My father came up with the following idea, and has been sending it around to as many people as possible. Good plans like this one reinforce the idea that environmentally friendly hybrid cars could be made available to everybody at a reasonable price without breaking any current business models.
Without further ado:
I wanted to mention an idea to everyone, for what it is worth.
As far as I can find out, it would be a complete no-brainer, off-the-shelf, ready-to-go-today caper for one of the US automobile manufacturers to design, produce, market, and sell a car with the following properties and capabilities:
* Is a hybrid (small internal combustion engine and an electric motor, as in Ford Escape Hybrid);
* Can be plugged into a home AC socket for charging (Toyota Prius or other hybrids can be easily modified to enable this: it gives more miles as an electric, extends gas mileage greatly);
* The internal combustion engine is a Flex engine (this means it can burn gasoline or gas/ethanol mixtures from 10% E/90% G known as E10, to E85 which is 85% E - this requires really minor mods to contemporary engines, such as changing the fuel lines so the ethanol doesn't melt the line - flex engines are nowadays common and they automatically adjust to the type of fuel in the tank - just fill it with whatever and go).
Imagine how you would operate such a car. Plug it in your house, then drive it around town as a pure electric. Go on a long trip, burn only gas or some ethanol mix. Run it as a hybrid when your plug-in battery juice is over and you don't want to stop for another plug-in session. Auto manufacturers would sell cars, gas and ethanol producers and distributers would continue in the manner they now use with virtually the same equipment, repair facilities already handle these technologies, less oil is consumed which will aid the environment. And we could come close to energy independence very quickly which would literally save lives.
This is completely do-able right now with existing inventions, manufacturing techniques, and fuel distribution systems. We would not have to wait X number of years, as the manufacturers have said before, for technology to catch up with manufacturing.
I intend to send this idea around to several other persons and ask that they send it to anyone who might be interested in encouraging implementation. It seems to me this is an idea that would end our famous oil addiction, and would have a very beneficial impact on our national defense posture. This could be done in a year.
Hybrid cars work now, and they don't put anybody out of business. Spread the word!