Friday, March 21, 2014

Green the Theme in Geneva!

It is rare to see a whole theme at an international motor show, because most carmakers have their own ideas about what they should emphasise, but Geneva’s International Salon de l’Auto this year was green from the floor up.

Toyota Aygo

VW Polo Blue Motion LowE
Most, but not every display, made some nod to ‘green credentials’, reflecting Europe’s current social and political stance on cleaning up the automotive environment.

Toyota Yaris and Auris (Corolla) Hybrids

Fiat 500 Cult

Australians, bludgeoned by Labor’s Carbon Tax, cock a skeptical eye at such initiatives, because they can’t see how another tax will clean up the environment Down Under.

Lexus GT3 racer

In addition we’re a nation of car hoons much more in love with performance and image, than what comes out of the exhaust pipe.

Skoda's Yeti baby SUV

Some of the world’s biggest carmakers declined to dress their displays with a full line of their products, especially their larger cars.

Instead, Toyota, Renault, Peugeot, Fiat and Lancia offered only city cars, small hatchbacks and cute two-person devices
Renault Twiz 1-seater
Renault Twiz 2-seater

which were either propelled by small, turbocharged diesel engines, or they were hybrids, or powered solely by batteries.

Tesla Model S - The only decent BEV

There is also a ‘magic number’ which the world’s car industry is now fixated on, and that is the tailpipe emissions measured as grams per kilometre. The magic number is 100; but anyone claiming to be ‘on the money’ will be telling you that their 2014 engines will deliver numbers between 85 and 95.
Peugeot 308 - Europe's Car of The Year, boasts 82 gm/km!

These figures are indeed impressive, and especially so when you realise that they are produced by the good old internal combustion engine, be it petrol or diesel. Of course hybrid cars can do even better, as part of their propulsion is by electric motors.

Battery cars are the cleanest, but it’s all a bit non-sensical if the power grid which recharges the Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) is fed from coal-fired power stations - as in Australia!

I was delighted to see a number of companies showing cars powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), because Australia has oodles of reserves of this clean-burning gas and from personal experience I know that this system will work on current, internal combustion engines with very little modification.
Fiat Panda Cross 4x4

But, back to a chilly Geneva where record numbers of journalists flew in from all over the globe this year to wander the aisles and marvel at how quickly the car industry is reacting to social and environmental challenges.

Audi's A3 G-tron

Those same journalists are also not surprised by the Jeckyl and Hyde status of the the Salon d’Auto - right up there with hundreds of eco-friendly city cars were the high performance cruisers from Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ferrari, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.

Maserati Ghibli
Bentley Continental GT Speed
Lamborghini Huracan
Lexus IF Sport coupe
McLaren 650S

Business end of the Pagani Zonda!

Even Alfa Romeo wowed the crowd with a Spider version of its dainty, but quick little 4C coupe.

Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

The premium car makers will tell you things are booming, and the order books are full for 2014. The new models from the performance marques were breath-taking, desirable and expensive - as always.

Which brings us right back to the green theme. Even the luxury car companies are tipping a nod to cleaning up their exhaust notes.
BMW i8

All the Europeans have some sort of concession to lowering emissions, and the Japanese are way ahead in the technology stakes. Toyota even showed an FCV concept (Fuel Cell Vehicle) which runs on hydrogen gas, while its Lexus brand has hybrid versions of most of its current range.

Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV)

Honda FCV

I guess the biggest news at the Salon was Jaguar’s confirmation of the XE mid-sized sedan,
Jaguar XE

but Skoda also impressed with a new sedan concept called the Vision C.

Skoda Vision C Concept

A very stylish SEAT Cupra made a spectacular entrance, being unveiled by a model wearing a massive skirt, and her dangling from a roof truss!
Seat Leon Cupra
Subaru ViziV2 concept - Wow!

Subaru’s new release also won plenty of lookers, but the most disappointing display came from Opel, which trotted out its current lineup - all of which is looking a bit dated.

Porsche’s big hoopla centered on its new Hybrid LMP1 sports car racer, and the appearance of Mark Webber, who was lost in a sea of media, barely able to escape to have a very public discussion with Roger Penske!

Mark Webber meets Roger Penske

Mark fending off the media

              Yes, the cars we drive and desire ARE changing, whether we like it or not, and quite frankly it’s good for Australia.  Losing our three manufacturers ensures that instead of manufacturing cars we DON’T want to buy, we can now import the very latest technology from around the world, like the Volkswagen e-UP!
 That will help us lower our automotive emissions - without the need for a carbon tax! And as we're saving the planet, we'll be able to go racing with our new Electric Power single seater race cars!

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