This is more like it: cars we want to drive

Two very sexy cars that may just have what it takes to captivate the American driver’s imagination and desire to own a next gen, fuel choice enabling vehicle:

1. Fisker Karma plug in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). Popular Mechanics has video. Bottom line: Fisker’s Four-Door Karma Hybrid Hits 50 Miles on Li-Ion—at 125 MPH. Have we mentioned we’d love to drive this car? (hat tip: Instapundit, whose been on a roll about new vehicle technology and especially about fuel choice.)

2. Ferrari 430 Spider Biofuel

Several other exciting announcements about plug in hybrids at the Detroit autoshow, indicating a race to market by automakers. Here’s a roundup:

Saturn’s PHEV Vue: “Version 2 comes late this year using the more common nickel-metal hydride type battery packs in combination with the General’s direct-injected 3.6L V-6 to give a reported 50% boost in fuel economy. Version 3 comes late 2009 at the earliest and swaps the nickel battery for a lithium-ion unit. Those batteries will come with a plug that allows the owner to get a full grid charge in about 4-5 hours.”

Interview with several GM execs about progress on getting a GM flex fuel plug in hybrid on the road. Their target date is November 2010. test drove a plug in hybrid Toyota Prius. Note that this PHEV was made by Toyota, not converted by others like the ones Set America Free and CalCars brought to Capitol Hill – this in and of itself is progress. Toyota intends “to offer plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2010 on a lease basis to fleet customers, such as government agencies and corporations.”

Meanwhile, leaping ahead of the pack, a Chinese automaker called BYD Auto, a newcomer to the exhibition unveiled its F6 Dual Model plug-in hybrid, announcing it intends to produce the car in the second half of this year. This announcement is a strong warning of shape up or ship out to the rest of the field, along the lines of Gal Luft’s Chinese Sputnik oped.

One reporter actually got to test drive BYD’s hybrid with its chairman on the floor of the convention center: “I’m now completely taken with my good luck at getting a real test drive from the Chairman, looking back at the BYD booth now 100 feet away. I was convinced that this was the end of the trip and the car would be backed up to the booth. And then the car sped up to about 10 mph, which is an uncomfortable speed in the middle of a convention center. There was only one obstacle in the way: a press conference. Little did the ALMS people know the Chinese were on their way The American Le Mans Series was holding a press conference to discuss the environmental innovations they were making in their racing (including the introduction of E85 ethanol to the racing series). It was fitting then that the chairman of the small chinese automaker, that sells annually in China what Honda sells in a month in the US, was pointing his answer to the environmental question right at them.
“…And how was the car? I have to admit, besides it’s “heavily borrowed” styling, the F6DM was quite smooth and with a level of fit and finish that was superior to many of the other full production cars on display from China. And that electric motor? Quiet as a mouse. And though we didn’t get the high-speed tour, the car drove smoothly and easily around the floor. Is this the future? I can’t be sure. But there’s no doubt that the company’s Chairman is dedicated to proving his car works. Conventions and convention center staff be damned.”

If you will be in the market for a car in the next few years, now is the time to let your auto dealer know that you are waiting for a flex fuel plug in hybrid — automakers need to hear from you that the demand is out there, and if they want to sell you a car, they need to offer you fuel choice. Let’s get these cars on the road! As Michael Ledeen would put it, Faster Please!

UPDATE: Thanks Instapundit!

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