2013 Detroit Auto Show: Where Have the Electric Cars Gone?
The 2013 North American International Auto Show, which opens its doors to the world’s media on January 14, signals one of two things by its notable lack of headline-grabbing electric and plug-in hybrid introductions. Either alternative energy cars and trucks have gone mainstream, so as to be virtually invisible on the show-floor in Detroit’s Cobo Hall, or automakers have shifted the bulk of their marketing attention away from electrified vehicles. In the days leading up to the show, only one new and original plug-in hybrid model, the new 2014 Cadillac ELR, is officially scheduled to make a world debut in Detroit.
Cadillac ELR, the ‘Super Volt’
Based on the current Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, the Cadillac ELR looks set to borrow the bulk of its engineering, including the gasoline/electric powertrain, from its bowtie-badged sibling. Look for ELR luxury coupe to include the Volt’s lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor that, at least in the Chevy, deliver an electric driving range of 37 miles. When battery power runs out, a 1.4-liter gasoline-fed engine powers an onboard generator to provide the Volt with an additional 300 miles of range.
It’s widely expected, though not yet confirmed, that the ELR coupe will have more power and a greater electric-only driving range than the Volt. Sales of the ELR are scheduled to begin late in 2013, for the 2014 model year. Styling will borrow heavily from the edgy-looking Cadillac Converj concept, originally shown in 2009.
Show-floor versus Showroom
Part of the reason for the lack of electric vehicle introductions this year in Detroit is simply due to the fact that, now more than ever, full-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are available in dealer showrooms, and not confined to concept status amongst the pomp and glitz of the auto show circuit. New mainstream models, like the Ford C-Max Energi, have only recently gone on sale. Meanwhile, sales of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF EV have either held steady or, in the case of the Volt, more than doubled from sales levels one year ago. (Nissan will use Detroit as the venue to unveil the 2013 update to the LEAF.)
Other automakers, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Infiniti, have plug-in hybrids or full-electric vehicles firmly integrated into their near-term future product range. A lack of flashy introductions in Detroit does not signal the end of the electric car, but perhaps more the tapering off of the novelty factor these vehicles had only one or two years ago.
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