It’s January and this means two things if you’re in Detroit… shovels and Auto Show!  For the past century car junkies have made their way to the Motor City to catch the latest and greatest in the automotive world.  Guests have most likely grown accustom to a scent of petrol and engine oil drafting through the convention’s halls… This ominous odor will have less of a presence this year as a whole slew of emissions-free electric cars have found their way to various manufacturer’s podiums… and particularly awesome is the inclusion of Electric Avenue in this year’s show, a 37,000 sq ft display area exclusively for plug-in vehicles… Follow me for a quick journey as I highlight some of these electrified and hybrid cars featured in Detroit Rock City.


Let’s get things rolling with the Audi e-Tron Coupe.  This gorgeous 2-door is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack capable of storing 45 kilowatt-hours of energy, giving it a range of up to 155 miles… and as you would expect, the silver stud is quick, running from 0 to 60 in less than six seconds.


Next up is the Hyundai Blue-Will. This concept is Hyundai’s “test bed of new ideas”-drive-by-wire steering, solar charging, a plug-in hybrid drivetrain that uses lithium-ion batteries (the same batteries that will go into the 2011 Hyundai Sonata), and, interestingly, a system that turns heat from exhaust gases into electricity…. supah sweet!


Hybrid king Toyota released some big news at the Auto Show’s press event saying that they are considering turning the Prius brand into a family of vehicles.  Things are still a bit hazy, but what we know is that the company plans to introduce 8 new hybrid models in the coming few years, and that the FT-CH hybrid concept is one of the models under consideration right now.  Here’s a pic of this potential ‘baby Prius,’ which would be much more affordable than the existing Prius… game on!


Nissan is planning an all out electric blitz on Toyota with the release of its Leaf EV later this year… this zero-emissions car will get 100 miles on a charge and offer a quick 80% charge in a mere half hour.  Nissan’s aspirations are huge for the Leaf… Their plant in Smyrna can build up to 150,000 of ’em when it starts production in late 2012!


Not to be left out of the electric game, BMW will launch its second electric-car experiment, the Concept ActiveE, which is essentially an electrified 1-series.  Running on lithium-ion cells, the ActiveE will seat four and run 100 miles on a charge.  It will go into test fleets next year, marking another step toward the eventual mid-decade release of BMW’s high-end all-electric urban commuter.


Wow… the aspect ratio of this pic seems a tad stretched, eh?  This is a street legal two-seat electric rocket known as the Commuter Cars Tango.  The seats are not side-by-side like a traditional sports car… no they are front-to-back like a fighter jet!  I did a write up on the Tango a while back.  Follow the link HERE to get all the details… The Tango is currently on sale world-wide as a kit car that is delivered within six months of order.  This bizarrely narrow two-seater actually weighs 3,150 pounds, most of that in lead-acid batteries mounted under the floor.  Billed as “the world’s fastest urban car,” Commuter Cars says this thing can run from 0 to 60 in approximately four seconds.


And here is a newcomer from Shenzhen, China, the BYD e6.  The all-electric crossover is scheduled to come to America later this year.  I’m sure you’re asking the obvious… who the heck is BYD?  Turns out they are the fifth largest manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries for consumer electronics in the world, so a crack at this growing electric car market seems like a worthy mission.

Back to a familiar face… ein Deutsche auto Volkswagen.  VW’s New Compact Coupe (NCC) concept looks better than it’s name might imply (I mean seriously, New Concept Coupe?  Did EVERYONE from creative get canned?)  Anyway, the streamlined two-seater gets a 1.4-liter TSI gas engine combined with a 20-kilowatt electric motor powered by a 1.1kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a 7-speed transmission.  Combined, this will get the car about 45 mpg with a top speed of 141 miles per hour… Sounds like a pretty good time!


And winding the list down with a pair of duzies, both by Tesla… their Model S all-electric family sedan won’t go into production for another two years or so, but it’s gearing up to kick some serious tail when it does.  The plan is to produce 20,000 of these salty dogs each year and that might spell trouble for competing luxury sedans… the Model S can seat five adults and two kids, run up to 300 miles on a single charge, and reach a top speed of 130 mph!


Photos by Seth Fletcher.

The Model S’s older and quicker brother, the Roadster, is also being featured at this year’s Auto Show… this Tesla is a revolutionary vehicle, having been in production for a couple years now and proving by example that electric is where it’s at.  This ambitious two-seater comes with a unique mission this year, to rid people of their ‘range anxiety fear.’  Tesla employees drove this car (the 750th of the 1000 roadsters the company has built so far) from LA to the auto show in Detroit, recharging along the way.

So there y’all have it… the latest and greatest in the automotive world!  Super exciting times we’re in, seeing the transformation of an industry take place in front of our eyes… I for one can’t wait till I roll through town in an electric ride of my own, drawing juice from a PV panel on my carport’s rooftop…