Quiet Clean Cars; Flying the Sustainable Skies

Posted by Mary Ellen Geist on

This story originally appeared on Great Lakes Now, and was written by Great Lakes Bureau Chief, Mary Ellen Geist.

Day Two of SB2017 in Detroit

If this Sustainable Brands conference is any indication, the transportation industry is transforming to meet the needs not only of a more environmentally conscious consumer, but of millennials who have very different attitudes toward transportation than their parents do.

When you take the escalator down into the main floor of Detroit’s Cobo Center where approximately 2000 people are gathered for the Sustainable Brands conference, the first thing you see is the GM Chevrolet Bolt EV. It’s being called a “game changer.” It’s an all-electric car  with a 238-mile range.

Ford Interiors made of recycled water bottles

Photo courtesy of Ford.com

2019 Ford Police Responder Hybrid Sedan, courtesy of Ford.com

Just a few feet away is Ford’s new hybrid police cruiser, complete with soy-based eco-foam cushions and recycled materials throughout the car. Adjacent to Ford’s booth, which features tubes of the organic materials it uses in many of its cars, is the United Airlines booth which displays information panels describing bio-fuels. Turns out United is using bio fuels –non-petroleum living matter that decomposes – to fuel most flights that originate from Los Angeles.

Around the corner from these newly unveiled eco-friendly cars and United’s information booth is a huge green bus with the words “REPREVE.” The company was hired by Ford to create cushions and seats made out of recycled water bottles. The company uses recycled bottles to create many products  including durable athletic clothing.

Photo courtesy of R. Niemisto

Hybrid Pacifica Mini-Van, courtesy of R. Niemisto

Upstairs is an FCA Pacifica Mini-Van which is an electric hybrid. It’s a plug-in vehicle which can be charged for two hours into a 240-volt outlet which creates what FCA calls “33 miles of pure electric driving.” Once the electricity runs out, the car starts taking fuel from its 17 gallon tank.  The total range is 566 miles on a single tank of gas and one single charge, and the hybrid is fuel efficient with 84 MPGE.

How do Millennials feel about cars? “Meh”

Many panels and workshops are taking place each day at SB2017. One of them is called the Mobility and Travel Innovation Lab. The University of Michigan’s Erb Institute’s Thomas Lyon released research from 2000 millennials which shows they are not as passionate about cars as their parents and grandparents may have been. Many of them think cars are dangerous and bad for environment. Some don’t even care whether they get a license or own a car. Lyon says their attitude toward cars is “Meh!”. And of course: self-driving cars and other new technology are changing the way the new generation of potential car owners feel about cars, too.  Lyon says auto executives are going to have work harder to get the attention of millennials and convince them to buy a car. And Lyon says if millennials DO decide to buy a car, sustainability will be a priority.


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