Over the last thirty years or so we have seen a gradual infiltration of foreign energy efficient cars into our market.
In North America the big three auto manufacturers seem to have been pre-occupied with the large gas-guzzling automobiles. There have been some smaller cars built in N.A. but not particularly efficient or long lasting. It is just recently that we have seen General Motors (GM) replaced by Honda as the largest car manufacturer in the world. The Big Three seem to have been very reluctant to move away from the gasoline burning auto.
Foreign automobile manufacturers introduced hybrid technology that blends gas burning with electric powered engines. There are a number of models from a number of manufacturers available on the North American market. They tend to use electricity to power them at lower speeds and when the battery looses charge the gasoline engine will kick in and power the car and recharge the battery.
One of the first commercially available all electric cars produced in North America was the ZENN - Zero Emissions No Noise. It was built in Quebec, was a totally electric car made for city use. It will go a maximum of 40 km per hour and will last about 2 hours before needing to be recharged. They are classified as a Low Speed Vehicle (LSV) and although approved by the Federal Government the provinces have been slow to allow them to be licensed for street use. At this point British Columbia has approved their use. Quebec has approved their use in a few cities. They can be licensed in 45 American states. As a result most of these cars were built for export. Unfortunately, they are no longer being produced because of the restricted domestic market.
A number of years ago GM had an electric car for lease in California, that seemed to have great potential but it was shelved. Finally, GM was the first North American major car company to come out with an all electric car, the Volt. Ford is responding with the battery electric vehicle (BEV) Focus which will seat 5 people. They are also producing the BEV Ford Transit Connect work truck. Of course there is the Nissan Leaf which is being well received.
The Tesla is a totally electric car, built in California. It shows great promise. It can travel at highway speeds and the charge can take it up to 380 Kilometres. It can be plugged into any electrical out-let and totally recharge within a few hours. The Tesla Roadster is an extremely responsive and comfortable sports car.
Another interesting development is the partnership between a French auto-maker and Nissan of Japan to build an electric car to be marketed in Israel. The project is to establish a network of battery charge and exchange depots for lithium-ion batteries throughout the country by 2011. Israel is considered ideal for such a project because the country is small; thus long distance car travel is uncommon.
Over the last few decades there has been a gradual movement toward fuel efficiency and emission reduction. It would seem that the increase in the cost of petroleum will accelerate the development of more energy efficient cars. This is particularly true in North America, as the market for larger cars and trucks has shifted to greater fuel efficiency.
These developments have the advantage of reducing fuel costs for automobile owners in the future. Another huge advantage will be the reduction of pollution in large cities. Another innovation in the concept of efficient cars is the
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