Everyone wonders who will come out with the first plug-in hybrid. I imagine most of us assume it will be Toyota, but I would love to be wrong. General Motors is now saying that it will unveil a plug-in hybrid prototype at the International Auto Show in Detroit in early 2007. Not many details to report at this point (don't' worry, the above image is of the Hy Wire), but the word from the blogosphere (and the LA Times) is that the GM plug-in drive train will differ from the way plug-ins are typically configured. According to reports, a charge from a conventional outlet will power the car's lithium-ion batteries which will give the car 20-30 miles of pure electric range (great for local commuting). When the batteries are depleted, a gasoline or diesel motor will kick in to charge the battery. Prototype and hacked plug-ins have thus far have used to backup internal combustion engine to actually turn the wheels, rather than recharge the battery. Presumably, GM's approach is a more efficient use of the fuel and would most likely negate the need for a transmission and otherwise simplify the drive train.While there's been a great deal of interest in plug-in hybrids, automakers aren't quite clamoring to put them on the market. Toyota has expressed interest, as has Ford, and Daimler-Chrysler is testing plug-in systems in their Sprinter vans. Google has ambitions for an ethanol plug-in, and such unlikely characters as James Woolsey, former chief of the CIA, has become a proponent. Most vocal in the call for plug-ins have been independent groups like CalCars and Plug-In America. See TreeHugger TV's coverage of the Maker Faire, at which Cal Cars did an onsite plug-in conversion, and our in-depth interview with Paul Scott of Plug In America, one of the EV1's early defenders.
GM has been chided for their sluggishness to make efficient cars as well as, of course, their "killing" of the EV1. They've put a great deal of emphasis on their ethanol vehicles as well as fuel-cell concept cars like the Hy Wire, and the Equinox, which will begin road tests with real drivers next year. It would be inspiring, though unlikely, to see an American company bring the first plug-in to the market. :: The LA Times via Hugg (google)