Rochester Technology

Did you charge your car last night? The future at the Rochester International Auto Show.

Whether you’re in the market for a new vehicle, like to ogle classic cars from years past, or be near the newest and most luxurious automobiles you know you’ll never be able to afford, it is fairly safe to say car shows have something enjoyable for everyone.  This past weekend marked 104 years since Rochester’s first International Auto Show in 1908. Run by the Rochester Auto Dealers Association (RADA), the Rochester International Auto Show has been a yearly success, missing only a few years in its 104 year span due to the Great Depression and World War II.

Since it’s very early beginnings, the mission of the Rochester International Auto Show has remained the same: to showcase the newest up and coming vehicles to the Rochester market.  Whether it was intentional or not, the unspoken theme for this year’s show was undoubtedly the eco-friendly vehicle.  We’ve all heard of the Volt by now and various hybrid vehicles have made appearances over the years, but if you think this is a fleeting trend with only a few varieties, it’s time you thought again!

The most common eco-friendly cars on the road today are the hybrids. The term hybrid refers to any vehicle that uses both gas and electric propulsion. Currently, hybrids are the most affordable eco-friendly vehicles on the market because they still use gasoline approximately half of the time they are in use. However, Buick took the opportunity to show off their 2012 Regal eAssist at this year’s show, which is more of a light hybrid if you will.  When the car is in motion, it is running off gas; if it is idling, it immediately switches to electric until the gas pedal is pressed again. The torque from the electric motor of the eAssist gives the Regal noticeable pep as well as well as a 36mpg rating, which is nothing to sneeze at. Although hybrid vehicles are much more environmentally friendly than straight gasoline run automobiles, they do still produce the hazardous emissions we’re trying to steer away from.

The other notable category of eco-friendly vehicles is the all-electric vehicle, like the Volt. These vehicles are powered solely by batteries which are typically powered by hydrogen. All electric automobiles are hands down the most environmentally friendly vehicles available as they produce virtually zero pollutants; however, they are much less affordable than regular vehicles with an average MSRP of more than $40,000. In the long run, the money saved on gasoline may even out, but the original pay out for an electric vehicle is painful and enough to keep the majority of consumers on the path of regular gasoline run cars.

Never fear, though. Remember when things like iPhones, external hard drives, and jump drives were first introduced? How much did you pay for a few megabytes? A gig? Are you rolling in dough? It seems laughable now, but although prices of the latest technologies always seem unattainable, it never takes long for them to fall to the consumer level, and eco-friendly cars will be no exception. Chevrolet proudly gave a sneak preview of their classic Malibu model’s 2013 Eco hybrid edition which will arrive in dealership showrooms this summer, as well as delivered information on the upcoming Spark, which will be available as a more affordable all-electric vehicle targeted at city drivers within the next year.

As car manufacturers continue to move closer to affordable electric motors and farther away from gasoline power, it doesn’t seem terribly unlikely that by the next generation, turning an ignition key will be on its way to ancient history (which, for the record, is an absolute mindspin – from someone who’s driven a Volt, pressing a button and hearing nothing when you turn the car on is crazy. I thought I broke the thing). Even if global warming and ozone levels somehow turn out to be false, the worst case scenario we’ll be faced with is cleaner air and better car mileage for lesser money.  Personally, I can live with that.

Rochester Technology

Rochester leads the region in hybrid / electric car sales (NPR)

The @NPR website now features a series called “Getting to 55 MPG,” which is all about the Obama Administration’s stated goal of increasing fuel efficiency in America’s auto fleet to that magical number. One interesting infographic shows just where we’re at in terms of sales of hybrid or electric cars.

The good news for Rochester, depending on your point of view, is that we lead the region. Whereas Buffalo(1.1% of sales), Syracuse and Elmira (1.7% of sales) lag well behind the average, Rochester is at around 2.1%.

Compared to the deep red (why not green?) of some California cities, its hardly a dent. But we’re leading locally and hey! That’s not nothing, right?… Right?

Map: Hybrid And Electric Sales Across The Country : NPR.


News Updates for Monday

An interesting 1, 2, 3 punch in the world of Microsoft and tech jobs, Obama pushes for fuel efficiency and more today in this news roundup. Let’s get started:

  • President Obama is taking steps to roll back the Bush legacy of environmental “policy,” pushing to have CAFE standards raised to the proposed 2011 standards immediately, ordering the EPA to allow states to set more stringent environmental policies than the federal levels (California, ah-hem?). You know? I remember thinking that the Bush Administration went too far too fast reversing Clinton policies, I do wonder if the Obama Administration won’t suffer the same fate. Careful with that axe, Eugene.
  • Pfizer is buying Wyeth to create the biggest drug company, ever. The fact that so many of their own patents are coming to an end in the next few years is what has prompted the company to take this move despite their own financial problems. So, great. Now we have an even bigger company with more lobbyists to run around Washington.
  • Silicon Vally is experiencing a huge layoff crush right now. Microsoft is among the companies that’s laying off 5,000 workers. Punch one.
  • Meanwhile, as it lays off workers, Microsoft also continues to push beyond it’s capacity by trying to forge ahead with wireless plans (ask anyone who has an MS phone, they’ll tell you they’re in hell). However shall they do that while laying off workers? Punch two.
  • Funny you should ask. Senator Grassley of Iowa was wondering about the same thing. Specifically, he wondered why they should be laying off workers when they’ve got so many foreign visa workers that work so cheaply. Huh! Imagine that.