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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Eco-friendly Autos

Air Date: Week of

General Motors announced it will build a plug-in version of the Saturn VUE Green Line Hybrid SUV. (Courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy)

After fighting a mandate for electric cars in California, and pulling its own electric cars out of production, General Motors Chairman Rick Wagoner has had a change of heart. He told attendees of the L.A. Auto show that electric cars will probably steer the future of the automobile and GM will bring a new EV on line. Living on Earth’s Ingrid Lobet reports.


GELLERMAN: Whatever the Supreme Court decides about the EPA regulating greenhouse gases from autos, General Motors has seen the future of the automobile and now says it’s electric. The company announced its plans at the L.A. Auto Show. Our Western Bureau Chief Ingrid Lobet has our story.

LOBET: In recent years GM has faced disappearing dollars, market share and public confidence. Chairman Rick Wagoner's job is to turn that around. And at the L.A. Auto Show he said cars that run on electricity are a big part of that plan.

WAGONER: In fact I am announcing today that GM is significantly expanding and accelerating our commitment to the development of electrically driven vehicles beyond what we have already committed to with our fuel cell and hybrid programs.

LOBET: Wagoner said gasoline and diesel will be the principle vehicle fuels for some time. And he said GM will be building lots of cars that can fill up on ethanol. But he emphasized electricity-- mentioning IT, or 'electrically-driven' or 'plug-in' cars 34 times in his keynote speech. He seemed to resurrect a technology GM killed just a few years ago, saying consumers weren't interested.

General Motors announced it will build a plug-in version of the Saturn VUE Green Line Hybrid SUV.(Courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy)

WAGONER: Electric vehicles, when operated in an all-electric mode, are zero-emission vehicles. And when the electricity itself is made from a renewable source, the entire energy pathway is emissions free. Electrically driven vehicles offer great performance with extraordinary acceleration, instant torque, and so on.

LOBET: Wagoner said GM will build a version of its Saturn Vue hybrid that plugs in to recharge, but he gave no timetable.

WAGONER: But I can tell you this is a top priority program for General Motors.

LOBET: Electric car enthusiasts have waited for a major car company to make such an announcement, though announcements without timetables can mean little. And the term "electrically-driven" can be used for anything from fuel cells to diesel hybrids, but Ron Cogan of the Green Car Journal, says just because the term is broad, doesn't mean it's empty PR.

COGAN: It's not really a greenwashing thing really at all. By using electric drive and by committing to it, you are going to that pathway that takes you to a better place.

Global Exchange and Rainforest Action Network hold a protest at the LA Auto Show to demand auto manufacturers curb green house gas emissions and catalyze energy independence.(Photo: Nell Greenberg, Global Exchange)

LOBET: Nearby, some protesters were more skeptical about promises made in the shimmering showrooms. They held a "greenwash-carwash." But other auto show veterans said there's no doubt the industry's undergoing a turnaround and that real money is now backing greener cars.

For Living on Earth I'm Ingrid Lobet, in Los Angeles.



LA Auto Show

Saturn VUE Green Line Hybrid SUV


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