Just introduced at opposite ends of the Green spectrum

Porsche has rolled out a race-bred version of the company’s 918 Spyder Concept at this year’s Detroit Auto Show. Packing the same drivetrain as the track-proven 911 GT3 R Hybrid race car, Porsche says that the 918 RSR will bring a whopping 767 combined horsepower to the party when it shows up in the paddock. A total of 563 of those ponies are provided by a 6.2-liter V8 that revs to an atmospheric 10,300 rpm. Porsche has partnered its beastly eight-pot with two electric motors capable of 75 kilowatts of juice positioned at each front wheel.

The 918 RSR stores braking energy in a flywheel accumulator stationed where the passenger seat would traditionally rest, and the tech allows the driver to summon up an extra bump in power for passing or acceleration. The pilot can command the boost in grunt for up to eight seconds.

Like the 918 Concept, the bones of the 918 RSR are built of carbon fiber reinforced plastic, and the body was penned to pay respect the legendary racers like the 917 short-tail.

Phew! I don’t know. Maybe if I was as young as my brain thinks I am. And as wealthy as some Republicans think they are…

The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf may have stolen the show for electric vehicles in 2010, but Ford is hoping to make big waves in 2011 with its first EV passenger car, the Focus Electric. The zero-emissions Focus hatchback makes its official debut at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show and Ford says the car will officially launch at the end of 2011 here in North America, with European customers expected to take delivery sometime before 2013.

Visually, the Focus Electric has an improved aerodynamics package to improve drag, incorporating a new front fascia that looks like something right out of the Aston Martin school of design…The only other major design changes are the addition of a charging port with an LED ring to the left of the driver’s door and a new set of 15-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in low-rolling resistance tires. And speaking of LEDs, while the gasoline-powered Focus’ LED eyebrow above the headlamp is only available in Europe, Ford tells us that the North American-spec Focus Electric will wear this bit of accent lighting when it hits production.

The Focus Electric is powered by 100-kilowatt electric motor with a 23-kWh battery, capable of producing 123 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque at its peak. Ford says its EV can reach a top speed of 84 miles per hour, and while the official range hasn’t been disclosed just yet, we’re told it should be able to travel up to 100 miles on a single charge (just like the Leaf). Speaking of charging, Ford says the Focus Electric can be fully charged in just three hours from its 240-volt home-installed charging station, though the car will take up to 20 hours to charge via a standard 120-volt outlet…

Ford will build the North American-spec Focus Electric alongside its gasoline counterpart at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan.

This is presently the best candidate for a new car in our family. Understand, we don’t make such decisions easily, lightly. My Dodge pickup is 16 years old. My wife’s Volvo station wagon is even older. We definitely get our money’s worth.

I’m holding out for a VW Amorak turbodiesel pickup – which I expect to be built in the U.S. long before Toyota has the courage to bring in a diesel Taco, Ford brings in the diesel Ranger or Fiat brings in a diesel-powered replacement for the Dodge Dakota.

But, this would be a solid commuter replacement for the Volvo. Retrofitting our garage with a 240V charging station is a piece of cake and comparatively inexpensive – regardless of the myths spreading from Big Oil flunkies. Even if she didn’t have a handy charging station at work, the roundtrip is not unlike that of most Americans and fits in under 25% of normal range with a full charge.

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