I was somewhat impressed this year by Mitsubishi. They were showing their Lancer Sportback Concept, slated for 2010:
It looks a little bit like a Volvo that had cosmetic surgery to look more like a Mercedes, but a very handsome vehicle, nonetheless.
Especially seeing the back end, it has a very nice balance between hard, sharp edges and smooth contours.
But more interesting to me is the unveiling of their new i-MiEV:
The unfortunate thing is that it's near impossible to find any images of it not plastered with all kinds of logos and text, which make it look like a rolling billboard and make it extremely difficult to imagine what it'd be like to actually drive around in it oneself. I really do love the concept drawings, though, because in them you can see exactly what the designers were going for in the design, and what they like to accentuate about it.
It looks ridiculously cool and futuristic there.
Anyway, it's an all electric vehicle with a lithium-ion battery and a 64hp motor. Its distance is 80-100 miles per charge, which seems a bit limited to me, unfortunately, for anything but making a quick run to the grocery store or similar errands. I'm at a complete loss as to why it isn't coated in photo-voltaic cells, and for that matter, I see no reason why when it's parked, you couldn't raise a small wind turbine on the roof.
The other problem I have with them, and I find it so surprising that no one has ever mentioned this before: if you have to plug your car into an electric socket when you get home, and your power supplier is burning fossil fuels to power your home, what on earth is the difference? My own answer to that question is that I'm certain big power stations use fuel far more efficiently than an equivalent number of individual gasoline automobile engines to generate the same amount of power. In addition, as I've said before, your car is one part of a much bigger picture, your power supplier is an entirely different part. And certainly if you're lucky enough to happen to live in an area generating its electricity by wind or solar power, this car is the way to go.
The other good news is that--according to a recent NYTimes article--this charismatic Israeli guy is perfecting a robotic battery-swap station that could slip under your electric car, pop out the depleted battery, and very quickly stick in a freshly charged one. The idea is to have these recharge stations at intervals along highways where drivers could get stranded and presumably at gas stations. But if these recharge stations were wind and/or solar powered, aside from routine maintenance, the "fuel" would be virtually free. If the government got smart and subsidized them or actually built them instead of leaving them to greedy private corporations, we could conceivably be recharging our electric cars for like a dollar per visit.
These are the kind of changes we need right now.
©2009, Ryan Witte