AutoWeek marked the 20th anniversary of Earth Day in 1990 by exploring future technologies. The magazine suggested cars would change radically in "this green decade," but enthusiasts would still be having fun. They just wouldn't use gasoline much longer.
Well, it's 16 years later - long enough to grow a new driver from seed - and it's fair to wonder: "Are we there yet?"
Alternative fuels have made great strides since 1990, but gasoline plays as big of a role as ever on the American road. The battery-electric car has come and, at least for now, gone again. Hydrogen and fuel cells have garnered headlines but still have a long way to go before they are viable - if that day ever arrives.
The decade many had trumpeted as green turned out to be the high-water mark of the SUV, at best a detour on the road to sustainable mobility.
The driving concerns this year have shifted from the earlier focus on smog-generating toxins and onto
fuel economy. Many Americans are focused on miles per gallon, whether they point to the complexities of climate change, the geopolitics of petroleum or the rising price at the pump.
So AutoWeek wanted to know: What's possible for a driver who wants to sip fuel judiciously without slowing to a crawl? To find out, a road trip was in order.
What the magazine wanted was a one-day trip long enough to drain the average fuel tank. Where? To Holland, Mich., a 349-mile round tripfrom Detroit.
So on March 28 a half-dozen staff members tested a handful of 2006 models. They filled up at the same station at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., and the price had gone up a nickel a gallon.