TOKYO — As more automakers plan hybrids, the green segment's two forerunners, Toyota and Honda, say one variant looks like a dead end.
That is the so-called plug-in hybrid, a car that has a conventional gasoline engine and an electric motor but also a battery that can be recharged from a home outlet.
"I can't understand where the advantage lies," Honda CEO Takeo Fukui said here. "It's like a battery hybrid that's evolving but still hasn't fully evolved, so you have an engine and a gas tank that aren't much use."
The plug-in's mission is to travel, say, 40 miles for a round-trip commute on the battery alone. But, so far, no automaker has built a practical plug-in model. The batteries would have to be too big, too heavy or too expensive.
Fukui's doubts throw cold water on plans by companies such as General Motors, which is shooting for a plug-in hybrid in 2010. GM is counting on plug-ins to give it a competitive edge over Toyota, which stole an early lead in hybrids with its hugely popular Prius.