All eyes turn to Detroit and the message is sustainable transport - and not just from the troubled Big Three. Here's the green tech taking centre stage in motor city.
Merc BlueZero concepts
Three concepts based around A- and B-Class platforms experimenting with electric power. Each uses a different method of getting the electricity to the engine - one is purely battery-powered (E-cell), one is fuel cell (F-cell), and one is small hybrid (E-cell plus). The latter uses a small Smart engine as an auxiliary generator to extend the car
Production model makes its debut a year after Fisker showed concept Karma at last year's Detroit show. It has a new interior with aluminium and plastic switchgear and a screen with touch-feedback like the new Blackberry. A GM-sourced two-litre four-pot runs alongside 22.6KW electric motor, producing around 400bhp and getting the Karma to 60mph in just under six seconds. So we hear. There's a coupe version too, but we'll come to that later.
Lexus HS250h hybrid
Do you like the look of this? Couldn't help but think it looked way too much like a polished up Prius when the pulled the covers off it. Anyway, it's a front-wheel-drive hybrid Lexus based on the same platform as the Toyota greenie, but with a bigger, 2.4-litre engine for a bit more go. Total power is 187bhp but the fuel consumption is said to be better than a petrol Smart. Interior is very gadgety and it's full of the usual top-end Japanese driver aids.
World's cheapest hybrid: powertrain based on Civic hybrid, so 1.4-litre petrol engine probably putting out around 113bhp running alongside electric motor. Should cost around £15,000 when it goes on sale, aiming to be world's biggest selling hybrid. All good hen? Not quite - we were more than a bit underwhelmed with this one on the show stand, after the concept shots we were expecting more. Boring, really, like the Prius. But boringly good we expect.
Everything else: To be honest, the entire Detroit show floor was littered with promises of green technology. The Big Three (Ford, GM and Chrysler) all gave uplifting speeches about a bright new fuel-efficient future.
Ford seemed to present the strongest case - in engineering terms at least - with a convincing electric car plan promising a battery-electric small car by 2011 and plug-in hybrid by 2012. For Europe, though, its sounds like the popularity of diesel might get in the way.
GM sang loud about its Volt and tried to put a green polish across the rest of its range, supported by cheering from placard-waving employees they'd roped along for the press conference.
Chrysler, though, seemed the most last-gasp of the three - its hopes seemed pinned to borrowed or copied technology. Its ‘Circuit' concept borrowed heavily from Lotus and the slightly more promising looking 200C (a potential downsized 300C replacement) still felt a bit like a prop-up exercise. Looked good, though.
Get the bigger US auto industry picture on The Foreman blog...