Honda says it will consider building its Insight gas-electric hybrid in North America (for now it will be built in Japan) if sales consistently top 100,000 units a year. The highly anticipated Insight is expected to be strong competition for the Toyota Prius.
Regenerative braking -- a system that recharges the batteries while braking -- is the norm for any hybrid vehicle. But two professors are working on regenerative shock absorbers -- using the natural motion of an automobile to generate energy. The system could boost a hybrid's fuel economy by 20-70 percent. UPS will test the system, created by Ronald Goldner and Peter Zerigian of Tufts University, later this year.
Ford plans to debut its battery-powered commercial van, the Transit Connect, in North America in 2011 and in Europe next year. With a 100-mile range, it is expected to appeal to urban customers who travel predictable, short-range routes with lots of stop-and-go driving.