The Millennium ExperienceChronicle of the Future

Here come the hybrids

06.10.07: CAMBRIDGE City council, tired of waiting for Westminster to resolve the problems of traffic pollution and congestion, has introduced a unilateral vehicle ban.

Having seen similar steps taken in Tokyo two years ago, motor industry insiders say they are not surprised at the move.

One insider, who wished not to be identified, said that car companies have been waiting for such local initiatives to boost sales of petrol-electric hybrids.

"Toyota has been selling small numbers of hybrids like these since the launch of its Prius in 1998; now its time has come."

The concept is simple: a car with a battery for running around town and a small, efficient petrol engine for longer, out-of-town journeys. The batteries are automatically recharged during journeys.

Environmentalists argue that hybrids are a halfway solution, merely exporting pollution to the power stations where the electricity is generated. Friends of the Future favours more expensive fuel cells, which generate hydrogen from biomass or domestic waste.

According to Mercedes-Benz, which expects to build 100,000 fuel-cell cars this year, sales are booming. And if the hybrids are as eco-friendly as the company claims, they could reduce landfill problems too. DL