That was then and this is now. Yesterdays Euro and Asian gas sipping (instead of guzzling) compacts and hybrids are now a common sight on the highways and byways of mainstream America. So what’s next? The great news is, the time of fuel-sipping rides as common place is already here, and the next generation of fuel cell and air powered ( yes air powered!) runabouts are about to be released upon us.
In the next few years, the choices for a greener, and thankfully meaner, breed of earth-friendly rides being brought to market seems to be unlimited. Not counting the ever-green Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota now offers its Highlander SUV, the Prius ( soon to be replaced by a larger, faster and more efficient model) and its best selling Camry in hybrid form. Toyota also offers, via it’s Lexus brand, the hybrid G450h sport sedan and the favorite of Hollywood starlets, GX450h crossover. Honda has a slew of hybrids ready to be released in 2009, including a Prius fighter that should be more efficient and less expensive, along with a sporty two-seater hybrid to replace it’s sorely missed Insight model, as well as a hybrid version of it’s best selling Fit five door hatchback.
Even slow to change juggernughts such as Ford and General Motors have hybrids on the road these days
and from what I hear, Porsche and Ferrari are tinkering with hybrid options for their most expensive models
in the next few years. The point is, the hybrid concept has proven to be a winner, but it has always been seen as a temporary fix for our cars vs. the earth quandary.
Well, now the Calvary is here and it comes in the form of plug in hybrids, full-electric cars and hydrogen fuel cells. These cars are not pipe dreams, they are available today, or in a short while, and look to kick off a new automotive golden age. An age where personal transport can be environmentally friendly, good looking and still fun to drive. Here is just a taste of what is available, from the most exotic and expensive to the down right cheap.
The Tesla Roadster delivers full availability of performance every moment you are in the car, even while at a stoplight. Its peak torque begins at 0 rpm and stays powerful at 13,000 rpm. The hotly anticipated Model S (formerly known as the WhiteStar) sedan and the even-further-down-the-road compact car known as the BlueStar deliver 100% torque, 100% of the time. You can see this stylish vehicle at their new showroom in Los Angeles or you can visit www.teslamotors.com
The Lightning Car Company is about to release one of the UK's first electric sports cars. Combining classic, British sports car design with racing car technology and state of the art NanoSafe™ battery power and Hi-Pa Drive™ electric motor innovation, the Lightning has been developed with exhilarating performance. Whilst its head-turning looks will appeal to the most discerning of drivers, unlike other sports cars, the Lightning is also easy on the conscience. With virtually no polluting emissions, this energy-efficient car uses clean technology and will have the ultimate green rating. Following production of several petrol Lightnings and with the electric prototype build now well underway, the electric Lightning GT is now available to pre-order. www.lightningcarcompany.co.uk
Mini EV: The Green Mini Cooper from BMW
BMW is preparing a fleet of several hundred Mini EV’s. About 490 might be leased to VIPs in California for a large scale field test, the other ten will be traveling as a show cars. According to BMW conducting this test for 12 - 18 months is needed to refine the technology. It is said that BMW Electric Minis’ are going to be painted silver with a yellow roof. So if you see one, you know you have seen one of only 500 made, for now.
The Norwegian THINK Car
If you’re a fan of the Mini Cooper but want something a little greener, the Norwegian THINK car might just be your answer. It’s compact, it’s electric, it’s a zero-emissions zippy little car that’s a feat of design and engineering. Topping out at 100 km/hr and running for 180 km on a single charge, THINK is a lot of power for such a tiny thing. All the other systems are well-thought out too, with 90% of the energy going straight to the engine, compared to traditional combustion engines that lose up to 70% of their energy to heat and friction. www.inhabitat.com/2008/03/04/super-cute-electric-zero-emissions-think-car/
Honda FCX Clarity: Zero-Emission Hydrogen Powered Fuel Cell Sedan
The fuel cell combines hydrogen with oxygen to make electricity. The electricity then powers the electric motor, which in turn propels the vehicle up to 280 miles. Water is the only byproduct the FCX Clarity leaves behind. But where do you get the hydrogen? Honda is working on a “Home Energy Station”, which will generate hydrogen from natural gas, and is designed to provide heat and electricity for the home through fuel cell co-generation and to supply fuel for a hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle. www.automobiles.honda.com/fcx-clarity/
The ECO-M Axon Hatchback
The ECO-M Axon hatchback has a unique carbon fibre chassis that will make it the lightest and, at 100mpg, the most fuel efficient car in its class. It will be available at an affordable price in 2010. www.axonautomotive.com
Smart fortwo EV
The Smart fortwo, a truly iconic machine known around the world for its diminutive size, has slowly been changing the face of motoring. Now, the EV’s fuel filler has been converted into a charging input. Starting later this year, Smart announced that it would be doing a 200 unit trial run of the pure-electric Smart EV, in preparation for what may become a real, mass-market production electric automobile. www.smart.com
Prius Plug-in Conversion Kits
At this time, Hymotion is offering a plug-in conversion kit for the Toyota Prius, but will soon offer one for the Ford Escape hybrid as well. According to the release, the Hymotion Plug-in battery will "double" the fuel economy of the Prius. For a single system the cost is $9,995. E-Drive, another plug-in provider offers systems that cost between $10,000 and $12,000, in comparison. www.hymotion.com, www.edrivesystems.com
These are just a few great examples of the different approaches to the automotive problems that we face today and the great news is there are more coming every day, so many in fact that if I made a list of all the green-cars either for sale, or in development, I’d have run out of room for sure. In my less-than-humble opinion the cars vs earth problem has been solved. Now it’s just up to all of us to make our choices and have our voices heard.
Long live the automobile -- no matter what makes them purr.
See you on the big screen,