LET’S VOLT IN!
Gearheads want 2013 to be a ‘shocker’ with more performance electric carsBy Tessa R. Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
New Year is supposed to be a time to make resolutions. Well, that’s cliché. How about expressing wishes and fantasies, then? So, Inquirer Motoring “stimulated” the restless minds of auto enthusiasts by asking them what rides they would like to imagine rolling their way into Philippine shores this 2013. Don’t be surprised if their answers are a bit “jolting.”
1.) The Hybrid Honda CR-Z. Honda wouldn’t be declared by the Union of Concerned Scientists as the United States’ Greenest Automaker for the fifth time in a row for nothing. This title was based on a UCS analysis of fleetwide global warming and smog emissions data from 2008 model year vehicles. Now combine that with racing credibility matched by just a few and it wouldn’t be surprising that environment-conscious motorists and gearheads would be on the hunt for Honda hybrids. The Honda CR-Z is the world’s first compact coupe to incorporate a hybrid powertrain, and auto expert Tony Lewin says that it is the first car to seek to combine the classical driving thrills of a responsive sports car with the modern notion of environmental responsibility and low CO2 emissions.
Ferman Lao, Top Gear Philippines Magazine technical editor, also puts the Honda CR-Z on top of his wish list, along with two other hybrids: the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius V. Lao, who is auto shop Speedlab proprietor, adds, “Hopefully, if they do become available here, it means alternative-fuel vehicles are getting the much-needed government support.”
Erstwhile Inquirer Motoring columnist Andre Palma, an ex-rally driver and performance driving instructor, notes that the Mugen Honda CR-Z would be a “fun hybrid” vehicle, explaining the “supercharger from Mugen should change the game even further.”
The CR-Z also happens to be on wheel expert Sam Liuson’s list. Liuson, managing director of Concept One Wheels, puts the CR-Z on his top six must-see cars in 2013, along with the Smart Fortwo (Hybrid), Toyota iQ (electric vehicle), Mitsubishi i-MiEV (electric), Toyota Yaris T3 (hybrid), and the Nissan Leaf (electric).
“With the cost of fuel, the sheer volume of traffic, and lack of parking spaces and narrow roadways, the question is no longer ‘Why?’, but ‘Why not?’ What makes us different from Europe and Japan, where the roadways also consist of narrow streets and countryside roads? Japan has always had the K-cars, and the Smart car has sold a lot in Europe and other countries. Why can’t we have these sensible vehicles in the Philippines, where tricycles and substandard jeepneys abound?” quips Liuson.
2.) The Nissan Leaf. Have you ever seen a tree with just one leaf? So it is that Nissan’s all-electric car is designed to be mass-produced, and local auto experts do wish some Leafs (pardon the seeming grammatical mistake) from the Nissan tree would blow this way. The Nissan Leaf holds the distinction of being the first volume-production electric car. Britain’s buyer’s guide magazine What Car? described it as “easy, fun, and comfortable … roomy for a family and costs peanuts to run.”
Steven Edward Yu, Power Wheels magazine editor, has the Leaf in his list. “Since SUVs are commonplace and supercars are a weekly—if not daily—sight, I’d really like to see more subcompacts and microcars on city roads, like the ones popular in Japan and Europe; tiny cars that exude modern flair and are very eco-friendly. I’d also like to see Honda’s new Earth Dreams-diesel compact vehicles. Their 1.4-liter diesel engines are almost as clean as their petrol counterparts, and achieve mileage figures—up to 27 km/liter—that will rival a hybrid’s.”
3.) Toyota iQ. Now this seems to be on everybody’s list. No wonder, it’s so compact that no one can make the excuse that they don’t have space for it. The iQ was once described by Top Gear UK as “utter brilliance from Toyota—absolutely the car the Smart ForFour should have been.”
Top Gear UK goes on to say that the iQ is “modern, quirky and just a little bit special.” In October 2012, the iQ EV electric car was spotted at the 2012 Paris Auto Show. However, the future of the electric version of the iQ hangs precariously as there has been recent news that Toyota has put its global production plans on the iQ EV on hold.
4.) The Volkswagen Golf, Polo and Lupo. The Volkswagen Golf, which is on Yu’s list, is also on car enthusiast Rufi Parpan’s must-be-here list. Parpan, a digital media production executive, says he “can’t wait” to see the Golf GTi and Polo. The wait might not take any longer. Last October, Volkswagen in Germany announced it had appointed Ayala’s wholly owned subsidiary Ayala Automotive Holdings Corp. as the Philippine distributor for Volkswagen passenger vehicles.
Yu added, “The Golf is the benchmark for solidly built hatchbacks and is the only car that has been a World Car of the Year winner or finalist for each of its generations. The Lupo is smaller than the Polo and offers a dash of German engineering at a price that won’t require mortgaging your house.”
5.) The Fiat 500. Palma describes the Fiat 500 as the “small car with a big design value, Abarth comes with attitude and, well, scorpions for logos, how cool is that?”
And Yu agrees. Of the Fiat 500, he has a one-word description: “Character. It’s got to be the prettiest subcompact on the face of the planet and, if you know your motorsports history, has a sporting pedigree courtesy of Abarth. Now that’s wishing!”
6.) The Nissan GTR, and the Nissan 370z. Liuson stresses, “These are wonderful sports cars that have not been properly represented in the Philippines. If someone conducts a census on how many GTRs have come into the country via the gray market, I suspect the numbers will put some legitimate sports car sellers to shame.”
7.) The Infinity FX35. Liuson’s describes it as an “awesome urban crossover for the yuppie who doesn’t want to be stuck in tropical flash floods.”
8.) More helpings of the Toyota 86. Francis Allan D. Samonte, chairman of the Toyota Auto Club of the Philippines, can’t literally get enough of this car. “Toyota should bring in more of the 86 to our shores since supply is really low, and I also wish to see one in my garage really soon.”
He adds, “I also would wish to see more hybrid cars in the Philippines, regardless of brand, with the condition that manufacturers give longer warranties and better support for the hybrid batteries. The problem is that a replacement hybrid battery costs as much as a used car, hence negating the savings.”
9.) Toyota FJ Cruiser. Liuson explains why he included this in his list. “The market lacks spunkier SUV designs for people who want to have more options than riding typical executive-looking, boxy, Japanese SUVs.” Enough said.
10.) Let the startups start up here. Allow this writer to ease in her own wish for 2013—an open invitation for startup manufacturers of electric and hybrid vehicles to try this country, which still has a “clean slate” as far as these types of vehicles go. Instant success isn’t guaranteed, of course, but it could be well worth the investment to do business in the region’s fastest-growing economy.
So, here’s a shout-out to innovators such as auto designer Henrik Fisker of Fisker Automotive Inc. (who had a “tough year” and was described by some auto observers as “remarkably coping with many mishaps”) and Silicon Valley spinoff Tesla Motors. Get out of my electric dreams, get into my outdated fossil-burning car.