Ford and General Motors, the two embattled giants of the US car industry, Ford and General Motors have both unveiled plans for electric cars to try to maintain their position in an increasingly competitive market.
GM, the world’s biggest car maker, unveiled the Chevrolet Volt yesterday at the glitzy Detroit Motor Show, where fuel efficiency and alternative fuels are emerging as a major focus.
GM said its new vehicle – still at the concept stage after a year of development – could be recharged overnight and would save the average driver $900 a year at current fuel prices. It would mean, also, that 4.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide is no longer pumped into the atmosphere by the average driver.
Bob Lutz, head of global product development at GM, said the Volt fulfilled the company’s promise to pursue “the electrification of the automobile, to increase energy diversity, and to move away as soon as it is technologically and economically possible from a world where the automobile industry is 98 per cent dependent on petroleum or petroleum-based fuels”.
Not to be out-done Ford launched a space-age utility vehicle, called the Ford Airstream that comes complete with lava lamps, swivel chairs and a video screen. It, too, runs on battery power which is generated by a hybrid fuel cell, or topped up from the mains.
American carmakers are struggling to respond to criticism about them failing to invest in electric technology. A documentary released last year, Who Killed the Electric Car?, suggested GM had wilfully turned its back on electric vehicles.
The multi-billion question though about electric vehicles is how is the electricity generated: because if it’s dirty coal, oil or nukes its out of the frying pan into the fire.