Down But Not Out, New Gas Engines Challenge Hybrids

Hybrids and electric cars are generating the buzz this week at Detroit's North American International Auto Show. But thanks to new technology, the century-old internal-combustion engine appears poised to make a significant leap in fuel efficiency.

While car makers are showcasing gas-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrids and concept cars powered by fuel-cell batteries, they also are rolling out vehicles with advanced gasoline engines that rely on a technology known as direct fuel injection.

Analysts say sales of vehicles with such engines — which deliver greater fuel economy and power than today's similarly sized gas engines — will far exceed those of hybrids and electrics for years to come.

U.S. sales of hybrids will rise to 578,000 by 2014 from 353,000 this year, according to CSM Worldwide. But the forecasting firm projects that sales of vehicles using direct-injection gas engines will jump to 5.1 million by 2014 from 585,000 this year.

Globally, hybrid, plug-in and battery-only vehicles will capture about 14% of the automotive market by 2020, according to IHS Global Insight, another forecasting firm.

Click here for more on this story from The Wall Street Journal.