Going Really Green: The Nissan Leaf Hybrid And Other Electric Cars

Even though it was unveiled back in 2009, the Nissan Leaf is only now appearing in commercials and on billboards near you. It seats 5 adults and has a range of about 100 miles, goes up to 90 mph (really?), has something called CARWINGS (a telematics system that displays information), rear monitor, etc., everything you'd expect from a new car. So, yeah, it looks like a Prius on the outside and, well, a Trekified Prius on the inside. Not a bad thing, but I wonder if all hybrids - indeed, all cars - will end up looking like Priuses. Prii?

I'm more interested in the name, of course. Talk about being environmentally friendly! What could be better than a leaf? Maybe a volt? Ouch! Or bio-power - that sounds "natural"! Or maybe a converj... Wait, what?

In case you haven't been paying attention, those are the names of the recent (and future) hybrid and electric cars to hit the market. Here's a rundown:

  • Aptera (electric vehicle coming out at end of 2011)
  • BMW Hydrogen 7 (hydrogen)
  • BMW ActiveHybrid (hybrid)
  • Cadillac Converj (plug-in hybrid—in 2010 GM decided to drop this concept)
  • Cadillac Provoq (plug-in hybrid in development)
  • Chevrolet Volt (plug-in hybrid)
  • Ferrari Hy-Kers (hybrid in development)
  • Fisker Carma (plug-in hybrid)
  • GEM (Chrysler Group Global Electric Motorcars—low speed vehicle LSV)
  • Honda FCX Clarity (hydrogen)
  • Honda Insight (hybrid)
  • Mercedes BlueHybrid (hybrid)
  • Opel Ampera (European variant of the Chevrolet Volt)
  • Saab BioPower (ethanol)
  • Saturn Green Line (stop-start and hybrid - now dead)
  • Smart ForTwo (electric—more commonly known as smart car)
  • Tesla (electric)
  • Toyota Prius (hybrid)
  • Volkswagen XL1 (hybrid in development)
  • Volvo DRIVe (clean diesel - Europe)
  • Zap Xebra (electric—sounds like a video game set in a zoo)
  • Zenn (electric low speed vehicle)

Wow, those are some fancy names!

Of course, many of these are concept cars, and they may never make it to market - as was the case with the Cadillac Converj. I think my favorite is Tesla. Nikola Tesla, as you might know, was the original handsome bad-ass crazy scientist who was basically responsible for the AC power system, among scores of inventions and discoveries. Tesla and Thomas Edison famously hated each other; one of the reasons that the Tesla name works so well for the car company is that it stands in opposition to the known, the old, the tried and true. It's the anti-Edison. Tesla was European, brilliant, maverick, fashionable, and quite the showman - all attributes that Tesla Motors has embraced.

It's awesome to see electric cars coming into their own, because it's way past time for them to become the norm. I am hoping that my next car will be more like the one the Jetsons', with a big bubble on top so I can get sunburned every time I drive it to the Space Mart. Of the electric vehicles listed here, only one approaches the Jetson level of design - Aptera (pictured here). It is a three-wheeled "car" that looks like an iMac on wheels. (They're not in production yet, but they are taking pre-orders.) It's so futuristic that the Aptera 2 made a brief appearance in the last Star Trek movie, in which the bridge of the Enterprise itself appeared to be located inside an iMac. Does Apple have dibs on the way the future will look?

Perhaps we should look to the Jetsons for inspiration on names of the future. George Jetson, as you'll recall, worked at Spacely's Space Sprockets; their main competitor was Cogswell's Cosmic Cogs. Jane Jetson's favorite store was Mooning Dales. The Jetsons live in the Skypad Apartments in Orbit City. Am I detecting a pattern here? Or maybe we'll just have to wait until technology catches up with Hanna-Barbera. Speaking of which, where is that flying car they promised me?

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