Green Cars: Best of 2012 at the LA Auto Show

The Los Angeles Auto Show, November 18-27, is the hot spot for car makers to debut their most fuel efficient green cars. Here’s what we saw at the show, and you can find in dealerships.

By Aaron Gold

Historically, California leads the nation in pushing automakers to produce cleaner, green cars — so the Los Angeles Auto Show is where they like to show off their latest eco-mobiles and give us a glimpse into the future beyond gasoline. Put on your shades, grab your mocachinafrappalatté, and let’s have a look at the green scene that played out at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show.

2012 BMW Active E

If you live in Los Angeles, the most pressing question you face is whether to buy a BMW and be cool or buy a Toyota Prius – seemingly the official green car of Hollywood. Thanks to the BMW ActiveE, status-conscious Angelinos can do both. The ActiveE is based on BMW’s 1-series coupe, but it’s powered by pure electricity. BMW plans to put about 800 of these cars on the road in select cities around the world (including, of course, Los Angeles). The true purpose of the ActiveE is to gather real-world data for future electric vehicles, so it will be offered on a 24 month lease for a very reasonable $499 per month. Good luck getting one, though — we’re told Bimmer has ten times as many requests as they have cars.

who should buy it?

Doesn’t matter, as they’re all spoken for…but there is a wait list accessed on the BMW website

EPA range:

About 100 miles on a full charge


Lease only, $2,250 down, $499 per month for 24 months

2013 BMW i3

And speaking of BMW’s future green cars, this is one of them. What sets the i3 apart is that it was designed from the ground up to be an electric car. See how short the hood is? That’s because the electric motor is at the back and the batteries are under the floor. Oh, but there will be something under the hood — BMW plans to offer an optional range-extender, a tiny gasoline engine and generator set that can power the i3 in case you need to go farther than the batteries will take you, just like the Chevrolet Volt. No word on range, although a lightweight structure made of aluminum and carbon fiber should help the i3 squeeze a few extra miles from its batteries. The i3 you see here is a concept car but you will be able to buy one, most likely towards the end of 2013.

who should buy it?

If the production version delivers on the concept’s promises, this should be a great green car for urbanites and suburbanites

epa range

Not yet announced


Not yet announced

2013 BMW i8

People tend to think of eco cars and sports cars as being mutually exclusive, but that’s not necessarily the case, and BMW plans to prove that with the i8. This hot-looking number has an electric motor that powers the front wheels and a small, high-performance gasoline engine that powers the rear wheels. Working together, they can accelerate the i8 like a proper sports car (0-60 in under 5 seconds – seriously fast). And yet BMW says the i8 will return 78 MPG, high enough to dismiss Prius drivers as gas-wasting troglodytes. Better yet, you can plug the i8 in at your house and drive it on pure battery power for up to 20 miles. Like the i3, a production version of the i8 should be ready late in 2013.

who should buy it?

Car enthusiasts who want avoid drive-by eggings by militant Greenpeace members

epa fuel range / fuel economy:

20 miles EV range, 78 MPG fuel economy


Not yet announced

Featured Image: © Anton Sokolov |
Dok-Ing Image © Croq

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One Response to “Green Cars: Best of 2012 at the LA Auto Show”

  1. But carmakers are still holding back the sippiest models, aren’t they? Example: VW Passat, which you report as getting 31/43mpg. Volkswagen makes a version (2.0L TDI Bluemotion) that gets 48mpg as reported by actual users. And the one with the 1.6L TDI Bluemotion engine will get better mileage than that. Models like these are carmakers’ get-it-now ticket to compliance with the new CAFE2025 emissions standard. We should ask for them to be made available to US drivers; after all, the rest of the world has been driving them for years already.

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