The No-Hydrogen Auto Show

The No-Hydrogen Auto Show – The Greater LA AutoShow 2003
By Jeffrey the Barak

Back at the beginning of 2002, the-vu went to the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show and focused on electric, hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles. People loved the blend of seriousness and silliness in that article, so armed once again with a press pass and some comfortable shoes, it was back for more of the same in 2003.

This year at the 2003 show we were surprised to find that the EVAA is no longer exhibiting. Perhaps saving gasoline is a bad idea if you have to justify a war or two in order to protect your gasoline supplies. However all is not lost. The petroleum and electric hybrid version of the good old ordinary Honda Civic is alive and well. Speaking of alive and well, the amazing Toyota Prius is selling as fast as the company can make it.

Having done very little research in advance of the show, our hopes were raised at the Ford exhibition when we saw a Ford Focus with big plastic letters stuck on the side spelling PZEV. However this is not a hybrid, it is merely an extremely efficient and cleanburning conventional car. Ford say they are bringing out a hybrid version of their mid-size SUV, the Escape, but it’s not ready yet.

The whole Think division of Ford has been killed, leaving Chrysler’s GEM cars alone in their class as short distance, low speed, mild climate, electric cars. This GEM has the Kustom look.

Annother purely electric vehicle on display was the infamous Segway Human Transporter. Sadly there was no one demonstrating this on Thursday January 2nd., Media Day, but it was nice to actually stand beside the device that so tantalised us until the disappointing day when was finally revealed to be nothing more than a battery-powered means of conveyance, albeit a clever one.

No sign of the Nissan Hypermini this year, or the older, two seater Honda hybrid, the Insight, so it was down to two players: the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic. In either case, the buyer will have to save a lot of fuel before they save back the extra money they spent when they didn’t buy either the regular Civic, or a small Toyota such as an Echo, or a baseline Corolla.

In my humble opinion, the Toyota Prius is currently the undisputed king of the hybrid world.

Fuel Cell Technology seems to have been pushed away from the forefront, and there are few signs in America of the establishment of a hydrogen distribution system, so we’ll all be burning petrol for longer that I would have predicted after last year’s promising show. Honda still displays the FCX,but the emphasis is on the X for experimental. It must be hard to test this car when you have to follow it around with a hydrogen tanker.

On Friday 3rd. January, still a future date at the time of writing (2nd January), a group of fifty local television celebrities and ordinary folks will be bringing their hybrid cars to the L.A. Convention Center to give journalists a ride around the block and attempt to seduce them away from the all gasoline way of thinking. This hybrid Car rendezvous and rally is organised by the Union of Concerned Scientists. This group seems to think that almost all America’s cars and trucks could reach an average of 60 mpg if the best existing hybrid and conventional technology were more widely used to day.

Recently, television actor Ed Begley Jr. drove from coast to coast across the USA and all the way back again, and spent a mere $150 on fuel. He did so in a hybrid car, not on a moped!

Writer Jeffrey the Barak is also the publisher of the-vu.

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