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DriveWays: C-Max Energi moves plug-in hybrid technology forward

Some day, millions of motorists will travel in electric cars, and a brave few of them may even read a newspaper or magazine while the car drives robotically. — But we’re not close yet. It will take many years unless and until inventors devise practical long-range batteries that can be quickly and easily recharged, much as motorists today refuel at gasoline pumps.

Meanwhile, manufacturers all over the planet are working on stopgap ways to bridge the chasm between today’s preponderance of fossil-fueled cars and trucks to a future with vehicles that run on renewable and minimally polluting energy sources.

In the meantime two technologies fit the bill: electric and gasoline-electric hybrid. Neither is satisfactory, though they are more so than some others.

Diesel vehicles can be dismissed. Even if they run on biofuel, they are expensive, use internal combustion and still pollute. Fuel cells, which use hydrogen to generate electricity, are questionable.

So far, hybrids that use both gasoline engines and electric motors have been the most successful, as witness the more than a million sales of Toyota Prius hybrids. The Prius archetype uses an electric motor boosted by a gasoline engine, which allows limited driving in purely electric mode. It comes as a standard hybrid and in a plug-in version, which extends the electric-only driving range.

Ford uses technology similar to Toyota’s, although its designs and patents are mostly its own. Though it lags far behind the Japanese manufacturer in sales, it is making a concerted effort to close the gap.



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