Is it an electric car, or does it really run on gas? Either way, the CMT-380 is sure to attract attention at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
The car was conceived by turbine-manufacturer Capstone and by Electronic Arts creative director Richard Hilleman. The CMT-380 combines a lithium-ion battery pack and a diesel-powered turbine, according to Wayne Cunningham of CNET. The battery pack can take the car 80 miles, while the 30-kilowatt turbine, which converts diesel to electric power, can recharge the battery for another 500 miles. In a sense, this is a bigger, grander, and far-less-marketable version of the Chevy Volt, which has a gas-powered generator. Capstone does not plan to release the car, but developed it to explore the market for possible applications.
The car can go zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.9 seconds, the same as a Tesla Roadster and only 0.2 seconds slower than a Tesla Roadster Sport (see video here). It tops out at 150 miles per hour.
But just how clean will electric cars be in the future? The issue remains a focal point in the hybrid and electric car debate. In general, electric cars will generate fewer greenhouse gases than gas-burning cars, but it can be a close call in coal-intense states like Ohio and Indiana. Ironically, Hawaii, which hopes to open a series of electric charging stations with Better Place, is currently one of the worst states for cutting emissions with electric cars. The vast majority of its electric power comes from diesel.
Ford, meanwhile, announced a six-cylinder Mustang for 2011 that gets 30 miles per gallon on the highway (19 miles per gallon in the city), which is high for a car in that class. The previous model got 24 miles per gallon on the freeway and 16 miles per gallon in the city. Although Ford and many other car manufacturers plan to release electric and hybrid cars, gas cars will likely continue to dominate the market for some time. Ford executives earlier this year estimated that hybrids and all-electrics will account for 25 percent of all cars shipped in 2020. That means 75 percent will run on gas and diesel with a small fraction running on natural gas. Warren Buffett told students at Rice University that all cars will be electric by 2030. That's somewhat on the optimistic side. Even so, the man does have a good track record.
Elsewhere in electric cars, Nissan has said it is working on a new lithium-ion battery that will take cars 186 miles, or nearly twice as far as the lithium-polymer battery coming in the Leaf next year, according to a report in Edmunds citing Nikkei. The new battery will be included in cars in 2015. Nissan is working with NEC on battery technology. The improvements come from tinkering with the electrode materials.
Finally, the Japan Automobile Research Institute, is showing off a three-seater electric car with a plastic shell.