This image was lost some time after publication.

The major limitation of hybrids on the market has always been the batteries that store energy produced on-board by the fossil-fueled side of the drivetrain or from regenerative braking. Those batteries, composed of nickel metal hydride, just aren't robust enough to max out the e-motor's benefit. And with 'merican auto manufacturers not quite being on the ball on development of gas-electrics, but with a clear market desire for hybrids of a plug-in variety, they're looking to Japanese battery companies for R&D help. In the process they're encountering what the Wall Street Journal's calling "a new ... economic nationalism." To wit:

When GM team members asked for detailed information about the company's most sophisticated automotive lithium-ion batteries, Panasonic EV refused. A Panasonic EV spokesman says that as a matter of company policy it only discloses that kind of information to its parent company, Toyota.

Maybe what US companies need is the equivalent of a national Apollo project on battery development. Then we'd finally know whether electrical sockets were really made of cheese.

In Quest for Better Battery, Keep an Ion Nationalism [WSJ]

Electric Vanliness: Sprinter to Be DaimlerChrysler's First Plug-in Hybrid; One Hybrid Priced Below Them All: Saturn Aura Green Line Lowest-Priced Hybrid At $22,695 [internal]