2005 Lotus EliseEnlarge Photo
The two U.S. electric vehicle startups that have drawn the most attention - Tesla and Fisker - stole quite a bit of attention at Detroit's Auto Show. They can thank Nissan, who pulled completely out of the show in attempts to save money, and Honda, who canceled a press briefing for its U.S. model lineup, also reacting to rough financial realities resulting from a sharp sales downturn in the U.S. and abroad.
Fisker KarmaEnlarge Photo
Still, the nascent electric car makers are more concept than reality; Tesla has delivered all of 147 electric roadsters based on the Lotus Elise body, and Fisker has yet to deliver any of its visually stunning E-REV sports cars that promise blinding acceleration, prodigious torque, and roughly 100 mpg efficiency.
[source: Detroit News]
Tesla RoadsterEnlarge Photo
What these firebrands need is capital and in this recession, the millions they need to get off to a solid start is becoming ever harder to come by. While their electric sports cars are niche vehicles at best, these are the kind of forward-thinking companies that I'd love to see receive federal funding from the new administration. Perhaps a deal could be worked out wherein their proprietary technology could be licensed in some degree to the Big Three or at least to government service vehicles (post office vans, city vehicles), and in exchange for much-needed infusions of capital, perhaps Tesla and Fisker could even loan their techno-wizards to energy secretaries and DOT policy wonks, free of charge, in hopes of real solutions to green energy and feasible electric propulsion for enormous fleets of green government vehicles.
In my own little dream world, I'd love to see Tesla/Fisker develop a sleek, sexy presidential limousine along with the Department of Defense. Employ lightweight carbon fiber, wrap it in an armor of bullet-arresting kevlar, and power it all by super-torque electric motors (959 lb-ft is the number for the new Karma!! That should suffice). Such a vehicle would truly shame the new GM presidential limo, which strains under the avoirdupois of a GM dumptruck chassis and likely gets economy comparable to a 1978 500 cubic inch carbureted Eldorado V-8. This new, brazen electric limo would be made in America, powered by the genius of a new generation of automotive problem solvers, and would dovetail nicely with the new administration's focus on sustainable, efficient fresh thinking within American industry.
Cadillac Presidential LimoEnlarge Photo