As children, when we dreamed about the "car of the future," it probably had wings and looked a lot like the vehicles zipping around outer space in the Jetsons cartoons.
Well, you can say goodbye to George and Jane Jetson, and hello to "Tesla," "Volt" and "Phill."
Those are three examples of fuel-efficient vehicles on the market now or soon will be. While the style and size of the Tesla and the Volt seem more suited to a driver salving his mid-life crisis rather than shuttling a growing family, all three represent a wide-range of fuel choices and flexibility for future families who have no intention of slowing down for a fossil fuel crisis.
Here’s a sneak peak at what’s here now or on the horizon for future green vehicles:
Plug-in hybrids: Plug-in hybrids recharge their batteries by plugging into a home electrical outlet, providing more power to extend the range of electric-only driving.
General Motors is developing a plug-in, electric/gasoline hybrid called the Volt and other manufacturers, including Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and others may not be far behind.
Solar powered hybrids: Toyota is testing a Prius with a solar panel on its roof, providing electrical power to the fuel-efficient hybrid. The panels are not large enough to produce electricity to run the car, but they could power the air conditioning, which is a great draw on the Prius’ small hybrid engine.
Electric vehicles: A company by the name of Tesla is already producing a sharp-looking roadster that is 100 percent electric, super speedy and costs more than $100,000 to start. If you want one, get in line. They are in limited production and there’s a waiting list.
E-Flex: According to HybridCars.com, the General Motors E-Flex system that debuted in the prototype Chevrolet Volt would power an electric drive vehicle with batteries, a hydrogen fuel cell or a hybrid electric powerplant running on gasoline, diesel or an alternative fuel like ethanol.
Fuel cell vehicles: This system uses an electric motor powered by a hydrogen fuel cell battery that never needs gasoline. You’ll also find FCVs in many commercial fleets, where hydrogen filling stations are readily accessible.
Compressed Natural Gas: If you travel, you’ve probably already ridden in a CNG-powered vehicle because many airport shuttle buses are powered by compressed natural gas. This process consists of compressing natural gas that is clear, odorless and non-corrosive to pressures of up to 3,100 pounds per square inch.
Air-powered cars: Tata Motors of India has a license to build air-powered cars—vehicles that run on air pressure—and Ford is reportedly working with UCLA to bring the concept to the U.S. Current prototypes have a top speed of about 70 mph and can travel a distance of more than 100 miles before the air pressure canisters must be refilled.
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