‘Electric Highway’ Infrastructure Goes Live

The first location in what will be a series of fast-charging stations for electric and hybrid vehicles as officially opened in Washington State. Consumers cite concerns over how far electric vehicles can drive before char gins as a reason they won’t by electric cars (even though this is a none issue for the vast majority of commuters). With more stations where people can quickly charge their autos this distance issue will go away.

AeroVironment plans to install six stations every 64 to 97 kilometers along I-5 in shopping malls, fueling stations and restaurants with easy access to the highway. Three more stations will be built along U.S. Highway 2 to the north and potentially two more along Interstate 90, near Seattle.

2012 will be a pivotal year for electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and plug-in electric hybrids such as the Chevy Volt. General Motors had high hopes for the Volt in its first full year on the market, but the company expects to miss its sales target of 10,000 cars in 2011, coming up short by more than 3,800, according to Bloomberg. Sales were stronger toward the end of the year. The company is expanding its annual production to 60,000 vehicles starting next month, even as the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigates lithium-ion battery-pack fires following tests designed to measure the vehicle’s ability to protect occupants from injury in a side collision. Neither Nissan nor Tesla Motors—both of which sell all-electric vehicles powered entirely by lithium-ion batteries—have reported any fires in either the LEAF or Roadster, respectively.

You can always read more.

Porsche 918 Hybrid is Fast and Friendly

Porsche has created a new car called the 918 that gets 78 MPG and goes from 0-60 MPH in 3.2 seconds. Sorry those numbers aren’t in metric. The car is relatively kind on the environment producing only 70 grams of CO2 per kilometer.

How does a supercar have such range? Well, the 918 Spyder concept is a parallel hybrid just like your mom’s Prius (well not just like). That means the two powertrains, gas and electric, can operate together or separately to motivate the wheels into motion. There are no less than four modes that configure the powertrains for anything from maximum efficiency to maximum performance and everything in between. The E-Drive mode means pure electric power, and the car can reportedly last up to 16 miles on electrons alone. Next up is Hybrid mode, which is just what it sounds like and would probably be the mode for everyday around town driving. The Sport Hybrid mode again uses both powertrains, but tips the needle a bit more towards performance with most power reaching the rear wheels. Finally, the Race Hybrid mode means all systems are go for the lowest lap times possible (Porsche says it can do the Nordschleife in less than 7:30 minutes). There’s an even a push-to-pass button (if only it were that easy) that adds a bit of E-boost on the straights and, of course, regenerative braking is present and accounted for.

Autoblog has the details.

Ferrari Plans to Build Hybrid Sports Car

Ferrari is planning on building a hybrid race car that will compete with its gas-guzzling cars. Other car manufactures are building (or going to build) hybrid cars, but the reason I post that Ferrari is shifting gears is because in my impression this is significant. When expensive race cars go green it truly means that the future could use less oil.

In a recent interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said that they are planning to reduce CO2 levels by 40% before 2012. They will make it possible thanks to a new hybrid technology and Ferrari might build cars powered by turbocharged V6 engines which are smaller and more fuel-efficient.

“We are currently working on the development of a Ferrari that will use alternative energy sources and which will be based on what we are doing at the moment in Formula 1″, he said. KERS or Kinetic Energy Recycling System is a technique based on the brake-energy-regeneration principle and it consists of a super-efficient CVT gearbox which uses a spinning flywheel to harness energy when the car brakes. This energy will be perfect to increase the acceleration needed when overtaking or cornering.

The 82 Most Fuel Efficient Vehicles in the USA

It’s not shocking to discover that the top 5 most fuel-efficient vehicles in the USA are hybrids, in fact it’s good to see that they are leading the pack. Recently, a blogger went to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website and created a handy list that orders the cars based on fuel-efficiency.

Ranking Category Vehicle City Highway Combined
1 family sedan Toyota Prius 4 cyl, 1.5 L, Automatic (CVT), HEV, Regular 48 45 46.7
2 small car Honda Civic Hybrid 4 cyl, 1.3 L, Automatic (CVT), HEV, Regular 40 45 42.3
3 family sedan Nissan Altima Hybrid 4 cyl, 2.5 L, Automatic (CVT), HEV, Regular 35 33 34.1
4 family sedan Toyota Camry Hybrid 4 cyl, 2.4 L, Automatic (CVT), HEV, Regular 33 34 33.5
5 SUV Mercury Mariner Hybrid FWD 4 cyl, 2.3 L, Automatic (CVT), Regular 34 30 32.2

Hybrid Cars Selling Fast

Ironically, or appropriately, climate change and increasing gas prices have increased consumer interest in saving the environment. The Toronto Star is reporting that hybrid sales in Canada have increased by 90%. It’s good to see Canadians realize that their driving habits are connected to climate change.

In its pursuit of hybrids, Beatty said Toyota found it is more than a transitional technology to other auto power alternatives.

“It took a while for us to figure it out, but the hybrid really is a platform you can build other technologies on,” he said.

Several automakers are working on technologies such as electric plug-in cars that improve fuel efficiency or other projects that give consumers alternatives to meet their needs.

GM and Chrysler already offer deactivation technology that seamlessly shuts down in highway driving.

“The bottom line is there needs to be a multiplicity of technologies for consumers to choose from depending on their needs and driving habits,” said Stew Low, director of communications for GM of Canada.

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