For limos, green is the new black

Kudofest car culture takes environmentally conscious turn

Chanel or Versace? Harry Winston or Tiffany? Limousine or compact hybrid?

For as long as there has been award shows, transportation needed to be only three things: big, black and elegant. Horse-drawn or gas-guzzling, it really didn’t matter, as long as your transportation imparted the standard style and grace.

Recently, however, the perception of automotive style and grace has shifted.

Today, getting to and from the big night is a chance to make a personal statement, and the popular statement these days is concern for the environment.

The 2006 Oscars saw some of its biggest names going green: Gwyneth Paltrow and Natalie Portman chose the hybrid Toyota Highlander, while Steven Spielberg and George Clooney opted for the modestly scaled Prius.

Besides concerns about carbon emissions, another nail in the coffin of conspicuous consumption is of the dreaded vehicle-security checkpoint. Only “regular-sized” limos can navigate through the concrete barriers, turning stretch Hummer limos and other gigantic vehicles into useless dinosaurs on kudos night.

Once you reach the arrivals area, there can be yet more obstacles. At the Oscars, the ominous security tent curbside at the Kodak Theater makes it almost impossible for cameras and spectators to see who and what is arriving. The TV aud’s first glimpse of each arrival doesn’t happen until much later on the actual red carpet. For all we knew, apple carts could have been the preferred method of arrival that night.

Perhaps this is why Mercedes gave its hydrogen-powered prototype to Q’Orianka Kilcher for the entire day. Getting photos of her with the car meant driving her everywhere but the actual ceremony.

The shift toward green vehicles and away from ostentation helped to spawn EcoLimo in 2005. Company specializes in ecologically minded, alternatively fueled, chauffeured transportation. Its selection of hybrid, compressed natural gas and biodiesel vehicles even includes a guilt-free 3-ton Ford Excursion that runs on walnut oil.

EcoLimo was the obvious call for Paramount Vantage when it needed to order up transportation for the premiere for Al Gore’s global-warming doc “An Inconvenient Truth.” Vantage decided to keep using EcoLimo for its day-to-day car service needs, and it’s not the only company doing so.

At the Grammys, bling is in high demand and the good times roll with a bit more abandon. For the big night, GM prepared a fleet of 135 “Grammy Style” Cadillac Escalades for nominees and presenters. After the famous have removed their rears from the seats at the end of the evening, the cars go up for sale with a certificate bearing the passenger’s name.

In Europe, the situation is a little different. Without the burden of an image of gluttony and waste, attendees of the BAFTAs continue to arrive in traditional fashion. Limousines and regular taxis are de rigueur. In some cases, even the tube is an option. Security checkpoints aren’t yet a necessity, although only designated vehicles have access to Leicester Square.

Back in the U.S., though, with environmentalism gaining new momentum, it really is a good time to go green. Besides, a stretch Hummer limo is so prom night.

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