The bailout talk is front and center this week but I haven't seen much of anything about attaching useful taxpayer demands beyond the old and simplistic CAFE argument that is being recycled once again by hopeful Paleo-Libs who are apparently ready to get rolled once again for the umpteenth time by Dr. Detroit. Every time we try to impose anything on 'em, they pitch a fit and in the process offer up gems like the Vega, Pinto, or the repurposed V-8 gas to diesel conversion that GM offered in the 80s-- An engine so bad that few cars or trucks ever got beyond 60,000 miles before the heads blew right off the engines. Another regular stratagem employed is to offer a car so ugly, poorly built and underpowered that it would allow them to go back to gummint and piously protest "See? People just don't want these vehicles, Yada Yada." Meanwhile the Asians and Europeans were eating their collective Detroit lunches on tech, tolerance, fit and finish, and overall dependability.
There are all kinds of consumers in the auto world. Contractors that actually need pickups to haul stuff for their work join The Fearful and insecure who opt for the Giant SUV for the perception of safety and the Command Position seating. The Aging Hippies that used to drive VWs go with the Subaru wagon and the younger Hipsters might favor the Box-on-Wheels statement of the Element. The Arrested Adolescents (My Tribe) go for the acceleration. Und so Weiter........
Anyhow, Toyota already has the prototype of what GM should become, with a few mods. Ifn they want my money they should be required to offer a Plug in Hybrid for every single platform that they market. This tech is mature and is already being offered on class six and class seven delivery trucks by Kenworth using diesel engines over Lithium Ion batteries. We should also demand a minimum acceleration for passenger vehicles of 0-60 in not more than 11 seconds, which I think is the slowest safe speed for merging from off ramps, and passing Bert and Irma as they travel up the hill in their monster RV with the Cadillac Cimmaron in tow on Hwy 26 at 25 m.p.h.
Eventually, every single vehicle that sports an internal combustion engine and a set of brakes should be equipped with this tech, and as storage systems continue to evolve, we should be looking toward practical all electric vehicles that have the requisite range, speed, and acceleration to run on the existing road system.
Note #1: Nickle Metal Hydride batteries come standard in most current Hybrids, but disposal is a bitch. Lithium Ion batteries are more efficient and mostly harmless at the End if Life, but are currently pretty expensive to manufacture, so maybe a couple of billion toward development for these guys too.
Note #2: A really smart friend in the energy biz points out that batteries are replaced in Hybrids when they drop to 70% to 80% efficiency but are still potentially useful. All of these recycled batteries could be repurposed to store wind and solar energy; currently a major drawback to alternative energy production anywhere that hydro is not readily available as a storage device.