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Clear the Air Says – Go Hydrogen


Hydrogen Powered Street Cleaner

We are hearing about many inventions and discoveries in the alternative energy sector. But we don’t get to read about many ‘actual’ finished products doing their work in real world. What we know is many models being tested in laboratories. But here we are seeing Bucher CityCat H2, the world’s first municipal utility vehicle powered by fuel cells, made its debut last week in Basel, Switzerland. This street-cleaning CityCat will be doing her work on an eighteen months trial basis. It will be a matter of study that how this vehicle nicknamed as Bucher CityCat H2 be helpful in reducing air pollution than traditional diesel engines. Empa and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have, in collaboration with Bucher Schoerling, Proton Motor, BRUSA Elektronik AG und Messer Schweiz, developed a hydrogen powered municipal street cleaning vehicle that was unveiled to the public on 14th May 2009 in Basel.

CityCat is powered by fuel cells. Fuel cells convert hydrogen into electrical current that drives the vehicle’s electric motor. So we can see that no pollutants come out from its exhaust pipe. Only water vapor is being emitted that is a result of the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. This vehicle not only reduces pollution, but CityCat’s energy consumption is half compared to diesel engines and it reduces CO2 emissions by 40%. Such vehicles are especially useful in sensitive areas for example pedestrian precincts, railway station halls or even in enclosed structures such as exhibition halls.

Project Leader Christian Bach, Head of Empa’s Internal Combustion Engines Laboratory says, “Our aim is to take fuel cell technology from the laboratory onto the street.” The project — also named as ‘hy.muve’ i.e. (hydrogen-driven municipal vehicle) – is also used as a research platform for socio-economic studies. It can throw light on acceptance of hydrogen technology, its market introduction and its cost effectiveness.

But the big question is still unanswered; it’s about the possibility of hydrogen power. Because most of the hydrogen power is generated from non-renewable natural gas. CityCat presents a great opportunity to test whether hydrogen power is actually cost-effective for municipal use. Even if it is found to be cost-effective, hydrogen technology has a long way to go before it is accepted in mainstream vehicles.

BMW Hydrogen 7 Production

BMW has announced the start of production of the new BMW Hydrogen 7, the world’s first hydrogen-powered luxury saloon car. Destined to make its first public appearance on 28 November at the Los Angeles Motor Show, the Hydrogen 7 will be built in limited numbers and offered to selected users in 2007. The BMW Hydrogen 7 is based on the existing 7 Series and comes equipped with an internal combustion engine capable of running on liquid hydrogen or petrol. In hydrogen mode the car emits nothing more than water vapor. Powered by a 260hp 12-cylinder engine, the Hydrogen 7 accelerates from zero to 62mph in 9.5 seconds before going on to an electronically limited 143mph top speed.

YouTube: BMW Hydrogen 7

With its unique dual power engine, the driver of a Hydrogen 7 can switch quickly and conveniently from hydrogen to conventional petrol power at the press of a steering wheel-mounted button. The dual power technology means the car has a cruising range in excess of 125 miles in the hydrogen mode with a further 300 miles under petrol power. To make this possible the BMW Hydrogen 7 comes with a conventional 74-litre petrol tank and an additional hydrogen fuel tank holding up to 8kgs of liquid hydrogen. Such flexibility means the driver of a BMW Hydrogen 7 is able to use the vehicle at all times, even when the nearest hydrogen filling station is out of range.

The driver can switch between the two without any effect on driving behavior or performance. The car always gives priority to the use of hydrogen but, should this run out; it automatically switches to petrol power.

For undiluted driver enjoyment, engine power and torque in the Hydrogen 7 Unlike many previous hydrogen concept cars showcased by rival manufacturers the BMW Hydrogen 7 heralds a milestone in the history of the car. It is a full production ready vehicle, which has met all the stringent processes and final sign-off criteria that every current BMW model undergoes. A total of 100 BMW Hydrogen 7s will be built in 2007. Details on pricing and the destinations of the 100 cars will be announced at a later date.

Why hydrogen?
The BMW Group has been committed to hydrogen technology as a means of reducing car emissions, in particular CO2 emissions, for over 20 years. When running in the hydrogen mode, the BMW Hydrogen 7 essentially emits nothing but water vapor. And, unlike fossil fuels and traditional petrol, hydrogen is available in virtually infinite supply when renewable energies such as solar, wind and wave power are used to produce the liquid hydrogen. Stored in a hi-tech tank which keeps the fuel at a pressure of 3-5 bar and a consistent temperature of -250C, liquid hydrogen offers significant advantages in energy density compared to other possible alternative fuel sources to enhance the cruising range of the car.

BMW continues to develop ultra efficient, yet very dynamic petrol engines that significantly reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Together with clean performance diesel cars and the technologically advanced hybrid systems currently under development, the BMW Group has a clear strategy for sustainable mobility with hydrogen as the ultimate goal.

Future Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars

September 30th, 2006

Forget ethanol or biodiesel. The next big thing in automotive fuel may very well be hydrogen. Automakers rapidly are closing in on making hydrogen fuel cell vehicles an everyday fact of life, with several test models set to debut over the next few years. Hydrogen fuel cells to power vehicles is desirable, experts say, because hydrogen is a renewable fuel that can be used to create electricity to run cars. A chemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen produces the electric power, and when pure hydrogen is used, the only emission from the tailpipe is harmless water vapor.

Hybrid Cars Pros and Cons

Generally, and for the purposes of this guide, we will refer to hybrid cars in their most common form – HEVs.

How do hybrid cars work?

Hybrids have existed in various forms for years – the moped is one of the most common examples as it combines a petroleum engine with pedal power. Many locomotives also utilise both diesel and electric power, so the examples of hybrid vehicles are far and wide.

However, hybrid cars have been developed with the purpose of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in cars. Here, three types have emerged – series hybrids, parallel hybrids and plug-in hybrids:

  • Series hybrids – Utilise a combustion engine which generates electricity and powers an electric motor.
  • Parallel hybrids – Where the wheels are powered by the engine or by the battery-powered electric drivetrain.
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) – A petrol-electric hybrid with a battery pack that can be recharged.

In series and parallel hybrids, when the engine loading is low, energy is stored for later use – and when more energy is required, such as during acceleration, the storage device and main engine combine to provide the power that’s needed. By using energy in this way, hybrids are more economical and better for the environment.

Generally, hybrid cars are assisted by regenerative braking. This captures the kinetic energy and prolongs the charge of batteries. This effective top-up system for the batteries can reduce overall fuel consumption by 20 per cent. Read on for more about regenerative braking.

Plug-in hybrids run on battery power for the first 10-60 miles (16-100km) with the petrol engine used when faster acceleration is required. They are considered a good alternative to electric cars which have a limited range because plug-in hybrids revert to the petrol engine when the battery is nearly discharged – or you can go to a charging station.

Most hybrid cars are able to operate in electric mode – with zero emissions – when travelling at low speeds (for example, below 15mph). This means that they are considered ideal for urban driving.

What are the advantages of hybrid cars?

There are two primary reasons why hybrid cars have been introduced to the market – to assist the environment by reducing emissions and to cut motoring costs by reducing the reliance on oil. With more than 700million vehicles worldwide it is believed that if more consumers buy hybrid vehicles it will force car manufacturers to take a greener approach to manufacturing.

As they combine electric power with conventional burning of petroleum, harmful emissions are reduced and so is global warming. On European roads it has been estimated that petrol-hybrids can cut greenhouse gas emissions by around 25 per cent per mile. In the case of a vehicle such as the Honda Insight, which has CO2 emissions below 80g/km, lifecycle carbon emissions are actually slashed to half those of a traditional conventional car.

Indeed hybrid cars are advantageous in their reduction of all harmful emissions. Hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides can be reduced by as much as 90 per cent.

Whether you have an environmental conscious or not, hybrid cars appeal to anyone who wants to save money – with statistics in the USA showing that the Toyota Prius can achieve approximately 60 miles to the gallon, doubling what is achievable in a conventional vehicle. With fuel prices reaching 120p/litre in the UK and $4/gallon in the USA, there are huge savings to be made over the lifetime of the vehicle.

Another advantage hybrid cars have is that they are ahead of other green car alternatives. Though electric cars, cars using biofuels, and vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells are emerging and may even be ‘greener’ than hybrids in the long term, they are all flawed in some way. Electric cars currently have limited range, biofuels are controversial because of the way they are produced and hydrogen fuel cells are a currently limited technology yet to be mass-produced. By comparison, hybrid cars are ‘ready to go’ in that they meet the demand of today’s society without compromise. They will also always be ahead of conventional cars in that no matter how low future emission standards may be a hybridised engine will always out-perform a conventional engine.

What are the disadvantages of hybrid cars?

There are a handful of disadvantages to hybrid cars. Though hybrids clearly reduce emissions greatly, they are less useful over continuous high speed driving, such as on a motorway where emission levels will increase. Indeed though electrics and hydrogen fuel cells are yet to be mass produced and break out into the mainstream in the manner that hybrid cars have achieved, it’s clear that they offer a stronger environmental solution should their issues be resolved.

There are also concerns over the environmental impact of the hybrid car battery which is usually made from either nickel metal hydride or lithium ion. Both are considered more environmentally friendly than lead batteries, but nickel-based batteries are known as carcinogens and there are concerns about the health problems they can cause though this is still the subject of much research.

Furthermore, there are concerns about a raw material shortage of dysprosium which is required to fabricate many of the advanced electric motors and battery systems. Some analysts predict a shortage by 2012 although a few new sources are being developed.

Plug-in hybrids also face issues of their own in that a good, cheap battery pack is required. If everyone plugged into the utility grid at the same time the combustion problems caused by petrol and diesel cars would simply be displaced by the surge in use of generally coal-powered electric generating plants. Therefore it is hoped that cars can be charged late at night to create more efficiency and that initial generation can be made from renewable sources such as wind, hydro and tide power.

However, perhaps the biggest issue with hybrid cars is that they are generally more expensive than conventional cars and the initial retail price can be off-putting. Though money can be saved over the lifetime of the vehicle, a large initial outlay is still required and this puts hybrids out of reach for many drivers.

Why have hybrid cars earned celebrity status?

Hybrid cars are sometimes referred to as the ‘car of the stars’ thanks to their incredible popularity in Hollywood. Cameron Diaz was the first to publicly announce her support of the vehicles and regularly drives a Toyota Prius. Indeed many A-list celebrities have followed her lead including Tom Hanks, Jack Black, Larry David, Harrison Ford, Woody Harrelson and Kurt Russell. Leonardo Di Caprio was also famously quoted as saying that his hybrid car is just like any other vehicle except that he only has to fill it up once every three weeks.

What is it like to own a hybrid car? How much do hybrid cars cost?

As mentioned in the ‘disadvantages of hybrid cars’, they are typically more expensive than conventional vehicles – you can expect to add around £1,000-£2,000 on to the typical retail price of a £14,000 model depending on its hybrid design.

However, once over that initial hump in buying a hybrid car, ownership becomes easy – and much more cost-effective.

Hybrid cars are refuelled in exactly the same way as conventional cars and therefore you can use any normal petrol station in the UK. This lack of a technical barrier means that hybrid cars could soon emerge as the ‘norm’ across the UK and replace standard petrol and diesel vehicles.

Aside from the huge reduction in fuel costs, typically 15-30 per cent less fuel per mile, there are other savings to enjoy. For example, if you live in the London area, most hybrid cars are exempt from the London Congestion charge though you must register with the Transport of London and pay an annual £10 fee. Nevertheless with so much to be saved on a daily basis, this exemption alone could save you around £2,000 a year if you regularly travel into London. To see if your car qualifies check out the cars that are exempt.

You will also save money by being placed in a lower tax band – typically hybrid cars fit into the tax bands A-C. If your car emits less than 100g/km of CO2 it will be exempt from taxation altogether. By contrast, a car in the highest tax band could be charged more than £400 a year.

The cost of repairs is still a question with hybrid cars. It may be necessary to go to a specialist centre, although as hybrid cars become more common this should be less of an issue.

What hybrid cars are available?

The number of hybrid cars available in the UK is on the increase although they are still not as readily available as it is hoped they will be in the long term. Here is a list of some of the hybrid cars currently available in the UK – click on the links to find out more:

Honda Civic IMA
Honda Insight
Lexus-GS 450h
Lexus-LS 600h
Lexus-RX 400h
Lexus-RX 450h
Toyota Prius
Volkswagen Touraeg

There are also several hybrid cars available in other markets:

Ford Escape Hybrid
Nissan Altima Hybrid

Here is a list of some of the hybrid cars that are coming soon:

Audi A1 Quattro Hybrid
Audi Q7 Hybrid
BMW X5 Hybrid
BMW X6 ActiveHybrid
Connaught Type D
Honda CR-Z Hybrid
Kia Rio Hybrid
Mercedes-Benz S400 Blue Hybrid
Peugeot 307 Hybrid
Peugeot 308 Hybrid
Porsche Cayenne
Porsche Panamera
Vauxhall Corsa Hybrid
Volkswagen Golf TDI Hybrid

A Comprehensive Guide to Plug-in Hybrids

What Is A Plug-in Hybrid Car?

A plug-in hybrid car is similar to a conventional hybrid vehicle—both use a gasoline engine as well as an electric motor. However, a plug-in hybrid uses larger battery packs that can be recharged by connecting to common household electricity. Plug-in hybrids can be driven for long distances—from a few miles to as much as 40 miles—without using any gasoline. has demonstrated a plug-in concept version of the Prius, but has not committed to a production date.

Plug-in hybrids provide the benefits of an electric car, while maintaining the same driving range as conventional vehicles. Plug-in hybrid drivers travel in an all-electric mode for the vast majority of common local driving. When the battery’s electric charge is depleted, a downsized gas engine is used to either recharge the batteries (as the car moves), or as the primary source of propulsion until recharging the batteries via a plug.

Plug-in hybrid cars are also known as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles or PHEVs. Plug-in hybrid cars that use a gas engine exclusively for recharging batteries—rather than directly powering the wheels—are also called Extended-Range Electric Vehicles or E-REVs.


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Electric Cars Not the Only Option for Cleaner Air

SCMP – May 15, 2009

I applaud the government’s leading role in introducing electric vehicles (EVs) as a solution to the problem of air pollution. We finally have an alternative to driving polluting vehicles. However, I am sceptical whether they will be an immediate, widespread success.

When it comes to cars, people are brand-conscious. They care more about how the vehicles look and what they cost than they do about the environmental impact. People also tend to switch cars every few years – an issue with EVs, which offer a limited choice of models, and are apparently more expensive than many standard cars. EVs are also a new technology. I imagine many people have worries about the maintenance of the cars, and anticipate a frustrating wait for spare parts.

Our government says it has fought hard to ensure it receives at least a small quota of EVs from the manufacturer every year. This suggests the success of the scheme may be limited. For this reason, the government should consider more viable alternatives, such as allowing drivers to use ethanol-blended fuels.

High ethanol blends achieve much the same mileage as petrol, but are almost pollution-free. No modifications to vehicles are required to use an E50 blend. For higher blends, car owners only need to make a slight adjustment to pistons.

People will not have to make a sacrifice on the look or cost of their vehicles.

David K. H. Lee, Kowloon

Triple Hybrid Fuel Cell Bus Unveiled – 14 May 09

A presentation near Munich marked the debut of the first passenger bus to use a triple hybrid fuel cell system developed by Fuel Cell GmbH, a subsidiary of Proton Power Systems.

The vehicle has been born from co-operation between Skoda Electric, UJV Nuclear Research Institute and Proton Motor. Skoda Electric was responsible for the vehicle including its electric drive system and system integration. The project was then co-ordinated by UJV with Proton Motor supplying the propulsion system.

So how does the triple hybrid system work?

Well it combines a 50kW PM Basic A 50 fuel cell system with a battery pack and ultra-capacitors. With regenerative braking taken into account the system enables energy savings in excess of 50 per cent compared to a conventional diesel bus and is emission free in operation.

The vehicle itself is a basic 12 metre bus with a weight of 18tonnes. Its nominal output is 120kW and it has a maximum speed of 40mph. It carries around 20kg of compressed gaseous hydrogen at 350 bar and the filling process takes less than 10 minutes.

The vehicle is now scheduled to go into operation from mid-2009 onwards in Prague.

Zero Emissions Motorcycle – 13 May 09

When we think about green energy vehicles we often think about modest designs and low speeds. But 6 final-year engineering students of Kingston University have designed a bike that dispels all myths about green vehicles. This bike has the ability to reach speeds of 102mph, race around a 38 mile mountainous course and is powered by batteries that can be charged from a standard household socket! They will take this bike to the world’s first zero-emissions Grand Prix this summer. The Kingston team will be competing with 24 eco-bikes from America, India, Italy, Germany and Austria at the 2009 Isle of Man TTXGP. Mr. Paul Brandon who is the Course Director for motorsport and motorcycle engineering shared his views, “Being green doesn’t have to mean slow. There are too many skeptics when it comes to electric vehicles but we all need to reduce our CO2 output and this initiative is taking a huge leap in that direction. The ideas we and others put to the test on the racing circuit are the ones most likely to become commonplace on the road

Toyota Could Have Hydrogen Fuel-cell Car on the Road by 2014

Kenneth Hall, Motor Authority – May 12 2009

The new date is a year earlier than scheduled due to changes in California’s ZEV mandate

Honda’s FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle has grabbed lots of headlines, as has BMW’s combustion-powered Hydrogen7 and Mazda’s rotary RE line of vehicles, including the RX-8. But Toyota is working on a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle too, and it could be on the streets by 2014.

Well, the streets of California at least. The company had previously released plans to have a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle on the road by 2015, but that schedule has been bumped up a year to meet the incentives within California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate.

“So much of what happens is directly related to the California ZEV mandates — they’re followed by at least 14 states, and they affect nearly half of the cars on the market in the United States. Phase IV of the mandates covers model years 2015 through 2017, so that means we could begin complying in late 2014,” John Hanson, a Toyota spokesperson, told the New York Times.

California’s ZEV scheme has previously influenced Toyota and other carmakers, including General Motors, to introduce zero-emissions vehicles, including the RAV-4 EV and the much-discussed EV-1.

This time around, the monetary benefits to California’s program are such that it’s now a valid business case for Toyota to build the hydrogen fuel-cell car.

Proton Motor and Skoda Electric Have Presented the Worlds First Fuel Cell Triple Hybrid Bus – 12 May 2009

Proton Motor Fuel Cell and Skoda Electric today presented a preview of the worlds first fuel cell triple hybird linenbus, which will go into operation this summer in Prague.

The project is a cooperation between Skoda Electric, the systems integrator and electrical components, the UJV Nuclear Research Institute, R&D and project coordination and Proton Motor, which produced and delivered the fuel cell triple hybrid propulsion system.

The triple hybrid system is a world first combination of a fuel cell, batteries and ultra capacitors, allowing saving and further use of useful braking energy. The system is reported as saving upto 50% of energy as compared with a conventional bus drivetrain.

The chasis of the new bus is a standard 12 meter with 18 tonne combined weight. The new drivetrain allows produces upto 120 kW of power, can travel up to 65 km/hr and with a full tank can travel 250km before refuelling. The hydrogen is stored on board in 350 bar compressed cylinders and carriers 20kg of hydrogen when full.

Mercedes-Benz Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid Bus

The FINANCIAL – 7 May 2009

The new Mercedes-Benz Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid bus will have its world premiere from 7 to 11 June at the UITP Congress in Vienna (the World Congress of the International Association of Public Transport).

This fuel cell hybrid bus has been developed within the context of the global “Shaping Future Transportation” initiative and is the first representative of the new generation of fuel cell models from Daimler Buses. The outstanding characteristic of the Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid is its comprehensive environmental friendliness: it emits no pollutants whatsoever while running and is also virtually silent. It is therefore exceptionally well suited to operation in heavily polluted city centres and in metropolitan areas. The Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid is the next logical step on the path to zero-emission public transport, which Daimler had already announced it would take, and thus represents an important element in the development of the mobility solutions of the future.

Linear development from NEBUS to the Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid

Daimler Buses has taken a linear approach to developing this technology: the process started in 1997 with the NEBUS research vehicle – the world’s first bus to be equipped with a fuel cell drive system – and has continued via the recently launched Citaro G BlueTec Hybrid with a diesel-electric hybrid drive. The latest development for 2009 is the new Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid. Starting in the autumn, Mercedes-Benz Buses will subject this bus to intensive testing in a large-scale fleet test in several European cities. This test will be conducted along the same lines as the successful CUTE test carried out by the European Union between 2003 and 2006. Since 2003, a total of 36 Mercedes-Benz Citaro buses equipped with fuel cell drives have performed outstandingly well in service with 12 public transport operators on three continents as part of the CUTE test, its HyFLEET:CUTE follow-up project and other related testing programmes. In covering a combined total of more than two million kilometres in some 135,000 hours of operation, the buses have impressively demonstrated the suitability of the environment-friendly fuel cell drive for everyday practical use.

Components from the Citaro G BlueTec Hybrid

The new Mercedes-Benz Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid draws on the experience gained with the outstanding performance of the 36 fuel cell test buses. The enhanced fuel-cell system is complemented by an all-new drive system developed in synergy with the Citaro G BlueTec Hybrid. Shared components here include axles fitted with electric hub motors, lithium-ion batteries to store energy, and all electrically powered ancillary components. The entire drive system is designed for the greatest possible efficiency. Thanks to regenerative braking – that is to say, the recovery of braking energy – the Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid is able to achieve hydrogen savings of between 10 and 25 percent, depending on the traffic conditions and topography.

The Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid is based on the proven platform of the top-selling Mercedes-Benz Citaro urban bus and features fuel cells powered by hydrogen. Compared with previous fuel cell buses, the Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid will consume much less hydrogen thanks to a hybrid drive with a sophisticated control unit. The model thus offers major benefits in terms of resource conservation and reduction of emissions associated with producing the required hydrogen.

Honda and Nissan Consider Plug-in Hybrids –  April 28, 2009

Honda and Nissan have been banking on fuel cells and electric cars as the long-term strategy for sustainable mobility. Company executives are now warming up to plug-in hybrids.

Since their introduction in the US in late 1999, hybrid cars have been repeatedly dismissed as a “bridge technology”—a euphemism for a short-lived second-rate technology that briefly serves a purpose until it can be replaced with something better and longer lasting. But in recent statements coming within days of one another, executives from Honda and Nissan are reconsidering the role that hybrids will play in the coming decades.

Honda began leasing a limited number of its FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell cars last year, and still sees hydrogen as the long-term alternative to gasoline. However, for the first time, Honda executives are now speaking of hybrids and plug-in hybrids as a mainstream technology with staying power. Nissan is also beginning to consider plug-in hybrids.

For both companies, the plug-in hybrid is seen as the next stage of hybrids and as the key to the technology’s longevity. Honda was banking on a transition to fuel cell cars, while Nissan was primarily moving toward the pure battery-electric vehicle.

Honda began leasing a limited number of its FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell cars last year, and still sees hydrogen as the long-term alternative to gasoline. But Honda President Takeo Fukui believes that the cost of fuel will need to increase before hydrogen-powered cars are ready for significant growth. In an interview published by Bloomberg, he said, “Oil prices are going to go up. When that time comes, fuel cells, solar panels, hydrogen, those will be the key words. We will have packages that will be very competitive at that time.” In the meantime, he said the company is “thinking about plug-in hybrids.” He added, “We aren’t thinking about commercializing one right away.” Honda will need to modify its current mild hybrid system—or develop a new approach—in order to produce plug-in hybrids.

The Bridge Gets Much Longer

Honda’s views on plug-in hybrids are also motivated by new consumer tax credits—as much as $7,500 for a robust plug-in hybrid. Fukui said, “We understand the situation, in terms of government and incentives. Naturally, we’re going to have to accommodate that too.”

Nissan also sees a future jump in oil prices as the key to its long-term efficient technology: the electric car. “When GDP growth comes back on a worldwide basis, there will be again attention on the oil market, which will trigger an oil price increase,” said Carlos Tavares, Nissan executive vice president. “We will be in the right tempo to face that environment.”

Mark Perry, Nissan product planner, told, “Zero emission vehicles are clearly our focus and we believe it’s the future state of transportation. Some segments of the market in the near term may best be served by high efficiency internal combustion engines, diesels, hybrids or extended range electric vehicles [also known as plug-in hybrids].” He added that these technologies are “all bridge technologies to the time when battery electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles can cover every market segment.”

The Key Question: When?

The key question for both companies is how long it will take until electric cars and fuel cell vehicles can reach levels approaching the current hybrid market. After 10 years on the market, hybrids represent less than 3 percent of the new car market.

Speaking at the Society of Automotive Engineers’ 2009 World Congress last week, Minoru Shinohara, Nissan corporate senior vice president, said that plug-in hybrids will be an important transition solution to the pure electric vehicle because they don’t need an extensive public charging infrastructure. The cost of building the public charging infrastructure will cost many billions of dollars; therefore, most analysts believe that it could take decades to construct.

Hybrids will not necessarily disappear even after an electric-recharging or hydrogen-refueling infrastructure is built. Kenji Nakano, senior chief engineer, Honda R&D, also appearing at the World Congress, said, “Hybrid technology is also applied to fuel cell vehicles, range-extender vehicles, and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Thus, instead of being a bridge technology, hybrids are expected to remain in the mainstream for quite some time.”