On the heels of last month’s announcement by Toyota and Nissan that the two silverbacks of the Japanese auto industry will, for the first time ever, team up to produce hybrid gas-electric automotive engines, comes today’s shocker by Toyota that it plans to have only hybrid engines in ALL of its cars by 2012.
This news, coupled with the Toyota-Nissan alliance, is sure to send shock waves through the U.S. auto industry. The Detroit automakers have been downplaying hybrid engines and focusing their R&D efforts on fuel cell technology, which may take longer than ten years to move into widespread availability.
On the fuel cell front, GM’s prototype car using fuel cells and electronic “drive-by-wire” technology, Hy-wire, could use a new name. After all, this is a major new technology that could completely revolutionize the automotive world and eventually lead to a serious reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; shouldn’t the name of this breakthrough driving experience capitalize on the emotional implications of such a revolution?
Also, it seems risky to couple the innovative propulsion system of the Hy-wire with a new driving mechanism that would effectively force all drivers to abandon everything they know about how to drive and instead learn to drive electronically, giving the X-Box Generation an unfair advantage out on the freeway. This could be a situation developing where, while GM is designing a great lunar rover to be piloted by astronauts and fighter pilots, Toyota and Nissan are covering the earth with hybrid vehicles that the rest of us can drive.