There was more hyperbole about saving the earth at the L.A. Auto Show than at the Green Festival. Both are held in the same convention center (weeks apart) but the shows couldn’t have been more different.
Terms such as “eco,” “green,” “alternative,” and “environmental footprint” were lobbed around at press conference after press conference, with each company sweating to re-brand itself as a leader of ecological stewardship…. Of course, they are making the multi-ton, mostly gas-powered pollution-spewing machines known as “cars,” so everything’s relative. But they are trying.
For some companies this amounts to making at least a few smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. Chevrolet debuted its compact 2013 Spark at the show. Smaller doesn’t necessarily mean technologically bereft, though: The Spark, like many of today’s cars, has the kind of touchscreen you’d normally find on iPads and smartphones.
So compact is the Spark that its back door handles are hidden. Now that’s mini. In its press release, Chevrolet neglects to state the Spark’s MPG (though estimates can be found elsewhere), perhaps because the official data aren’t yet available — but I assume that the lack of door handles can only add to the car’s touted fuel economy.
Honda Fit EV
Honda’s Fit EV is an electric vehicle that can charge from empty to full in three hours, with Honda estimating a 123-mile driving range on one charge, which compares decently to other EVs, though it’s not quite king of the road. Here’s one of Honda’s statements regarding its commitment to the environment:
“a leader in the development of leading-edge technologies to improve fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions…Today, the company is striving for even greater reductions in CO2 emissions that contribute to global climate change, while also working to minimize waste, water use and the total environmental footprint of its operations worldwide.”
Compare that to Fiat’s statement:
“embodies a new vision of technology’s role in the achievement of sustainable mobility.”
Fiat 500 Abarth
What the heck does that mean really? This was in relation to the Fiat 500 Abarth, a competitor of the aforementioned Spark — though not, surprisingly, an electric or hybrid car. Fiat makes claim to the fact that its “state-of-the-art MultiAir® technology, invented and patented by Fiat Group, delivers power, fuel efficiency and refinement.”
Supposedly it does this by “helping to achieve 10 percent greater fuel efficiency and power while decreasing CO2 emissions up to 10 percent compared to engines without the system.”
I’m confused as to whether this is in Italian or English. Anyway, it is nicely customizable, which is catnip to some car aficionados:
To complete the look, there’s a choice of 12 body colours available – pastel, metallic and a pearl finish – all perfectly matching the wide range of interior fabrics and leathers.
And not forgetting the various options for customisation: from stickers to alloy wheels, badges to style details, elegance and comfort.
How about Ford’s Escape? It purportedly “has a strong environmental responsibility story to tell.” Now, now. The interior does make use of materials “otherwise sent to a landfill” but if you’re awaiting something akin to the Febreze Scentstories Player (scent-inspired) storytelling experience while driving, you’ll be at a loss.
Interestingly, none of the year’s five nominees for the Green Car of the Year award (the winner? Honda’s Civic Natural Gas) had press documents for me to look over and share here. Subaru eschewed handing out media kits on flash drives, while Toyota and Nissan didn’t even hold press conferences. Peugeot and Maserati didn’t even make the trip. Now that’s green!