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Autos Going Green

The green car market is branching out.

Are gas/electric hybrid vehicles already old hat? Not in the foreseeable future, but other alternative-fuel cars and trucks are already on the horizon.

The quest for better mileage and cleaner air does not mean you'll be running your car on bottled water, but the analogy isn't that far off base. E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, is produced primarily from corn and other crops in the U.S. and sugar in other countries.

And hydrogen powers vehicles via fuel cells, whose emissions are harmless vapors.

  • Ethanol: You could already be driving a flex-fuel vehicle without knowing it. Check if your VIN number is listed at www.VE85.com. Ford has many E85-ready vehicles, including Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer, Ranger and Taurus models. Mazda's B3000 pickup takes flex fuel, and so do Chrysler's Sebring, Town & Country, and Dodge Caravan and Stratus. General Motors has nine flex-fuel vehicles, including the Avalanche, Suburban and Yukon XL. The company plans to push sales of these vehicles while continuing to offer more gas/electric hybrid models.
  • Hydrogen: Ford has 30 Focus-based hydrogen fuel-cell test cars to date. Mazda has an early advantage since its rotary engine, as used in the RX-8, can operate on either hydrogen or gasoline. Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen are also developing hydrogen vehicles for the market.

BMW expects to sell its hydrogen-powered 7-Series 745h in Germany in the near future, which usually means the U.S. is the next target, provided we have hydrogen filling stations in place.

Jill Amadio is an award-winning automotive journalist and author.

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This article was originally published in the June 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Grow, Car, Grow.

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