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Above: Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that would pay you up to $4,500 to buy a new car and scrap your old one. Hopes are that this will help the U.S. get rid of polluting vehicles, use more fuel-efficient cars, provide a boost for the ailing auto industry, as well as stimulate the economy.

Below: A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) version of the Prius available to U.S. corporate fleets this year.

BMW
Mini E (Electric)



CHEVY
Impala FlexFuel
Malibu Hybrid
Tahoe Hybrid

CHRYSLER
Aspen Hybrid
Durango Hybrid



FORD
Ford Escape Hybrid
Ford Hydrogen

HONDA
Accord Hybrid
Civic Hybrid

LEXUS
GS 450 Hybrid
LS 600 Hybrid
RX 400 Hybrid



MERCEDES
R320 Bluetec

MERCURY
Mariner Hybrid

NISSAN
Altima Hybrid

SATURN
Aura Greenline
Vue Hybrid

TOYOTA
Camry Hybrid
Plug-in Prius Hybrid

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Leaping the Pond: 500 of these BMW Group MINI E pure-electric 2-seaters are on their way across the Atlantic from Europe to various individual and fleet owners in the United States for field trials during 2009. Are you getting behind the wheel of one?

Ear to Earth...
Field Tests for 500 MINI E Pure-Electric 2-Seaters

For awhile BMW Group's Mini offered the possibility that you might be one of the test drivers selected to take part in their year-long field trial of the new MINI E. Now, however, the application period has closed and the cars are on their way.

Due to the size of today's batteries, the MINI E has been designed as a two-seater. Field testers will be driving around New York, New Jersey and Southern California with a battery stack in the back.

As the MINI E technology now stands, you can expect to go between 100 and 120 miles every time you charge up the vehicle's lithium-ion batteries. Think about how many miles you put on your vehicle each day. The average metro or suburban commuter drives about 60 miles.

When a MINI E is brought back to juice up the lithium ions in the batteries, it is plugged into a charging station that comes with the vehicle and also adapts to your home power supply. But wait until after dinner and your evening home entertainment is complete before beginning the three hour recharging process. Remember that electricity is cheapest during the times when the fewest people are using it.

Of course the three hour recharge time assumes that your home is equipped with 240 Volt, 48 Amp outlets, the type you may have for operating laundry washers and dryers if your home was built after 1990. If you only have 240 Volt, 32 Amp outlets the time it takes to recharge the batteries is four and a half hours. Hopefully you aren't stuck with measly 110 Volt, 12 Amp outlets, otherwise your charge time is just over a day long, and anyway isn't enough to keep the batteries perky, so an upgrade to your electrical circuitry would be required to charge the MINI E. The cost of an upgrade could exceed $1000. These tidbits are worth keeping in the back of your mind as we move into an era in which, hopefully, many of us will be plugging in our cars for a charge.

Will your next green vehicle be an orange Chrysler Circuit electric sports car?

Moving Beyond Concept Cars
What We Wish Was With Us Today
by Dean Adams Curtis

We've awakened, taken a few deep breaths, and smelled the coffee after the dawn of the 2009 Detroit's Auto Show. Having also sniffed around the LA Auto Show last November, its time to consider our report card.

If Ford's focus on hydrogen vehicles had already produced a production version of the Focus, instead of just a test-bed, we'd be calling our broker and snapping up Ford stock, as well as shares of any energy company savvy enough to invest in hydrogen fueling stations.

If the GM Volt were available in auto dealerships across the nation today, perhaps soon we'd begin to see a turnaround for the auto giant. However, perhaps as a result of their economic hard times, and perhaps because their Volt designs are in a constant state of revolt, or revision, GM has delayed building a plant in Michigan where a Volt engine was to be built. 

If Chrysler ENVI vehicles, like the super-hot Circuit all-electric sports car based on the Lotus Europa, like their plug-in hybrid minivan, like their plug-in hybrid Jeep Wrangler, or like their electric Jeep Patriot, were in showrooms today, not still glimmering in the eyes of vehicle developers at Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, we'd be predicting great things for the U.S. auto industry this year.

If Toyota's plug-in Prius hybrid was coming into Long Beach, California by the cargo-ship-load today, rather than 150 of them being offered before year end to U.S. corporate fleet customers, we'd be predicting a return to profits for Toyota in '09.

If the BMW Group's Mini E all-electric two-seater with 150 mile range, was available in quantity today, rather than being limited to 500 cars that are supposedly built and now bound for our shores, we'd be close to ecstatic.

If auto manufacturers were offering the U.S. marketplace the high mileage, ultra-low emission models they've been making and selling in Europe for years, instead of crowing about concept cars, consumers would (soon) be buying them.

Subaru, for example, introduced their horizontally opposed "boxer" diesel engines at last year's Paris Motor Show. The Forester 2.0 diesel offers 147 horsepower and 258 pound feet of torque while giving a whopping 44.8 combined MPG. Yet this diesel Forester is only be available in Europe.

Everyone is left wondering when we'll see the vehicles that we've seen introduced for years as concept cars, carefully plugged into electric outlets in our garages and rolling on our streets and highways.

Hopefully auto makers will be able to rapidly increase the speed that our beloved personal transportation devices move along the road from concept cars to production vehicles. We're optimists. We're sure the combo of Congress, the new administration (being sworn in while the 2009 Detroit Auto Show is still in its waning days), and the innovators at auto companies worldwide will come through for us. We wish that the energy-efficient, zero-polluting, ultra-safe, concepts cars were with all us today. They can't arrive in our driveway soon enough.

 

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