Last week Ford unveiled the Airstream concept at the Detroit Auto Show, which marked its first public attempt at a plug-in hybrid. Like the Chevy Volt, it's primarily battery-powered with an auxiliary power unit to charge the battery on the go. The Airstream, howver, differs from the Volt in that it's equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell instead of an internal combustion engine.

This week at the Automotive News World Congress, Ford's hybrid vehicle manager Nancy Gioia delivered an address where she indicated that Ford is seriously considering a production plug-in hybrid vehicle. The battery, of course, is the main hold up. Because of the added complexity of a PHEV, a strong, affordable, reliable battery is critical to getting enough battery range to make such a vehicle worthwhile. Gioia indicated that additional tax credits may be necessary for buyers to find such a vehicle economically viable.

Ford was no doubt spurred to make this statement concerning the future viability of a plug-in hybrid based on the warm reception of the Chevy Volt Concept at the 2007 North American International Auto Show. Ford was the first domestic automaker on the scene with a hybrid when it introduced the Ford Escape Hybrid a few years ago. Eager to maintain its image as the greenest automaker based in the U.S., announcing the potential for a plug-in hybrid puts it somewhat back on par with General Motors, though the General has actually produced the Volt Concept, which is much more production feasible with its E-Flex chassis than Ford's Airstream Concept.

[Source: Automotive News - Subscription required]