Annual showcase of the latest automobiles include self-driving vehicles, more clean energy mechanisms and a push to make electric vehicles more accessible
The automotive industry is all about innovation: where can we take the automobile next? When cars were mass produced at the turn of the 20th century and and more and more drivers were on the road, it seemed that the evolution of the automobile rapidly advanced as technology and engineering became more sophisticated.
With the growing threat of climate change and a push by activists and lawmakers to reduce our carbon footprint, the clean energy movement has ballooned into a global movement in the 21st century. Included in that conversation was how we can limit fuel emissions of our automobiles.
The invention of the hybrid car’s electric motor allowed for less fuel consumption (there less fuel emissions), but manufacturers still strived to create a vehicle that didn’t need a trip to the gas station.
Enter the electric vehicle (EV).
Tesla Motors — with their introduction of the first luxury electric sports car in 2006 — ushered in the era of the completely electric vehicle that seeks to make gasoline-powered cars obsolete and address the growing concerns of transportation’s impact on the environment.
Experts and lawmakers agree that the shift to EVs is a signal to the future.
“Transportation impacts our air quality and also our climate goals, and to shift over to electric vehicles that limit tailpipe pollution is a strategy California is working on in order to address those clean air standards and our climate change goals,” Commissioner Janea A. Scott of the California Energy Commission told the Asian Journal at a power lunch and forum hosted by the California Electric Transportation Coalition (CalETC) at first day of the Los Angeles Auto Show on Friday, Dec. 1.
However, as many new technological innovations, the EV has been met with many stigmas and concerns. One of the biggest concerns with the expansion of fully electric cars is the price point and to make them more accessible to more lower-income communities.
Community members as well as car industry and energy experts at the CalETC forum agreed that expanding the accessibility of more environmentally-friendly cars will be beneficial to the clean air movement as well as the communities.
“For me the message becomes once you figure out the pricing and accessibility to these communities, as the vehicles become more accessible through education and opportunity to these communities then the messaging can be how to get more cash in your hand that you can re-invest in education or in areas of their lives, personally or for their children or for their community. That is the critical issue,” said Pastor Najuma Smith-Pollard of Word of Encouragement Church.
In general, plug in hybrid electric vehicles — which utilize a part-electric/part-fuel running system — and battery EVs range anywhere from $27,100 (like the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime) to more than $82,500 (like the 2017 Tesla Model X). Used vehicles, of course, cost lower.
One of the most crucial arguments for the financial benefits of driving a car that runs on electricity is the savings on gas in the long run. Fueling a hybrid car, for example, is about the same as gas at $1/gallon of fueling with gasoline, according to Plug In America, an advocacy organization focused on clean air initiatives.
EVs also currently produce about half the carbon pollution of gasoline cars, and that number is slated to decrease as the technology to manufacture EVs becomes more sophisticated.
Whether it’s for financial reasons or to contribute to clean air initiatives, more and more drivers are opting for hybrid cars or fully-electric vehicles.
Sam Perez, nurse practitioner in Arcadia, California, made the switch to a hybrid car when he bought a 2015 Chevy Volt, which was “a little over my price range.”
“Originally, I thought that spending a little more money for a car that needed less gas was the most important thing when I was searching for a car years ago,” Perez, 35, told the Asian Journal. “But then, I started reading about the overall impact of electric, or at least partially electric, cars and saw the projections of more people opting for these cars and it really surprised me.”
Standing at the Land Rover exhibit, Perez said that he’s saving money to buy one of the new Land Rover vehicles, all of which are to utilize electric mechanisms by 2020. The company’s first foray into EV technology comes in the form of the much hyped 2019 Range Rover and Range Rover Sport P400E models, which features a turbocharged 2.0- liter-four cylinder with an electric motor to create a combined 398 horsepower.
“When you think Land Rover or Range Rover, you don’t really think ‘fuel economy,’” Perez said with a laugh. “But I think it’s great what these more luxurious companies, which aren’t really known to be environmentally-conscious manufacturers, are doing now.”
Self-driving cars were also the rage at the LA Auto Show with many manufacturers showing off their takes on technology that allows drivers to relax a little.
The sleek 2018 Cadillac CT6 with SuperCruise features Super Cruise technology that allows drivers to go hands-free while driving on the freeway. Although not a fully self-driving car (drivers must remain alert and ready to brake), Cadillac’s introduction of the first hands-free system gestures to a more automated vehicle.
Amid all the glitz of Nissan’s elaborate “Star Wars” concept vehicles and millennial-geared SUVs (like the Jeep Wrangler and Subaru’s three-row Ascent), many families were on deck to view the latest safety features on the newest models.
Gloria and Ryan Soo, along with their 2-year-old son Justin, browsed Toyota, their prefered manufacturer for its ways in preventing car accidents.
“We really like the new Lexuses because they feature this new safety system that avoids collisions,” Ryan Soo said, referencing the company’s Safety Sense System, LSS+A, which builds on a prototype version that automatically brakes to assuage collision with other cars or pedestrians.
“It’s just so impressive to see what these big companies are doing nowadays to move towards self-driving, or more autonomous systems. It’s definitely helpful for families,” Gloria Soo added.
The LA Auto Show is still open at the LA Convention Center until December 10.