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Published on November 7th, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans


Beyond Hybrids: Green Auto Technology

As more and more emphasis is placed on protecting the environment
through the use of alternative fuels, auto manufacturers are ramping up
their research, development, and implementation of new technologies in
order to get more zero emission vehicles on the road.  Hybrids – cars
that run on gasoline and electricity – are ubiquitous at this point and most
major auto manufacturers now offer hybrid models.  The increased
prevalence of hybrid vehicles on the road is certainly a step in the
right direction, but because they are still primarily fueled by
conventional gasoline, auto manufacturers must continue to seek out new
technologies that will be cleaner and greener.

Electric Vehicle (EV) – Unlike hybrids, EVs do not utilize any gasoline in their operation.  They are powered by electricity that is stored on the car in batteries (sometimes up to 24 batteries).  A variation on a pure electric vehicle is the Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) which is a hybrid vehicle with batteries that can be recharged by connecting a plug to an electric power source.  Both the EVs and the PHEVs can be made even greener by connecting it to a power source that is powered by solar panels.  The distance an EV can go before it needs to be recharged depends on the number and type of batteries used and auto manufacturers are collaborating with battery manufacturers to develop batteries that hold more energy and last longer.  Most of the major auto companies developed electric car models in the late 90’s, including: Ford’s Th!nk Neighborhood EV, Toyota Rav-4 EV, General Motors EV1, and Honda’s EV Plus, however most of these were retired when focus shifted to hybrid technologies.  Electric Vehicles continue to be made however, and some exciting new technologies are being developed by innovative companies intent on bringing a no-emissions vehicle to the marketplace.  Check out the latest EV developments at these companies: Tesla Motors, Global Electric Motorcars, ZENN Motor Company, and Miles Automotive Group.

Fuel Cell Powered Vehicle (FCPV) – Many innovators believe that the fuel cell powered vehicle will be the green car of the future; it is extremely energy efficient, eliminates the charging time associated with electric vehicles, allows a wide range of speeds, and it can operate as long as fuel is supplied.  Powered by compressed hydrogen, the fuel cell vehicle is very friendly to the environment, but hydrogen is presently very expensive to produce, making the cars far too expensive for most consumers.  Like most new green car technologies, manufacturers are offering limited releases of fuel cell powered vehicles, as the technology is still being tested and there is no alternative fuel station infrastructure in place to support wide-spread use – people cannot drive them if they have no place to fuel them.  Honda is releasing their FCX Clarity model this summer in Southern California and other manufacturers have developed models, including Toyota’s FVVH-4 and GM’s Hy-Wire.

Compressed Natural Gas Vehicles – Another new technology that has been developed and is currently being tested by auto manufacturers for release dates in the next few years are cars powered by compressed natural gas (CNG).  One example of this type of technology, the 2005 Honda Civic GX, was capable of being refueled at home with a home compressor, however drivers of the Civic GX would not be able to travel far from their home compressor since no CNG stations are available to allow them to re-fuel while out and about.  Zero Pollution Motors is a frontrunner in this technology and the Mexican government has already commissioned 40,000 of their vehicle, the e.Volution, for use as taxis in Mexico City.

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