A hybrid of hybrid cars
Every car manufacturer has pretty much offered a hybrid vehicle to their customers by now.
Most of them are plug-ins, which can run on electricity for 20-40 miles before having to use gas. Long distance trips have to use gas, but most city driving can now be done on electricity.
The most highly anticipated of all the plug-ins is the Chevy Volt, whose new design was recently rolled out by GM. It will be offered to the public by the end of 2010, and, soon after that, GM expects to be selling 60,000 a year.
One key advantage of electricity as an alternative fuel is that it is much,much cheaper per mile than gasoline at current prices. GM says it will cost $0.02 per mile to drive the Volt less than 40 miles per day, versus $0.12 per mile for gasoline at a price of $3.60. If gas prices continue to rise over the next decade, as many think, the fuel savings from plug-ins will only grow.
Another advantage is that electricity can come from pollution-free sources that do not contribute to global warming. There simply is no other alternative fuel that offers a more affordable and practical path to sharply reducing the transportation sector's greenhouse gas emissions.
That said, the lithium-ion batteries required for plug-ins have never been used for this application before. As one battery expert told me: "There are only pilot production of various Li-Ion batteries" around the world. An alternative fuel vehicle expert told me that GM has "already sunk at least $1bn into the Volt and cannot reasonably expect a profit from a $45,000 new car in an economy which is imploding. The actual cost of the vehicle may be higher."
No country so far has been able to achieve significant market penetration of alternative fueled vehicles, without the aid of the government.
Vancouver however, gave a green light to low-speed electric vehicles on Tuesday.
They can now travel on Vancouver streets, that have a speed limit of 50 km per hour or less.
But staff remained concerned about the safety of the vehicles since they don't meet the crash standards for regular vehicles. They are typically larger than electric golf carts and look more like small compact cars.
Most low-speed electric cars, however, don't have impact absorbing bumpers or airbags, according assistant city engineer Jerry Dobrovolny, making them a case of buyer beware.
"That's why the federal government limits their operation to 40 kilometres [per hour] or less. And so that's a decision that each individual buyer will make for themselves," said Dobrovolny.
They will have three years to figure it all out. The cars are currently allowed on roads with a speed limit of 40 km per hour or less.
Lamborghini is also jumping on the hybrid bandwagon, as they are suggesting their new Estoque could be a hybrid model.
The company that last spring said it couldn't possibly meet Europe's tightening emissions rules may jump on the gas-electric bandwagon with a car it's been saying "is not just a new Lamborghini. It's a whole new world." Sant'Agata insists the car is just a concept at this point -- though everything it says suggests the car will be built -- but makes it clear it takes the company in a new direction.
It will look like a sports car, but will cost about $200,000.
The Estoque -- the name refers to the sword matadors use to kill bulls -- is the first four-door to roll out of Sant'Agata since the company built the abominable Portofino for the Frankfurt auto show in 1987. Whereas the Porotfino looked like a Chrysler with scissor doors, the Estoque looks like a Murcielago or Reventon with four doors. It's all sharp angles and long lines, coming in at almost 17 feet long. Those 23-inch wheels are nearly 10 feet apart. Unlike the Gallardo and Murcielago, the all-wheel-drive Estoque carries its engine just behind the front axle. Lamborghini claims the car's weight distribution approaches 50-50, providing "unparalleled agility and handling precision."