There is no state more influential than California when it comes to electric cars, and the Los Angeles Auto Show is a place where we get an early glimpse of plug-in EVs and other alternative-fuel vehicles. The 2015 edition offered more of the same with concepts and production cars that will sip fuel and chart a new direction for the industry.
This year was special for a number of reasons, beginning with the Volkswagen Group’s pivot away from diesel and toward battery-electric powertrains. Meanwhile, Honda came ready to show how it would adapt to the shift away from gasoline with a car powered by hydrogen. Throw in the new version of the world’s best-selling hybrid, and you have a spectacle fossil-fuel haters can get behind.
Here are the five green car highlights from the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show.
1. Audi e-tron quattro
The Audi e-tron quattro concept was grabbing plenty of attention in its North American debut. A luxury sport SUV packing 590 pounds-feet of torque and a projected electric range of 310 miles, it sounds like a genuine response to the Tesla Model X. Unfortunately, we won’t see this model in production until 2018, but Audi would love to talk about it (rather than anything diesel-related) in the present. In fact, Audi told journalists at the LA Auto Show that 25% of its U.S. sales would be electric by 2025.
2. 2016 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell
Honda is taking the all-of-the-above approach to green cars, which is a unique move among the biggest automakers. Along with plans for a plug-in hybrid sporting around 40 miles of electric range, the Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle will arrive abroad for the 2016 model year, and Honda brought along this flashy model U.S. consumers will see by 2017.
It’s a real looker in dark red and a nose-thumbing to those who say green cars have to be boring. We can’t expect much from fuel cell vehicles until there are hydrogen stations in place to keep them running, but this side of Honda’s alternative-fuel future looks bright.
3. 2016 BMW 330e
BMW already has its electric i3 and i8 hybrid supercar roving U.S. roads, but with the 330e the luxury brand will get into the plug-in hybrid game with a broader audience in mind. It will run with 248 horsepower and get about 20 miles in electric mode. Think of it a BMW’s answer to the Mercedes C-Class and Audi A3 e-tron plug-in models U.S. consumers are starting to see in dealerships.
4. 2016 Toyota Prius
Dude, here’s your Prius. You can’t have an auto show in LA without bringing California’s favorite car, and Toyota brought the 2016 model for everyone who wasn’t at the Vegas launch party. (By the way, isn’t there something incongruous about Las Vegas and a frumpy, sensible hybrid?)
In the redesigned model, the greenest car this side of plug-in electrics got even greener. It also got a different look which, depending on your take, may not bring anything desirable to the table. But it’s a Prius, and we guess that means it’s not supposed to look sexy, for some reason or other.
5. Volkswagen Golf GTE Sport
Visitors to the Frankfurt Motor Show got an early look at the Volkswagen Golf GTE Sport, a scissor-doored beast of a performance hybrid, and Los Angeles was the next stop on the concept car’s tour. Capable of around 30 miles on electric power and 395 horses, this model is more BMW i8 than e-Golf, but it’s one of the models that shows how serious the Volkswagen Group has become about plug-in powertrains. It’s almost enough to make somebody forget diesel power was so important to the automaker.