Electric Cars and Hybrids Buzzing at NY Auto Show

Electric cars were front and center as the New York International Auto Show press preview began this week. Nissan revealed the $32,780 price for its plug-in Leaf and said it would start taking orders in April. Chevrolet proudly displayed its plug-in Volt on sale in November. And Ford CEO Alan Mulally said Microsoft technology will help future Ford electric-car owners decide the cheapest time to charge their vehicles (Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made a video cameo).

Meanwhile, car makers also showcased new hybrids as part of their push to meet tighter federal gas mileage requirements. Here’s a rundown of these latest hybrids:

Lincoln MKZ – Ford has won praise and sales with its Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids. Now it expands the gas-electric system to its luxury Lincoln brand with the 2011 MKZ, on sale this fall. Ford officials say it will be highest-gas-mileage luxury sedan in the U.S., with EPA ratings of 41 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. That beats Lexus HS250h. Prices have not yet been set, but this year’s gasoline-only MKZ sells for around $40,000 with options.

Porsche Cayenne S – Though best known for its sleek sports cars, Porsche sells more Cayenne SUVs than any other model. To boost mileage, this sporty SUV will combine a 3.0-liter V-6 ith an electric motor for a combined 374 horsepower in the hybrid available in early 2011. Impressive acceleration? Of course.  Look for zero-to-60 in about 6.7 seconds. Though U.S. mileage ratings aren’t yet available, translation from the European figure suggests about 24 mpg on the highway. That sounds like so-so mileage for a hybrid, but it’s a big improvement over the 2010 V-8 Cayenne S at 19 mpg highway, 23 city. And on the highway under certain conditions, Porsche says the Cayenne hybrid can cruise up to 85 mph on the electric motor alone- unusual for a hybrid. You’ll pay for this combination, with an estimated list price of $67,700. Porsche, which owns Volkswagen, plans to put the same system into its VW Touareg SUV in the 2012 model.

Honda CR-Z – With its hybrid Civic and Insight already in its line-up, Honda’s adding this sleek sports car with hybrid power late this summer. The 1.5-liter, four-cylinder gas engine and the electric motor combine for 122 horsepower. Especially appealing: The CR-Z will sell for a non-stratospheric $23,300. Some highway isn’t high enough for a two-seater (and lower than the much-heavier Ford Fusion hybrid). Can’t please everyone.


Jerry Edgerton