Fast Hybrid Cars: Driving Green, Riding High-Speed
by Lauren Woods
When one thinks of electric car or hybrid, speed is probably the last thing that comes to mind. But this may be the thing of the past. Nowadays, eco-friendly cars could make enthusiasts forget about sacrifice and enjoy more mileage, more power and also more credit for saving earth.
“People see our car burning rubber in fifth gear, leaving a 50-yard streak on the pavement. When they see smoke, they believe.”
Green cars are now engineered to bring out an all-new level of power and performance. The first speeding ticket in the United States could be traced back in 1904 when a hybrid vehicle with a gasoline engine and a battery pack was introduced to the industry. The early proof of blending high performance and environment friendliness was delivered by Harry Myers of Dayton, Ohio, who was ticketed for going 12 mph. Critics concur to the fact that both features need not be forever exclusive like they were centuries ago. They could be blended pretty fine.
Over 700,000 hybrid, diesel and ethanol vehicles were sold in the first half of the previous year. And most of the vehicles do not have the jaw-breaking performance for those who crave that rugged kind of speed. Moreover, the demand for high-performing eco-cars grows more intense than before. “Alternative fuel performance cars let people know that the status quo is no longer a golf cart,” said Ron Freund, the chairman of the Electric Auto Association, which has chapters in 41 states.
Darryl Siry, the vice president of marketing for electric car company Tesla Motors, said that concerns about gas prices and global warming, combined with improved technologies, have precipitated booming interest in green cars that go fast. “It’s like a perfect storm,” Siry said. Toyota, for one, is recognizing the rising trend hence the introduction of the 2007 Lexus GS 450h and the Toyota FT-HS. Honda also unveiled its high-performance Small Hybrid Sports car to go with the recent flow.
Green supercars are now easy to acquire. Though the waiting lists are lengthy, prices soaring and the chance of having one is elusive, they are still easier to own than supercars in the past. The present day supercars are close to handcrafted.
Greg Lane, the vice president of California’s Universal Electric Vehicles, sees a promise in small, upstart companies like his. He says that large manufacturers with almost 100 years of history entwined with oil companies still predominantly focus on gasoline for propulsion — maybe just using less of it. "Their idea of an electric car is still primarily a hybrid," Lane said, “not 100 percent electric,” like his company’s Spyder model.
Rick Woodbury of Commuter Cars, the Spokane, Wash., the maker of the super-narrow, electric Tango T600, finds that just a few minutes of video is all it takes to dispel the perception that electric cars are stodgy. “People see our car burning rubber in fifth gear, leaving a 50-yard streak on the pavement,” he said. “When they see smoke, they believe.”
For propulsion, most of the eco-supercars use electricity. Battery life remains the biggest hurdle in developing electric cars, just as it is for laptops and cell phones. Few people are willing to drive a performance car that can rarely exceed a range of 250 miles on the latest lithium ion batteries.
“There’s always the expectation of a breakthrough in battery technology,” said Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and contributor to ForbesAutos.com. Despite well-funded research, electric vehicles are still too expensive for even limited mass production, largely because of their batteries. The current challenge is how to make electric vehicles affordable, said Cogan. “You can’t make a cheap electric car, but you can make a wonderful electric car,” he said.
Jay Leno, a famous talk show host and car collector, owns a number of classic electric cars like the 1909 Baker Electric. “It gets 100 miles on a charge. The latest electric cars get 150 miles. Batteries have not come that far,” he said. Leno earlier ventured with Cadillac to create the mid-engine, turbine-powered EcoJet. EcoJet, introduced at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show last year, is the ultimate green supercar produced by the General Motors Advanced Design Studio.
About the Author
Given her background on cars as an auto insurance director, Lauren Woods finds the world of cars to be constantly changing. You can visit GMC cold air intake for more information.
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