The very first electric cars are still six months away from car dealerships, and some auto writers are already pronouncing the end of the age of hybrids. Warren Brown of the Washington Post, said, “Hybrids are merely a way-station until we get proper electric cars and infrastructure…The Prius’s dominance seems to be almost over.”
Brown was responding to Mathew DeBoard, of the TheBigMoney.com, who on Earth Day wrote that the Toyota Prius is “the most important car of all time,” but mostly because it showed the way to the new world of electric cars.
While Brown and DeBoard are arguing about the past historical significance of the Prius and hybrids, both writers are overlooking the future of the technology. If hybrids are a bridge technology, as they assert, then a study of the product plans from major carmakers would suggest that it will be a very long bridge:
- Toyota plans to double hybrid production in the next year, and will introduce an entire family of Prius cars in the next few years.
- Ford’s electrification strategy includes the all-electric Ford Focus and Transit Connect, but also the Ford MKZ Hybrid, due later this year, a plug-in hybrid Ford Escape, and a pair of next-generation hybrids by 2013.
- Hyundai this summer will introduce its first hybrid, the Sonata Hybrid, and told us that it’s working on a new dedicated hybrid-only model to compete against the Prius.
- Honda is re-investing and re-engineering its future hybrids in a quest to take the lead on fuel economy. It will introduce the CR-Z this summer, and use the technology on a hybrid minivan and in their Acura luxury division.
- General Motors is on track to introduce its Chevy Volt—which is fundamentally a plug-in hybrid—late this year and will follow with a plug-in hybrid crossover SUV. GM executives continue to assert that mild hybrid technology is a critical strategy for making future hybrids affordable.
- Mercedes is expected to convert its entire S-class to hybrid technology in the next few years.
- Of the major car companies, Nissan stands alone in its belief that pure electric cars are a single-point solution. Yet, its luxury division unveiled the Infiniti M35 Hybrid, its first hybrid, at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show two months ago. UK’s Autocar reported that all Infinitis will be hybrids within 10 years.
At HybridCars.com, we are huge fans of plug-in electric cars—and in fact will launch a sister site, PluginCars.com, in just a few weeks. For us, it’s all about options, with hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and EVs—as well as more fuel-efficient gas- and diesel-powered vehicles—all playing a role in more sustainable automotive future.