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Ford, GM jump into green-car fray

Posted February 16, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— Automakers showcased their newest environmentally friendly models at International Auto Expo in Raleigh this weekend, including an SUV that can get up to 120 miles a gallon.

Car enthusiast Carl Jensen was among those who strolled around the Expo. He said he doesn't see a more expensive hybrid vehicle making financial sense during tough economic times.

“When they get that cost down, then the hybrid could be a solution. But right now, I don't think it's a viable solution,” he said.

Ford, GM get into green car fray Ford, GM get into green car fray

Automakers say they are trying to bring down those costs and go even greener. Ford showed off a new Escape plug-in hybrid vehicle.

“You could easily just plug this in, put it in your garage, five to 10 hours later, you have a fully charged vehicle,” said Peter Jap, with Ford.

Peter Jap, with Ford Motor Company, said the charge allows you to drive up to 40 miles on an electric motor.

Progress Energy is testing a plug-in hybrid in the Triangle. The company is studying how much charging an electric car might add to a person's power bill.

"A plug-in vehicle ... is probably only adding about the same amount of electricity as a blender in your kitchen might, in the long run,” the utility's Scott Sutton said.

General Motors showed off its stable of green vehicles for 2009. There were a lot of choices, from hybrid SUVs to a flex-fuel Hummer.

Despite greener vehicles to choose from, some people might be asking if now is the right time to buy a new car.

“I think so. Right now, more than ever, you can get the best deals at the dealerships. They're willing to work with you,” said Araba Dowell, with General Motors.

Jensen said hybrid technology is just an interim step on the way to a greener auto industry.

“Hybrid is what we can buy right now. But if you're patient, I think that will change,” Jensen said.

Ford plans to have a family of plug-in, battery and hybrid vehicles by 2012. Chevrolet plans to introduce an electric car to the consumer market by the end of next year. Toyota says it plans to add solar panels to its hybrid Prius in 2010.

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  • Mobile Geek Feb 16, 2009

    "Raise gas taxes to provide incentives to purchase very high fuel efficent vehicles."

    Aaaahhh, more taxes. The ultimate social engineering tool in the government arsenal.

  • Sophie Lowe Feb 16, 2009

    The automakers are predicting a 3-5% market for these, similar to hybrids. So in a lot of ways it is much ado about nothing, I guess.

  • bama95 Feb 16, 2009

    If NC continues as planned (see I-540 change to NC-540), it will all be toll roads which are automatically detected and billed to the owner (regardless of who is driving with the fake rfid chip or license plate).

  • ThisIsMyName Feb 16, 2009

    Raise gas taxes to provide incentives to purchase very high fuel efficent vehicles.

  • bama95 Feb 16, 2009

    "Me, I'll never own one- can't afford to be that green, the payback is not good enough. Cool technology, though."

    I may be with you on that one. That's what I see as the biggest issue right now - the up front costs. Most of the rest I think will resolve itself, but I'm afraid we may have to deal with a huge increase in gas prices before this is worthwhile for the average consumer.

  • jockeyshiftspringer Feb 16, 2009

    How will the "guberment" collect taxes on electric cars? We currently pay something like 48.6 cents per gallon on gas burners for local, state and federal. Will the electric company collect the taxes? Flat tax on mileage?

  • Sophie Lowe Feb 16, 2009

    Technically you are correct, BAMA95. The thing is there needs to be enough intelligence in the power grid to not allow the car to charge when it would cause an overload.

    Most folks using these are going to want it "automagic"- come home at 6, plug it in and forget about it. And they won't tolerate smoke pouring out of the transformer in their front yard or power pole.

    This means the house meter has to be smart enough to shed the charging load, without the use of a smoke detector as the trigger (LOL). And it means a "special" plug needs to be installed that can be controlled by the meter.

    This is all do-able, but I think it is unwise to assume you can have these things plugged in en masse without any controls.

    Me, I'll never own one- can't afford to be that green, the payback is not good enough. Cool technology, though.

  • Sophie Lowe Feb 16, 2009

    "Perhaps it's just me, but I use less than a third of my electricity consumption at night which is when most charging would take place"
    Technically you are correct, BAMA95. The thing is there needs to be enough intelligence in the power grid to not allow the car to charge when it would cause an overload.

    Most folks using these are going to want it "automagic"- come home at 6, plug it in and forget about it. And they won't tolerate smoke pouring out of the transformer in their front yard or power pole.

    This means the house meter has to be smart enough to shed the charging load, without the use of a smoke detector as the trigger (LOL). And it means a "special" plug needs to be installed that can be controlled by the meter.

    This is all do-able, but I think it is unwise to assume you can have these things plugged in en masse without any controls.

    Me, I'll never own one- can't afford to be that green, the payback is not good enough. Cool technology, though.

  • bama95 Feb 16, 2009

    "I must disagree. Typical conventional power plants are in the 30% energy efficiency range, too. That plus trasmission losses and you are pretty close to ICEs as far as overall energy use."

    In that comparison, you have to calculate in the losses for distribution and processing of gasoline from crude as well which moves this much below the pure calculation of engine consumption. Electric still comes out on top with a pretty wide margin. The next year or two will reveal a lot as many new hybrids are expected and real world numbers instead of what manufacturers release or clean test environments provide better data.

  • cadetsfan Feb 16, 2009

    moderatorsnightmare, the batteries actually do recycle well so it's not an issue. I do see the irony of replacing mobile gasoline emissions with stationary coal emissions. We'd need to revise our electric grid with less coal and more zero-emission generators for it to not seem strange.

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