Hybrid Trends Look Promising, But...

Hybrid sales tend to increase when gas prices go up and slow down when costs dip.

Published: 12-Jan-2007

Following decades of stops, starts and misfires, those technologically advanced vehicles that lower carbon dioxide emissions and reduce the nation's dependency on foreign oil are starting to gain ground.

Automakers began to build smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles in the 1970s- some created functional electric vehicles in the 1990s- but the industry didn't strike a balance until after the turn of the century when manufacturers unveiled hybrids that use both gasoline and electricity for power.

To better accommodate the needs of today's drivers- and meet the California mandates requiring carmakers to build vehicles that minimize fossil fuel emissions- the hybrids quickly overshadowed the electric cars.

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Toyota Motor pushed the hybrid envelope further this week by unveiling two high-profile cars equipped with the alternative powertrain at the annual Detroit auto show, but competitors responded by cranking up the volume to promote rival clean-engine technologies. PHOTO: Toyota Voltra hybrid-electric concept sports car.

This year, it's hybrids galore, large and small including the BMW X-3 Active Hybrid similar to that depicted below.

Tongji University and Shanghai Maple Automobile, a privately run car manufacturer, are working together to design three models of hybrid cars, which are expected to go into small-scale production in 2008. SMA is a subsidiary of China's largest carmaker, Geely.

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