Saturday, February 7, 2009

(Unclear on the) Concept Cars

The Green Miles got invited to check out the Washington Auto Show’s media day this week. Just off the main corridor at the Washington Convention Center was the Auto Show’s “green room.” It held dozens of cars ranging from concept solar cars to plug-in electrics.

The “green room” stood out, but not in the way they wanted. It was incredibly boring – while the main showrooms had colorful carpets, bright lights, and huge flat-screen TVs, the green room had beige walls, dull green carpet, and cardboard signs. Snark aside, it was good to see the auto industry rolling out new hybrids and electric cars – and even better that so many hybrids share space on the main floor with regular models.

But as I walked past the biodiesel SUVs, the propane-powered cars and the funky-looking solar racers, I wondered if the industry realized we don’t need futuristic new breakthroughs. We have the technology right now to cut our bills at the gas pump, slash America’s dependence on foreign oil, and reduce our greenhouse gas and air pollution. The question is, are we willing to pay a little more for cars now so we’re not vulnerable to price shocks every time a hurricane comes through the Gulf of Mexico?

We have the technology to build millions of plug-in electric hybrids that would need very little gas. We just need our elected officials to let consumers and automakers know we’re serious about demanding a sea change in the way we make vehicles. Instead of hybrids being the exception, they need to be the rule – starting now.
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