One solution that holds promise is the plug-in hybrid. A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is a hybrid, much like the Prius However, plug-in hybrids require extra battery power, either a couple extra lead acid batteries or larger nickel metal hydride batteries. Plug-in hybrids contain extra lead acid batteries. Unlike the hybrids just discussed, at night these cars are plugged into a 120- or 220 volt outlet (like a dryer outlet). This charges the extra batteries. The electrical charge, in turn, powers the vehicle in most situations. According to the Institute for Analysis of Global Security, which researches transportation options that could help us free our dependence on foreign oil, "Plug-ins run on the stored (electrical) energy for much of a typical day's driving - depending on the size of the battery up to 60 miles per charge, far beyond the commute of an average American." They go on to say that when the electrical charge is used up, the car "automatically keeps running on the fuel in the fuel tank. A person who drives every day a distance shorter than the car's electric range would never have to dip into the fuel tank."
Although some innovative researchers and companies are now converting existing hybrids to the plug-in variety, plug-ins could eventually be produced by major auto manufacturers such as Toyota. Such cars could come with larger electric motors and larger batteries.
Because most of the energy used by plug-ins comes from electricity and not from gasoline, and because electricity can be generated efficiently and cleanly from America's abundant renewable energy resources, especially solar and wind power, hybrid electrics may help us combat the coming shortages of oil without increasing global warming and a host of other environmental problems associated with fossil fuel use.
But what about performance?
According to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, "The plug-in hybrid drive system is compatible with all vehicle models and does not entail any sacrifice of vehicle performance or driver amenities. A mid-size plug-in can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than 9 seconds, sustain a top speed of 97 mph and maintain 120 mph for about two minutes even with a low battery."
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