The future of the automobile is going to be economically and environmentally friendly

I hate car… I know those words sound blasphemous to many people, but that’s the way I’ve always felt. Grandpa used to say “if they get you from point A to Point B who cares what you’re driving”. Personally, I’ve always thought of automobiles as either death traps or money pits. Let’s face it, almost everyone can think of someone who has died behind (or in front) of the wheel.

Still, with all this detestation I found myself Saturday at the Palais des congres checking out the 2011 installment of the Montréal International Auto-Show. My curiosity was peaked not by the overpriced Ferraris or Bentleys, but by the promise of a new beginning, a revolution in the auto industry. My hatred of everything on four wheels could never trump my love of the environment (or my abhorrence toward oil companies).

The Chevy Volt

One of the first cars I saw as I entered the first big hall was the much anticipated and publicised Chevy Volt. The Motor Trend 2011 Car of the Year is scheduled for release in Canada in the summer of 2011. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts at $41,000, but government tax credits should lower that amount quite a bit.

The Volt has a total driving range of about 580 kilometres and a max speed of at least 160 KM/HR. For the first 40 to80 kilometres it produces zero emissions running solely on battery power. When commuting greater distances an engine-generator kicks in to provide power for another 500 KM or so. The only down sides I see is the four to ten hours (depending on the voltage) of time required to fully charge the vehicle and the occasional trip to the gas station to fill up. Presently, the cost of one full charge will cost about $1.00 to $1.50.

The Mitsubishi i-Miev

The next “green car” that caught my eye was the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle). The i-MiEV has a top speed of about 130 KM/HR and a range of 70 to 80 kilometres. This fully electric car will sell for about $30,000 when it hits North American streets sometime this year (even less with tax credits) making it far more affordable than the Volt.

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV

The charge time is between 7 to 14 hours depending on the power supply, but with the quick-charger system it can be charged in half an hour with the cost per charge at about $2.00. The i-MiEV is a small compact car made for city driving and with it spewing zero tailpipe emissions it should please any environmentally conscious person. The Japanese have been driving it for about six months now with rave reviews.

The Nissan Leaf

The last zero emissions car I have to mention is the Nissan Leaf. Not only is it beautiful looking, but it’s as high tech as we can get, there will be an app for that. Imagine being able to monitor your car battery, turn on the AC/heater or look up other info from your living room! The Leaf was already named the 2011 European Car of the Year and it would be mine as well if I was actually qualified to say so. With a top speed of 160 KM/HR and a range of 100 kilometres it is better suited to drive greater distances than other %100 electric vehicles.

The price for the Nissan Leaf is slightly more than the i-MiEV at about $33,000; some provinces are making it far cheaper such as Ontario which has an $8,500 incentive program in place. The charge time and cost per charge are almost on par with its Mitsubishi counterpart, but if it came down to judging them both on looks alone the Leaf blows the i-MiEV away.

All in all, when I walked through the exit of the auto show I must admit I felt pretty excited about what’s literally coming down the road this year. I still don’t imagine I’ll buy a car or even get my license for that matter, but at least I can breathe easier knowing that things are finally starting to change on the highway… now, if only we could fix our traffic problems.

For more pictures from the Montreal Auto Show, Laurence was there too and got the goods!

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