President Bush's Freedom Car initiative will help auto makers fund development of hydrogen-powered fuel cells while offering cash incentives to consumers who buy hybrid-electric or fuel-cell-powered cars. But Detroit's efforts in green cars fell short. And the future still looks dicey:
In Detroit's first experiments with battery-powered electric cars, the technology proved unreliable. And consumers balked because the batteries needed to be recharged after just 100 miles or so, often from a specialized outlet.
Hybrid cars sold by Honda (HMC) and Toyota (TM) run on small, fuel-efficient gasoline engines assisted by battery-powered motors. The electricity is generated by the gas engine and also recovered from the braking system.
2010 AND BEYOND
Consumers could snap up cars and trucks whose motors are powered by onboard fuel cells that transform hydrogen into electricity --but only if the price is right, and if problems with hydrogen storage can be licked.