16 January 2009

Electric vehicles coming to a car share near you?

It's that time of year again. Time for thousands of people to descend on Detroit and see what the car companies have come up with this year. (Do note: HOURCAR is not a bunch of car nuts. We all see cars as, in the best case, a small part of the transportation system. Hence car sharing. A case in point: several days this past summer we had to make sure someone brought a car to work as an emergency vehicle for us to use in case we had to go to one of the HOURCAR hubs, otherwise we'd all come by bus, bike or foot.) So we've had a peripheral interest in the goings on at the NAIAS, especially as the car companies promise more green offerings to come.

What is some of the gossip?

1. The new 2010 Prius will have slightly more room and better mileage. It's not perfect, but an improvement over the current generation. Look for some of these in the fleet in the coming year. A Toyota-made plug-in Prius is also in the works, but no time frame is out for that. Of course, we already have a couple of PHEVs!

2. Honda has a new hyrbid out, too. It's called the Insight, but isn't a tiny, two-seater anymore. It also doesn't get 65 mpg, but it's a bit more practical. We'll be assessing these for the HOURCAR fleet going forwards.

3. The most interesting news, however, is the news of Toyota's FTEV, which stands for "Future Toyota Electric Vehicle." How clever. It's not so much that Toyota is planning a small, electric car (there have been lots of other rumours about little EVs, such as the Smart Fortwo EV) but that, according to a New York Times blog piece, they are targeting the car as car sharing organisations.

But Toyota isn’t looking at the conventional car market for the FTEV. Instead, it sees the car as ideal for the growing market in car-sharing vehicles.

“We’re focusing less on traditional commercial use,” said Bob Reinert, national manager of Toyota’s advanced technology group.

That's pretty cool, I think.

What would you like to see from the car companies?

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