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Auto Industry Still A Long Way From Being Green

North American International Auto Show

The 2015 North American International Auto Show held few surprises for eco-concerned consumers.

The 2015 North American International Auto Show highlighted just how few choices consumers have when looking to reduce their carbon footprint. There are certainly more options for 2015, and looking forward for the next few years, and the green-minded driver has a variety of price points, and styles from which to make their selection. However, with ecology in mind, there are few surprises coming from Detroit and around the world.

For two of the major Detroit auto makers, it would appear steps are being taken to appease those who would prefer to reduce their use of fossil fuels. Both Ford Motor Company and General Motors offer newly-designed engines to increase fuel economy, as well as several hybrid options – Ford even offering a 100 percent electric model since 2012; General Motors hopes to have its all-electric model ready by 2017.

The new 2015 Ford F150 pickup truck will be available with a 3.5L V6 EcoBoost engine, as well as a newly released 2.7L V6. Combined with a new all-aluminum body, which reduces overall curb weight by a maximum of 700 pounds, the new designs create a greatly more-fuel efficient truck. The 2015 Fusion Energi will feature a 2.0L hybrid engine, designed to get an EPA estimated 38mpg. Ford’s 100 percent electric model is the Ford Focus All Electric. This vehicle is the most economical, with a base MSRP of just over $29k.

General Motors unveiled the next generation of the popular Chevrolet Volt, for production year 2016. Labelling it an Extended Range Electric Vehicle, the new Volt will offer a 1.5L hybrid engine, which will provide 50 miles of pure electric power before the gasoline-powered generator turns on; the combination gives the car and EPA estimated 41mpg. The newly designed Volt also features a lighter curb weight; a redesigned, more-functional interior; an extended range for the electric part of the hybrid; and a sportier exterior. The base price is listed between $29k and $32k. General Motors is also looking toward the future, by revealing their new all-electric concept vehicle, the Bolt. The Bolt will be General Motor’s newest EREV, with an expected range of 200 miles on a full charge.

For those looking for a higher-end vehicle, there were three options from which to choose. BMW now offers the 100 percent electric i3, and the i8 hybrid. The i3 offers 170 horse-power, and – with the 3 cylinder combustion engine – the i8 hybrid offers a 228 horse-power performance. The base price for the i8 was $138k. Tesla Motors unveiled their most-efficient new product this year, with the 85D. The D stands for Duel Motor, offering an electric motor on both axles, giving the new model both All-Wheel Drive and an extended range of up to 225 miles on a full charge. Tesla also revealed their new Auto-Pilot option, combining a forward-facing camera, radar sensors, and 360-degree sonar sensors, designed to provide a safer driving experience for the consumer. Due to the State of Michigan’s ban on Tesla’s direct-sales model, pricing was not available.

While options are becoming more varied for those looking to decrease their carbon emissions, the 2015 NAIAS didn’t offer much more than those already available. With the exception of General Motors, nearly all of the concept vehicles came with standard combustion engines, although many of them redesigned for better fuel economy. There was one complete surprise for the staunchest proponents of green transportation: the Detroit-based company Shinola had a display this year, offering not only their famous clockworks and watches, but their hand-crafted bicycles, as well.

Before joining the WEMU team in 2010, Daniel Long was a listener and active WEMU volunteer. He first came to the artform we call jazz through his first love: 20th century American Literature. It was through the depiction of a raucous Charlie Parker club date that gave Daniel a thirst to know more.