More Hybrid Electric-Gasoline Powered Vehicles Hit the Road

Article excerpt

The greening of Oklahoma has just begun.

As carmakers see public acceptance of electric, compressed natural gas or other alternative fueled cars and trucks, along with the hybrid models that use a combination of fuels, there are going to be more and more of them on the road.

Already, Honda has made a lot of inroads with its Insight and Toyota is making a lot of noise with its Prius, two new hybrid electric-gasoline powered buggies.

Both use the electric engine through town and commuting, but automatically switch to a small internal combustion engine when additional power or speed is needed, usually on the freeways.

With the upside-down world of electric-powered cars, both of these get better mileage in town than on the highway, because the electric engine consumes no gasoline. The internal combustion engine is used in town to rekindle the batteries and to provide spurts of power.

Braking systems on both also are regenerative to help recharge the battery, eliminating the need for a separate electric charging system.

Both also have inherent weaknesses that consumers are willing to live with in exchange for cleaner air. The Insight, although slightly larger than a compact car, has room for two passengers and cargo totaling 400 pounds. Its truck is so small that only two bags of groceries can fit into it.

The Prius has a little more capacity, but not much.

These hybrid cars are part of the answer to criticism to electric cars that have an extremely limited range and long recharging times.

Ford has Th!nk in development in Sweden. Although it's not in America yet, we've all seen the television commercials where the obnoxious woman takes hers to a service station for fuel or to have the exhaust emissions tested.

If nothing else, the commercials may keep me from buying one.

At any rate, commuters are beginning to at least look at the electric car bandwagon, which means that manufactures can't be far behind with major improvements to attract an even wider audience.

Most of the electrics, hybrids and dedicated compressed natural gas cars and trucks are aimed at cities and states with the worst air pollution problems.

Since Oklahoma doesn't fall into this category, these green cars are just trickling in.

Big gains, though, are being made at airports, especially Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport.

Southwest Airlines is rapidly converting its ground support vehicles to electric power at the airport. The company has entered a long-term agreement with Mid-Del Technology Center to train its maintenance and support crews.

Working through the vocational-technical school's Electric Vehicle Center, the airline is moving as fast as practicality will allow to create green stations within its operating network.

Other airlines also are convert to electricity to power their ground support equipment.

Because of this, the airport is rapidly building an infrastructure to support, said John Goodwin, Will Rogers' facilities maintenance manager.

"We are taking on the attitude that we've got to clean up the air, especially around airports," Goodwin said during a meeting of the Central Oklahoma Clean Cities Stakeholders.

New electric equipment along with compressed natural gas refueling stations are under construction at the airport as part of the terminal expansion. …