Your mother told you never to get in a car with a stranger, but that happens all the time in the East Bay town of Emeryville, where "casual carpoolers" line the curb waiting for a stranger to pick them up each morning. Car pulls up, you jump in, qualifying the car as a carpool, saving money at the Bay Bridge Toll. It's a strange, unique Bay Area sort of thing. There are even elaborate rules as to how to behave on the short drive.
This has been going on for years, but this morning the car company Chevy added a twist: its plug-in hybrid Volt. Chevy employees driving Volts joined the queue of cars picking up hitchhikers. They may have thought they were just getting a ride across the bridge - in fact it was a sales pitch.
The Volt is marketed as better than all electric cars and better than the Toyota Prius because it features the advantages of both. The Volt relies on its battery exclusively for the first forty miles, meaning you could run around town errands purely on electricity like an electric car. If you needed to go farther, however, the gasoline assist would take over, much like a traditional hybrid.
"Looks pretty fancy" said one surprised rider. "Very quiet. I like electric cars, but they're very expensive."