As energy prices rise and climate change concerns grow, Honda and Toyota are likely to continue leading the charge in advancing low-carbon, energy-efficient vehicles. Having captured the environmental high ground with early leadership on hybrids, they're continually adding new hybrid models and upgrading their technology. Their initiative puts pressure on others to follow. Gasoline hybrids will be followed by plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles, and fuel cell vehicles. As mentioned earlier, most major automotive companies have large ongoing R&D programs in all these technologies, but moving from the lab to the marketplace is hugely expensive and very risky. Even Toyota, with its hoards of cash, is cautious. The reality is that without consistent high-energy price signals and strong policy intervention, these companies will proceed slowly.90 The most likely scenario as this is written is that Toyota and GM will begin selling small numbers of plug-in hybrid vehicles around 2011; Honda, Toyota, GM, and Daimler (Mercedes-Benz) will begin selling small numbers of fuel cell cars around 2015; and Nissan, Daimler, and a variety of other companies will begin selling small numbers of battery electric vehicles during the decade of 2010. Ford and Chrysler will lag because they're too damaged to make leading investments in advanced propulsion technology.
Several considerations give pause, though. General Motors needs to stanch the financial bleeding and needs to become more of a risk taker. And Toyota and Honda will have to decide that taking the expensive plunge into electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles is worth the risk. Toyota may be reluctant to do so since it already has strong leadership in gasoline hybrids and is suffering quality challenges as it continues its worldwide surge. And Honda has lagged in developing advanced lithium batteries and thus is unlikely to lead with plug-in hybrids and battery electrics. No matter how environmental Honda and Toyota might be, they're not likely to diverge much from the mainstream industry.
Therein lies the challenge. Large changes are needed to accommodate two billion vehicles—much more than any car company is willing to pursue on its own. In the bigger scheme of things, the difference between Toyota and GM is small. The good news is that Washington politicians, the auto industry, and, as we will see, the oil industry, are increasingly receptive to more sustainable approaches. But leadership on oil and climate policy must come from elsewhere. The top candidates are California, China, and more socially responsible consumers.
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Hybrid Cars! Man! Is that a HOT topic right now! There are some good reasons why hybrids are so hot. If you’ve pulled your present car or SUV or truck up next to a gas pumpand inserted the nozzle, you know exactly what I mean! I written this book to give you some basic information on some things<br />you may have been wondering about.