Alternative energy vehicle announcement at the 2009 Detroit Motor Show have been dominated by Asian manufacturers.

Toyota unveilled its third-generation Prius which will be on sale in America in a few months. The new Prius is more powerful and slightly roomier than the old model but lighter and more fuel-efficient.

Toyota has also announced a budget-priced electric car, the FT-EV which is due to go into production in 2012. The FT-EV is slightly larger than a Smart car and will have a range of about 80 kilometres. It is expected to be priced at around $20,000 in Australia.

Toyota’s FTEV

Toyota’s FTEV

Honda unveiled its Insight hybrid. The Insight is slightly smaller than the Toyota Prius and will be “several thousand dollars” cheaper. Despite its smaller overall size, the Insight almost matches the Prius in interior space and has more luggage room. The many unusual design features of the Insight include an interactive dashboard display which gives real-time feedback on your driving to maximise efficiency and a slot under the boot to store the retractable cargo cover. (Why didn’t someone think of that before now?)

Honda expects to sell 100,000 Insights in North America this year.

Two Chinese manufacturers, BYD and Brilliance, showed electric cars. The BYD plug-in electric hybrid car is already on sale in China and the company plans to begin selling it in America in 2011.  (BYD is the world’s largest manufacturer of rechargeable batteries.)

Brilliance Auto, which manufactures cars for BMW in China, has not give any timetable for releasing its vehicles in America. He Guohua, Brilliance Auto Group vice president, said that he brought the company’s vehicles because the Detroit show is a good place to “measure ourselves against international standards.”