Green Update–>The Volt, the Ampera, and Some Weird Stuff

Opel's Ampera, the first pre-production vehicle

You don’t have to tell the people of Michigan that there is a lot riding on the Volt. A recent AP story documents how GM and its workers, and the state they live in, feel the car is crucial to the car industry’s viability in the U.S.

Is that an overstatement? Well, maybe not.

The state has lost 860,000 jobs in a decade, the majority since 2007. Gov. Jennifer Granholm recently noted the state has shed 78 percent of its auto manufacturing jobs in the last 10 years, as GM, Chrysler and more than 50 suppliers declared bankruptcy.

In a way, everybody, not just Michigan, is rooting for this car. GM has put $700 million into its production facilities, and apparently has made a deal to import the Opel Ampera (preproduction car shown above), “a Volt with a nose job,” from Germany and sell it as a Buick in China (with another name) in the first half of 2011.

Talk about internationalizing the car biz!

Whether or not the car lives up to the hype and hopefulness surrounding it, the Volt has come to symbolize the rebirth of the electric car. Autoblog Green ran a piece yesterday on the 1920 Milburn Electric, showing that EV technology is far from new. One hopes it may finally be achievable.

The Milburn had swappable batteries à la Better Place, a 100-mile range, tiller steering, and “dynamic braking,” whereby the motor helps brake the car. It is still a pretty neat, drivable car, as the video demonstrates. In some respects it actually outclasses the new EVs.

Meguru electricIf you think the new EVs are too complex and too tech-y, a Japanese group is going to make and sell an electric taxi-rickshaw made of, among other things, bamboo and paper. The thing is kind of crazy-beautiful, marrying Japanese traditional craftsmanship with an age-old rickshaw concept and battery power.

It’s called the Meguru, has a lithium ion battery, a 25-mile range on a 2-hour charge, and a top speed of 25 mph. Its makers want it to sell “for less than $10,000.” I don’t know: Rickshaws are a lot cheaper, and human bike power doesn’t need a 2-hour recharge.

PorscheSpeaking of which, Porsche has unveiled a prototype bike called the Hybrid RS that has a small electric motor and rechargeable battery pack that regenerates on a downhill run. Autoweek reports, however, that the bike “also features an iPhone, which offers both battery charging status as well as GPS.”

Come on, Porsche, we don’t need a bloody iPhone on a cross-country bike.

Old tech is new again. Tell us whether you think modern electric cars are finally going to be viable transportation devices.


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  1. Are there any electric vehicle experts in the Mpls, MN area who may be interested in giving a 45 minutes presentation on this topic?

  2. Depends on what you’re buying. The Leaf already has 19,000 pre-orders. Nissan must be doing something right. The issue for the electrics is their distribution network of charging stations. I understand this thing will go 100 miles without a charge. Also spurring sales is the $6-7 K credit the Feds are offering. I certainly don’t buy into the weirdos shown above but I will buy into the hybrid mentality since it makes sense…..IF you insist on buying a hybrid.

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