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Playing Hybrid Catch-Up, Globally

Honda and Toyota continue to dominate the hybrid market, with Ford a distant third, but even long-time automaker holdouts against the adoption of hybrid technologies have sullenly come around.

BMW, DaimlerChrysler and GM -- three of the biggest also-rans in the world of hybrid cars -- have decided to throw their lots in together on the design of a new hybrid engine system. BMW and GM have focused their long-term efforts upon hydrogen vehicle technologies, and all three missed the rise of the hybrid as a nearer-term option for reducing fossil fuel consumption. GM and DaimlerChrysler claim to be coming out with hybrid SUVs in 2007 and 2008; we'll see if they actually do so.

More interesting is the Reuters report that Volkswagen -- which had been reluctant to the point of obstinate about building hybrids -- has signed a deal with Shanghai Automotive to start building hybrid vehicles in China. The line will produce small numbers of cars by 2008 (as show vehicles for the Olympics); large scale production is said to begin by 2010. The report had few real details about the deal, but it appears that VW will be designing the hybrid system on its own.

Of course, by 2008 Toyota and Honda will have converted an even larger portion of their vehicle fleet to hybrids...

Comments (2)

Yeah I think the best place to campaign for hybrids would probably be Shanghai =) I was there a couple months ago and the whole city is full of plant designers and tons of automative types. It's funny I ended up having lunch with a Volkswagon plant designer in pudong and when I asked why don't you make hybrids he said, "I thought that was just in California." It was interesting though in that everyone I meet from Beoing seemed to be concerned about fuel economy.

VW is doing serious R&D on diesel-hybrids, working on an engine that has an efficient power band but leaving the electric motor for acceleration. So while Toyota and Honda lead the way right now don't count their technology out, especially since clean diesel or biodiesel + hybrid is likely the most efficient technology we'll have for the foreseeable future.


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