The TACH Report: Hybrid Cars are a Reality

21 March 1998

Each winter we all look forward to attending new car auto shows. There
are literally hundreds of shows around the world that are focused on
showing us just what the car companies stylists and engineers have
dreamed up for us to drive next year and the year after that.

Sure, we all go to these glitzy chrome and glass carnivals to see the
new models for the coming year but let's admit it we really go to shows
to see the dream cars . . . concept vehicles that in many cases cost
manufacturers a million bucks per copy. Vehicles we drool over.

Well, guess what . . . auto show trends are a-changin'.  While there are
still a bevy of zoomy outasight and beyond our pocketbook cars of
tomorrow on display, something new has been added. A series of automotive
engineering exercises that have crowded the dream cars right off center
stage.

The new focus is on ecology: clean air and the building of vehicles
that will attain federally mandated emmissions and mileage
standards, some of which will be the law in the year 2004.  Let's face
it, everyone is up for the greening of America and the car companies are
doing their part.

So, now when you attend a major auto show, instead of being greeted by a
chrorus of shapely cheerleaders extolling the virtues of the fururistic
candy apple Martian Marauder V16, you will see Dodge division's new
Intrepid ESX2 lighweight hybrid that gets 70 miles per gallon. It has a
direct injection diesel engine and an electric motor and weighs in at
2,250 pounds.

Chrysler is burning up the juice in their quest for alternative drive
trains such as electrics, aluminum motors, flexible fuels and turbo
alternators, and, of course, fuel cell technology.

Ford is doing a bunch of research also, and is now marketing an F-250
pickup powered by a natural gas engine. The Ford Ranger can be purchased
with power coming from an electric motor, and there's an Econoline
running around with an alternative fuel setup.

Toyota is proud of their new Prius, which is powered by a 1.5 liter gas
motor and a 30 kilowatt electic mill. It looks like a Corolla and costs
$18,500.  The Asian auto maker is also experimenting wih an electric RAV.

Honda's role in all this fairly new technology can be seen in their JV-X
concept car that runs on a gas motor and a electric motor/generator and
no batteries.  They also are showing a low emission Accord, natural gas
Civic, and a Civic HX Coupe with continuously variable transmission.

Nissan has an electric car coming out next year that they have named the
Altra.  

Like it or not, car buffs, the hybrid cars are here to stay.  While
their performance is suspect, everyone agrees that they are the future.

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel

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