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USA: The Hybrid and EV Future by Dee Mason

By Dee Mason
The Hybrid Future
Ferdinand Porsche developed the first hybrid vehicle in 1900. One would think that hybrid vehicles would be more readily available after 100-plus years, but unfortunately, this is not the case. It has really only been since the early 2000s, when the cost of petroleum skyrocketed, that car manufacturers and consumers began to understand and appreciate the necessity for, and the benefits of, cars that were not solely reliant on oil in order to function. Since then, a number of car manufacturers have jumped on the hybrid bandwagon with varying degrees of success. Like traditional cars, not all hybrid vehicles are created equal. However, there are three models, either brand new or currently in development, which just might finally make the hybrid car, the type of car everyone wants to own.

Toyota Prius V/Toyota Prius Plug-In

Toyota manufactured the first commercial hybrid vehicle back in 1997. Initially there was some head scratching from the rest of the automotive community regarding the choice to direct funds towards the development and construction of a hybrid vehicle. Work was beginning on the car at a point when oil prices were very low. However, Toyota’s decision proved to be a smart one, and they are now positioned as the most successful of the hybrid auto producers, selling over 3 million hybrid cars thus far in 2011. The Toyota Prius was the first hybrid car, and with each subsequent re-issue, Toyota has attempted to improve on their first model. The Prius V underwent a complete redesign from the previous Prius, with the goal of maintaining the excellent aerodynamics and miles per gallon performance of its predecessor, while increasing the space available for passengers and cargo. It appears they were able to do just that, creating a vehicle that is somewhat more roomy than a sedan, but far less bulky than an SUV. Unlike the previous Prius, with the increased size of Prius V, it is now possible to skip calling any moving companies when changing locations. The Prius V was released this past summer and a Plug-In version will become available later in the year.

2012 Infiniti M35 Hybrid – Nissan

The 2012 Infiniti is the first of Nissan’s luxury sedans to have a hybrid setup. While its luxury label makes it a bit pricey, the quality of the vehicle overall has impressed enough people that it is already gaining popularity. Available on a limited scale since spring of 2011, it will become more readily available as the year goes on. The engine is a new type of hybrid system developed by Nissan that is comprised of two clutches, a single electric motor, and a 3.5-liter V-6 engine. The electric motor is a 67 horsepower ion-lithium battery, and the traditional motor is an Atkinson-combustion engine. Early reviews raved about the seamless transition between the two motors, the excellent braking system, the quiet operation of both motors, and smooth deceleration and acceleration capabilities. There are rumors of a plug-in version to be released next year, but at this point, there has been no official announcement.

Ford C-Max Hybrid and Plug-In

With the Ford C-Max Hybrid, Ford/Lincoln is attempting to capitalize on both the success of the Ford Focus and their more luxurious Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. The Ford C-Max, which is tentatively scheduled for release in 2012, will be manufactured entirely in the US, and will only be offered with the hybrid engine design in the US. A five-seat sedan meant to provide an alternative to the Prius V, the motor system will be comprised of an electric traction engine which will utilize the first ion-battery system developed by Ford, and an Atkinson-cycle engine. Ford hopes to deliver better fuel economy than the Fusion Hybrid, so the mile per gallon rate will most likely be higher than 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The car is still being developed and tested at this point, but Ford is taking its plan to outdo Toyota seriously, so it is worth keeping tabs on.

The best part about the increasing popularity of hybrid and plug-in vehicles, is that demand breeds competition. Car manufacturers are actively working to improve and innovate in the realm of hybrid electric car design. For the consumer, it is a win-win situation. Each year, better cars, with better mileage and better handling are introduced, and with each new vehicle, we get one car closer to rendering oil-powered vehicles obsolete.

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