An Alternative Fuel Vehicle Primer

You are a good citizen caught in the maelstrom of high fuel prices, global warming concerns, and the desire to do the right thing. To help prod you into action when faced with the predicament of embracing an alternative fuel vehicle which promises lower transportation costs and fresher air versus ending up with a vehicle unfit for your needs you to turn, what else, a primer.

So in typical wiki format there are four basic types of alternative fuel vehicles. Those that run exclusively on batteries such as the ill-fated EV-1 from General Motors. Next are SUVs and sedans that run on a combination of gas engine and electric motors such as the hybrids from Ford, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan. Thirdly are flex-fuel vehicles that can run on ethanol or gasoline. The last category is cars with hydrogen burning powerplants.

A major subgroup of the electric only category are the neighborhood cars that are limited by law to 25 mph and have a range that seldom exceeds 50 miles like the Zenn, a cute two door with an optional sunroof no less. The battery powered Zap has one wheel in front and two in back and this configurations enables it to be registered as motorcycles and thus reach speeds up to 40 miles per hour with a 40-mile range. Very handy, according to Taryn Sokolow, the director of EnVironmental Motors in Glendale, one of the first dealerships that just sells electric transportation. (818-549-0000) The top seller at the dealership is the Zappy 3 Personal Transport, a fancy way to say three-wheeled scooter. Priced around $850 these Zappys are zippy with speeds over 10 mph and the ability to travel up hills. Call it a poor man’s Segway.

Two other subgroups of the electric only are the retro fit cars that have their gasoline innards removed and 
batteries and motors installed such as the eBox, a Scion xB converted
 by AC Propulsion (  and those vehicles exclusively built 
with electric power in mind.  This latter category has two spectacular stars at the moment
 is the $98,000 Tesla, a carbon fiber sports car, and the “get er done” Phoenix five passenger pick-up truck.
Both are exceptional engineering accomplishments with the Tesla being built for speed
and handling and the Phoenix being created for fleet owners with a price half of the Tesla. 
The Phoenix has passed crash safety tests and is quite versatile with a 54-inch bed, sturdy ride, and 100-mile range
 plus a very fast recharge rate. (909-987-0815) Tesla’s builders promise a sedan with more range
 and less speed than the sports car that can ready 60 mph in about four seconds
 with several hundred already on order and a dealership planned for Santa Monica. (650-413-6270) 

The flex fuel or ethanol cars are available from manufactures such as General Motors and Chrysler, but although there are 10,000 gas stations in California there are only about five that have ethanol at this time.

Hybrids use a small gas engine to charge a core of batteries. The engines also run when the car needs additional power such as speeds above 30 mph. They come in many forms, but the small SUV such as the Ford Escape and the compact sedan are the main sellers. Hybrids don’t need to be plugged in and can provide over 40 mpg plus consumption figures.

Hydrogen powered cars are just coming to the market with Honda leading the way. BMW and GMC have viable vehicles being tested, but the lack of hydrogen refueling stations and a limited range take away from the fact they don’t pollute and have a range of over 100 miles. There aren’t many refueling stations, but home units are available and Chevrolet is currently doing a promotion to put their hydrogen-powered vehicles into regular households. For a list of refueling stations go to

Honda also has a proven Civic that runs on natural gas (CNG). It has a range of 200 miles and is high occupancy lane certified. You can even order a home refueling station that enables you to top off your car every night while it is parked in your garage. A review of this Civic is at

The future looks even more promising with such sporty cars as the Volt from Chevrolet, which is also offering Los Angeles area residents the opportunity to drive their fuel cell vehicle by applying online.

With the average commute for Americans being under 30 minutes nearly every type of alternative fuel vehicle could be used to get to work with quiet efficiency as well as scoot to the beach or view the sunset from the bluffs through the clean air you helped to conserve. Cool stuff and you can take pride in knowing that you were one of the early adaptors who made alternative fuel vehicles mainstream.

Review of hybrid vehicles

Tax incentives

List of electric vehicle manufactures

Listing of all manufacture websites