Slideshow: Electric Cars Rule Detroit Auto Show

Car makers showed off their latest electric vehicles to a receptive audience at last month's Detroit Auto Show

PHOTO: JOHN VOELCKER

2010 TOYOTA PRIUS

Eagerly awaited amid a storm of rumors, the 2010 Toyota Prius is a competent evolution of the current model. It’s more spacious, more luxurious, has a larger 1.8-liter engine, and delivers 4.7 liters per 100 kilometers (50 miles per gallon, city/highway). But its nickel-metal-hydride battery pack is unchanged, at least until the promised plug-in version arrives.

For more on the Detroit Auto Show, see Show Recap: Detroit Goes Electro-tastic!

PHOTO: JOHN VOELCKER

DODGE CIRCUIT

Last fall’s electric Dodge EV sports car has been renamed the Circuit. Heavily based on the Lotus Europa (just as the Tesla Roadster uses basic structures and components from the Lotus Elise), the Circuit has a 200-kilowatt electric motor and does 0 to 96 kilometers per hour (60 miles per hour) in less than five seconds.

For more on the Detroit Auto Show, see Show Recap: Detroit Goes Electro-tastic!

PHOTO: JOHN VOELCKER

FORD FUSION HYBRID

Unquestionably the star of November’s L.A. Auto Show, the Fusion Hybrid reprised its debut in Detroit. With all-electric speeds as high as 75 km/h (47 mph) and mileage (5.7 L/100 km city/6.5 L/100 km highway, or 41 mpg city/36 mpg highway) that handily beats that of Toyota’s Camry Hybrid, Ford should sell as many Fusion Hybrids as it can get batteries for.

For more on the Detroit Auto Show, see Show Recap: Detroit Goes Electro-tastic!

PHOTO: JOHN VOELCKER

CONCEPT: CADILLAC CONVERJ

News of a GM surprise—a Cadillac coupe on Volt underpinnings—managed to leak out before the show. Still, the Converj concept won rave reviews for its elegant, aggressive styling. ”It’s almost like GM built a Cadillac Gallardo,” said a smitten analyst, referring to Lamborghini’s radical sports car.

For more on the Detroit Auto Show, see Show Recap: Detroit Goes Electro-tastic!

PHOTO: JOHN VOELCKER

SMART EV

It looks unchanged from the smallest car sold in the United States, but the Smart EV is a pure electric car. It’s an update of a model that previously used a 26.4-kilowatt-hour sodium-nickel-chloride battery driving a 30-kW motor. Smart’s big news was a deal to buy 1,000 battery packs from Tesla Motors.

For more on the Detroit Auto Show, see Show Recap: Detroit Goes Electro-tastic!

PHOTO: JOHN VOELCKER

2010 LEXUS HS250h

The first dedicated hybrid for Lexus shares a basic platform with the new Prius—though its wheelbase is longer and production will be lower. The HS250h can be viewed as a Prius with a trunk, with lots of luxury accoutrements and a different balance between fuel economy and features.

For more on the Detroit Auto Show, see Show Recap: Detroit Goes Electro-tastic!

PHOTO: JOHN VOELCKER

2009 HONDA INSIGHT

The Honda Insight, the company’s first dedicated hybrid, just appeared on its stand sans media hoopla. Priced at less than US $20,000, it has promised to be the least-expensive hybrid sold, and it wrings every last drop of efficiency and cost reduction out of Honda’s mild-hybrid system to deliver 5.7 L/100 km (41 mpg).

For more on the Detroit Auto Show, see Show Recap: Detroit Goes Electro-tastic!

PHOTO: JOHN VOELCKER

BYD E6 and F3DM

Chinese battery- and automaker BYD showed its F3DM plug-in hybrid and an electric crossover, the E6. It plans to sell cars in the United States within a few years, although it wisely didn’t set a schedule. Released this past December, the F3DM sedan is the world’s first plug-in production vehicle.

For more on the Detroit Auto Show, see Show Recap: Detroit Goes Electro-tastic!

PHOTO: JOHN VOELCKER

TOYOTA FT-EV CONCEPT

Despite its surreal glittery paint job, the all-electric Toyota FT-EV concept was ignored in the furor over the new Prius. Effectively an electric version of the existing Toyota iQ minicar (with some styling tweaks), the concept shows that Toyota is serious about the small electric urban car.

For more on the Detroit Auto Show, see Show Recap: Detroit Goes Electro-tastic!

PHOTO: JOHN VOELCKER

FISKER KARMA S SUNSET

Widespread industry skepticism about the Fisker extended-range electric vehicle was countered by the company’s insistence that it will deliver the first cars this December. The Karma S Sunset, a convertible coupe with a retractable hardtop, would be the first hybrid convertible if it makes it into production.

For more on the Detroit Auto Show, see Show Recap: Detroit Goes Electro-tastic!

PHOTO: JOHN VOELCKER

VOLKSWAGEN CONCEPT BLUESPORT

Not every concept car or new launch was electric, although German diesel makers may have felt outnumbered. VW flew the flag with this crisp midengine two-seater sports car that uses a 177-horsepower turbocharged diesel four to drive the rear wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Right now, production plans are questionable.

For more on the Detroit Auto Show, see Show Recap: Detroit Goes Electro-tastic!

PHOTO: JOHN VOELCKER

MERCEDES-BENZ CONCEPT BLUEZERO

This ”aquadynamic” concept car was one of three versions that house different advanced propulsion systems beneath the floor: battery electric, extended-range electric, or fuel cell. The shape likely previews the next B-Class Mercedes, which the company is considering selling in the United States.

For more on the Detroit Auto Show, see Show Recap: Detroit Goes Electro-tastic!

PHOTO: JOHN VOELCKER

MERCEDES-BENZ S400 BLUEHYBRID

Looking just like a standard S-Class, this Benz has a unique claim to fame: It’s the first production hybrid with a lithium-ion battery pack. Engineers fit the 0.6-kWh lithium battery into the same space as the car’s standard large lead-acid 12-volt starter battery, with cooling from the car’s air-conditioning system.

For more on the Detroit Auto Show, see Show Recap: Detroit Goes Electro-tastic!

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