We Can See The Future – And It’s Very Green

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As children, when we dreamed about the “car of the future,” it probably had wings and looked a lot like the vehicles zipping around outer space in the Jetson cartoons.

Well, you can say goodbye to George and Jane Jetsn, and hello to “Telsa,” “Volt” and “Phil.”

Those are three examples of fuel-efficient vehicles that are on the market now, or soon will be. While the style and size of the Telsa and the Volt seem more suited to a driver salving his mid-life crisis rather than shuttling a growing family, all three represent a wide-range of fuel choices and flexibility for future families who have no intention of slowing down for a silly fossil fuel crisis.

Here’s a sneak peak at what’s here now, or on the horizon, for future green vehicles:

Plug-In Hybrids: The wildly popular Toyota Prius is due for its third upgrade in 2009. but it may not be quite ready to include a “plug-in” option currently being tested. Plug-in hybrids recharge their batteries by plugging into a home outlet, providing more power to extend the range of electric-only driving.

General Motors is developing a plug-in, electric/gasoline hybrid called the Volt, and other manufacturers, including Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and others may not be far behind.

Solar Powered Hybrids: Rumor has it that Toyota is also testing a Prius with a solar panel on its roof, providing electric power to the fuel-efficient hybrid. The panels are not large enough to produc electricity to run the car, but they could power the air conditioning, whichis a great draw on the Prius’ small hybrid engine.

Electric Vehicles: Who said the electric car is dead? A company by the name of Telsa is already producing a sharp-looking roadster that is 100 percent electric, super speedy and costs over $100,000 to start. If you want one, get in line They are in limited production and there’s a waiting list.

E-Flex: According to HybridCars.com, the General Motors E-Flex system that debuted in the prototype Chevrolet Volt would power an electric drive vehicle with batteries, a hydrogen fuel cell or a hybrid electric powerplant running on gasoline, diesel or an alternative fuel like ethanol.

Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV): This system utilizes an electric motor that is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell battery that never needs gasoline. Many automakers are developing FCVs: the Honda FCX Clarity will be available for lease in Southern California in 2009, and General Motors is hosting “Project Driveway,” a promotion that invites families to test a prototype Chevrolet Equinox FCV in daily driving.You’ll also find in FCVs many commercial fleets, where hydrogen filling stations are readily accessible.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG): If you travel, you’ve probably already ridden in a CNG-powered vehicle because many airpor shuttle buses are powered by compressed natural gas. This process consists of compressin natural gas that is clear, odorless and non-corrosive to pressures of up to 3,100 pounds per square inch. Last year, Honda made a big splash by introducing its Civic GX with an at-home CNG filling station called, appropriately, “Phil.”

Air-powered Cars: Tata Motors of India has a licence to build air-powered cars – vehicles that run on air pressure – and Ford is reportedly working with UCLA to bring the concept to the U.S. Current prototypes have a top speed of about 70 mph and can travel a distance of more than 100 mils before the air pressure canisters and must be refilled

For parents who are interested in what the world is like when their kids become parents, the future of the auto world looks very brght…and very green.