Cars R US

Smart Car, green regardless of the color.Cars are crucial to modern American life.

Smart Car, green regardless of the color.

Cars are crucial to modern American life. The U.S. builds ten million new ones every year. Many people, including me, find it impossible to live in America without owning a car. I lived without a car for four years in Europe, but they have public transit and trains. There are over 135-million cars in the U.S. and almost 20-million in California alone. There are over 100-million trucks and a few motorcycles. People still out-number motor vehicles though sometimes it doesn't seem that way.

All those cars burning all that fuel, producing all that greenhouse gas: it makes sense that the auto industry is one hot topic when you look at green tech. The car show part of CES was bigger than ever this year, and some of it was green. And the Detroit Auto Show is about to start. Several new concept cars will be shown for the first time, and green is going to be a popular theme no matter what color the new cars are painted.

2008 already promises to be an important year for auto tech. The Mercedes Smart Car is to debut in the U.S. after years of success in Europe and Canada. The car's only nine feet long, carries two people and is often seen in European cities where over 800,000 of them are on the streets. SmartUSA is announcing their dealerships soon. And before long the first Smart Cars will be delivered to American buyers. You can still order, but be aware there are more buyers than cars already for 2008. Making a SmartCar reservation will cost you $99.

For those nineteen million California cars and all their drivers, the big event this year is the showdown between California, New York State, et al. and the E.P.A. There's the lawsuit, of course. And there'll be much talk in Washington, with the first hearing set for later this month.

Truly Green

Besides all that there is something truly green a-brewing in the car world. And green tech and design will be definitive this time. That's the X-Prize contest for the 100 mile-per-gallon car. Final rules and a call for entry are expected early this year. And just next week X Prize will make an announcement to the auto world assembvled in Detroit: they'll inivte cities around the world to apply for host site of the 2009-2010 races to decide the X Prize winner.

Unless you've been living in a cave full of Model Ts, you know that there's a ten-million dollar prize for the team that designs and successfully races the best car that gets 100 miles per gallon. There are already over fifty teams entered. And a recent report says some of those teams are focused on new, lighter materials for the car's body.