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Honda Fuel Cell Concept Car
Honda revealed its high-concept hydrogen fuel cell electric car at the 2013 LA Auto Show.

Reviewing the 2013 LA Auto Show

Part 1 of EV World's annual review of the Los Angeles Auto Show

By Noel Adams

It was cool and overcast as I fought my way through stop and go traffic on I10 as I made my way to the LA Convention Center. I arrived later than expected and had to hustle over to Gilbert Lindsey Plaza where I grabbed a quick breakfast from one of the catering trucks there and took a look at the classic and custom cars that they had on display there.

Most notable was George Barris the famed car customizer who had two of his best known creations on display, the Munster Koach and the Batmobile. Now, I have an interest in “Brass Era” cars and there was a 1915 Dodge Touring Car there. I was running out of time though so I had to rush over to the South Hall were BMW were about to kick off the opening press conference of the day.

BMW started out by announcing a new 6 cylinder, 1600 cc motorbike that will go on sale here in California next year. 20% of BMW motorbike sales are in the Golden State. They also showed the X4 mid-sized sport utility vehicle and the new 4 series convertible.

BMW i8 electric hybrid sport coupe

It was their i-series cars that were the real focus of the press conference though. The i3 is a four seat city car with coach doors for easier access into the rear seats. It is estimated to provide about 100 miles of range from its 22Kwhr battery pack and has a top speed governed to 93mph. This car is meant for use in the city though, not as a freeway cruiser, and should be excellent in that role. The i3 just went on sale in Europe and nationwide rollout in the US is scheduled for the second quarter of 2013. The base price is $41,350 before federal and any state incentives which here in California brings the price down to $31,350. A range extender option is also available.

BMW i8 electric hybrid sport coupe

Next they rolled out the i8, a two seat sports car that was derived from the prototype used in the film “Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol”. It is a plug-in hybrid with a 3 cylinder turbo charged engine and a 131hp electric motor. The car is driven by a 7.1KWhr lithium ion battery that can propel the car electric only for a range of about 21 miles and up to 75mph before the gas motor cuts in. It will go from 0-62 mph in just 4.4 seconds in hybrid mode but is quite a bit slower than that when running electric only. Top speed is 155mph. The i8 will also go on sale during the second quarter of 2014 here in the US at a base price of around $135,700.

I rushed over to the Chevy stand but was quite disappointed when all they had to roll out was their latest truck, the mid-sized Colorado. This truck will make its appearance in dealer showrooms next fall and will come with two powertrain options, a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder offering 193bhp and a 3.6 liter V6 producing 302bhp. This lineup will be enhanced by the addition of a 2.8 liter diesel in 2015. Chevy did not given any Fuel consumption numbers for the Colorado, but I expect that it will more fuel efficient than the current Colorado model.

I decided skip the Jaguar/Land Rover press conference in favor of a much needed cup of coffee. I didn’t miss a whole lot. Land Rover showed off the new Long wheelbase Range Rover, a bigger and more than likely less fuel efficient version of their current Range Rover. Jaguar had a couple of cars to show. The 2015 Jaguar F-Type coupe is a hot looking sports car that is right in line with the Jaguar heritage. On the other hand they also showed off the C-X17 concept, a crossover. The crossover doesn’t seem to fit the Jaguar image but since SUVs make up about 30% of the US market they are a profitable line to follow so I expect we will see a car based on this concept in Jaguar’s future.

Getting back to the South Hall I made it to the Subaru press conference just in time. At Subaru it was all about performance with the WRX. The WRX is powered by a 2.5 liter 268hp 4 cylinder turbo charged engine driven through a 6 speed manual transmission or an optional CVT. The four-door sedan is all about performance so it should come as no surprise that even in intelligent mode (Subaru’s version of eco mode) the car will only mange 30mpg highway.

Subaru also showed off their Legacy Sedan concept. The two-door sedan is said to give very strong hints at what their next generation Legacy will look like.

I hurried over to the Mercedes Benz press conference but by the time I got there it was so crowded that I couldn’t get near the cars. The MBZ announcements were also all about performance as they announced several new models from AMG which is their high performance brand.

It started well when Steve Cannon, President and CEO of Mercedes Benz America said that they plan to bring a plug-in hybrid to market in 2015, but gave no further details. From there the announcements were all about the new performance models from AMG. First out on stage was the 2015 S65 AMG which hides a biturbo V12 under the hood that can develop 621hp and will rocket the S65 from 0-60 in 4.2 seconds with top speed electronically limited to 155mph.

They also rolled out the Vision Gran Turismo. The car was originally designed for the Gran Turismo 6 video game but there are no plans to put this concept into production. What is going into production though is the SLS AMG GT Final. As its name suggests this is going to be the last of the gull wing SLS cars that AMG will produce and only 350 will be made so it is probably destined to become a classic. The car is powered by a 6.2 liter V8. The car will be available in the spring of 2014 and while price has not been set yet it can be safe to assume it will be somewhat above $200,000

I was starting to think I had passed through a time warp that had pushed me back to around 2006 where the auto industry was all about Trucks, SUV, and increasing power instead of fuel economy. Then as I turned to leave the MBZ press conference I noticed a couple of cars that pulled me firmly back to 2013.

The first was the Smart Electric Drive which is currently on sale in the US in select markets. The car has proved to be quite popular in Europe and accounts for about 18% of Smart sales in the USA, but we are still waiting to hear from Smart about when they will roll out the car nationwide. Sitting on the edge of the MZB stand, close by the Smart EV I noticed a car with the distinctive MBZ logo but on the back it also said electric.

The B-Class electric drive made its debut at the New York Auto Show earlier this year and is slated to go on sale in the US starting in June 2014. The car is built on the same platform as the A class and will offer a battery supplied by Tesla that is said to give it a range of 115 miles. The 175hp electric motor can push the B-Class from 0-60 in 7.9 seconds with speed topping out at around 100mph. A full charge from a 220V charger takes about 4 hours. The Tesla batteries are capable of charging much faster than this but so far I have seen no indication that a DC fast charger option will be made available.

The next press conference was Porsche who have their own area just outside the West Hall. Porsche were about to announce the Macan, a mid-sized crossover, but I was more interested in getting a first look at the Panamera Plug-in Hybrid which just went on sale here in the USA. I didn’t have to look too hard; the Panamera PHEV was the first car you see as you enter the Porsche exhibit.

The Panamera S E-Hybrid offers an electric only range of about 22 miles. It is designed as a hybrid rather than a range extending EV so if you punch the accelerator too hard the gas motor will kick in. From what I have been told the accelerator gets harder to push as you approach the point where the gas engine turns on making it easier to stay in all electric mode. The car goes from 0-60 in 5.2 seconds and tops out at 167mph. Base price for the Panamera S E-Hybrid is $99,000.

The Macan is a crossover vehicle based on the Audi Q5 platform. It will come with two engine options, a twin turbo 3 liter or a twin turbo 3.6 liter with a seven speed dual clutch transmission. It has all wheel drive as standard. It has a top speed of 156 mph and will hit 60 from 0 in 5.2 seconds.

The Macan will be in dealerships next year with prices starting at $50,895. This will be the lowest cost Porsche on sale in the US and they are expecting it to become their best-selling vehicle.

After grabbing a quick sandwich for lunch I rushed to the Ford stand in the West hall to find out what they had to offer. They announced that the new mustang would go on sale December 5.

They only had one car to unveil this year, the Ford Edge Concept which is just loaded with safety feature such as adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance. They have also enhanced their automatic parking system which is now capable of self-parking in a standard parking space as well as parallel parking. Parking can also be done from outside the vehicle so you can have the car squeeze into a narrow space. I’m not sure how good an idea that is if the driver in the car next to you can no longer get into his car but it does illustrate how the industry is moving towards autonomous vehicles.

From the fuel economy standpoint the edge comes with the latest ecoboost technology and auto stop start to further reduce fuel consumption. Ford said that they will be implementing this feature on all high volume products.

At last year’s LA Auto show the plug-in cars from Ford were all hidden away at the back of their display. This year the cars were front and center which reflects how important plug-in cars are becoming to the automakers.

Next up was the world’s number one electric carmaker, Nissan. This year they were presenting some new Nismo derived versions of their cars. Again this was all about performance vehicles.

First they rolled out the GT-R Nismo a 2 door coupe has a 3.8 liter V6 engine that Nissan said would hurl the car form 0-60 in an astonishing 2 seconds. The 2015 GT-R Nismo will be on sale some time in 2014.

For those who want something a little more sedate they also rolled out the 2014 Juke Nismo RS. This will come with a 1.6 liter 4 cylinder engine that can produce 215hp. It will be available starting in December this year and will offer both a front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions.

Finally they showed a concept Sentra Nismo powered by a 1.8 liter turbo charged 4-cylinder engine that puts our 240 bhp connected to a 6 speed manual transmission.

I moved over to the Kia stand where we were entertained by a duet playing “Hotel California” on an electric violin and electric cello. Kia started out mentioning that they would be putting an electric vehicle on sale next year but I didn’t see any sign of one in their display.

What they unveiled was the K900, Kia’s first attempt to penetrate the lucrative luxury car segment. The K900 is a full sized four-door sedan with LED headlights that turn with the front wheels to help improve visibility when cornering at night. The car comes equipped with a choice of 311hp V6 or 420hp V8 direct injection motors that are made of aluminum. Safety features will include intelligent cruise control, blind spot detection, and full head up display. The car should show up in dealerships next spring with a base price of about $50,000.

The next press conference was Honda where I managed to find a seat with a pretty good view of the stage. Tetsuo Iwamura, president and CEO of Honda Motors America began by telling the crowed about the various fuel types that Honda sells including CNG, hybrids, Plug-in Hybrids, and the Fit EV. He said that the 2014 Accord Hybrid had the highest fuel economy of any five passenger hybrid at 50mpg He also talked a little about the Clarity fuel cell vehicle and they had almost all of the Clarity drivers in the audience.

He then went on to talk about their next fuel cell vehicle which they plan to begin selling in the US in 2015. Honda has been one of the companies which have made no bones about being opposed to battery electric vehicles so it was no surprise when he called fuel cell vehicles the “Ultimate solution for low carbon mobility”.

He then unveiled their latest fuel cell concept which he said had the world’s highest power density fuel cells. The car offers a 300 mile driving range and he claimed that it could be filled in 3 minutes. The fuel cell stack is 33% smaller and 60% more powerful than the one in the Clarity so the power train can now fit under the hood without compromising cargo room.

The concept they showed didn’t look anywhere near production ready so we will have to wait until next year to learn more about what the production car will look like and how they plan to roll it out.

My next stop was over in the South Hall where Audi showed off the new range of A3 compact sedans. First of all they told the audience about the improvements they had made in vehicle quality including being placed fourth in quality by consumer reports recently.

Audi A3 e-tron

Audi showed both the new A3 sedan and a cabriolet version both of which will be available next year with a choice of either a 1.8 or 2.0 liter turbocharged engine. There will also be a diesel option. A third car in this range was the A3 e-Tron. The A3 e-Tron is a plug-in hybrid with an all-electric range of about 30 miles. They currently plan to begin selling this car in the US in early 2015.

Following on from Audi was parent company VW who also had a couple of plug-in cars in their line-up. Now VW have been showing concept Plug-in cars at the LA Auto Show for the past five years but this is the first time they have shown a production ready car that is intended for the US market.

The e-Golf looks exactly like the regular Golf from the outside but under the hood lurks an 115hp electric motor driven by a 24.2KWhr battery that should deliver about 70 miles of range. The car has three selectable levels of regenerative braking. The battery can be charged from a 220V level 2 charger in about 4 hours and VW will also offer a DC fast charger option that will fill the battery to 80% in about 30 minutes. The e-Golf is expected to arrive in US dealerships around this time next year.

VW also showed a concept plug-in hybrid, the Cross Blue sport utility. The car uses a V6 direct injected engine and is capable of 0-60 in 5.8 seconds. They didn’t give any indication of all electric range but said that in electric mode it will get 70mpge and total range is about 570 miles on a tank.

The last press conference of the day for me was Toyota and what a waste of time that was. They were supposed to be showing their 2015 Fuel cell vehicle but it appears that they only have once concept vehicle and that was sent to the Tokyo Motor Show and so all they could say was that they plan to begin marketing of a four door sedan in 2015 and the car will be shown at CES in Las Vegas in January.

Two presentations that I missed, Cadillac and Hyundai, also had some interesting cars.

While Cadillac announced the latest version of their Escalade full sized SUV they also had the ELR on show. The ELR goes on sale in January with a base price of around $76,000. The ELR, which is based on the Volt platform, gives about 35 miles of EV only range before the internal combustion engine kicks in.

Hyundai showed off their Tucson Fuel Cell Vehicle. They plan to mass market this SUV which should be in showrooms starting next February. The car will be lease only with a $2,999 down-payment and $499 per month which includes all fuel and maintenance. The car will be available first in Southern California but won’t be rolled out to other areas until the hydrogen infrastructure grows somewhat.

In the end there were plenty of plug-in cars, especially from the German manufacturers, which are headed to market, and it was nice to see other carmakers featuring their plug-in offerings prominently in their displays.

Times Article Viewed: 6861
Published: 09-Dec-2013

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