There is growing interest in developing hybrid electric-internal combustion eco-cars, or supercars, getting 64-128+ kilometers per liter, that is around 150-300+miles per gallon. They get most of their power from a small hybrid electric/fuel engine that makes its own electricity and uses a small battery or flywheel to provide the extra energy needed for acceleration and hill climbing.
The small gasoline engine keeps the batteries charged, thus reducing the number of batteries needed and greatly increasing the range. If needed, the electric engine could also operate emission-free in urban areas. Canada's HydroQuebec has developed a hybrid car system that places small electric motors in all four of a car's wheels.
In 1997 Toyota developed a hybrid electric/gasoline vehicle that is twice as fuel efficient as an equivalent gasoline-powered car, while significantly reducing air pollution emissions. This car, called Prius, is on the market in Japan and gets 28 miles per liter. 1n 1999, Honda began selling a fuel efficient, hybrid-engine car.
A major limitation of gaseous fuels such as natural gas and hydrogen is that they require fairly heavy and bulky fuel tanks, which reduce efficiency and range. However, a hybrid car might be able to overcome this problem by going 700 kilometers on just 5.6-11 liters of gas.
Such supercars will be lighter and safer than conventional cars because their bodies and many other parts will be made of light weight composite materials that absorb much more crash energy per unit of weight than the steel in today's car.
Today most race bar bodies are made of carbon fiber plastics, which is why race car drivers can usually walk away after hitting a wall at 320 kilometers. Car bodies and other parts made from composite materials don't rust and can be recycled. They also don't need to be painted because the desired color can be added to the molds that shape the composite materials.
Manufactured mostly by an fundamentally different process, an ecocar's composite body would take twice as many worker hours to make as its steel-bodied ancestors, yet cost a little less to make because costs. Thus, switching to such ecocars would create more jobs. Switching to hybrid ecocars with composite bodies and far fewer parts would also sharply reduce this use of minerals and the resulting pollution and environmental degradation. In 1998 Chrysler was close to perfecting a plastic car body using a cheap, common beverage-bottle plastic called PET that could have the price of a car and be on the market not later 2011.
Amory Lovins and other researcher project that with proper financial incentives, such low-polluting, ultralight, ultrasafe, ultra efficient hybrid electric/internal combustion engine cars could be on the market within a decade. With incentives such as tax creditors or energy rebates, such cars could replace much of the existing car fleet within 10-12 years.