Who will be first to release the car that will change the way American's use gasoline in a monumental way? GM, Tesla, and Toyota are certainly in the running claiming they'll have the Car in the next two years- but I won't hold my breath until I see the Car sitting on a sales lot, in my neighborhood. What is the Car you ask? It is a plug-in hybrid with the battery capacity of ELECTRC (my car) and a nice fuel efficient gas engine to kick in and provide a boost in the rare occasion that I go further than 30 miles.
Here are the specs that I think the Car has to attain to cause the revolution that I think plug-in hybrids will have on the automotive and energy industry:
Price: ~$25,000 - Must be in this range to be affordable by the mainstream car buyer
All Electric Rage ~ 30 miles normal driving up hills/some freeway - This will satisfy 95% of all daily commutes
Lifespan of batteries ~10 yrs
Gasoline Engine Efficiency - 35+ MPH
Style - 4 door - Most people don't need 4 doors, but everyone thinks that they do
I guarantee that the first auto-maker to hit these specs will have the best selling car in the world, ever. People will realize that they are going months without stopping at a gas station, that they just plug-in to their home at night and the car uses 1/4 of the cost of gasoline, and that they never worry about running out of electricity because they have a gas engine to kick in for really long trips. Gas stations will close like 5 and dimes and the stock price of Exxon and Shell will drop like its 1932 (err 2008) as people realize what a liberating experience it is to run on electricity, rather than gasoline and our oil consumption from vehicles drops ~90%.
Ah, what a world. It won't happen in 2010, but it will happen soon. We have the technology, its just a matter of the will to buck the establishment, the R&D+manufacturing to put it all together, and the realization that the first company to put it all together, wins.