Looking Back on Green Transportation in 2008
It's the time for a year-end wrap-up of the green car happenings of 2008. We can't possibly included everything here, but we'll try to cover most of the major announcements. To better organize things, we'll look at them by carmaker, from Aptera to Volkswagen. Read on.
1. General Motors
The biggest thing this year for GM (except maybe the threat of bankruptcy) was the Chevy Volt. This year was a slow strip-tease: We first learned a bit more about the engine (GM Volt Gains a Cylinder, Loses a Turbo-charger, GM to Build the Volt's 1.4L Engine in Flint), then photos of the production version were accidentally (?) leaked (Photos of Production GM Volt Accidentally Leaked!) and despite the smiling guys in suits standing in front of the car, we had a much better idea of what it would look like.
This was followed by the official release of photos of the Volt (GM Releases 2011 Chevy Volt Photos & Specifications! (Tons of Photos)) and the announcement that the Volt would use batteries made by LG Chem. Unfortunately, the latest news is that GM has halted work on the factory that will build the Volt's 1.4-liter gas engine, but GM says this won't delay the car.
BYD Automotive had a very good year. Going from "some Chinese battery maker" to "some battery maker who's branching out into cars", to "is this the company that will leapfrog established carmakers with plug-in hybrids and electric cars?".
First we heard about the F6DM plug-in hybrid sedan (BYD F6DM: Will the First Plug-In Hybrid be Chinese?), then came the E6 electric MPV (Introducing the BYD E6 Electric Car) and finally the F3DM plug-in hybrid compact (F3DM: The Second, Smaller, Plug-in Hybrid by China's BYD). Within only months of its unveiling, the F3DM went on sale in China and has been announced for 2010 in the US.
3. Tesla Motors
The Californian electric car maker certainly had a mixed year. Things started well with the first official shipments of the electric Roadster (Tesla Motors "Breaks Logjam", Electric Roadsters Start Shipping) and the announcement of the Model S electric sedan, a more affordable electric car (Tesla's Next Electric Car to be Called "Model S", Photo of Tesla Model S Electric Sedan).
But trouble was on the horizon. The housing bubble burst, the credit crunch crunched, and dire economic conditions meant that Tesla had to become leaner. The Model S was delayed, Elon Musk became CEO and a good portion of Tesla's employees were laid off (Tesla Motors Breaking News: Model S to be Delayed, Unknown Number of Layoffs, Elon Musk CEO). Let's hope 2009 will have clearer skies.
The two main things for Toyota this year, aside from losing money for the first time in 70 years, are the innovative and diminutive Toyota iQ (Toyota iQ: The Smallest Four-Passenger Car in the World, Toyota iQ Microcar to be First in the World With Rear Curtain Airbag, 57 MPG Toyota iQ Goes on Sale in Europe, No U.S. Release Date Yet) and the redesigned 2010 Toyota Prius (Photos of New 2010 Prius Hybrid Leaked, Confirmed by Toyota).
Update: See our article on the official launch of the new 2010 Toyota Prius!
Honda's two most interesting cars from a green perspective this year were the FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell and the Insight mark 2 hybrid.
The Clarity began production (Production of Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen Car Begins) last summer and the first few units were leased to various celebrities in California (Honda Delivers First FCX Clarity Hydrogen Novelty Over-Sized Car Keys) soon afterwards.
Our first glance of the new Insight hybrid was from spy shots (Spy Shots: Honda's Upcoming Hybrid Looks Like... a Prius) and our first impression was that it looked fairly similar to the Toyota Prius. Once we had a chance to see the car without all that black camouflage, we saw that it was a bit more distinctive (Honda Resurrects Insight Hybrid, Pricing Expected to be Way Lower than Prius, Honda's All-New Honda Insight Hybrid: Fuel Economy Similar to Civic Hybrid).
One sad news is that the Honda Fit hybrid apparently won't be sold in the US.