Hybrid Technologies seems to have everything

Hybrid Technologies

Electric Supercar? Check.
Lithium-Ion technology? Check.
Highway Speed EVs? Check.
100+ mile range? Check.
Several models? Good 0-60 acceleration? Available now? Cool electric motorcycle? Everything looks good.

If all that wasn’t enough, the company is based in heartland USA: Mooresville, North Carolina. Hybrid Technologies is starting to generate some buzz as it made an appearance on the today show a couple weeks ago. And on the radio a month ago, talking about Senator McCain’s $300 million challenge to create an ev with a 300 mile range. Can’t let McCain forget about that. I could care less if he gets elected, he better put his money (government’s money) where his mouth is if someone accomplishes that goal.

Anyways, Hybrid Technologies offers highway capable Mini Cooper, Smart Car, Toyota Yaris, and PT Cruiser conversions that sport 0-60 times under 10 seconds, similar to the standard gasoline powered versions. The only real hookup I have with the company is that the prices are just out of realistic range for those of us who are not environmental fanatics, but want electric vehicles for economical reasons. Hopefully with time, investment, technological innovation, and larger scale operation, Hybrid Technologies will offer a fair alternative for the rest of us.

You can get this for under four grand though.

ZENN Motor Company making strides

ZENN stands for Zero Emission No-Noise and is known for its Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV). I wasn’t expecting to find much intrigue about a Canadian based company best known for a car that, on the surface, looks and performs like a over hyped golf cart. The lead-acid battery powered NEV has a top speed of 25 mph and a range of 30-50 miles on a charge.

Zenn NEV

But you know what? Zenn is fixing to to make a run in the EV industry. First of all, the 25 mph top speed is restricted by the Canadian government because they did not feel the vehicle met safety standards of higher speed operation. Then Canada wouldn’t allow the ZENN cars to operate on roads unless they were outfitted with warning lights and signs. It was not until June 17, 2008 that residents of Quebec were allowed to drive ZENN in Canada without warning signals.

The real kicker is that ZENN gained exclusive rights from EEStor over the past few years to make electric vehicles up to 3,100 lbs. EEstor is developing a solid-state electric battery that is being considered game changing in the electric vehicle industry. The Ceramic EESU should be less than half the weight of lithium-ion batteries, fully chargeable in minutes rather than hours, and have an unbelievably long charge life.

Using this technology, Zenn is hoping to release the cityZENN, a vehicle with a top speed of 78 mph and a 250 mile ev range. The 5 minute recharge time will not be available from household outlets, but special charging stations. Home charges will still take you a few hours, more or less, depending on your outlet. ZENN is hoping these models will be ready by Fall of 2009 with a price range of $25,000-$30,000. The company also hopes to retrofit our current gas guzzlers with its EEstor equipped, “ZENNergy drivetrain”.

Sounds like ZENN has a lot in store for us, here’s hoping they succeed in bringing us their fancy new technology.

A Rav-4 EV owner raggin’ on the Volt

I found this video using the new Electric Car Locator Map feature.

This is a great video of a guy explaining a few tweaks he made to an old Toyota RAV-4 EV to allow it to charge from his rooftop solar system.  The RAV-4 EV was produced between 1997-2001 before Toyota terminated production, but unlike its 90’s counterpart, the GM EV1, RAV-4 EV’s were not all crushed and people like this fellow still happily own them today.   Near the end of the video he gives a nice lecture on the GM Volt concept being inferior to electric vehicles on the road in the 90’s. My sentiments exactly. RAV-4 EV range: 120 miles, Volt concept ev range: 40 miles. That’s not regular technological evolution. And to give you a concept of the demand for these old ev’s, records have shown these used electric SUV’s selling for around $70,000 (2001 model).

On the Aptera

Aptera

The Aptera is another three wheeled electric car that will be technically classified as a motorcycle once it hits the road. The vehicle will come in two models, the Typ-1e and the Typ-1h, an all electric model and a hybrid model respectively. The electric version will be able to travel 120 miles on a charge and accelerate from 0-60 in 10 seconds with a top speed of around 85 mph. Not as fast as it looks, but at $27K for the electric and $30K for the hybrid, the Aptera is a worthwhile investment if you want a head turner that saves the environment as well as your gas fund. The Aptera seats two comfortably and is safer than it looks according to the Aptera site, where you can reserve your own Typ-1e for $500 down. Production will start in late 2008.

Google.org recently donated $2.75 million to Aptera and Actacell, a Lithium-Ion battery producer. Touchstone Energy Cooperative wants in on the action too, with a shameless Aptera plug to show they’re environmentally conscious. But the video gives you a good view of the car:

On the Vauxhall Flextreme

Flextreme

To be honest with you, I, and I’m sure a lot of other Americans, had never heard of Vauxhall (not Vauhxall or Vauxhaul, like many articles mistake) before they came out with the Flextreme (not Flexstream or Flexstreme…this car’s name is a disaster). But the GM owned Vauxhall could be a key player in the future of the electric car industry. GM is making the bold and longsighted claim that it will build 220,000 Flextremes a year in Great Britain by 2015. And our friends across the pond seem pretty excited. Production should begin around 2012 with around 20,000 built the first year.

The Flextreme is, simply put, a Chevy Volt with a different body. Much like the Volt, the Flextreme will travel around 40 miles on a charge, but the British car will use a small, turbo-diesel motor that will kick in to act as a generator much like the Volt’s gasoline generator. Not exactly cutting edge technology, but if GM actually pulls through for us, this car could be a great electric daily-driver for the majority of us who do not commute. The Flextreme will be released in the the American market at around $40,000, but this is all very early to be making too many predictions. Here is Vauxhall’s official Flextreme page for more info. Vauxhall also seems to be banking on the Segway People Mover finally becoming mainstream, as they have a special Segway unloader in the back of the concept. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that’s not making it to the production model, and they better change the name too.

When EV startups go wrong (Spark EV)

Spark EV

The electric automobile industry seems to a have wild, wild west aura about it right now, with its brave, independent startups and entrepreneurs, gold diggers, snake-oil salesmen, and vigilante policing. This atmosphere will continue until the big guns decide to take over and crush the little guys.

But for now, we have companies like Spark EV. Apparently, it was run by a guy in his basement, but still managed to make VentureBeat’s “30 electric car companies ready to take over the road” It mainly just consisted of a guy buying electric cars from China and selling them to dealerships in America; not rocket science. Well, homeboy couldn’t operate at the speed of business and the dealerships got mad over undelivered cars. Mad enough to press charges and effectively end our guy’s operation. But before this, he did create enough hype to be recognized on the world stage with his computer generated image of the Comet concept (see above, it was supposed to be released early 2008). Did he even have the wheels yet? Was it really going be fabricated, or was he a snake oil salesman looking for investors? We’ll never know, you can make your own educated guess from the Spark EV site, which now is nothing but a spiteful tale written by the CEO about his company’s demise. Speaking about yourself in the third person in fairy tale format never helps your credibility. I don’t know if this story is encouraging because it seems as though anyone can start an electric vehicle business, or disappointing because some of the major players in the ev market are such shady operations.