With all the recent talk about how to improve your gas mileage, I thought I’d highlight some of the “coming attractions” in the automotive world. I’m talking here about plug-in hybrids (a.k.a., plug-in electric hybrid vehicles, or PHEVs), which are hybrid vehicles that can be recharged by plugging them into an electrical outlet, thereby reduces their reliance on gasoline.
Here’s a quick look at what’s on the horizon from the major carmakers…
GM claims that the Chevy Volt will be production ready in 2010, though I recently read that they are only planning on producing 10k units in the first year with an additional 60k coming in the second year. The Volt isn’t a true hybrid, in that it will run entirely on electricity. The on-board battery is projected to give the Volt a 40 mile range on a full charge. If the battery runs down, a small gas-powered motor will kick in to recharge the battery. GM’s goal is to keep the cost of the Volt under $40k.
Saturn Vue Plug-in Hybrid
GM plans to bring the Vue Plug-in hybrid to market in 2010. The Vue Plug-in will be an enhancement to the Vue Two-mode Hybrid that’s expected to hit the market in 2009. This vehicle will have a more typical gas-electric hybrid drive-train, but will also have an electric-only range of 10 miles.
Ford Escape Hybrid Plug-in
The Escape Hybrid Plug-in will combine a hybrid drive-train with lithium ion batteries that are expected to allow the escape to achieve 120 mpg during the first 30 miles of driving at “moderate speed” following a full recharge.
Ford Edge with HySeries Drive
The Ford Edge HySeries is similar to the Chevy Volt, though it use a hydrogen fuel cell as opposed to a gas engine as a backup generator. Like the Volt, the wheels are powered solely by electricity. Ford is projecting a 25 mile range on a full charge with the HySeries being able to go another 200 miles on a full tank of compressed hydrogen.
Toyota Prius Plug-in
There are a number of companies that already specialize in converting the Toyota Prius into a PHEV. On a full charge, these cars can go up to 7 miles at highway speeds using electricity alone. Unlike other plug-in hybrids, which use lithium ion batteries, the modified Prius uses an oversized nickel metal hydride battery. Toyota has since announced that, come 2010, you should be able to buy a lithium ion-based PHEV of some sort direct from them. As an aside, I just read that Toyota will be outfitting the 2009 Prius with solar panels to power the air conditioning. Not a huge step forward, but still… It’s something.
The Toyota 1/X concept car, which was unveiled in 2007, is powered by lithium ion batteries and a small 0.5 liter flex-fuel engine. This car, which sports four seats and weighs in at just 926 pounds (compared to 2, 890 pounds for a Prius) is capable of covering 600 miles on a four gallon tank of gasoline. The car is also partly made of bio-plastics produced from plants.
Dodge Sprinter Plug-in
The Dodge Sprinter is essentially a delivery van, and the plug-in version combines PHEV technology and an efficient diesel engine. The NY Times has added Sprinter plug-ins to their fleet and, after an overnight charge, they can go 20 miles on electricity alone.
Jeep Renegade Concept
The Jeep Renegade concept car, unveiled this past winter at the Detroit auto show, features all-wheel drive, two electric motors (one for each axle), and a 1.5 liter, 115 horsepower, 3 cylinder engine. On a full charge, it can go 40 miles on electricity alone, and it supposedly has a 400 mile cruising range.
*The CNN/Money slideshow lists the wrong mileage for the Toyota 1/X.