Baltimore, Maryland, has taken the environmental benefits of car-sharing programs a step further by launching one that features the all-electric, zero local emissions Maya 300. Powered by a lithium-ion battery, the Maya 300 seats five, can travel up to 120 miles on a single charge, has a top speed of 35mph and can be charged via a standard 110V household electrical outlet.

While lithium-ion batteries are very common in laptops, mobile phones and iPods, most of today’s hybrid and electric vehicles rely on nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries, which are not only heavy but also lose their charge more easily. The lithium-ion superpolymer battery used by the Maya 300. has a naturally higher energy density and, thanks to a special separator film developed by MobilExxon, provides increased power, capacity and safety.

Built by the Canadian company Electrovaya, the Maya 300 successfully overcomes many of the other issues often associated with electric cars. The vehicle can easily be recharged straight from a standard 110V household electrical outlet. It has the size and feel of a traditional subcompact vehicle, and offers many of the same standard features, including airbags, power windows and climate control. And, thanks to the high performance of the battery and electric drive, the Maya handles and accelerates just like a gas-guzzler.

All of which will be good news for the Maryland Science Center, which is backing the initial “Altcar” car share program in Baltimore as part of its mission to educate the public on the feasibility of alternative energy transport. The theory is that if people can experience first-hand how little difference there is between driving a gas-powered car and an electric one, they’ll be one step closer to making a real change. We suspect this task will become a lot easier in the near future, as electric cars outstrip gas-guzzlers in performance terms as well as eco-friendliness.

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