Electric Avenue  

Posted by Big Gav in

The SMH has a look at the electric section of the Detroit Motor Show - Clooney’s electric new wheels.

With a curiously squashed body, the Tango electrically powered car is as nippy as a motorbike and can reach a speed of 200km/h. Satisfied customers include the actor George Clooney and its inventor describes the bizarre vehicle as a "chick magnet".

The Tango is among the quirkier exhibits on Electric Avenue, a corner of the Detroit motor show devoted to electrically powered vehicles. Every manufacturer of any note, from General Motors to Toyota, Mitsubishi and Hyundai, has a plug-in car or, at the very least, a petrol-electric hybrid on display.

The future of motoring, according to political and environmental enthusiasts, is electric. But barely 1 per cent of industry sales last year were hybrid or electrically powered vehicles. PricewaterhouseCoopers' automotive institute expects to see a small rise to 4 per cent by 2015. "What's holding them back?" asks Anthony Pratt, an analyst from PricewaterhouseCoopers. "Cost."

Typically buying an eco-friendly car involves a price premium and the recession has not helped. Toyota this week unveiled a smaller, cheaper version of the Prius called the FT-CH concept.

Its Japanese rival, Nissan, displayed a pure electric plug-in car called the Leaf, which has a socket in its bonnet and needs to be recharged every 160 kilometres. Mitsubishi has a similar model, the MiEV prototype (short for Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle). But until somebody builds a network of electric charging stations, they are awkward for longer trips.

The most keenly awaited "green" launch will be GM's Chevrolet Volt, a hybrid that can go 64 kilometres on a single electric charge but also harness power from its engine to generate more electricity on the go. This means it can cover hundreds of kilometres on one tank of petrol.

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