Image: ‘EcoXperience’ at the 2009 Detroit auto show
Paul Sancya  /  AP
‘EcoXperience,’ a new ride and drive element highlighting the green future of the automotive industry, will feature at this year’s Detroit auto show.
updated 1/8/2009 5:25:04 PM ET 2009-01-08T22:25:04

Organizers of Detroit's annual auto show have carved out space in the convention center basement for a 700-foot-long oval driving track to showcase zero emissions vehicles.

The track, which runs through a forest of about 100 Michigan maple, pine and birch trees and around two ponds with waterfalls, will let automakers display cutting-edge electric vehicles and other technology for more than 6,000 journalists signed up to attend the show's press days, said co-chairman Doug Fox, who runs several car dealerships in nearby Ann Arbor.

The 70,000-square-foot (21,336-meter) track and forest inside Cobo Center downtown is called the "Michigan EcoXperience." It's being funded by the state's economic development corporation as well as the North American International Auto Show, Fox said.

"It's a way for Michigan to put their best foot forward in an ecological manner and let all the manufacturers that have electric vehicles put them out here," Fox said.

All the cars on the track have to be zero emissions, he said.

Journalists attending press preview days starting Sunday will be able to drive cars on the track, but the public will only be allowed to ride with professional drivers, Fox said. There will be a 10 mph (16 kph) speed limit, and crash barriers will be installed to prevent accidents.

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Mitsubishi Motors, Tesla Motors Inc. and others will provide electric vehicles.

Space was made available when several manufacturers moved to the main floor in space vacated mainly by Nissan Motor Co. and Porsche Cars North America, which pulled out of the Detroit show.

Nissan pulled out last year because it had no new models to display. Detroit Nissan dealers organized to have a presence there, but canceled plans at the request of the company, Fox said.

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