The Weekly Driver

Website • Podcast • Newsletter
Established 2004

Eco-Friendly Cars: Toyota Prius to Tesla Roadster, Part 2

Despite vast promotions and bright, constant media spotlights, Chevy and Nissan are not the only new green players. Tesla, the Bay Area-based manufacturer, debuted its all-electric, super-quick but limited production Roadster in 2006. About 2,000 Tesla Roadsters with a 244-mile range, have been sold worldwide.  And the Tesla’s less expensive, estimated $50,000 S sedan will be available next year with three range options.

Automakers carefully choose when and how they debut new models, although most often it occurs at various auto shows around country throughout the year, The buzz for hybrids and electric vehicles was particularly prevalent at the Detroit Auto Show, the year’s first major show, in early January.

Ford unveiled the Focus Electric, C-Max Energi and C-Max Hybrid, which will begin production later this year at Ford’s high-profile, overhauled Michigan Assembly plant. Honda, whose Civic for several years has the country’s second-best selling (albeit far behind the Prius) hybrid, announced its new concept and the Civic’s first complete redesign since 2006.

Ford was the last major manufacturer to enter the hybrid battle. It’s celebrity endorser is Ed Begley, Jr. Ed Begley, Jr. isn’t the first actor hired to help sell automobiles and he likely won’t be the last.Eco-Friendly Cars: Toyota Prius to Tesla Roadster, Part 2 1

But whether, it’s an actor’s voice-over in television commercials or Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong pitching the Nissan (one of his team’s sponsors) and its Leaf, no celebrity pitchman has been as opinionated as Begley, Jr. in his new collaboration with Ford. The actor is a noted environmentalist and his “green” lifestyle has been showcased often on television and in the print media.

In the a 3 1/2-minut video, which debuted in conjunction with the carmaker’s new electric offerings at the Detroit Auto Show, Begley, Jr. poked fun at several other manufacturers’ electric and hybrid offerings.

The video is strong and not to dissimilar from watching Rickey Gervais host the recent Golden Globe Awards. Ford competitors will either laugh and think the video is funny and all good in the “heat of the battle.” Or, they might not just take it that way.

It also also may turn out that the laugh is on the eco-car industry. Like the Toyota Camry, Chevy Malibu, the Honda Civic gas edition is perennially among the country’s best-selling cars. But Honda has redesigned the vehicle, is touting an estimated 51 mpg with is soon-to-be-available 2012 edition, and hopes to challenge the Prius.

The irony is that while many additional manufacturers, Audi to Porsche and BMW to Volkswagen, all have or plan to have several hybrid models, they’re all vying for a still-small share of the market.

About 11.6 million vehicles, an 11 percent increase, from 2009 were sold in the United States in 2010. But only about three percent of the new cars sold were hybrid or electric cars.

Five “Green” Cars At A Glance

2011 Chevrolet Volt. Price: $40,280 (base MSRP); Gas mileage, 37 mpg gas only, 60 mpg gas/electric combined, 93 mpg (equivalent), electric-only; Pros: Best fuel efficiency of any mass produced hybrid; Cons: Limited (40 miles) range on electric motor, small back seat, price.

2012 Ford Focus Electric.
Price: $30,000 (estimated); Gas mileage (Not rated by EPA comparable to Nissan Leaf); Pros: Fully chargeable in four hours, advanced interactive technology system; Cons: Limited distribution.

2011 Honda Civic Hybrid.
Price $19,800 (base MSRP); Gas mileage: Not EPA tested, estimated 51 mpg overall; Pros: First new complete Civic redesign since 2006; Change to lithium-ion batteries; Cons: New model.

2011 Nissan Leaf. Price: $32,780 (base MSRP); eligible for $7,500 federal tax credit; Gas mileage: 106 mpg city/92 mpg highway; Pros: Gas stations obsolete, intuitive navigation system; Cons: Limited range (estimated 100 miles), limited recharging stations.

2011 Tesla Roadster.
Price: $109,000 (base MSRP); Eligible for $7,500 federal tax credit; Gas mileage: 99 mpg (electric equivalent); Pros: beautiful styling, simple instrumentation, fast (0-60 mph, 3.9 seconds; Cons: No power brakes, small cabin.

To read Part 1, visit: Eco-Friendly Cars


To get our weekly newsletter with automotive news and commentary delivered to your email inbox.