Thursday, October 1, 2009

Car Talk: It's Electrifying

2011 Fisker Karma concept vehicle. For a cool $87,500 it could be yours.

I'm thinking of that drag racing scene in the Travolta and Oliva Newton John movie "Grease"...can't you see the Fisker Karma leaving Crater Face in a cloud of dust?

I'm incredibly excited by the teasers out there for all of the new plug in hybrid and electric vehicles. Chevy is promising the Volt in late 2010, Zap is planning to release the Alias, and Renault will soon follow with not one, but four different vehicles to fit a wide range of lifestyles, whether you need to get around your retirement complex, or haul a family on vacation. Because that's what it's all about, right, matching the vehicle you drive to your needs? Hopefully most of them will be more affordable than the Tesla Roadster or AC Propulsion's Tzero, though few could be as sexy.

Here's one that intrigues me, and apparently it was recently debuted at Laguna Seca. The 2011 Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid. What's not to like about a name like that? Unfortunately Karma suggests a MSRP of $87,500 for this baby, which somehow doesn't fit with my present budget.

When I think back to my first experience driving an all electric car, and about how hard we had to beat on the California Air Resources Board to get automakers to give us the cars we want, I welcome these new promises with a little skepticism. OK, a lot of skepticism. I'll believe it when I see it. The sting from GM taking back all of their leased EV1s and refusing to sell them to happy owners is still fresh, as was the Bush administration's refusal to contemplate greener energy alternatives. One thing's for sure, though, and that is that we need all the help we can get to educate the public about these new technologies, and new ways of thinking about transportation.

Did you know that most Americans' daily commute is 40 miles or less? Did you know that back in 2002 we had the technology to build an all electric vehicle that could nearly triple that range? I know, because I drove one, and it was great.

Fortunately, the big companies with lots at stake recognize the need for new thinking (as does the new administration), and are slowly getting the word out. I hope that we've seen the last of the head-in-the-sand, military-styled gas guzzlers out of Detroit (or anywhere, for that matter), and will have a wide range of choices next time we shop for a vehicle.

Meanwhile, looks like my Prius is going to be recalled by Toyota soon, due to a floor mat issue that can cause the accelerator to stick.

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