As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Who'll Build The Electric Car

The Detroit Auto Show is this week, and there are half a dozen electric car models on display, as well as a number of hybrids. Well, welcome to the party. Maybe killing the Saturn EV1 doesn't seem like such a good idea now, ay? After all, GM would have been first to market, instead of hoping that the Chevy Volt doesn't get lapped by any of these new concepts.

Cadillac Converj. An upscale sibling to volt, it will have a 16-kilowatt-hour battery, of which half will be available for propulsion. Electrics and hybrids only use about half their capacity to avoid wearing out the battery.

Tesla Roadster Sport. Tesla showed off the Roadster Sport version of its already-on-sale Roadster (photo above). The Sport is said to be even quicker (3.7 vs. 3.9 seconds 0-60 mph)

Chevrolet Volt. GM showed off the production-like design of the car that is supposed to go 40 miles on electricity, then up to 500 miles on a tank of gas. "Production-like" means the body is fiberglass for ease of doing a one-off model; the real think, due at the end of 2010, would be traditional steel.

BYD Auto F3DM. The Chinese maker showed a battery-powered sedan it said it could launch in two years.

Toyota FT-EV city car. Toyota said it will sell an all-electric car by 2012.

Ford urban car. Ford will introduce a small electric car in 2011, working with supplier Magna International. It's based on the compact Ford Focus sedan. Target range is 100 miles on a charge. Ford development head Derrick Kuzak targeted sales at 5,000-10,000 a year. Also planned: a battery-powered commercial van based on the Transit van in 2010 and a plug-in hybrid (meaning the battery can be topped off in the garage) passenger car by 2012.

Chrysler. Chrysler showed four electric or range-extending hybrid concept vehicles. The first could arrive next year, the others by 2013. They include the Dodge Circuit EV, all-electric sports car; and the Jeep Patriot, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited EV, and the Chrysler Town & Country EV range-extending vehicles. They could go up to 40 miles on a battery charge, then keep on cruising with small gasoline engines.

Mercedes-Benz BlueZero E-Cell. This is a battery-only small electric prototype. It also showed sibling cars, the the hybrid BlueZero E-Cell Plus and the hydrogen fuel cell BlueZero F-Cell, powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. MB says its first electric would ship in 2010.

Smart Fortwo prototype. The cute two-seater now has an electric version, currently a prototype, but possibly shipping late this year.

Ultimately, this set of cars on display in Detroit shows that electric vehicles are the future. Now the job is to live up to the promise of Al Gore and end all electricity generation from non-renewable sources within the next 10 years. If the car companies can finally get out of their slumber and innovate, we can do the same for our electric grid.

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