Meanwhile, Japanese manufacturers are tending to favour hybrid-powered vehicles - Honda launched what it claimed was the world's most fuel-efficient petrol car when it launched its super-frugal hybrid at the North American International Motor Show in Detroit with an electric motor twinned to a 1.0-litre-engined vehicle which will enter the UK at the end of this year.
But while General Motors believes hybrids could be the environmental solution in the short term, long term it says fuel cell technology will win the battle of alternative vehicle power sources. Most manufacturers believe they will be ready to launch fuel cell technology by 2004/2005, but Rick Wagoner, General Motors' president and chief operating officer, said: 'By 2004 fuel cell technology will not be commercially viable.'
The new Honda will soon be able to cover 90 miles on a gallon of petrol and have sufficient range to take its driver from London to Paris and back. Codenamed VV, the car described by American Honda Motor Co executive vice-president Tom Elliott as a 'personal coupe' achieves 70mpg in US combined city and highway driving and also meets California's tough ultra-low emission vehicle standards.
Ford showcased a series of developments from P2000, the research programme focused on fuel-efficient technologies for next-generation cars and trucks. Its highlight was a Taurus saloon featuring hydrogen fuel cell power - a development with 'real promise,' according to research vice-president Bill Powers.