Eco-friendly rides that can go fast too
By Elizabeth Blish Hughes
The first speeding ticket issued in the United States went to a hybrid vehicle — in 1904, to the driver of a car that used a gasoline engine to supplement a battery pack. Granted, that 1904 citation must be taken in the context of pedestrians and pony carts — Harry Myers of Dayton, Ohio, was ticketed for going 12 mph — but it can be seen as early proof that high performance and environmental friendliness don’t have to be mutually exclusive, as they've been for the last century.
Think “hybrid” or “electric car” today, and speed probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Regardless, interest in and ownership of alternative-fuel vehicles has never been higher. By August 2006 there were 9 million alternative-fuel autos tooling about, that’s up from 8.3 million in 2005 and 3 million in 2000, according to auto research firm R.L. Polk & Co.
More than 700,000 hybrid, diesel and ethanol vehicles were sold in the first half of 2006 (full-year 2006 data was not available at publication time). And while most of those vehicles don’t go fast enough for auto enthusiasts who crave speed, an increasing number of green-minded gearheads are looking to get their fix from boutique companies producing short runs of alternatively-fueled supercars. “Alternative fuel performance cars let people know that the status quo is no longer a golf cart,” says Ron Freund, chairman of the Electric Auto Association, which has chapters in 41 states.