When the first alternative energy vehicles were introduced many years ago, they were little more than an eccentric motor and engine crammed inside a utilitarian body sitting atop four wheels. In other words, they were more of a novelty item than a solid method of transportation for consumers.
But auto designers have made countless improvements to those early models. Today’s alternative energy vehicles are not only more powerful and fuel-efficient, but they also get high marks for style, aesthetics, versatility, and reasonable auto insurance rates.
In fact, the alternative vehicle industry has grown from a tiny niche market into a viable automotive class deserving of its own public platform. That’s why last month’s 2011 Alternative Energy & Transportation Expo in Santa Monica, California attracted numerous people who wanted to check out what’s new in 2012 among hybrids, plug-ins, and other non-gasoline powered vehicles.
In all, almost three dozen retailers had vehicles on display. In addition, there were booths featuring charging stations and test drive opportunities for some of the cars. Here are some of the vehicles that were on display.
Ford Escape Hybrid
Arguably the most sought-after alternative energy sport utility vehicle. The gas/electric hybrid system provides acceleration that is similar to a standard V6 engine.
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
The American luxury automaker is entering the alternative energy market in style. After all, it’s hard to find a car that has an electric motor and heated/cooled leather seats.
The maiden effort of the Fisker car company is designed to appeal to the sports car lover who is also eco-friendly. But this long-range plug-in electric vehicle is costly, with a starting price of $95,900.
Honda Civic GX NGV
Feast your eyes on the only natural gas-powered passenger vehicle in the U.S. With a fuel economy rating of 31 mpg and a sticker price starting at $26,155, the GX NGV might just appeal to the average car buyer.
Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen-Powered Car
The FCX Clarity uses hydrogen to produce the electricity which powers this zero-emissions vehicle. Plus, the 2012 FCX is more powerful and offers more space than its predecessors.
Volkswagen Golf TDI
Volkswagen is taking a more traditional tack on alternative energy with its clean diesel-powered Golf. The TDI combines seating for five with a 2-liter, 140 horsepower engine.
Toyota Prius V Hybrid Crossover
Don’t call it a station wagon. The Prius V (for “versatility”) has a convenient, roomy hatchback and still gets 44 mpg in the city.