two today and two Wednesday.

Plug-in hybrids: Of course, the Chevy Volt, last year's Auto Show superstar, led the mainstream charge for plug-in hybrids, but will not be available until 2010.

Chrysler, widely acknowledged to be the perennial tortoise in this race introduced three concept plug-in vehicles, the eco-Voyager, a four-door passenger sedan, the two-seater Renegade and the all-electric Dodge ZEO sport wagon. But will concept become reality?

And finally, Toyota announced it will have a plug-in ready for purchase in 2010 -- for a face-off with the Volt -- and promised to announce two more models at next year's Detroit Auto Show.

Fuel efficiency:
A push for fuel efficiency with good-old fashioned internal combustion engines could be seen as well. Ford is putting its chips behind the EcoBoost engine, a more fuel-efficient powertrain that it plans to use in about 500,000 vehicles in North America during the next five years. The engine uses direct-injection and turbocharging technologies and costs less to make than a hybrid -- and Ford is claiming a 20% increase in fuel efficiency.

Another example of this is in the Smart Car which simply gets 60 miles per gallon. No mumbo-jumbo, just a smaller, lighter vehicle that uses less gas. Overall, small car sales are expected to grow 25% through 2012 so look for cars -- like the Ford Verve -- that are already available overseas to be rolled out over here to meet that demand.