So I stumbled out of my friend’s apartment and in a rare stroke of luck, a big green bus was grumbling up to the curb on cue. I got on and rode it to the end of the line; a place full of monolithic office buildings and parking garages called Century City.
Not having enough cash for another leg of bus travel, I was directed to the curb and set out to find an ATM. The obvious choice was the massive commercial establishment to the north, so I crossed the street and proceeded to get hopelessly lost in what I would later learn was the Westfield Mall.
Spacing out at a Victoria’s Secret banner it wasn’t long before I walked straight into a parked car. A bit of a surprise, but not as much as the fact that it was a model I couldn’t identify.
Sitting static in the pedestrian pathway was a small, white poky-looking sedan called a CODA. Further inspection revealed that was a full-electric vehicle, and was on display to attract shoppers to the company’s adjacent storefront.
We’ve all seen car dealers, but this was the first time I’d seen a mall shop selling cars. And yet here was CODA, peddling petrol-free propulsion between Banana Republic and Armani Exchange.
The company’s primary interest is battery development. The car itself is designed by Mitsubishi, built in China, then powered by a massive lithium-ion phosphate juicebox developed in Southern California.
The car is fully electric with no gasoline engine on board whatsoever. Range is an impressive 150 miles per six hours of being plugged in to a standard residential powerpoint. That’s plenty of room to get to work, the gym, and whatever nerdy-organic grocery store CODA drivers will undoubtedly frequent.
Performance? Despite an impressive 135 horsepower and very impressive 221 foot/pounds of torque, the CODA is governed to 85 MPH. Enough to get the attention of L.A.’s finest, but you probably won’t get a second look when you roll up on Vin Diesel in his RX-7. CODA didn’t want to comment on acceleration numbers, which is fair enough- these cars are designed to spend their life in stop-and-go traffic and 0-60 times are completely irrelevant.
Pricing is a bit complicated, because the tax credit scheme for alternative energy cars varies state to state. But from what I gathered the CODA can be had for between $30,000 and $40,000. Value for dollar varies from state to state as well… with electricity costs being dramatically different across the U.S., the price of kilowatts/hour where you live is going to make a massive impact on dollars/mile of operating a CODA.
Hmm… might be a tough sell in a town obsessed with image, when you can get a used S-Class for that kind of money. But of course, these cars are the anti-S-Class. They’re targeted at cashed up commuters who like the idea of “passing the pump” every day. I was about to say environmentalists but surely that lot will be wise to the massive ecological impact involved in mining lithium ion and transporting car parts across oceans.
The CODA guy claimed they’ve taken payment and arranged delivery of over thirty cars in the few months they’ve had their store going, and will commence delivery next year. So next time you’re star spotting on Rodeo/Santa Monica, keep your eyes open and see if anybody pulls one of these out of the trunk of their Maybach.
The debate rages on about whether or not hybrid cars are “better” for the environment than, say, a 1984 Honda Civic (of course, the answer is that they are not).
But the fact remains that some people would just rather have a new car- and can actually afford it.
When first introduced in the 1990′s hybrids like the original Honda Insight were laughed off as goofy and nerdy, an unfortunate stigma that tended to plague their drivers as well.
I mean, come on- gasoline was $0.99 a gallon and the new Suburban just came out.
Once environmentalism came into fashion, the “hybrid movement” had another shot and the cars manifested themselves in the shapes we’re more familiar with today:
So it’s a little more “practical”, but it’s still reserved for people confident enough to ride around in a jellybean/shuttlecraft/dorkmobile.
Before you start commenting that Toyota “couldn’t keep Priui on their lots” and they “sold out quickly” I will say yes that’s true, but you’ve got to consider that these cars were produced in quite limited numbers for the first few years of their lives. Something to do with the government not having enough cash to award all those “green” rebates.
In the last few years, a new hybrid market emerged: high-end luxury. Now that Green is the new Gucci, the sex appeal of a Range Rover is just a little dented thanks to its bigfoot-sized carbon footprint.
So Lexus introduces the 460h, and later its RX and GX series hybrid vehicles.
Not to be left behind their Japanese rivals… Mercedes Benz cooks up the S400 Hybrid:
This thing takes the “green” concept a step further with interior parts made of recycled fibers and all that crap.
Plus, it’s an F-ing S Class. This car is decidedly awesome.
Well now that rich people ride around in hybrids… the rest of us start wanting them too.
Ford provides the Fusion hybrid, Toyota releases a Camry hybrid.
Decidedly less exciting than a new S-Class… you can Google you own images for those if you’re that interested.
And no I didn’t forget about the SUV hybrid market. I just think it’s stupid.
Ford Escape: too small to carry a lot or tow anything and definitely not going off-road, so why deal with poor aerodynamics?
Chevy Tahoe/Escalade Hybrid: It’s sad when automakers can brag about 20 MPG. If you need a vehicle this big, get a diesel.
So let’s recap.
Ten years after the original Insight rolled out, we’ve got a pretty dynamic family of hybrid cars on the market for all four of the major car-buying demographics:
Nerds: Toyota Prius, Honda Insight
Rich People: Lexus LS460h, GX…h, RX…h
Normal People: Toyota Camry Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid (and I think the Ford Escape hybrid snuck over here from the SUV category).
SUVs (also applicable to Rich People): Chevy Tahoe Hybrid/Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
But in the next year or two, the forerunners of hybrid cars are promising two new models to appeal to the most important demographic of all: Cool Kids.
You know, the people that marketing companies everywhere want you to be- the Facebook using, vintage sunglass-wearing, music-loving party people that are in catalogs.
These people need cars like the Lexus CT200h and Honda CR-Z.
The “hot hatch” category is finally getting back to its MPG-friendly roots with this pair of tiny-yet-heterosexual cars that I wouldn’t mind owning.
Once thought of as just a teaser concept, I’m now pretty sure the CR-Z is for real. The picture above is from Honda’s official website.
These cars are pretty cool, but don’t get your hopes up about neck-snapping performance.
Despite what the world’s ricers and eurotrash will have you believe, you’ve got to remember to take “hot hatch” performance with a grain of salt.
I’m afraid you will get crushed by creepy old guys in Mustangs at a stoplight in one of these.
But you’ve got to remember you’re getting 30+ MPG, you don’t have to rebuild your carburetor every Sunday, and your girlfriend won’t complain about the omnipresent smell of gasoline when you take her places.
And if you can’t afford one… try an 88 CRX.
There was a time when this symbol meant something.
Not a cool movie with a terrible sequel, go further back.
Not the TV cartoon either… go a newer than that.
Back in the good old 1990′s automotive tuners were using this symbol to identify their cars as “hybrids”… another title which now has a different meaning.
The term “hybrid car” today makes you think of hybrid propulsion- half gas, half electric, half unicorn farts or whatever people think will slow down the rapid destruction of our atmosphere.
But it used to mean cars that had an engine from another, totally different car… or even better half an engine from one car the other half from another.
Think a Honda CRX with a B20 engine block from a CR-V and a GSR VTEC head from an Integra. Now that‘s a hybrid.
Why go to such wild lengths to build a car you’ll look poor in and still get smoked by $2,000 Mustangs?
Because it’s unique and very, very cool. It’s also not terribly expensive if you’re very good with tools.
Did those letters and numbers go a bit over your noggin? I’ll break it down for the non-Honda freaks out there: a CRX is a light little car that comes with a puny little 1.6 liter engine, and if you want to keep up with the big boys you’ll have to get some Enzyte in that thing pronto.
Although a CR-V is not a sports car, it does have a larger engine that can serve as a better base for adding power.
VTEC is Honda’s name for their variable-valve timing system (Mitsubishi has a similar system called MIVEC, Toyota as VVT-i, BMW has VANOS, ect…).
Such a system basically means when you keep the RPMs low, the engine only lets in a little bit of air and fuel to be more economical. But when you step on the gas and you rev over a certain RPM, the engine opens up and sucks in more air and fuel leading to more combustion which makes moooooooorrreee pppoooooowwwwahhhhhhh.
When you add the VTEC head to a bigger-displacement engine, you suddenly have that variable-valve advantage in addition to more room to burn all that gas and air your engine can suck down.
So, ironically the original hybrids were created to be less efficient than they were in stock from.
As you probably guessed that was a super-simplified explanation… so if you’re really interested give it a Google or check out this website which describes and illustrates the process.
If that sounds like a project you’d like to undertake, I’ll warn you you’re going to need new valves, pistons, cam gears and a host of other things to do it right. If those words don’t sound like English to you, I’d recommend buying something that’s pretty much your style right of the box
But today I came across another exceptional hybrid, and it’s not even a Honda…
If you recognized that shell as a BMW E30 I’ll give you a cookie. And if you recognize the engine… well, then you should probably be reading a more legitimate news source.
THAT is an RB26DETT from a Nissan Skyline… and finished in Hello Kitty pink to boot.
The creator of this (now completed) monster is Christian Newman of New York, and if you can’t tell he’s a maniac by considering the logistics of this project then the paint scheme should leave no question.
I mean come on guys, there are still a million E30 325′s running around… is it really that much of a travesty that one dude decided to be creative and do something unique with his?
It’s not really my style, but I give the guy respect for thinking of it and pulling it off. Apparently it makes around 260 horsepower, which is a lot more than almost every other E30 out there. I would be interested to learn more about what this swap did to the suspension geometry and handling dynamics though.
By the way:
…You didn’t think I’d be able to search images for “transformers” and then not find a picture of Megan Fox, which I would consequentially have no choice but to post did you?
Whoops, there’s another one. Isn’t the internet useful?