Toyota FT-CH concept car displayed at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show

One of the most interesting innovations at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show (CAS) was a collaboration between Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BATO) and Bright Automotives. On display was the IDEA, a brand-new, 100-mpg plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) fleet vehicle outfitted with Bridgestone’s Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia tires (www.bridgestoneamericas.com).

Kurt Berger, manager, Consumer Products Engineering, says, “What makes these tires special is that the Ecopia H/L 422 utilizes post-consumer recycled rubber and features Bridgestone’s cutting-edge NanoPro Tech Technology that adds to fuel efficiency and CO2 reduction by controlling the interaction between polymer filler materials and other rubber materials.”

Corporations and governments purchase thousands of light-duty vehicles for their fleets each year. At best, these vehicles average 15 mpg, while the IDEA is capable of achieving 65 mpg. The van shown was a concept vehicle, and Bright Automotive plans to have its prototype ready for production in the first quarter of 2013. Visit www.brightautomotive.com for details.

The 2011 Chevy Volt generated a lot of buzz (though not literally). Volt’s large battery stores power from a home electric outlet, which is connected to an electric motor that directly propels the car. It is designed to drive up to 40 miles on electricity without using gasoline or producing emissions.

When the Volt’s lithium-ion battery is depleted, an engine/generator seamlessly operates to extend the total driving range to about 300 miles. Drivers can set the charging schedule inside the vehicle or remotely, based on time of day or cost.

General Motors has committed to begin mass production of the four-door Chevy Volt in November 2010, as a 2011 model year. Visit the official site (www.chevroletvoltage.com) for details.

On the other hand, Volkswagen displayed a whole range of gas-sipping vehicles. The new cleaner-diesel engine TDIs included Touareg TDI, Jetta SportWagen TDI, Jetta TDI and Golf TDI. These models average 30 city mpg/42 highway mpg, except for the Touareg SUV, which gets 18 city mpg /25 highway mpg. If anyone was wondering, TDI stands for Turbocharged Direct Injection and relates to diesel fueled vehicles. For more details, go to tdi.vw.com/clean-diesel-vehicles.

Just to show that there is a fuel-efficient auto for every price point, Fisker Automotive offers the Karma, a plug-in hybrid with an $87,900 sticker. A release date for the Karma, originally set to come out in 2009, has been pushed back and is now expected this summer.

Fisker’s next-generation vehicle, called Project Nina, is a “family-oriented, user-friendly” plug-in that will cost about $47,400. This model will be available in about 24 months.

A snazzy Toyota FT-CH concept car caught the eye of its intended demographic, young males. The FT-CH is lighter weight and more fuel efficient than the Prius. The concept is targeted at a lower price point than the Prius, thus appealing to younger, less-affluent buyers.

Toyota claims that the Prius is the world’s best-selling hybrid, and now there’s the Prius Plug-in Hybrid (PHV). It can be recharged in about three hours from a standard 110V electrical outlet or one and a half hours with a 220V connection.

With a fully charged battery, the PHV can travel a maximum of approximately 13 miles in electric vehicle (EV) mode. Once the EV-mode charge is depleted, it defaults to normal, full-hybrid mode and operates like a regular Prius. See www.sustainablemobility.com for more information.

There has never been a better time to shop for a more fuel-efficient vehicle, and now they are available at all price points.

Contact Eco Gal at info@evanstonroundtable.com or ecogal247@yahoo.com.