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Hot New Cars on Display at the Washington Auto Show

It is winter in Washington, people bundled in heavy coats to shield themselves from the cold weather. Many seek refuge at indoor events. The recently held Washington Auto Show - where visitors got an up-close view of the latest in automotive technology -- is one such event. VOA's Ernest Leong reports.

More than 700 new domestic and foreign vehicles were on display at the Washington Auto Show.

Whatever one's individual tastes -- whether it is fast sports cars, or slower, more reliable all-terrain jeep, long limos to stretch out in, or more compact vehicles -- chances are good one can find it at an auto show.

Scott Settlemire is the manager of the Chevrolet and Hummer exhibits for U.S. auto company General Motors. He explained the purpose of auto shows. "The reason we really do auto shows, if you think about it, is to allow the customer to come in and look at our products, and touch and feel them in a non-threatening atmosphere. They don't have to feel that they're under any pressure [to buy]. We actually want them to come in, open the doors, open the trunks, kick the tires and ask us questions," he said.

This setting offers auto manufacturers a chance to show off their newest cars, trucks, and sports utility vehicles [SUV's].

Some of the vehicles run on alternative fuel -- battery, ethanol, diesel -- fuels that burn cleaner and more efficiently than gasoline.

Virginia state resident Tom Albert, whose wife is expecting their first child, volunteered to test drive Chevrolet's Equinox, a hydrogen fuel cell electric SUV. He said, "I'll drive it to and from work, to the grocery store, to the home improvement store, and I'm sure to go buy some diapers."

Chevrolet says the Equinox can run over 300 kilometers before refueling. The company says this makes the vehicle ideal for use in short distance situations, such as running errands.

Albert says fueling the vehicle is similar to fueling gas-driven cars. "You connect the hose up. What you do, there's currently a cable that'll connect between the pump and the car. And they'll talk to one another, in order to fuel the tank."

Technological advancements in fuel efficiency are consistent with the U.S. government's directive to increase the number of alternative fuel vehicles on the road, and lessen dependency on foreign oil. Global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions is one reason for seeking greater fuel efficiency.

Another is record-breaking oil prices. Some economic experts say high oil prices are a factor in the recent global stock market slump [downturn].

Alexander Karsner, the Department of Energy's Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (U.S. Department of Energy), visited the Washington Auto Show.

"That efficiency is productivity. Efficiency is competitiveness. When you get more out of using less, you are always making your economy more agile, more competitive, more productive, and ultimately, creating more value for your citizenry," Karsner said.

"Engineered for the Future" is the theme of the 2008 Washington Auto Show. Some in the U.S. government and auto industry say that future needs to include more fuel-efficient vehicles.