Take a ‘green’ drive in the basement

January 12, 2009

Reuters correspondent Nick Carey visited the lower level of the Detroit auto show, where smaller carmakers used to set up shop but there is something new for the automotive media this year:


The basement of the Cobo Center has been reserved for Chinese automakers in recent years, but thanks to the state of the U.S. economy and slumping auto sales, cancellations by other automakers for the 2009 auto show have left a fair amount of space to be filled.


The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) came up with a novel idea to fill the room – creating a park (pictured above) to test drive ‘green’ hybrid vehicles.


The EcoXperience, as the MEDC has dubbed the space-filling maneuver, is an elaborately designed indoor park, with real trees and flowers, including tulips of different hues, fountains and running water – so much so that workers were repairing a leak from one of the fountains – and a paved road for testing hybrid vehicles. The smell of pine, wood chips and earth fills the air, a tranquil if somewhat surreal setup in the basement of a cavernous, concrete building like the Cobo.


There are a number of hybrid vehicles to test drive – including the Chevy Equinox, the GMC Sierra, Buick Escalade, Chevy Tahoe, or Saturn Vue – after you have signed a waiver absolving the organizers of your death in a car accident. Oh, and you have to take a breath test to make sure you haven’t been drinking heavily before you take a turn in the park.


Once out on the track, the top speed is a dizzying 7 miles per hour.


I tried the Saturn Vue, a very quiet vehicle that can apparently run on an electric battery up to a speed of 30 miles per hour. But as my guide explained – off the record as none of the guides could be quoted by name – the car’s battery was low because so many people had taken the Vue for a high-speed spin.


And the park itself?


“Because some automakers pulled out and the ones who had been booked for the basement got to move upstairs, they had to do something with the space,” the unnamed guide said. “The park certainly takes up a lot of space.”








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It would cost the equivalent of 60 cents a gallon to charge and drive an electric car.The electricity to charge the car could come from solar or wind generated electricity.If all gasoline cars,trucks,and suv’s instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of N.D.This past year the high cost of fuel so seriously damaged our economy and society that the ripple effects will be felt for years to come.Why not invest in setting up some alternative energy projects on a national basis, create clean cheap electricity,create millions of badly needed new green collar jobs, and get out from under our dependence on foreign oil.What a win-win situation that would be. There is a great new book out called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence NOW by Jeff Wilson. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in alternative energy.

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