Hybrid Car Technology Reaches Plateau?

Hybrid technology appears to have reached a plateau, as it awaits better batteries engineers say could stretch fuel efficiency even farther. How else do you explain the massive eight-passenger Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid winning the "Green Car of the Year Award" yesterday at the Los Angeles Auto Show?    

For starters, it isn’t even a car. It’s a full-size SUV, which means now it’s possible to have "green cred," while tooling around town at 21 miles per gallon. That’s right, 21. That might seem like a huge improvement to anyone who has ever taken the standard Chevy Tahoe on a road trip, but owners of true hybrid "cars" would rush their vehicles to the dealership if they suddenly dropped to only 21 mpg.

But I guess "green" is a relative color. The Tahoe Hybrid does offer a 30% increase in fuel efficiency, according to General Motors. And while the presence of night-show host Jay Leno on the judges panel weakened its credibility a bit, other members reportedly included "representatives of four environmental groups," and the award was presented by Green Car Journal, a California-based trade magazine.

Governor Schwarzenegger praised carmakers at the show saying, "They’ve proven that they can make beautiful cars, strong cars, keep the size, keep the safety, and all those kinds of things, and at the same time be more fuel efficient."

What he didn’t say, was that if California has its way, and is allowed by the EPA to implement the vehicle fuel standards it desires, 21 mpg will fall way short of the mark.

Other interesting news coming out of the show: Audi Engineers say they believe the next step in reducing carbon emissions will come from driving behavior. They suggest technology is now available to connect cars with up-to-the-minute route planning that would map a CO2 optimized path from point A to point B, instead of the shortest path.

Engineers think this kind of planning could increase fuel efficiency by 20%.


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