Today, the oil industry has become a player in the auto industry. ExxonMobil is launching the Maya 300, a lithium-ion battery powered car that can drive up to 120 miles on one charge yet has the look and feel of a gasoline-powered car.


This announcement comes on the heels of a whirlwind of investments by the oil industry to help position them as players in the biofuels industry. Many oil companies have either purchased ethanol or biodiesel plants and/or made investments in cellulosic technology and development companies. Does this announcement set the stage for the rise of other players to take over the helm of U.S. auto industry?

The Maya 300 was developed in conjunction with Electrovaya, a pioneer in the development and manufacturing of Lithium Ion SuperPolymer battery systems. The two companies have worked together to, “develop the innovative urban vehicle that will be a ‘game changer’ in advancing transportation alternatives.” ExxonMobil actually developed the lithium-ion battery separator film and was the first company to introduce the lithium-ion battery in 1991.

The Maya 300 charges in 8-10 hours, plugs into a regular household 110 volt outlet and will be available to consumers for around $20-25,000 in 2011. To my knowledge, this will be one of the most affordable consumer electric vehicles on the market. The Tesla Sedan sells for around $50,00, the Chevy Volt is expected to retail around $30,000 and the bare-bone Toyota Prius starts at $22,000.

The car is being launched in a very cleaver way. ExxonMobil and Electrovaya have partnered with the Maryland Science Center on a program called Altcar, which will educate residents and visitors in Baltimore on the future of energy efficient transportation. But the coolest part is that people can rent the Maya 300 and take it for a spin to get the feel of driving an electric car. This is one of the first electric car share and rental programs in the country and I’m sure it is no coincidence that it is so close to Washington, D.C.

In addition, the AltCar program is supported through an energy efficiency exhibit which includes hands-on activities for children and a full-scale car that showcases the numerous energy saving technologies currently being used by the auto industry.

In a company statement released today, Van Reiner, CEO of he Maryland Science Center commented, “Consumers have shown a demand for car sharing programs around the U.S., and it is a logical next step to utilize this business model to demonstrate the growing desire and need for energy efficient transportation that is key to addressing environmental concerns. The new exhibit also will be crucial to helping expand the knowledge of our visitors on this critical and important topic.”

There is no word on whether the AltCar program along with the exhibit will travel to science centers across the county.

Tomorrow I’ll be speaking with Sankar Das Gupta, President and Chairman, Electrovaya and Pat Brant, Chief Polymer Scientist, ExxonMobil Chemical Company about this new venture. So stay tuned for more scoop on The Maya 300 including its performance specs (which would be more exciting if I were able to test drive the car–hint, hint) and how the two companies predict the transition to the new transportation paradigm will play out.