Monday, October 5, 2015

Green Cars at the Texas State Fair Auto Show - Toyota Wins, Nissan Fails


I am feeling pretty proud of myself. Today marks 1 week of avoiding temptation - no, Craigslist, no EBay, no scoot.net/classifieds.
 
However, I did find myself in the midst of massive temptation this weekend. I found myself at the Texas State Fair Auto Show. It may shock you to know, but I was really excited to see the hybrids and the two all-electric cars in the auto show. I got to see the new Volt in person. My wife and I sat in all three Priuses, a Ford Fusion Energi,  a Ford C-Max, a Hybrid Kia Optima, a Hybrid Hyundai Sonata, and a Hybrid Toyota Avalon. The Avalon is a gorgeous car. The C-Max was my favorite in which to comfortably sit.
 
What was the coolest green thing I saw? The Toyota i-road


It's hard to categorize the i-road in conventional terms, but people who want the size and feel of a big scooter but want the protection of a car and the eco advantages of a plug-in electric in which to zip and lean around town should look no further - if Toyota decides to sell it here.
 
Maybe it's the BMW Isetta for a modern age.
 

I've seen lots of pics, but it was cool to see the quirky thing in person. It was also cool to see such a fluke for Toyota. Toyota, the true pioneers of the hybrid world, have shown themselves to be very opposed to battery-electric cars. They see the future as hydrogen-powered. The all-electric i-road flies in the face of that - and I would love to see Toyota build competitors for the Leaf, Bolt, and Telsa Model 3. In the meantime, I would love to drive an i-road!
 
I've seen bigger rear tires on scooters!
 
The New Volt - Malibu meets Accord?

The new Volt is sleek and good looking, but it has lost a lot of its distinctive look. I like the old body style better, but the greater battery-only range trumps the loss of individuality. Hopefully, the new look will attract more conventional buyers. I had hoped that Chevy would bring out one of the battery-only Bolt prototypes, but no such luck. I also hoped to see a Spark EV, but I doubt that car will ever extend much outside of California.

The Nissan Leaf, hidden in a corner behind a trash can. Carlos Ghosn, where are you?

The biggest disappointment of the show for me was the Nissan display. The center of their area was a $150,000 gas-guzzling GT-R straight out of Grand Theft Auto. The display was impressive and had crowds of teens and mid-life crises gathered the whole time I was around. Lots of chrome, video, and pretty girls who actually knew a fair amount about the cars they were showing off. My disappointment came when I could not find a Leaf. I did eventually find one. It was hidden in a dark corner with no display, no info, no brochures. It just had a standard window sticker. Sigh. One of the most successful electric cars on the planet gets no respect at all in the Lone Star State. Big fail for Nissan to show no love for its own electric baby. Do I sound bitter? I sure feel it. (Even so, lots of people found it and checked it out thoroughly.)
 
As for Tesla, you know they are not very welcome in Texas.
 
Kia had an impressive presence at the show, but they left the Kia Soul EV at home as well. They could have brought it and a cardboard cutout of a hamster and they would have blown Nissan out of the water.
 
Strangely, there were no European cars of any kind in the auto show other than the Fiat/Chryslers. The Fiat people displayed the Alfa Romeo logo, but no actual cars. So, no BMW i8 or i3. No exotic Porsche hybrids. No electric Golfs. No Smart FourTwo Electrics. Also, there were no Hondas. Hmm...
 
What does it all mean? It means that gas is cheap and that we have a long way to go when it comes to carbon-neutral transport. Even with Nissan's big fail, they had the only readily available EV at the fair. They just don't really want you know they have it.
 
May we find our way to something better and may manufacturers be excited about those somethings.