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USA: NY Auto Show Features Electric DeLorean, Natural Gas Wheelchair Van and Flying Car

NEW YORK CITY — The glitz at the New York International Auto Show is around a full slate of press conferences from all the major automakers. I went to a bunch of them, saw the 2014 Chevrolet Impala rolled out, the all-new Hyundai Santa Fe, the equally re-imagined Nissan Altima, some high-end Mercedes-Benzes, the 2013 Lincoln MKZ (a striking design), the BMW X1, and more. The SRT Viper introduction was definitely the loudest I’ve ever attended — and I saw the Who in 1971.

The car of the show, for me, was the Infiniti LE Concept, and not just because it’s a plug-in electric and had a glowing plastic grille that strongly resembled an ice sculpture. That grille, and the all-glass roof are probably not going to make it into production, but stripped of them the car would still have a lot of presence. And I like the idea of an upscale four-door sedan alternative to the Leaf hatchback.

The LE, or something like it, will be the Infiniti version of the Nissan Leaf, and it should be in showrooms in two years. Chikuya Takada, a chief product specialist for electric cars at Nissan, told me that the car will retain the Leaf’s 24-kilowatt-hour battery pack, but with improved aerodynamics (he said 0.25 CD, matching the Toyota Prius) and a bigger electric motor, it should accelerate faster.

The LE is also being set up for wireless charging, and although the pad under the car was just for show, Nissan assures me that the actual vehicle will have that capability. The owner will drive over the pad, with in-car guidance likely taking over the task of positioning the vehicle exactly.

The U.S. will be the LE’s primary market, Takada said, and it will attract three main buyers — visionaries, the young tech-savvy folks, and people whose prime interest is relief from $4 gas. There may not be a huge number of the latter, because electric cars take a while to bring a return on their investment.

The Javits Center’s lower level, also known as the basement, hosts some of the cooler startup companies. I’ve reported here on the evolving electric DeLorean project, and a very finished-looking prototype of the car was on display down there — complete with an electric blue battery light display.



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