25-miles Southwest of Chicago, at Argonne National Laboratory...research engineers are figuring out what kind of car you'll likely be driving soon.
"So that's the future. That' a plug-in hybrid."
Argonne's Advanced Powertrain Research Facility is part of the U.S. Department of Energy. One of their big projects right now is this car that's powered by gas and electricity, which is stored in a big battery.
They see a plug-in hybrid as one very real option.
Michael Duoba said, "People talk about who killed the electric car, but this is part electric car and part gasoline car. And the fact is, normally people don't drive very long distances every day, you don't need an electric car to go 200-300 miles --- that would be a very large and expensive electric battery."
"So on average, if you drive 40-miles a day, you might be able to use only electricty," said Duoba.
Batteries are also a big part of the research at Argonne.
"Cell phones, you think about it, ten years ago they were the size of a brick and they weighed ten pounds. Now they're just a few ounces," said Ted Bohn.
The researchers think that same technology can make your car go faster. The battery Bohn is holding is the one in all Toyota's Hybrids...and GM will soon use it too. And the Argonne guys think there's a better one out there.
Bohn said, "This would be an energy source that's very, very robust. A huge amount of power in a very small package."
Also on the Horizon, Argonne sees a big future for hydrogen cars.
Thomas Wallner said, "The big advantage of it - you have absolutely no emissions. What comes out of the tailpipe is water."
But the tricky part is getting the hydrogen. Any mass production of hydrogen cars would require a large-scale infrastructure to make hydrogen available and affordable. That's at least ten years away.
"I think the future for transportation is gonna be a variety of fuels."
Another part of the lab has a Toyota Camry Hybrid on a car treadmill.
"It's important to find out whether these vehicles work or they don't work and then we can feed this information to people that make decisions about laws and inform consumers about how the technology works and what they can do in buying new technology," said Stephen Gurski.
This area represents a stepping off point to any new technologies...it's about improving what's already out there.
But we wanted to know what car we could buy today and in a very informal poll with researchers at Argonne and elsewhere the top recommendation was for the Toyota Prius. They also like the Honda Civic Hybrid as a smaller car. And for an SUV, they liked the 2008 Ford Hybrid Escape, which gets 36 miles per gallon.
And lots of people in the know are excited about the Chevy Volt due in 2010. It's designed to run purely on electricity from on-board batteries for up to 40 miles.
The Argonne researchers see the future of cars and the environment as all about a balance.
"There's what comes out of your wallet and what we do to Mother Earth."