Because of California’s topography and high vehicle density, pollution has practically forced that state to implement the most stringent air regulation. Legislation mandated the automobile manufacturers to sell a fixed percentage of Zero Emission Vehicles. A small selection of all-electric cars from the big automakers—including Honda’s EV Plus, GM’s EV1 and S-10 electric pickup, a Ford Ranger pickup, and Toyota’s RAV4 EV—were introduced in California during the 1990s. Within a few years the enthusiasm dropped, because of their limited range and necessity to plug-in. This is true for all-electric vehicles only, but as most people already know, Hybrid Electric Vehicles never need plugging in. (The block heater, yes, in Canadian winters).
Twenty years on, we now also have plug-in hybrids.
Not only the USA suffers from pollution; London’s notorious fog has turned to smog, forcing a partial vehicle ban. The famous London Taxis are taking steps to alleviate that problem by using hybrid taxis, and also testing fuel cell taxis (FCVehicles). — more about fuel cells and their history coming soon.
The Prius (“to go before”, or “being ahead”) went on sale in Japan in 1997. Toyota caught the world by surprise with hybrid-electric technology. North America still tried to improve electric cars, and Europe was having success with nearly 50% of new cars being frugal Diesels, which emit no carbon monoxide.
The Insight from Honda came in 1999, winning numerous awards with its EPA mileage ratings of 61 mpg city and 65mpg highway (4.6 & 4.3 liters /100km) Ford released the Escape Hybrid, the first American hybrid and the first SUV hybrid in 2004.
During the infancy of Hybrid Electric Vehicles, one of the early ‘Hybrid’ websites asked this reporter to write about this “new” technology and its history. To his surprise, information from that two-part article now serves HowStuffWorks.com to elaborate on the topic.
In the meantime, several other Japanese Hybrids have been introduced; by 2008, twenty-odd models from several manufacturers were on the market, and more are introduced every year.
By now, hybrid-electric and fuel cell electric buses are transporting thousands of Canadians in Toronto, Vancouver, and elsewhere on their daily commutes, and millions of passengers in cities worldwide. Vancouver-developed fuel cells and Winnipeg-built buses are spreading the advantages of green technology, on the road to the much-quoted sustainable alternative transportation age.
There is nothing new under the sun: These “new” hybrid-electric vehicles are as old as the automobiles itself. Computer power and very complex software programs are just now giving this old technology new potential –at a time when it is very much needed to preserve precious petroleum and the natural balance of our planet.