Tag Archives: auto show

‘Green’ autos among those on display at auto shows

I learned the fundamentals of driving at the 1973 Chicago Auto Show. I was 9 years old and seated behind the wheel of an American Motors Hornet. The two-door hatchback featured in the show was the Levi’s edition, with an interior nylon fabric that looked like blue jeans, gold stitching and copper rivets.

In the driver’s seat of that Super Seventies car, going “vroom, vroom, vroom” and turning the wheel like Richard Petty, I got hooked — on Hornets, blue jeans and auto shows.

Later this month, the automakers will buff up their latest models and cruise downtown for the Greater Milwaukee Auto Show. The event takes place Feb. 20–28 at the Wisconsin Center.

Show attendees won’t see a new AMC Hornet — the model ran its course at the end of the 1970s and the automaker went defunct in 1988.

But some lucky kids can climb behind the wheels of the current cool cars at the Kids Test Drive station and go “vroom, vroom.”

And some lucky adults can test the latest from Subaru, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Fiat, Toyota, Mazda, Kia and Chevrolet and learn about the newest innovations, including smart cars and green autos.

The Milwaukee show follows major industry events in Chicago, Detroit and Washington, D.C., where capital car enthusiasts celebrated “public policy day” with the naming of the “green” autos of the year.

The eco-achievements, bestowed by Green Car Journal, went to:

• Volvo’s new XC90 T8 as the Luxury Green Car of the Year.

• Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid as the Green Connected Car of the Year.

• Honda HR-V as the Green SUV of the Year.

“These are standout vehicles in an increasingly sophisticated and appealing field of green cars,” said Green Car Journal publisher Ron Cogan. “To make the cut as a finalist is a real achievement in itself, considering the considerable competition in the market today.”

Volvo’s XC90 T8 is the industry’s first seven-passenger plug-in hybrid SUV. The vehicle uses a 2.0-liter, super-charged and turbo-charged Drive E engine with a rear-axle electric motor powered by lithium-ion batteries. Finalists in the luxury field include the BMW X5 xDrive40e, Lexus RX 450h, Mercedes-Benz C350e and Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid.

“Volvo is committed to a vehicle electrification strategy that will make powerful and efficient plug-in hybrid powertrains available in more models,” pledged Lex Kerssemakers, president and CEO of Volvo Car USA. 

The Honda HR-V compact crossover is a sporty vehicle that gets up to 35 mpg on the highway with a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine. Finalists in the SUV category include BMW X1 xDrive28i, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-3 and Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

Chevrolet’s all-new Malibu Hybrid features an efficient hybrid powertrain — derived from the Chevy Volt — that delivers an estimated 47 combined mpg. The car is packed with technology — Apple CarPlay, Android Auto capabilities, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, forward collision alert and a safety-focused feature for young drivers.

Finalists in the connected category include the Audi A3 e-tron, BMW 330e, Volvo XC90 T8 and the Prius by Toyota, which made the first vehicle I ever drove on the road. It was a gold Corolla and I was 12, but that’s another story.

At a glance

WHAT: The Greater Milwaukee Auto Show, with more than 30 manufacturers.

WHERE: The Wisconsin Center, 400 W. Wisconsin Ave.

WHEN: Feb. 20–28

HOW MUCH: $12 for 13 and older, $9 for seniors, $6 for kids.

FOR MORE: autoshowmilwaukee.com.

—L.N.

Green self-driving cars take center stage at Tokyo auto show

Visions of cars that drive themselves without emitting a bit of pollution while entertaining passengers with online movies and social media are what’s taking center stage at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Japan, home to the world’s top-selling automaker, has a younger generation disinterested in owning or driving cars. The show is about wooing them back. It’s also about pushing an ambitious government-backed plan that paints Japan as a leader in automated driving technology.

Reporters got a preview look at the exhibition ahead of its opening to the public Oct. 30. 

Nissan Motor Co. showed a concept vehicle loaded with laser scanners, a 360-degree camera setup, a radar and computer chips so the car can “think” to deliver autonomous driving. The Japanese automaker called it IDS, which stands for “intelligent driving system.”

Nissan, based in Yokohama, Japan, said it will offer some autonomous driving features by the end of next year in Japan. By 2018, it said vehicles with the technology will be able to conduct lane changes on highways. By 2020, such vehicles will be able to make their way through intersections on regular urban roads.

Nissan officials said they were working hard to make the car smart enough to recognize the difference between a red traffic light and a tail light, learn how to turn on intersections where white lane indicators might be missing and anticipate from body language when a pedestrian might cross a street.

Nissan’s IDS vehicle is also electric, with a new battery that’s more powerful than the one currently in the automaker’s Leaf electric vehicle. Although production and sales plans were still undecided, it can travel a longer distance on a single charge and recharge more quickly.  

A major challenge for cars that drive themselves is winning social acceptance. They would have to share the roads with normal cars with drivers as well as with pedestrians, animals and unexpected objects.

That’s why some automakers at the show are packing the technology into what looks more like a golf cart or scooter than a car, such as Honda Motor Co.’s cubicle-like Wander Stand and Wander Walker scooter.

Instead of trying to venture on freeways and other public roads, these are designed for controlled environments, restricted to shuttling people to pre-determined destinations.

At a special section of the show, visitors can try out some of the so-called “smart mobility” devices such as Honda’s seat on a single-wheel as well as small electric vehicles.

Regardless of how zanily futuristic and even dangerous such machines might feel, especially the idea of sharing roads with driverless cars, that era is inevitable simply because artificial intelligence is far better at avoiding accidents than human drivers, said HIS analyst Egil Juliussen. It just might take some time, such as until the 2030s, he said.

Such technology will offer mobility to people who can’t drive or who don’t have cars, and it can also reduce pollution and global warming by delivering efficient driving, he said.

Other automakers, including General Motors, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota and Tesla are working on self-driving technology, as are companies outside the industry, such as Google and Uber.

Cars already can connect to the Internet. Automakers envision a future in which cars would work much like smartphones today, to have passengers checking email, watching movies or checking out social media and leaving the driving to the car.  

Honda Chairman Fumihiko Ike, who is also head of Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association which is organizing the show, said the Japanese government was putting tremendous pressure on Japan’s automakers to perfect self-driving features.

Japan is eager to showcase such technology in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, such as having driverless cars pick up athletes from airports and taking them to Olympic Village.  

But Ike acknowledged he had doubts. Unexpected things could happen on roads, like a package falling out of a van, and the human brain has better powers of the imagination than the best artificial intelligence, he said.

“We have to see,” Ike said on when self-driving cars might become common. “The final answer will be from the whole society.” 

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said the technology has clear benefits but also shared Ike’s reservations.

“It’s not that easy,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the show. “We are pursuing the technology, but we are also just being realistic.”