As we noted last week, Ford will soon have two models of the same car to compete with both the Chevrolet Volt and the Toyota Prius. In addition to this, Ford is also bringing out a pure electric version of its Focus model, which will can compete with the Nissan Leaf.
Ford is not the only automaker to be moving away from a single-engine technology and moving to develop a variety of powertrain options for buyers. In addition to the Volt, General Motors has also announced plans to develop an all electric vehicle as well as further EREV options for its other lines.
Honda also has an extremely diverse range of powertrain options. In addition to several hybrid models currently available, Honda also has a natural gas powered Civic and a range of other currently or forthcoming cars including the hydrogen fuel cell FCX Clarity, a plug-in hybrid concept, and the Fit EV concept.
Ultimately, there is no one right answer. For too long, transportation needs were subject to a one-size-fits-all mentality that relied on the gasoline internal combustion engine. The smart automakers are not approaching this as a shotgun approach to figure out what the next 'silver bullet' technology is going to be. Different kinds of automobiles are going to be useful for different buyers' needs. It's not a matter of trying to figure out which technology is going to replace the gasoline engine, it's developing a range of options to meet the more specific needs of the transportation market.
Neither the Prius nor the Volt nor the Leaf nor any other vehicle is the answer to all driving needs. Automakers who limit themselves to internal combustion gasoline engines will become the kind of specialty niche manufacturers that companies like Tesla Motors are today.