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The world's first ''zero-cost'' hybrid?

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Last January, AFS Trinity Power Corporation launched what some have called "the car of the future". The XH-150 Extreme Hybrid SUV is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle that combines an internal combustion engine with an electric motor (total output: 370 horsepower). The latter generates 200 horsepower alone, propelling the XH-150 for up to 40 miles in electric mode and allowing it to reach speeds of up to 87 mph without burning a single drop of gasoline. In full hybrid mode, accelerations from 0 to 60 mph are achieved in 6.9 seconds.

XH-150 Hybrid SUV.

Extreme fuel economy
In recent tests conducted at the Michelin Laurens Proving Grounds, in South Carolina, AFS Trinity Power Corporation evaluated fuel economy based on a combination of city-highway driving for a total of 40 miles -- which basically represents the daily routine of 78 percent of Americans from Monday through Saturday. Over these six days, the owner of a XH-150 would use zero fuel. As for Sunday, the distance travelled by most drivers is estimated at 100 miles, so that would be the only time when fuel is required. The first 40 miles are run in full electric mode, while the remaining 60 miles require the intervention of the gasoline engine, which is rated at 9.5 L/100 km - about $11 worth of fuel.

Plug-in hybrid
At the end of the day, once the 40-mile range has nearly expired, all the owner has to do is to plug the vehicle into a standard 120-volt outlet. The costs of charging the lithium-ion batteries, according to calculations made by AFS Trinity, would be about 6 cents per kilowatt/hour, which is roughly equivalent to the electricity fees in Canada. Therefore, about $8 worth of electricity would be required each week to power the vehicle. When adding the $11 of gas, the weekly bill would only amount to $19. For comparison's sake, the same exact vehicle running solely on gasoline would easily cost over $60 a week.

Profitable after 10 years
Given the current gas and electricity prices, and based on an annual mileage of 17,000 miles (about 28,000 km), one could achieve energy savings of up to $40,000 over 10 years. That's why some people call the XH-150 the world's first "zero-cost" hybrid.

While already in use on American roads, the XH-150 will only be mass-marketed two or three years from now, according to AFS Trinity Power Corporation -- about the same time as the Chevrolet Volt. Consumers in the U.S. will be able to get a closer look at this promising hybrid in Washington, D.C., on April 20.

photo:AFS Trinity Power Corporation