The two biggest automakers in the world are talking about forming a joint venture to begin manufacturing hydrogen-powered cars. General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. refer to the proposed undertaking as Project Apollo.
Japan's Kyodo news agency reports that the automakers are expected to formally discuss Project Apollo at a top-level meeting this weekend in Japan. There is no formal or informal agreement between the two automakers, however.
Fuel cell and hydrogen driven cars currently are about ten times more expensive to produce than conventional automobiles. The combined technological of the two companies would produce a large worldwide competitive advantage.
GM is already working on fuel cell development with, with several Southern California companies and at its own Advanced Technology Center in Torrance. Toyota is the worldwide leader in hybrid technology.
GM has insisted for years that it will have a commercially viable fuel cell vehicle ready for the market by 2010, and insiders say the company is well ahead of schedule in several key areas. Toyota has been a major proponent of hybrid technology, which combines standard gasoline engines with electric power.
Carmakers see fuel cells as desirable because if they can be perfected, and if a retail fuel distribution system is developed, they would remove the auto industry from much of the debate over air pollution and fossil fuel consumption.
The effort to produce fuel efficient if not green cars is spreading through the auto-industry, in large part because of Toyota's success with hybrid technology sales.
In a effort to save what is left of its automobile sales share, scandal plagued Mitsubishi Motors will start selling electric cars in 2010.
The company hopes to show off its expertise as well as mend its battered reputation by entering the hybrid and electric-car market. To that end Mitsubishi showed off a tiny test vehicle equipped with motors embedded in the rear wheels that run on a lithium-ion batteries.
Sales of Mitsubishi cars have fallen since the automaker acknowledged five years ago it had been systematically hiding auto defects from authorities. Its global production in March dropped 11 percent from the same month a year ago.
The Mitsubishi electric car, which will be available for test fleets next year, has a cruising range of 93 miles on a single charge and can be recharged in a regular home.