On Monday of this week, Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, announced the launch of their 10 million dollar plug-in hybrid electric vehicle initiative (RechargeIT
), and unveiled the largest solar charging station in the country.
Google's support of plug-in hybrid technology gives a healthy boost to the movement to demonstrate that plug-in cars are viable, marketable alternatives
to the gas-guzzling cars and trucks currently clogging our roads. But this announcement certainly begs the question: Where have all the automakers gone?
Just to be ironic, let's do a Google Search for plug-in hybrids. What you will find is a page full of advocacy groups talking about the benefits of ultra-efficient plug-in transportation and only ONE mention of a car company that's actually considering building them. Oh sure, there have been a handful of prototypes, but not a single operational plug-in hybrid in mass-production.
Automakers have refused to add a plug to their hybrid cars. This means that right now, if you want a plug-in car, you can't just buy one. You have to buy a regular hybrid and THEN go through the expensive process of having another company convert your hybrid to a plug-in.
In fact, Google's fleet of converted Toyota Priuses and their plans to team up with Enterprise Rent-a-Car to convert 100 more
, will be the largest fleet of plug-ins on the road.
This foot-dragging is especially outrageous because Toyota -- supposedly an environmental leader -- has done the least of all the major automakers to demonstrate that they're moving toward the large-scale manufacture of plug-in hybrids.
It's high time for automakers like Toyota to hurry up and meet Google in the 21st century.