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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Fareed Zakaria: 500 MPG with Plug-ins and Biofuels

Fareed Zakaria writes Over the last five years, technology has matured in various fields, most importantly in semiconductors,to make possible cars that are as convenient and cheap as current ones,except that they run on a combination of electricity and fuel.Hybrid technology is the answer to the petroleum problem. Hybrid cars already can run on a battery and petroleum. "plug-in" hybrids is the next step,with powerful batteries that are recharged at night like laptops, cell phones and iPods. Ford, Honda and Toyota already make simple hybrids. Daimler Chrysler is introducing a plug-in version soon. In many states in the American Middle West you can buy a car that can use any petroleum, or ethanol, or methanol—in any combination. Ford, for example, makes a number of its models with "flexible-fuel tanks." (Forty percent of Brazil's new cars have flexible-fuel tanks.) Put all this technology together and you get the car of the future, a plug-in hybrid with a flexible-fuel tank.
The current crop of hybrid cars get around 50 miles per gallon,with a plug-in and it can provide 75 miles. Replace the conventional fuel tank with a flexible-fuel tank that can run on a combination of 15 percent petroleum and 85 percent ethanol or methanol, and you get between 400 and 500 miles per gallon of gasoline. (You don't get 500 miles per gallon of fuel, but the crucial task is to lessen the use of petroleum. And ethanol and methanol are much cheaper than gasoline, so fuel costs would drop dramatically.) Fareed concludes, "Smart government intervention would include a combination of targeted mandates, incentives and spending,could make this happen".

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