Automotive Industry Goes Green: 2014 DC Auto Show
Ladies, the DC Auto Show isn’t about glamour as much as it’s about policy making and the future of the car industry. In honor of Earth Month, we've collected information from the DC auto show to share more about the greening of automotive.
Front page: For the 2014 Washington Auto Show, Nissan rented an Amtrak train car and ferried a group of journalists from Penn Station, NYC to Washington, D.C. Since the show took place during an epic East Coast snowstorm, the train was both a pleasant and efficient way to arrive. And it’s consistent with Nissan’s push into the future of environmental changes. That objective encompasses Nissan’s NV200 vehicles (the taxicab of the future and NYC’s official taxicab) as well as some new initiatives they are rolling out with FedEx.
The scoop: The Washington Auto Show is known as the “Public Policy Show.” It is unique on the global industry circuit because of its proximity to the U.S. Congress, international diplomatic corps and federal agencies.
When it launched in 1921, the show’s purpose was for 20 Washington-area car dealers and distributors to sell the public on the horseless carriage! The show continued for 18 years in the National Guard D.C. Armory and went on hiatus twice – once for war and once due to poor economic conditions.
In early 1983, The Washington Auto Show found a new home at the recently opened Washington Convention Center. By this time, the event had grown to cover almost eight acres – nearly four times the size of the Armory shows, with three times as many models.
Today, the Washington Auto Show, now held in late January to coincide with Congress’ return from recess, capitalizes on the business of Washington. It has become one of the industry’s most prominent events that also include automotive shows in Detroit, Chicago, LA and NYC.
The Green Game-Changers:
From Ford: Keynote speaker, Ford Motor Company Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields, announced new projects with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University to research and create solutions to the technical challenges surrounding automated driving, the key to Ford’s Blueprint for Mobility. The blueprint outlines what transportation will look like in 2025 and beyond. With its automated Fusion Hybrid research vehicle, Ford is exploring potential solutions for the longer-term societal, legislative and technological issues posed by a future of fully automated driving.
$50 million in funding: U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced $50 million in funding for fuel-efficient vehicles. The investment includes backing for the Department of Energy's EV Everywhere Grand Challenge, a program launched in March 2012 to make plug-in EV’s more affordable and convenient than gas-powered vehicles within the next ten years.
Moniz noted, "The new research and development funding announced today will help support our domestic automakers' continued growth and make sure that the next generation of advanced technology vehicles are built right here in America."
Eric Gottfried, Director Customer Quality for Nissan North America, said that Leaf sales have grown to 100,000.
In my interview with Gottfried he noted, “Almost every time we do research we find that the Leaf becomes the most used car in the house. In fact he noted that Nissan has heard that people fight over the use of the Leaf because it’s the fun car to drive.
“It’s innovation on a budget,” he stated. “A fair number of our customers have two Leafs… it’s the kind of car that populates Facebook pages.”
FedEx Express and Nissan will also begin testing the Nissan e-NV200, a 100 percent electric compact cargo vehicle in Washington, D.C. as part of FedEx’s EarthSmart program. This effort aligns with Nissan’s "Blue Citizenship" initiative that focuses on increasing the number of vehicles that emit no greenhouse gases.
From Hyundai: The Tucson Fuel Cell will be available in spring 2014.
Mike Moran, Hyundai Vice President of corporate and product planning, noted, "Hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles represent the next generation of zero-emission vehicle technology. The range and refueling speed of our Tucson Fuel Cell is superior to the range and charging limitations of competing battery electric vehicles.”
From Toyota: Toyota's fuel cell concept, FCV, planned for 2015, is an electric drive vehicle with a range of 300 miles. The FCV mixes hydrogen and oxygen with emissions of …. H20!
"Savvy consumers have been waiting to see an active change in fuel cell development, and we're almost ready to hit the streets," said Toyota's Vice President of North American Business Strategy, Nihar Patel.
From Cadillac: Cadillac ELR received the Green Car Journal's 2014 Green Car Technology Award™. Cadillac Director of Emerging Markets Jim Vurpillat, said, “The Cadillac ELR "marries the fun-to-drive characteristics with electric propulsion and wrapped it in a beautiful package…We have a 112-year history, but it feels like a startup. We have momentum on our side."
To wrap it all up, Warren Brown, award-winning Washington Post columnist, noted. “We are moving towards the autonomous car, which many people call the “driver-less” or “self-driving” car. The first manufacturer to produce a safe, reliable, retail worthy version of such an automobile will win the race to control the future of the car. Nearly every major car manufacturer is involved in the contest.”
Brown explained that the objective is to maximize traffic safety.
“Autonomous driving technology is designed to significantly reduce fatal mistakes (on the road). Examples include lane monitoring and blind-side detection systems, parking monitors and more,” he noted.
“The aim is to produce more than gee-whiz automotive technology.”