With the ever growing trend to "Go Green," auto manufactures have stepped up to the plate this year introducing several new electric concepts, realities and an vast array of new Hybrids set to launch into the market within the next several years. As the price of oil continues to fluctuate with the facts leaning to over the next few years’ gasoline being sold at record prices, want and need to start using other resources has been on the consumer’s constant mind. Hybrid sales rose 42 percent alone in December compared to the previous year providing actual proof that Hybrids are just not for the crunchy. Ten years ago there was only one option, now the road is slowly filling up with Hybrids that range from compact to luxury as drivers look for ways to not only ease the burden on their wallets but on their carbon footprint too.

This year GM will release the Chevrolet Volt. Comparable in size to the now Colbalt, the electric battery can provide 40 miles of variable driving then resorting to a gasoline engine once it has exhausted its resources. The four door, five passenger car is what GM hopes to break into this every growing area. GM currently has several Hybrid vehicles but this will be its first electric car into production coming out late this spring. Cadillac Converj, a sporty luxury plug-in hybrid coupe is set to go into production around 2013. Even though GM will no longer produce the Hybrid Malibu, the Silverado, Sierra, Yukon, Tahoe and Escalade will still be available for the 2010 year.

Toyota will double their Hybrid production to 1 million by 2011. It took the company 10 years to sell its first 1 million Hybrids globally. Toyota will boost production of existing plus launch several new subcompacts, minivans and luxury cars including the FT-CH concept released last week at the North American Auto Show in Detroit. The FT-CH would become the company’s most affordable and highest mpg car so far. Currently Toyota with Lexus combined offers over 10 Hybrid choices ranging from the Camery to the Lexus LS600H.

Honda plans to launch the CR-Z late this summer. The two seater hatchback reminiscent of the CRX with ratings of 31-38 mph on average depending on the transmission selected will be the third car Honda offers in a Hybrid. The current Insight competes with the Prius and the ever popular Civic remain their strong sells. Word that Acura will soon have its own Hybrid lineup is in the works.

Ford continues to stay strong in the Hybrid market with the green car of the year, Fusion. The Mercury twin Milan also continues to receive strong accolades as well as rating high in customer satisfaction. The Ford Escape/Mercury Mainer along with Mazda Tribute, also continue to stay in the edgy small SUV market by providing the only Hybrids in their class. Ford continues to unveil newer, more fuel efficient cars with the release of the new long awaited, Ford Focus set for 2011 launch.

As Volkswagen has demonstrated its abilities to provide consumers with favorable clean burning diesels, they have also finally created the New Compact Coupe (NCC) with a hybrid powertrain to the TSI gasoline engine with a lithium battery and turbocharged direct inject engine. Volkswagen promises 45 mph combined city and highway with an 8.1 0-60 response too. With their ability to reintroduce the diesel back into our lives, this Hybrid should have no problem finding its niche in the always loyal Volkswagen owners heart as well as the new ones it will pick up along the way with the good looks and respectable reputation the brand is known for.

Luxury hasn’t always been associated with Hybrid but BMW has taken notice and launched the Active Hybrid X6 this December. A two mode Hybrid full electric operation up to 37mph for 1.6 miles increasing fuel economy 15-20 percent. The Active Hybrid 7 is considered a mild Hybrid that uses electric motors to boost the operation of a gasoline engine and recaptures energy in a lithium-ion battery. The 7 is set to go on sale sometime this year.

The Audi e-tron electric sports car offers just what it the title states, a two seater sports car. With 204 hp, 0-60 in 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 124mph, this isn’t the golf cart commuter so many others have set out to be. Lithium-ion batteries offer realistic operating range of 155 miles possible. With a standard volt charge, it takes 11 hours to fully charge the batteries or two with a heavy current. Batter is constantly being charged not only when stationary but while in motion thanks to the electronic-mechanical brake system that enables further exploitation of the potential of electric motors for energy recovery.

Nissan’s LEAF set to go into to production this year is the first truly electric vehicle to be sold to consumers. It burns zero gas, has zero emissions and can travel up to 100 miles per charge with a top speed of 90 MPH. The batteries are fully charged within 8 hours. The five seater, five door is set to be priced around $30k. AeroVironment charging stations will be sold additional at the time of sale that way the consumer can charge their LEAF while it’s parked in their garage or wherever the vehicle will be used. Nissan hopes to have 20k reservations once it begins excepting them this Spring. More than 70 percent of the people who have contacted Nissan regarding LEAF reside in the markets where the car will be launched first. The strongest responses have been from San Diego, Tucson, Portland and Los Angeles. Ninety percent who contacted drive less than 100 miles per day while 75 percent indicate they are a two car family and this would make the ideal commuter car.

While we continue to purchase the standard more fuel efficient vehicles over the trendier Hybrids it doesn’t seem like it will be that far off to come to expect one day that all vehicles on the road will either be in a Hybrid or electric state as we move forward to the future and those possible bubble cars we once thought we would drive by now.

About The Author

Sarah Mullins is Blast's Automotive Editor

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