Earth has been molded by asteroids, stars, and revolutions. Human revolutions. What most people are not aware of is that we are in the midst of another revolution: the environmental revolution. It is visible in our buildings, it is visible in our food, but it is visible most in our cars. The cry of the few for greener transportation is slowly being answered by the powers that be – in Munich, in Detroit, and all around the world.
BMW has recently begun the trend of cars that are green, fast, and cool – that last factor is the most important. After decades of success in the American market, BMW has learned that practicality and function take a back seat to aesthetics and “cool” factor when it comes to large-scale sales success. The new i8, a masterpiece of engineering and design, represents the pinnacle of BMW craftsmanship in every aspect. It has an electric motor, so gasoline stops are few and far between. It travels from 0-60 in a jaw-dropping 3.8 seconds. And, it looks straight out of the hangar of any Jedi starship worth it’s salt. Granted, the large-scale sales aspect does not exist in BMW’s plan for the i8 – as its base price is well over six figures, and fewer than 500 are produced yearly – but that is an issue that will undoubtedly be conquered with time and further development. After all, there was a time when climate-control and power windows were also exclusively for oligarchs and tycoons.
Chrysler – now several years after parting with Daimler-Benz, is thriving under Italian ownership. It’s vehicles drive well, look good, and most importantly: make sales. In addition, the Chrysler fleet has the lowest average MPG it has had in years. This may be due partially to the general movement of the company towards better vehicles overall after the bailout and near bust, but it is most likely in response to consumer demand for cars that are better for the environment. In addition, the technology in the 500e, Fiat’s first entry into the affordable electric car market will surely reach the Chrysler lineup eventually.
Chevrolet’s Volt has continued to build upon its success as a mid-market electric family sedan. Most importantly, it is a vehicle that is easy to live with. Its on-board electric drive allows for months of gasoline-free driving if you have a reasonably short commute. Furthermore, the design is unlike anything else on the road. Chevrolet is not resting on its laurels with the Volt. Electric SUVs and family sedans are in development. Chevrolet is moving with the industry away from fast-in-a-straight-line behemoths to vehicles that are practical and energy sustainable.
The environmental revolution has brought many changes to the automotive market, but it does not appear as if it will slow down anytime soon. This is a revolution that will never be satisfied – there will always be faster, more efficient, and more practical engines on the horizon – separated from the present by only time and effort. We will continue to develop and innovate more efficient cars because the environment will benefit with every step forward. This revolution is more of an awakening than anything else.