Seeing Green in Detroit

The Detroit Auto Show kicked off yesterday and the big buzz was around green technology. Internal-combustion engines seemed like a thing of the past as the world’s largest automakers unveiled models of hybrid gas-electric and battery-powered vehicles. When will they hit the road? Not for awhile because consumers aren’t buying alternatives to gas engines – but they are still considered the future of the automobile industry.  The following advanced technology vehicles were on display at the show:

  • Nissan Leaf – the only model Nissan brought to Detroit
  • Toyota FT-CH – a concept version on a car small than today’s Prius
  • Honda CR-Z Coupe – a hybrid designed to better compete with Toyota hybrids
  • Chevy Volt – powered by batteries with a small gas engine to extend the car’s range.

We all know that green is hot, but do you think the automakers jumped the gun? The New York Times reported that last year, about 98 percent of the cars sold in the U.S. were powered by conventional gasoline engines. Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with the research firm HIS Global Insight, told the Times, “Hybrids are less than 3 percent of the market, and they’ve been less than 3 percent for years. The idea that people are going to immediately accept electric vehicles when hybrids are such a small part of the market is sort of dangerous.”

I agree and I think Ford is playing it smart by listening to consumer demand. The company realizes that it doesn’t know what the market is going to be like for electric vehicles.  Therefore, instead of jumping in feet first to keep up with the competition, Ford is going to unveil an electric version of the Focus in 2011 and prepare for the overwhelming green vehicle demand that is expected to take place by 2020.

When do you think green vehicle adoption will increase? In 2010? Not until 2020? We’d love to hear your predictions.

Contributed by Jena Coletti.  Follow her @jmcoletti