Consumers Continue to Demand Environmentally Friendly Cars and Automakers Respond with Electric, Plug-in Hybrids and Flex-Fuel ‘Green’ Vehicles

Issues of Global Warming, Fuel Prices and Energy Independence Drive Demand for Cleantech Vehicles

As the auto industry faces recent slipping sales, clean energy vehicles are catching the attention of consumers looking for efficiency and environmentally friendly alternatives, giving manufacturers a new direction for growth. The momentum behind green cars is a reaction to a variety of factors such as fuel prices despite current declines, environmental issues such as greenhouse gas emissions and global national energy security concerns.

This week many new clean energy vehicles are being introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show, a platform for the unveiling of current and future alternative vehicles. Creating a buzz were displays of plug-in hybrids, which use electric motors with a gasoline engine as a backup, and electric vehicles that run entirely on electricity. Also in the mix were natural gas, ethanol and biodiesel vehicles. Another event, the AltCars Expo this weekend in Santa Monica, is shaping up to be the one of the premiere events for alternative fuel vehicles, and many of the new models and concepts will be present.

Recently, major automakers Toyota, Honda, General Motors and Nissan revealed a future that includes the production of various clean energy models. General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner has announced GM’s plans to develop a plug-in hybrid for its Saturn Vue Green Line SUV, but with no specific date for production revealed. General Motors has also unveiled the concept behind the Hummer “O2” which converts carbon dioxide to oxygen using algae-filled body panels.

General Motors is also focusing on cars that run on ethanol (E85) as part of their overall corporate environmental strategy moving forward. With ethanol becoming more widely available, as more producers such as Green Plains Renewable Energy (NASDAQ: GPRE) bring plant production online, these flex-fuel vehicles offer automakers viable near term opportunities while they continue to develop their next generation of green cars.

Hyundai is committing research efforts to hydrogen-powered fuel cells and vehicles that run on clean diesel as well as gas-electric hybrids. Honda is also looking at fuel cells with plans for hydrogen-powered sedans for 2008. Toyota Motor Corp, the largest seller of traditional hybrids, is another major automaker talking about developing plug-in models.

While many companies pursue the plug-in hybrid models, full electric vehicles are rapidly grabbing industry attention. While there are very few publicly owned companies currently offering mass-produced electric cars, one private firm Tesla Motors is showcasing its new Roadster prototype, planned for limited production as early as 2007, but with a price tag of $100,000USD. Nissan has plans for a 125-mile range all-electric car, but plans for production are targeted for 2010.

Electric car manufacturer and distributor ZAP (OTCBB: ZAAP) has a jump on the market with the only mass-produced and affordable electric car available for sale today. ZAP’s XEBRA city-car and truck is currently on sale through dealerships in Los Angeles for approximately $10,000USD. With most automakers looking several years down the road for market entry of most plug-in hybrids and electric models, ZAP appears well positioned to fill today’s consumer demands.

As a sign of things to come Yahoo! has created a special feature within Yahoo! Autos dedicated to green cars including ratings, technological overviews as well as community information and news pointing towards further validation of the potential behind the green car market.

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