RAN at the LA Auto Show

Written by Sarah

Topics: Oil

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It’s auto show season again. That’s right—the beginning of the annual cycle where the automakers roll through LA, Detroit, New York, (and thousands of smaller cities in between) launching their new concept cars. This week, Freedom from Oil is blogging from the Los Angeles Auto Show—the “green” autoshow of the year. Like last year we’re expecting great eco fanfare as the auto industry rolls out a series of eco-concept cars. And like last year, we’re staging a series of creative actions to highlight the continued wide gap between the auto industry’s eco-promises and status-quo action.

Here in LA, we’re slicing through the hype and keeping our eye on the prize. The automotive CEOs might be back at the podium making promises about sustainability, but on the streets of LA and throughout the country, hardly anything has changed in the past year:

  • Fuel economy of the cars available to American drivers remains at the bottom of the barrel.
  • Automakers are still fighting tooth and nail again fuel economy and tailpipe global warming laws.
  • I still can’t walk into a show-room and buy a plug-in hybrid.

To kick off the week, we’re juxtaposing Ford, Toyota, and GM’s eco-promises with their continued participation in the lawsuit against California’s groundbreaking tailpipe global warming law. At this morning’s keynote speech to kick off the LA Auto Show, we put Ford CEO Allan Mulally in the hotseat by confronting him one-on-one and demanding he respond to a clever Freedom From Oil-produced USA Today front page wrap targeting Ford’s greenwashing.

Eco-cars (like the Cadillac Escalade hybrid, um what?) cannot just be an effort to deflect building criticism on the auto industries’ continued and stubborn reliance on gas guzzling, high global warming emissions vehicles. As I read the news this week and see extreme drought and wildfires in California, oil spills fouling the shores of San Francisco and the Black Sea, and oil prices approaching $100 a barrel, I’m more offended that usual (and that’s saying a lot) by the business as usual shenanigans of the automakers. It is high time for the automakers to stop saying what they can’t do and start giving American drivers the oil-free, zero-emissions vehicles we want and deserve.

Our showcase action of the week is going to do what non-violent direct action does best, “show not tell” the automakers what we want from them. On Thursday, while the automakers are inside the convention center making excuses and promoting concepts, we’ll be carrying out a high-speed one day conversion of a Prius hybrid to a plug-in hybrid (we’ll post more details on Thursday). With our action and our messaging, we’ll be asking the automakers what is taking them so long to get the cars America deserves on the road—if grassroots engineers can make a plug-in in a day, what’s holding back the auto industry?

UPDATE 1: Check out the photos on RAN’s Flickr site!

UPDATE 2: The AP wrote a great article about RAN confronting Toyota today!

16 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. janet curtis says:

    Plug-ins could reduce the average American driver’s gas consumption by 85 percent!
    RAN is going to covert a Prius to a plug-in in less than a day. What’s holding back the auto industry?
    The big automakers, despite their claims to be green, are lobbying heavily against increased fuel efficiency standards. Every President has been controlled by the oil cartel, we MUST STOP THEM NOW. With the spills, drilling, killing, we are a planet gone mad and it has to stop right now before we as the animals and ocean marine life are poisoned, and that isn’t helping the environment nor the health of our dying planet. Get agressive and get mad and take actions to stop this addiction to oil as Pres Bush admitted, but he is under control of higher blood money profits, help stop this right away. Be part of the progressive movement to end our oil addiction and make cars that will be affordable and energy efficent. You have nothing to lose, but your home:EARTH!

  2. i’m excited to see the results of the 1 day plug in conversion! go RAN!!

  3. Phil L. says:

    Well – the PHEV Prius efforts I’ve seen cost >$10K on top of the Prius, and the result can have decent range – but can’t go over 35mph (other conversions may have other limitations).

    That $10K+ conversion doesn’t include the cost of a warranty – something an OEM would have to factor in. Plus international safety and regulatory issues that the conversion conveniently ignores.

    This would likely push an OEM PHEV Prius into $40K territory.

    So… No surprise: It’s a nice idea, but Toyota has obviously already done their research – and decided there isn’t enough market for a vehicle in this price range with these limitations. They’ll put their research money into other technology that will make sense in the marketplace.

  4. Elka Zwick says:

    It’s incredible that the French are working on a car that uses compressed air as its fuel. From what I recall, it can be driven for 600 miles before re-fueling. That sure beats today’s hybrid vehicles!

    Detroit is giving the world vehicles that do not need to be driven in the city, namely, huge S.U.V.s and big trucks to haul a few bags of groceries and just the driver. It is starting to provide hybrid vehicles, because Americans are buying these cars from Honda and Toyota. It’s funny that this will soon be the old technology, AND DETROIT WILL BE LEFT ‘IN THE DUST!’

    I am considering buying a “SmartCar,” because of its fuel efficiency, and reduced gas emissions. From what I saw on “YouTube” of its ability to withstand a crash, it compares reasonably well to other cars. However, I still wouldn’t want to be in a crash with one of those behemoth, idiotic S.U.V.s.

    P.S. I saw this French car on a recent episode of “Modern Marvels” on “The Discovery Channel.”

  5. Doug Grinbergs says:

    Perhaps RAN would care to share some details about the confrontation between Toyota’s sales GM Carter and RAN’s Olson. Is a video available?

  6. Phil L. says:

    Elka Zwick -

    Compressed air technology has been around for a long time.

    But there are important reasons it hasn’t taken off for vehicle applications. In this setting, compressed air is just a battery. There’s no magic: It takes energy from one place; stores it, and make it available for use in another place. If you want lots of compressed air cars, spend some time thinking about where all of the energy to compress the air is coming from. And Mr. Thermodynamics will take his cut: Compressing air creates heat – energy that isn’t available for the vehicle.

    That said, I believe there are applications where compressed air and similar technologies will make sense.

  7. Luke says:

    Doug – good idea. Watch for updates.

  8. Pat Rasmussen says:

    We need plug-in hybrids. Prius hybrids can quickly be converted to plug-ins. Then we can use it as an electric car to commute and use the hybrid when going on a trip. It only takes a day to convert to a plug-in. See RAN do it themselves in a day. Any automaker that says they can’t do it for YEARS could just watch them and see how it’s done. They’re not even mechanics. You can check them out at: http://understory.ran.org/2007/11/14/ran-at-the-la-auto-show/

  9. Phil L. says:

    Anyone have further info on the Prius PHEV conversion? The pictures are interesting – but I’d like to know more.

    What is the battery-only range? Top usable speed?

    Cost of conversion? Any safety issues? Availability for the rest of us?

  10. Felix Kramer says:

    This conversion, by the California Cars Initiativen was a technology demonstration, to show that the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in today’s hybrids (without the safety issues of lithium, and with demonstrated extended life) could make “good enough” hybrids for carmakers to start getting cars on the road as quickly as possible. Its expected all-electric low-speed range is about 15 miles. Of course, carmakers could do better — our goal is to get them to sell PHEVs.

    Meanwhile, aftermarket options are limited and still cost >$10K. Warrantied and crash-tested options are expected next year. See http://www.calcars.org/howtoget.html This conversion is part of our open-source “do it yourself with help from an engineer” project at http://www.priusplus.org.

    – Felix Kramer, Founder, CalCars.org

  11. Mike Talbot says:

    Well, I just got back from the L.A. auto show and was disappointed just like I was with last years show… hoping to see some PHEV’s for sale. The only thing that I can figure is that the major oil companies must control the U.S. auto industry? Putting pretty women on stage next to gas guzzlers isn’t cutting it anymore at $3.30/gas to sell cars. I heard that the CEO’s had left before the start of the show instead of staying and listening to the future customers. I can’t be all that wrong when the U.S. manufactures are selling cars at 50% of the U.S. total.
    If someone ever gets a chance please read what Edward Demmings wrote about U.S. car manufacturers. Mr. Demmings was sent to Japan after WWII to help turn around Japans poor quality. He succeeded. One item he mentioned was when you pay a CEO millions of dollars a year…how concerned is that CEO going to be if the car company makes it in the future? Something to think about?

  12. Joseph Carson says:

    The big automakers in their drive for profit and their cozying up to Big Oil are typical big business under the Bush Administration. Please do anything to prove how greedy and out of date they are. If Toyota does not have a hybrid, I will not buy Toyota or any other automaker.

  13. Professional conversions are available today. Not only do you gain independence from oil, but you recycle your favorite car. Want to see proof of performance, come down to our San Diego Jan 2008 Family Fun EVent and see over 50 vehicles(ranging from battery electic Mazda Miatas, Chevy S10s, even a Rolls Royce) that will get their drivers to and from work 5 days a week without stopping at a gas station.

  14. Keith Van Sickle says:

    Yesterday I went to both the showing of the BugE at the Sofitel and the LA Auto show. The Electric BugE was far the most innovative vehicle I saw. It is a PET, Personel Electric Transporter. Ie doesn’t go too fas or too far but it works for every day commuting and errand running and is totally green. At the auto show all I saw was the same old thing with two exceptions. One was the T-rex. It too was a PET and comes in an electric version but the price was a bit steep $54,000.00 as compaired to the BugE at $8,000. The second innovative vehicle I saw was also a trike but not electric and holds three passengers. It is the American Freedom Roadster. It runs on compressed Natural Gas and is therefore much cleaner than any other ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) It was also independently produced and had a modest price of $20,000. How come it is that three independently produced vehicles are the only innovative and truely green vehicles out of the hundreds at the show? Ya think maybe there is some sort of conspricy/coersion/colusion between big auto and big oil and big government??

  15. Keith Van Sickle says:

    OPPS forgot to comment on the Electric Dragin event. It sure looks like it would be worth the time and trouble to go. WHere do I get more information?

  16. Erika Courvoisier says:

    If anyone has recommendations re. best bet for an eco-friendly bus, please post. I live in a small college town and am trying to put together a proposal to put a green shuttle bus on the road for the students. The “city fathers” are pushing for reduced cab fares for students after hours, but obviously this thinking is archaic. Would appreciate any recommendations.
    Thank you for cogitating on this

Trackbacks For This Post

  1. The Understory » Live from the LA Auto Show
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  3. Toyota exec gets into tussle with Rainforest Action Network activist and it's all on YouTube - Auto Blog Green

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