Gasoline makes us dependent on foreign oil suppliers, and it gets our country involved in sticky military situations. Using gasoline to fuel transportation is also a major source of global warming pollution and is not sustainable. Our reliance on foreign oil is draining our economy and is a threat to national security. To reduce our dependence on oil and gasoline, we need more efficient vehicles. Improvements in efficiency could occur at the level of fuel usage, or in other areas such as the engine and the weight of materials used.
A real breakthrough in fuel-efficiency came with hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, getting 45-50 MPG. The soaring cost of gasoline has fueled the hybrid market over the past year, with Toyota Prius sales way up (+54%). In contrast, sales of gas-guzzling pickup trucks, like the Dodge Ram, are way down (-29%).
Hybrid cars introduced electricity as an alternative fuel. This innovation has opened the possibility to fuel-up by plugging your car into an electrical outlet. Just think of it, a future with plug-in electric vehicles fueled by clean, renewable energy from wind, solar or hydro power!
Toyota may be the first to market a plug-in hybrid electric car. The next generation Prius, due around 2009, will likely use a plug-in system. Toyota is now using their proven nickel-metal hydride battery in prototype Prius plug-ins, but will likely switch to a lighter, more compact lithium ion battery later, once the technology is ready.
The future is now in California, where renewable energy is more plentiful and where American ingenuity has converted a Prius Hybrid to a Plug-in Hybrid that gets 100+ MPG. If you 'fill up' from a regular electrical outlet at home, the equivalent cost is under $1/gallon. If your driving is mostly local, you'd almost never need gasoline! What are we waiting for?