Local News

Ford, GM jump into green-car fray

Posted February 16, 2009 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Automakers showcased their newest environmentally friendly models at International Auto Expo in Raleigh this weekend, including an SUV that can get up to 120 miles a gallon.

Car enthusiast Carl Jensen was among those who strolled around the Expo. He said he doesn't see a more expensive hybrid vehicle making financial sense during tough economic times.

“When they get that cost down, then the hybrid could be a solution. But right now, I don't think it's a viable solution,” he said.

Automakers say they are trying to bring down those costs and go even greener. Ford showed off a new Escape plug-in hybrid vehicle.

“You could easily just plug this in, put it in your garage, five to 10 hours later, you have a fully charged vehicle,” said Peter Jap, with Ford.

Peter Jap, with Ford Motor Company, said the charge allows you to drive up to 40 miles on an electric motor.

Progress Energy is testing a plug-in hybrid in the Triangle. The company is studying how much charging an electric car might add to a person's power bill.

"A plug-in vehicle ... is probably only adding about the same amount of electricity as a blender in your kitchen might, in the long run,” the utility's Scott Sutton said.

General Motors showed off its stable of green vehicles for 2009. There were a lot of choices, from hybrid SUVs to a flex-fuel Hummer.

Despite greener vehicles to choose from, some people might be asking if now is the right time to buy a new car.

“I think so. Right now, more than ever, you can get the best deals at the dealerships. They're willing to work with you,” said Araba Dowell, with General Motors.

Jensen said hybrid technology is just an interim step on the way to a greener auto industry.

“Hybrid is what we can buy right now. But if you're patient, I think that will change,” Jensen said.

Ford plans to have a family of plug-in, battery and hybrid vehicles by 2012. Chevrolet plans to introduce an electric car to the consumer market by the end of next year. Toyota says it plans to add solar panels to its hybrid Prius in 2010.