Auto show unveils options for skipping the gas pump

13 02 2010

Todd Loesch/MEDILL

Ever wanted to go 125 mph and still get 100 mpg? Meet the Karma, which runs up to 50 miles on electricity and can be charged from a conventional wall outlet.

Auto show unveils options for skipping the gas pump

by Todd Loeschand Kevin Jacobs
Feb 12, 2010

FORD Engine

Todd Loesch/MEDILL

In addition to the all-electric Ford Transit Connect, the Detroit automaker also plans on unveiling three more electric cars by 2012. The engine can get up to 80 miles in a single charge.

Kevin Jacobs and Todd Loesch/MEDILL

Fuel efficiency is the name of the game at the Chicago auto show, with several car companies unveiling new hybrid and even gas-free models.

As fears of global warming fears rise along with gasoline prices, auto companies and consumers alike are putting their faith in alternative fuels.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at the Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place, where industry heavy-hitters and lots of new upstarts unveiled cars designed to sip less gas or even avoid it entirely.

But the possibilities for powering your car extend from the futuristic to the downright wacky. Here’s a roundup of what’s around the corner – at the auto show and beyond.

Not surprisingly, hybrids are becoming more popular, and they’re becoming more reliant on batteries than gas.

Almost all hybrids on the market now use a combination of a gas engine and electric motor. The electric motor  typically relies on lithium-ion batteries and powers the car at low speeds. The gas engine kicks in once the car passes a certain threshold, usually around 25 miles per hour.

One such car is the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, which won the Hermance Vehicle Efficiency Award. Toyota also displayed a plug-in version of its Prius model, as well as the concept FT-CH, a small compact hybrid. Volkswagen also plans to jump into the U.S. market with a hybrid version of its Touareg SUV.

So what if you want to avoid gas stations altogether? Well don’t worry, the wait is almost over.

Chevy upped the ante with the Volt. Although it still has a gas engine, owners can drive gas- and emissions-free for up to 40 miles, thanks to an electric motor that’s powered by lithium-ion batteries.

Once the charge wears down, the gas engine kicks in. The Volt should hit showroom floors in Washington, DC, California and Michigan in November.

For the wealthier – but still environmentally conscious – car enthusiast, there’s the Karma, by Fisker Automotive, based in California. According to a Fisker spokesman, the sleek sports car can run up to 50 miles on a single charge. The Karma goes from 0-60 in 6 seconds and tops out at 125 mph, all while averaging 100 mpg. It even boasts a solar panel on the roof that powers the climate control system.

Of course, all that technology isn’t cheap. When the car is released later this year, it will have a price tag of around $87,000.

Ford debuted the entirely electric version of the Transit Connect, a small van designed mainly for fleet use. Ford partnered with Azure Dynamics in creating the new Transit Connect. According to Fleet Marketing Manager Gerry Koss, Ford also plans on releasing three more electric vehicles by 2012.

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