While the EPA knocks out a new CAFE standard of just under 55MPG by 2025 (which the U.S. automakers can still weasel out of as they have in the past), BMW reveals two new electric concepts, the i3 and the i8.
The i3, a full electric 4-seat hatchback designed for urban driving (formerly the Mega-City vehicle), will be able to travel 80 miles on a charge, and its quick-charger will get it 80% charged in an hour. The i8 is a hybrid that will travel 20 miles before switching to a 3-liter gas engine.
While the i8 is, to my mind, more of a show-off toy, the i3 seems a very practical vehicle for city and suburban use… I’d put it on my list of cars to check out, alongside the Leaf and other full electrics… none of which are being made by the Big 3 U.S. automakers.
On the gas engine side, Hyundai advertises 4 cars available now that get 40MPG, at a time when most automakers boast about getting 30MPG (like my mother’s ’85 Datsun achieved when it was released).
There’s no question that U.S. automakers have pulled out all the stops over the last 30 years to avoid making their vehicles as fuel-efficient as they could be, while appealing to America’s vanity and selling them luxury trucks. And now, they apply the same tricks as yesteryear, claiming that raising standards will “cost too much” and “force them to cut jobs” in response, while bragging about cars that make 1985 MPG numbers. This “fool me twice” response to the world’s need to cut back on gasoline use and pollution is nothing less than insulting, and to me represents more than enough justification for continuing past the GM, Ford and Chrysler dealerships and stopping at the Asian and German automakers instead.
U.S. automakers have short memories: They’ve forgotten what drove Americans to foreign vehicles in the first place. They’re also assuming Americans have short memories, and will easily be swayed by pretty-pretty car commercials to buy the same old leather-appointed old-tech vehicles. What they’re not counting on is the state of the economy, the increased difficulty of getting credit, and the rising cost of living, all of which are forcing consumers to look at the big picture, and realize that they can no longer live as vacuously as they used to. They need economy, they need alternatives to oil-burners, and they need to learn new ways of getting around.
The foreign automakers are already prepared to give American consumers exactly that. If U.S. automakers don’t come around, they’ll find themselves shoved out of their own market by the foreign car makers, just as they were back in the seventies.