Last week, the Sustainable America staff took a field trip to the 2014 New York International Auto Show to check out the latest in alternative-fuel vehicles. From concept vehicles that defy categorization to practical, road-ready cars with ever-improving gas mileage, we were excited to see the range of innovations at work in the auto industry. With more than 17 million hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles on the road and growing, almost every manufacturer is investing in electric and hybrid cars.
In our opinion, Toyota stole the show. Best known for their line of Priuses, their Camry, Avalon and Highlander models are also now available as hybrids. Toyota also offers an all-electric Rav4, and their new Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV) will be available in California in 2015. (They also had a fuel cell Highlander on display.) We also got a look at a number of smaller, city-friendly personal vehicles for one or two people.
Here’s a video recap of what caught our eye at the show; find out more about each car below the video.
1. Cadillac ELR Coupe
Fuel: All-electric, plus a range-extending gasoline generator
Availability: On sale now
Price: Starting at $75,000
We liked the Cadillac ELR Coupe because it’s a viable luxury competitor to Tesla for drivers who have range anxiety. It has both an all-electric mode and a gasoline engine, so it can be driven any distance. Also, when the Chevy Volt concept car first came out, it was meant to be much sportier than it actually was when it was delivered. This ELR, built on the same platform as the Volt, is closer to the aggressive styling first imagined for the GM plug-in hybrid. It’s a beautiful car on the outside and completely refined and finished on the inside.
2. Toyota i-ROAD
**Availability: Concept vehicle
Another favorite vehicle wasn’t a car, per se; it was the Toyota i-ROAD, which Toyota calls a “personal mobility vehicle”. It’s a two-seater, but only 33 inches wide, just half the width of the tiny Smart Fourtwo, which means that the second passenger sits in the back seat, behind the driver. It’s fully enclosed, so you are protected from the elements and don’t need to wear a helmet. It’s incredibly maneuverable, using what Toyota calls Active Lean Technology. What that means is that as you turn the wheel, one front wheel angles into the turn, and the other angles down by the same amount, allowing it to turn on a dime. It’s all-electric, with a range of 30 miles on a charge. It’s speed tops out at 30mph, which makes it more like a scooter, but ideal for city settings.
3. Audi A3 e-tron
Fuel: Plug-in hybrid
Price: $51,000 (est.)
About to debut in the U.S., we can see the sporty Audi A3 e-tron being desirable to younger demographics, urban dwellers, and outdoor adventure-types. Small but powerful, the A3 e-tron fits right in with the small-ish cars favored by urbanites for their ability to fit into tight parking spaces. Yet the e-tron keeps Audi’s commitment to sleek lines and higher-end materials — the version we saw had a nice leather interior and looked, for all intents and purposes, like an Audi. All-wheel drive and a pretty big trunk should enable road-trips and gear storage as well. Final testing for the U.S. isn’t complete, but Audi expects a final rating of above 100 MPGe and said the electric-only range will be 31 miles. The car’s total range is 584 miles.
4. Honda Fit EV 2014
Availability: Waiting list
Price: Starting at $36,000
An all-electric car that has a base price within the reach of most consumers, producing zero emissions, able to go about 82 miles between charges, and getting about 130mpg equivalent in city driving? What’s not to like?
5. Smart Electric Drive
Availability: On sale now
Price: Starting at $12,490
The cute little car packs a serious punch. Starting at $12,490, the Smart Electric Drive is affordable and practical. Boasting super-quick charging times and an EPA-estimated combined range of 68 miles and combined 107 MPGe, the Smart Electric Drive is a perfect car for city dwellers and local commuters. While compact, the Smart is actually quite spacious inside and feels much sturdier and safer than you might think. In fact, engineered by Mercedes-Benz, Smart has some of the strongest safety standards in the industry, receiving a 5-star safety rating from the U.S Department of Transportation. It’s also the only electric convertible available in the U.S. and fully customizable from vehicle wraps to custom mirrors and more. What’s not to love about this power packed little car!