The Rocky Mountain Institute, which focuses on the efficient and restorative use of resources, found that among 50 U.S. metro areas Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Diego were at the forefront for readiness for the launch of electric vehicles. Despite that glowing prophecy, the miniscule driving range makes a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) impractical for many Angelenos who regularly travel significant distances for their daily needs.
For those road warriors, a number of options are available. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) have become commonplace on LA roadway. Hybrids have one or more electric motors, a battery pack, and a gasoline engine. The gasoline engine can recharge the batteries while on the road. The electronic management is constantly switching past the two power sources and braking generates electricity to further recharge the battery. Many HEVs can be plugged into a recharger when back in the garage or at a recharging station. One must bear in mind is that one reason for the excellent mileage stats of HEVs is that they are small and light weight. I’d sure rather be involved in highway collision in a gas guzzling monster SUV than in a pint-sized hybrid.
More hybrids are appearing on the marketplace and the technology is constantly improving. One recent addition is the mid-sized Sonata Hybrid, which features a 2.4 liter 4-cylinder engine, an electric motor, and reportedly the most advanced lithium polymer battery available. This system hybrid unit produces 206 horsepower and is rated at 35 mpg for city driving and 40 mpg on the highway. According to Hyundai, the lithium polymer battery is a marked improvement over the nickel-metal hydride battery used in competitors’ hybrids. The Hyundai battery uses a polymer gel as the electrolyte. This results in a thinner and lighter casing, which translates to more cargo and interior volume.
Also, according to Hyundai, this next-generation battery is capable of delivering the same power with 25% less weight, 40% less volume and 10% more efficiency. It also discharges more slowly to maintain available power up to 1.7 times longer than traditional batteries. The decreased battery size is a definite plus because it allows for increased cabin space for this mid-sized vehicle. The Sonata was one of 60 recipients of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick award for 2011; thus, it might be an excellent choice for a hybrid buyer interested in a larger, safer vehicle than some of Hyundai’s competitors. Other choices are available for the cost-conscious motorist. These will be covered in a future article.
Is an electric vehicle in your future?
Buy an electric vehicle and get up to $19,500 back
Gasoline: $2.54 a gallon
Coming soon: Greener cars
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