The only alternative vehicle that possibly could compete with the internal-combustion engine in the next several decades will have an electric motor.
Electric motors can be used in all sorts of arrangements, and a single motor or multiple motors seem to work well.
The technical challenge for alternative vehicles continues to be the power source. Several entries are competing to be around when the winner is chosen, including the internal-combustion engine, which seems strange as a source of electricity.
But right now, today, consumers can buy a couple of interesting interim vehicles, one from Toyota and the other from Honda, that combine the electric car with a small internal-combustion engine. Both cars work remarkably well, and the internal-combustion engine allows you to go a few hundred miles without the wait that a pure electric vehicle requires while your batteries recharge.
These are great interim vehicles, but they're definitely interim. They aren't zero-emissions vehicles.
It will be interesting to see what sort of consumer reaction they receive in the United States. They have become popular in Japan, but they have required manufacturers' subsidies.
But after the hybrid, what then? It will be some sort of electric-motored vehicle. And in 10 or 20 years, it could have one of several possible power sources, including batteries or a fuel cell. It's too early to be able to state with any conviction which is going to be the winner.
But whatever the winner is, that's just the beginning.
The great challenge is to change the entire world delivery system for power. Today there are countless fueling stations around the world pumping petroleum products into vehicles. And although you might choke at the thought of it, it's a system that has worked very safely for 100 years. The thought of replacing that system of delivery for motor vehicles staggers the imagination, particularly if you're talking about such things as liquid hydrogen and oxygen.
In the next century, the challenge won't be just replacing fossil fuels with some pollution-free form of power for our vehicles. It's going to be replacing a gigantic infrastructure to fuel those millions of vehicles. And that's one good reason why the internal-combustion engine isn't going away any time soon.