As a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the growing uncertainty with the situation in the Middle East, South America and Europe, the United States is now forced to re-think its energy policy so that it can lower energy consumption of and dependence on foreign oil. Just as the automobile replaced the horse-drawn carriage so it is time for the electric battery to replace the gasoline engine. We are at the dawn of a new age when one can plug their car into an electric outlet and re-charge it for travel up to sixty miles or more. But with any wholesale change comes the requirement of a transitional mechanism. Hence the need for a vehicle that can run alternatively on both gasoline and electricity. The goal of course would be to make a total conversion within a reasonable amount of time. Most of the electricity produced in the United States comes from coal-fired power plants so the concern by some is that a reduction in tailpipe emissions would be offset by an increase in air pollution from the power plants. Others argue that the sheer volume of reduced vehicle emissions would fall far greater than plant-produced air pollution. We may even see a coalition of military hawks and environmentalists as fuel efficiency brings about both security and a better climate.
Few would argue that two factors influence consumer's choice of transportation more than anything else: gas mileage and appearance. Ever since the automobile became available to the average consumer, it has always been considered a status symbol much like the clothing we wear and the houses we live in. The price of electricity is pale compared to the price of gasoline so this factor is virtually a no-brainer. The choice of appearance however, will always linger as long as we believe that "appearance makes the person". But this factor can also be addressed during the transition phase since it appears that most vehicles today can be modified to use both fuel sources. As for the future, the old tried and true marketing techniques will convince most people that buying the style of car available will guarantee that the "future won't pass them by". Just as Japanese cars promoting fuel efficiency in response to the oil embargo of the 1970's sparked the Big Three to respond accordingly so will the shift to electric vehicles change the market once again. Perhaps this time General Motors, Ford and Daimler Chrysler will get the "jump on the competition" and in so doing, save themselves from bankruptcy.