Paris reveals host of new green cars

Of the eighty or so cars displayed for the first time at the Paris Show, at least thirty of them have been developed with lower fuel consumption and emissions in mind. From city cars, to futuristic concepts and useful family cars to sports saloons, hybrid luxury cars and even supercars, the industry's need to drastically reduce CO2 was tangible. Now that the media days are over and the doors are open to the public it's time to round-up what's what in green terms in Paris.
 Small is beautiful

Regardless of fancy new technology, if you want to save money on fuel and reduce your car's effect on the environment then the most effective step you can take is to downsize. That word was being bandied around with aplomb in the Paris show halls with the launch of a raft of all-new superminis making the trade-in less of a painful experience. Honda's new Jazz for instance actually compares very well to cars from the class above in terms of space and practicality, while Mitsubishi's facelifted Colt and the compact Suzuki Alto/Nissan Pixo twins are also worthy small cars. It's the cute new Ford Ka and Toyota's absolutely tiny iQ that stole the headlines though, and for good reason. These are clever new city cars that appeal on an emotional level too.

Hybrid power
Hybrids are huge news in the USA right now, with nearly 350,000 sold in the last 12 months and even more on the cards for this year. European sales of hybrid vehicles are more modest, but with several new models hitting the market in the coming years this could set to change. Leading the charge are luxury hybrids. Lexus has had the luxury hybrid market all to itself for a while now, but next year it's predicted that the BMW 7 Series ActiveHybrid and the Mercedes-Benz S 400 BlueHYBRID (both making their world debut in Paris) will go on sale, utilising small electric motors to assist performance and enhance overall efficiency. Honda also has big plans for its hybrid technology and the Insight 'concept' revealed in Paris previews a five-door model set to hit Honda dealers in 2009, priced to undercut Toyota's Prius. Kia also revealed hybrid versions of its cee'd hatch and the new Soul 'urban crossover'. Though not technically classed a hybrid, the Chevrolet's new electric Volt was also on hand, utilising a petrol engine as a generator of electricity to charge the batteries.

Blue is the new green

The number of 'green' brands on offer increased further in Paris. We're already used to VW's BlueMotion name, which adorned an impressive version of the new Golf in Paris that emits just 99g/km of CO2. Equally remarkable is the Passat BlueMotion II, which, though only a 'concept' at this stage, emits just 109g/km. Audi trumped VW's efforts with the 105g/km A4 TDI concept e. We expect to see production versions of all of these cars within a few months.

Mitsubishi's new green brand is called Clear Tec, a name that will be used initially on the new Colt and presumably then rolled out across the range. Vauxhall/Opel unveiled an ecoFLEX version of the stylish Insignia with claims of CO2 emissions of 'less than 140g/km', while SEAT's sharp new Ibiza range gained an Ecomotive model in Paris. Other names to watch out for include Skoda Greenline, Hyundai i-Blue, Mercedes BlueTec and AdBlue and the Volvo DRIVe.

Conceptually green

As with all good motorshows, Paris was chock full of new concept cars. Each of the French manufacturers had two on their massive stands and virtually all of the show cars had a green theme, regardless of the type of car they were. The PSA Group, comprising of Peugeot and Citroen, clearly has a diesel-electric hybrid powertrain up its sleeves, as several of its concepts featured the new HYmotion technology. Of note were the (almost production ready) Peugeot Prologue crossover and the stunning RC HYmotion4 four-door 'coupé'. Citroen proffered the promising Hypnos hybrid concept, while also showing a World Rally Car utilising the new four-wheel drive hybrid system.

Renault also previewed a new mild hybrid system in its plain weird Ondelios concept, though the ZE (zero emissions) vehicle could actually see the light of day, as it is based on the electric vehicle technology under development by the Renault-Nissan alliance and the body of Renault's funky new Kangoo be bop. Nissan's equivalent was the curvaceous Nuvu concept car, which featured the company's new electric powertrain that will go on sale in another car within the next couple of years.

That's how long we have to wait for Audi to get its cool new A1 to market too, though we're not convinced that the hybrid technology gracing the car on show in Paris will make it to the showroom that quickly. Sadly, the same can be said for Mazda's Kiyora and Saab's sharp-dressed 9-X Air BioHybrid.

Not the usual suspects

Rounding up the green theme in Paris were claims from all sides that the latest models are greener and more efficient than outgoing cars, with no compromise on performance. That in itself is nothing new, but when such claims are being applied to supercars and high-performance sports saloons, we tend to sit up and take notice. Audi's S4 is one case in point, the all-new car featuring a supercharged V6 in place of its predecessor's V8, resulting in even higher performance, though a significant reduction in fuel consumption and emissions. Even Ferrari made mention of its new California's fuel economy. That's a sign of the times.