The Plug-In Surge

Automakers are pushing a new breed of efficient hybrid cars

The prospect of $100-a-barrel oil and the higher gas prices that inevitably follow made hybrid vehicles the hot topic once again at the annual Detroit auto show, which was held in mid-January. BMW, Ford, Honda, Mercedes, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo all introduced new hybrids or plug-ins. Hybrids didn't have a great 2011; they represented only 2.2% of U.S. auto sales, down from 2.4% in 2010. But automakers are betting that the global energy equation--including high demand for fossil fuels from emerging markets, possible supply constraints in the Middle East and the push for tougher environmental standards and regulations--means the math will...

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