ExxonMobil, the oil company most skeptical about global warming, took out a full-page ad in the New York Times December 12 to burnish its environmental credentials, including some new lithium-ion battery technology that it said could “put more fuel-efficient hybrid and electric vehicles on the road.” Good for them!


The ad didn’t say what the technology actually is, though. A hint was provided by a large photo of the Electrovaya Maya-300. The what? I thought I’d at least heard of every EV on the road, but this one was news to me. I looked up the cute little commuter vehicle, and found that it does in fact exist, and is indeed a zero-emission lithium-ion battery car. ExxonMobil provides battery separator films for it that, according to the Green Car Congress, will lead to lighter and smaller battery packs that also reduce the risk of fire (a problem with lithium ion).


The catch about the new Electrovaya Maya-300 is that it’s a “low-speed” vehicle (LSV) electronically governed to go no faster than 35 miles per hour. The use of these devices is rather limited. Most of them look like glorified golf carts, and they’re used for cruising around gated communities, from the restaurant to the golf course, for example. Resorts like them, too. The advantage is that they’re very cheap to run and also inexpensive to buy—$8,000 to $15,000.


LSVs, which have seat belts, headlights and some other car-like equipment, can go on public roads, but only if they have posted limits of 35 mph or less. The two-passenger Maya-300 is far more car-like than the average LSV—it looks something like a Smart car. Electrovaya, based in Canada, wants to sell its Maya-300 to fleets, and eventually for $20,000, though the price is somewhat north of that right now. It has impressive range of 120 miles on a charge. U.S. sales are a goal, and ExxonMobil is involved in marketing the cars.


The ExxonMobil ad points out that if “just 10 percent of the cars on our roads were hybrid vehicles, carbon dioxide reductions would be the equivalent of taking five million cars off the road.” Right. But they have to able to actually go on the road. We’re a nation of freeways. But I’m sure Exxon Mobil’s breakthrough technology will eventually reach less tortoise-like transportation. Like the Tesla Roadster, maybe?

Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.