Trainspotting…

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©Nikki Kahn - The Washington Post

One morning just over a year ago, I was surprised to see the above photo taken from President Obama’s Washington, DC-bound train appear in a Washington Post collection from the inauguration. It was still a novelty to see anything pro-EV in a major publication, but what struck me at the time was that I had no idea who these people in Delaware were. Not long before, the plug-in movement was small enough that not only would we have known about something like this before it happened, we would have been the ones out there with the signs freezing our butts off.

A little googling revealed that the local Chrysler plant had recently closed, and these folks were hoping to see it re-opened and used to build a new generation of electric cars. I haven’t heard about them since (though the former Saturn plant in the area is slated for Fisker) but the image stuck with me. A simple group, a simple message- and a deep belief that the two were enough to change things. The story of my life, so to speak.

And we have; nearly every major automaker now has a plug-in car in the works. The first ones are scheduled to hit their initial market areas by the end of the year. But the flip side of that coin is how much work there is to be done in the same time frame; a walk through this season’s conference hallways reveals smiling faces on top of heavy shoulders and whispering among veterans about whether it’s all going to get done. Which is why I’m baffled that various stakeholders have started to “declare victory” and talk about what’s next.

We’re in an odd phase, trying to balance the tension of public excitement for what’s to come with the frustration that it’s not here just yet. In many ways, this is when the bulk of the work begins, much of it unseen and un-sexy: the final engineering shakeouts in extreme temperatures, the combing and refining of labyrinthian charger installation and DMV processes, dealer training, service manual writing, and so on. Having worked though a vehicular generation where we got through all of those things, had EVs on the road with seemingly more to come and still had it all go south, I know we’re not nearly in a secure enough spot to relax.

The worst thing we can do now is to get complacent- not because those involved aren’t serious, but because intention alone isn’t enough. And if what appears to be light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be the oncoming train, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.

But when we really do get it done? Oh, we’re throwing one hell of a party.

Multiple Climax…

CocoEco Sexy 1

CocoEco Sexy 2

The latest in the CocoEco series- full background here

Multiple Car-ma

We think eco-friendly vehicles have gotten a bum rap, aesthetically. The butt of countless jokes on The Simpsons, they’re certainly better for the planet, but some folks still consider driving one to be a legitimate form of birth control. While there have been some vehicles over the years that have rightfully earned that designation, the tide is definitely turning- this month, we bring you a veritable orgy of vehicles sure to make hearts beat faster:

Fisker Karma

One of the most highly-anticipated vehicles of the year, the Karma is a series plug-in hybrid, running for 50 miles on battery power with two electric motors producing 403hp. After that, a 2-liter direct inject gasoline engine kicks in, providing “unlimited” range as long as you’re near a gas station. Henrik Fisker has spent his career designing cars for the likes of Aston Martin; the unabashedly sexy Karma (and it’s sister model, the Sunset convertible) reflect it. Starting at $87,900 and due to be delivered in June 2010, we can’t wait to get behind the wheel of one. With 1,400 orders already taken, however, we might just have to get in line.

 

BMW 335d

BMW has long been a benchmark of style and refinement; now, it seeks to introduce the fuel long-favored in Europe for its efficiency to the US with its “clean diesel” technology. A 3.0 liter turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine provide 23/26mpg, while the higher torque of the diesel engine allows the, um, thrust, of a larger gasoline engine. With a base price of $43,900 and legal in all 50 states (though using biodiesel will likely void your warranty), the 335d is sure to get Americans thinking a little differently about diesel.


Tesla Roadster 2.0 and Model S

Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, recently announced to Bloomberg viewers that driving a Tesla was the surest way to get a date- we think it can’t possibly hurt. To their credit, Tesla  Motors shattered the golf cart myth with the introduction of the Roadster in 2006, and is now delivering the 2010 Roadster 2.0, a slightly refined version of the $109,000, 244-mile range, 0-60 in 3.9 second pocket rocket. With over 1,000 orders and a delivery date still 2+ years away, the 4-door, $57,400 (base) eco-sleek Model S might be even hotter.

Honda Clarity-

There’s little arguing that the garnet-colored, teardrop shaped Clarity is one of the best looking cars on the road- of any fuel. Sleek and refined, with an interior tastefully crafted of petroleum free resins and bio-based fabrics, it is the very definition of compelling. It’s hydrogen fuel cell powerplant also renders it obscenely expensive to make (Honda won’t specify costs, but the $600/mo to lease one of only 200 made for 3 years is a downright bargain) and inconvenient to refuel. What we’re most excited about with the Clarity, however, is the potential- a plug-in hybrid with that skin and a Honda nameplate would be very tough to beat.

 

Venturi Fetish-

We had to include an honorable mention for the name alone. This Monaco-based electric vehicle sports 150 miles of range and a top speed of 100mph, but at a cost of 297,000 Euros (approx $425,000) and a production limit of 25 vehicles, you probably won’t see too many on the road. Still, we have to appreciate a company that boldly states where others merely hint.