Where Have All the Carmakers Been?

By: Michael Dappert

If you drive past a car dealer these days you will see a lot full of big gas guzzling cars and trucks. It is not just American makers but also foreign makers who are sitting on some inventory that I would think they will have a hard time moving.

I was in a Toyota dealer last week. They have the Prius which is a fine vehicle. They also have a hybrid Highlander which is a van that is a pretty big vehicle. But, right in the middle of the show room was a pickup truck that was huge. It had 18 inch wheels and extended cab and it was rated at about 16 mpg.

Our local Chevy dealer has a lot full of big pickup trucks. If gas continues to go up will they be able to sell them? Probably some will sell because this is a rural farming area and some of those people actually need a truck with some power and capacity to haul stuff.

But really, where have these carmakers been the last few years? Yes Toyota has the Prius. And Honda has the Civic. And Ford has the Escape Hybrid, which I own. Saturn has a hybrid vehicle, but all it does is shut the motor off when you are at a stop. Why are there not more of these vehicles being made? I really don't know.

General Motors is working on a car they call the Volt. They say it will be out in 2010. Well that is 2 1/2 years from now. It is a good effort and it might be a cool car. There will be a straight plug in model that runs off of electric. There will also be a model with a gas engine that charges that batteries to run the electric motors. I think there will be another ethanol model also.

Really the Volt is kind of a sad thing since GM had an electric car on the road called the EV1. It seems like most of them were sold out in California and they had a waiting list. Look at these specs, 0 to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, a top speed of 140 mph, and a range of 120 miles. We are not talking golf cart here. Then GM just killed the whole thing. There even is a movie about the car released by Sony Pictures call Who Killed the Electric Car. I would like to see the movie.
There currently is not a major manufacturer producing an electric vehicle. But at one time there was the GM EV1, the Toyota RAV4 EV, a Honda EV, a Ford EV Ranger. These cars were produced in the 1990's and then killed by their manufacturers. If production and development had continued for the past decade we would have a significant number of these vehicles on the road by now.

I would like a car that I could hook up to some solar panels to charge. I have six solar panels I use in the colder months to power fans and blow heat from heat collectors into the house. I could use them during the summer months to charge my car batteries. Or I would be happy to buy more solar panels to hook up to a car to charge it up.

There are some independent manufacturers making electric cars. They tend to be pretty expensive vehicles as far as I can tell. It will take a manufacturer like GM to produce a car with the economics of scale to have the price at a point where the public will buy it. I mean what we need is a car that anyone can buy.

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