The Hummer's image as a gas-guzzling behemoth would vanish if Kraig Higginson has his way.
Higginson is chairman of Raser Technologies Inc., a Provo-based builder of geothermal power plants, which tap underground steam to turn generators and produce electricity with less pollution than those fueled by coal or oil.
He was at the New York Stock Exchange in New York Friday to display a hybrid version of the Hummer H3, the General Motors Corp. sport-utility vehicle that is often maligned because of its low gas mileage. Raser, which introduced the hybrid in Detroit last month, is demonstrating the technology as it seeks to enter the automotive market.
The hybrid Hummer is propelled by an electric motor, built by Raser, which is connected to a four-speed automatic transmission. Power comes from a Raser-built generator that is recharged by a gasoline engine.
Raser says the vehicle gets mileage of more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) per gallon when driven as much as 40 miles a day and can travel 40 miles on electrical power alone.
Raser chose the Hummer for the demonstration because "it's the worst," Higginson said in an interview today outside the NYSE, where he rang the opening bell. The company wanted to "show the world that technology can take the worst offender and make it greener than a" Toyota Prius, he said.
A 2008 Hummer H3 gets 14 MPG in the city and 18 MPG on the highway, while a Prius gets 48 mpg in the city and 45 on the highway, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who owns two Hummers converted to run on hydrogen and biofuels, praised the vehicle at the SAE International World Congress last month, the Detroit News reported.
Raser has agreed to let the governor be the first to own and test-drive one of the vehicles, and Hummer brand Chief Executive Officer Jim Taylor said the hybrid may help improve the image of the brand, which GM has put up for sale as it tries to avoid bankruptcy, Wired.com reported.
PG&E Corp., the California utility, has ordered two units that will be tested as Raser works to get the vehicle ready for U.S. consumers, which Higginson said should happen by 2011. A hybrid Hummer would likely cost about $12,000 to $15,000 more than a gasoline-only model, which has an average listing price of about $33,000, according to car-buying Web site Edmunds.com.
Eventually, Raser would like to join with other automakers to produce other vehicles with its technology, Higginson said.
"It's unfortunate that we find the auto industry in the funk it is in now, but it will come back," he said.