Auto manufacturers all across the world gathered in Detroit, Michigan this January to unveil new vehicle concepts for upcoming model years for the North American International Auto Show. Many alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles were at the forefront of the event.

Volkswagen CrossBlue SUV

The new Volkswagen CrossBlue SUV concept made its global debut in Detroit. The CrossBlue features a highly innovative plug-in hybrid powertrain that mates a turbocharged direct injection (TDI) Clean Diesel engine with two electric motors, a direct-shift gearbox (DSG) dual-clutch automatic transmission, and an electric all-wheel-drive system. It pairs a compact, 190-horsepower clean diesel with twin electric motors, one on the front axles, the other on the rear, creating an electric all-wheel drive system that VW has dubbed “propshaft by wire.” Volkswagen estimates that the fuel economy rating of the SUV stands at 89 Miles Per Gallon equivalent (MPGe) combined in electric mode and 35 mpg as a hybrid.

Volkswagen hasn’t announced production plans for the new CrossBlue concept, which was designed specifically for the United States and Canada markets. Credit: Volkswagen.

“The CrossBlue concept is exactly the right type of vehicle for the U.S. market,” said Jonathan Browning, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. “It combines a truly versatile interior layout with sophisticated Volkswagen design, to give a unique and supremely stylish offering in this segment. Moreover, the vehicle showcases our innovative German powertrain engineering.”

The CrossBlue will be Volkswagen’s first 3-row mid-size SUV. Credit: Volkswagen.

2014 Cadillac ELR

General Motors unveiled its new 2014 Cadillac ELR in Detroit. Like GM’s very successful Chevy Volt, the Cadillac ELR utilizes an extended range electric vehicle (EREV) technology to provide a full driving range which exceeds 300 miles (480 km), and combines pure electric driving and an efficient, range-extending generator. The vehicle can travel 35 miles on a single charge of electricity before its 1.4-liter engine comes to life and keeps the coupe running. On the final day of the show, the ELR won the prestigious Eye on Design award at the event, winning the best production vehicle design category.

“ELR is an unprecedented combination of luxury, advanced engineering and progressive design in a coupe that is both sporty and environmentally friendly,” said Bob Ferguson, Cadillac global vice president. “This is a pivotal moment in Cadillac’s history, as we continue our product-driven expansion. “ELR marks a fresh, even surprising new dimension of Cadillac; an additional aspect of ELR’s appeal will be exclusivity. It will be a specialized offering produced in limited numbers.”

ELR production will begin in the United States in late 2013, with sales starting in early 2014 in North America, and subsequently expanding to global markets, including markets in China and Europe. Credit: General Motors.

The ELR’s battery can be charged with a 120 volt electrical outlet or a dedicated 240 volt charging station. The vehicle can be completely recharged in about 4.5 hours using a 240 volt outlet, depending on the outside temperature. Once the vehicle is plugged in, owners can schedule either immediate or delayed charges, even coordinating charging according to departure time or when electricity rates are lower. Owners also can manage and monitor the ELR online or with their smartphone and RemoteLink, a mobile app powered by OnStar. Credit: General Motors.

Nissan Resonance

The Nissan Resonance concept was unveiled in Detroit. The Resonance will have a hybrid electric drivetrain and will include Nissan’s proprietary “one-motor, two-clutch” system, which combines a smaller displacement internal combustion gasoline engine with an electric motor/lithium-ion battery and advanced management system.

Nissan plans to feature its global concept in the U.S., and says that the Resonance signals the future direction of Nissan crossovers with its smart, edgy design. Credit: Nissan Motor Company.

“Resonance is meant to be provocative, energetic and engaging – even polarizing,” said Francois Bancon, division general manager of product strategy and planning at Nissan Motor Company. “It’s edgy yet sophisticated design, combined with an environmentally sensitive powertrain and intelligent utility provides a clear, exciting view into the future of crossover innovation. This design is not meant to appeal to traditional two-box SUV shoppers, but rather to those whose fashion and design choices make a statement. For Nissan, this concept makes our statement about the future of this segment.”

VIA X-Truck

VIA Motors showcased its new X-Truck in Detroit. The X-Truck concept is a converted Chevrolet Silverado. VIA Motors board member Bob Lutz described the X-Truck concept, “Wouldn’t it be great if someone built a truck that drives like the Volt?” VIA claims that the truck could get up to 100 MPGe in typical local daily driving, and VIA vehicles get around 35 miles in all-electric range. VIA worked in partnership with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States, to create the vehicle.

VIA’s X-Truck concept pictured here at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Credit: VIA Motors.

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