By Alan Shope, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
Thursday is the first full day of the Kansas City Auto Show, which goes all weekend at Bartle Hall. From classic cars to prototypes, spectators can see all of the cars they dream of, all in one place.
There are lots to see, including new features meant to save people money down the road.
Automakers have to make new cars more fuel efficient.
Under the Barack Obama administration's regulations, they need to nearly double the average gas mileage for all new cars and trucks they sell in America by 2025, in addition to slashing greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption, while also reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
Before the color, comfort and look, fuel economy is the top factor people consider when buying a car in the U.S., according to research firm J.D. Power and Associates.
Lucky for them, there are more options than ever.
"Now you are getting a degree of choice for fuel-efficient cars that we didn't have in the past, and they aren't just small cars," said James Bell, head of consumer affairs at General Motors.
Many automakers are putting a focus on diesel engines.
"It's 60 percent of the market in Europe," Bell said.
And Chevrolet is taking note. Its new Cruze diesel promises 42 miles per gallon.
"Essentially diesel fuel has more energy per drop of gasoline, so that's how it's able to get more umph to get you further down the road," Bell said.
Though people will pay more at the pump, they will be filling up less. The other fuel-efficient option is electric.
Experts say the battery technology is reliable and motors require less maintenance.
"Whether its a car like a Spark EV or a Nissan Leaf that doesn't even know what gasoline is for or have an exhaust pipe to cars like a hybrid like Chevy Malibu. There will be some spectrum of electrification that will allow us to get the fuel efficiency we need," Bell said.
Car buyers have been asking for some time when the electric car will be available in Kansas City. The time is now, but sales have been sluggish so far because of the cars' prices.
Most electric cars run about $35,000.
George and Alice Damon have owned dozens of cars, but never an electric or hybrid one. While they think the new all-electric Nissan Leaf is cute, they said they might prefer a hybrid due to the price and dependability.
"I like to have the alternative method of getting around in case the battery poops out," George Damon said.
Currently Kansas City has 45 public charging stations around the city and that number is expected to grow with demand.
"People are finding that these cars fill their needs for city driving," Larry Kinder with LilyPad EV said.
Still the hybrids like the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius remain the top sellers and those sales are encouraging carmakers to get creative.
"It's good for all of us as buyers that the public is interested in these things and it forces all manufacturers to expand their horizons as to what they might produce for us," Toyota Product Specialist Laura Voss said.
While the cost is certainly an issue with buyers, dealers are quick to point out the government offers a $7,500 tax credit if someone buys an electric car.
"You are saving money, you are cleaning up the air. We have no tailpipe emission when driving an electric vehicle," Kelly Gilbert with the Metropolitan Transportation Center said.
In 10 years, experts predict every car will be electric to some degree. If drivers want both fun and fuel efficiency, turbo charged engines are the way to go.
"There are ways of still getting that grin when the light turns green without killing your wallet," Bell said.
Right now in Kansas City there are only two electric cars a person can actually buy - the Mitsubishi MiEV and the Nissan Leaf. The Ford Focus should be out in about a year.
An electric car costs about three cents a mile to drive - that's compared to 15 cents a mile for a gas engine car.
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