Jun 23, 2008

C'mom, Car-makers, Make Me Want an Alternative Energy Car

One way to make alternative energy automobiles is the hard way—from the ground up. Pay for the bold exploration of uncharted energy territory, the research, the extreme engineering, the crash-testing, the production. Whew. And if you have a few bucks left, after all those millions of dollars (and all those years along the way)—before even selling a single car—spend it on marketing said car. Hey, it's alternative energy—lots of folks will want your car anyway, right?

Or, here's another idea. Take a regular, gasoline-powered car that's already designed, approved, beloved by many, and on the streets.
Remove the engine from that car and—because you specialize in battery power—insert your state-of-the-art electric-propulsion engine into that car's shell. Voila! You have an instant hybrid Mini Cooper, Chrysler Crossfire, PT Cruiser, Smart Car—or what-have-you—that's ready to roll, for little money per mile and little wasted expense on the research. This is exactly what Hybrid Technologies (NASD: HYBT), based in Mooresville, North Carolina, is doing. And the marketing division plans to offer the hybrid cars for sale in places ordinary folks shop, like Sam's Club and Wal-Mart.

The downside to converting ready-made cars to alternative energy? Sticker price would be one. First, there's the actual cost of the car. For a PT Cruiser, that sells for $20,000, the conversion practically doubles the cost to the consumer. Now, who would buy a converted car that sells for twice its normal sticker price? Well, the military, the Environmental Protection Agency, famous celebrities—for the status value, and maybe folks like us who would love a green status symbol.

I hope this trend catches on—for the sheer effect of upping the "green is cool" quotient. As far as cost per mile, I'd rather drive a vehicle that's alternative energy-based from the ground up, with a lighter body and an integrated energy-efficient design all-around. But as a stepping stone, you can't fault Hybrid Technologies for having a fun idea.

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