"We shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good," says Charlie Territo from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, as we weave our way through the latest and greatest green technologies at this year's New York International Auto Show. The expo, which had only two hybrid vehicles eight years ago, now boasts 24—not to mention close to 40 flex-fuel models, as well as more than 10 diesel, one hydrogen, and several concept vehicles. But instead of reflecting on the show's positive green growth, I find myself scrutinizing both the fallibilities of each fuel technology and the fact that there's still an overwhelming majority of eco-dubious cars touting mega-horsepower and bling. Think Lamborghinis, Bentleys, and Jags. I repeat Territo's comment like mantra as I navigate through a sea of hopeful, green alternatives: We shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Sure, every model has its problems, and not every consumer is considering fuel economy when purchasing a car, but with the variety of well-designed, fuel-efficient options on display, it's difficult to imagine things aren't getting good. Until we reach perfection, here's the shortlist of some of the New York International Auto Show's good and green wheels.
The Smart Fortwo
Perfect for: the Urban Dweller
We've covered the Smart car before, but it wasn't until I was able to get up close and personal with the recently unveiled Smart Fortwo (shown at top) that I felt I'd met my auto-match. "The Smart Fortwo fits perfectly with the New York lifestyle," says Dave Schembri, president of Smart USA, "offering unique solutions to urban congestion." Amen to that! At 8.8 feet long, it would make parking in Park Slope a cinch. And though it runs on gasoline, it gets as many as 41 miles per gallon. (The diesel version of the smart gets much better fuel economy, but it isn't available in the U.S.). That, along with its modest price tag of $11,590 means I could potentially have spending money left over for city-life staples like weekend brunch. City mice interested in buying one can place a $99 reservation at www.smartusa.com.
Mitsubishi i MiEV Sport
Perfect for: the Trendsetter
The zero-emissions, all-electric Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle, or i MiEV, isn't exactly on sale yet. In fact, it's still being tested and won't likely hit Japan's dealerships until 2009. It's the one concept car at the show (out of several others on display) that's furthest along in development, though, so a Stateside arrival look promising. The plug-in runs on a lithium-ion battery and outputs 100-miles of driving time on a single charge. Like the Smart Fortwo, the i MiEV works well for folks with short commutes dwelling in the concrete jungle.
Perfect for: the Soccer Mom
According to Territo, GM's goal has been to "hybridize the heaviest and least fuel efficient cars," like SUVs, trucks and buses. The Saturn VUE, a full hybrid (versus a mild hybrid), is in keeping with this idea. Visually and space-wise, it offers the same sturdy appeal as an SUV, and has four-wheel drive, making it a practical vessel for families of four who live in rocky terrain or inclement weather. Families on a tight budget will also appreciate its relatively low price: $24,795.
Sierra Hybrid Truck
Perfect for: the Tough Guy or Gal
Just when I thought car manufacturers were thinking of us eco-conscious people as skinny hipster types, GMC surprises me with their Sierra Hybrid Truck. Set to arrive in early 2009, the full-size, V8 powered truck is 40 percent more fuel-efficient than its non-hybrid counterpart. GM also promises that the truck's two-mode hybrid system-what the company calls their parallel hybrid system-delivers the same powerful punch behind their conventional trucks. Let's hope country singers start singing about their hybrid pick-up trucks.
All of these and several other alternative fuel vehicles can be seen at The New York International Auto Show, from Friday, March 21 through Sunday, March 30. Tickets are available at the door or online. www.autoshowNY.com. You can also check out more of TreeHugger's NY auto show coverage here, here and here!