For now, the leaders are General Motors and Toyota. Both are developing plug-in hybrids for sale around 2010
Who says governments can't mandate technological breakthroughs?
Nearly half a century ago, California regulators led the world by introducing strict anti-pollution rules. Despite heated opposition, auto makers managed to comply and today the average new vehicle is 98 per cent cleaner, in terms of smog-forming emissions, than it was in 1963.
Thanks to catalytic converters, cleaner fuel and more efficient fuel and combustion management technology — the various traps and filters and fuel injectors that are now standard on all new cars — tailpipe emissions from new vehicles are now pretty negligible.
Well, California is at it again. Last month, the California Air Resources Board ruled that the "Big Six" car makers must sell 58,333 plug-in hybrid vehicles, along with up to 7,500 "pure zero-emission vehicles," from 2012 through 2014. The latter are essentially fuel-cell vehicles or hydrogen-fuelled combustion cars such as the BMW Hydrogen 7. Alternatively, the auto makers can choose to sell 12,500 battery-electric vehicles with a range of at least 160 km.