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Top 5 Future Cars of 2009

2009 was an exciting year for FutureCars.com and for everyone who follows the automotive industry. It was the year of the alt-fuel car, as automakers debuted more concepts and more models while startups threw their hats in the ring to capture some of the glory.

We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history we make today.
--Henry Ford

It may be that we will look back in another decade and see 2009 as the turning point in the petroleum mindset that's gripped the automotive industry for over a century. Perhaps the current struggling new ventures in auto manufacturing will become the next tycoons.

In picking our top five, we had to narrow the list down somehow, as there are literally thousands of cars on the market or coming to market in the next five years, all designed to work with alt-fuels and high-efficiency engines. So to narrow it down, we looked only at vehicles that are currently available or debuting before the end of 2010.

#1 - Electric Car: The Fisker Karma is our pick in this category. While it's not as purely innovative as some all-electrics, it's more mainstream and more likely to get attention for more than just its technology. The Karma is a beautiful combination of style, practicality, and technology.

This was the hardest group to choose from, as we included plug-ins, hybrids, and more and there are a lot of great vehicles in this space. My personal favorite, the Aptera, did not win thanks to the company's shaky ground and uncertain release date.

#2 - Top Commercial Vehicle: The Vision Motors Tyrano is a hydrogen fuel-cell Class 8 truck capable of hauling anything a diesel-powered truck can do (and maybe more). Based on a Freightliner Classic chassis, the Tyrano uses a hydrogen fuel-cell pack to produce clean, emissions-free energy to power the truck.

This is most likely the future of heavy transportation, visualized today.

#3 - Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Car: The Honda FCX Clarity is probably the longest-running and most well-known of the hydrogen fuel-cell cars being tested right now. It's available for limited lease throughout North America, has a proven background and track record, and Honda has been working on innovations not just with the car, but around it as well as part of their Hydrogen Home concept.

Definitely a car worth watching, though it will be a few years before it's in full production and available to everyone (who can afford it). Both Honda and Toyota have set 2015 as their goal for large-scale production of FCVs.

#4 - Natural Gas Car: The Honda Civic GX is one of the few dedicated natural gas vehicles available in the United States right now, though it's geographic distribution is limited. Capable of 28mpg equivalent in-city, the GX is powered by clean, compressed natural gas.

Natural gas is definitely one of the alt-fuels to keep an eye on, as it can be used not only as a stand-alone power source, but can also be injected into diesel engines to boost power and it is one of the primary sources of hydrogen in today's infrastructure.

#5 - Alt-Fuel Motorcycle: The Brammo Enertia won this category almost hands-down. Not only is it available right now, but it's being distributed through Best Buy throughout North America, making this motorcycle one of the most available alt-fuel bikes in the world. A year ago, no one knew who Brammo Motorworks was, now they're becoming a household name and synonymous with "electric motorcycle" in the U.S.

The Oregon company has definitely come a long way in only a year and has a bright future ahead.

Conclusions

There are several models of hybrids coming to market. The King of Hype, the Chevy Volt, comes in November and the latest Toyota Prius PHEV is already available. Diesel cars, such as the Audi and VW ultra-efficient models, are also gaining ground in North America, a traditionally anti-diesel market. Those are also worth watching.

With 2009 past us and excellent prospects for 2010 FutureCars innovations, this is definitely a great time to be involved in automotive technology.

This site follows the emergence, application and development of transportation innovation. Reference to manufacturers, makes and models, and other automotive-related businesses are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by FutureCars.com.

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