Jan. 4, 2007: The Economist—Plugging In

Summary: "ANY good mystery must eventually uncover a villain, and in a recent documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?, the filmmakers duly pointed the finger at General Motors. The reality is not quite so simple, but there is little doubt that when GM pulled the plug on its EV1 battery-powered car a decade ago, other manufacturers followed the giant carmaker’s lead.

Yet GM has now recharged its enthusiasm for electric vehicles—or at least for their close cousins, hybrid cars. At the North American International Auto Show, which opens in Detroit on January 7th, the company, hitherto an also-ran in the fast-growing hybrid market, is expected to unveil a prototype that overtakes existing hybrids, such as Toyota’s popular Prius. Today’s hybrids capture energy normally lost during braking and coasting and use it to power an electric motor that can provide extra bursts of acceleration when needed. The Prius and other hybrids can also run on battery power alone at low speeds over short distances, such as in stop-start traffic."

As early as this Sunday, whispers of a plug-in hybrid concept from GM will be put to rest—either by a Saturn VUE GreenLine with a cord or by something more drool-worthy. The name i-Car has been bandied about….

According to experts cited in the article, we could be able to drive a plug-in hybrid off the lot (whether from GM or some dark-horse competitor) as early as 2010, if lithium-ion battery technology continues to improve at its current pace.

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