It may be buses and taxis that lead the charge, given their circumscribed routes and return to fixed locations. "Buses are big enough to hold batteries," Wang notes, and they are largely purchased by big-pockets governments rather than ordinary citizens.
One thing seems clear: most driving will be done with internal combustion engines, at least for the near future, whether in China, the U.S. or elsewhere. "Under current conditions, only 1 to 2 percent of Chinese consumers are willing to buy hybrid vehicles," Wang says. "Consumers are not yet ready to be willing to pay for the environment out of their own pocket."
Editor's Note: Reporting for this feature took place as a result of a Jefferson Fellowship from the East–West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.