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GM sees future: Cars and drivers full of booze

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Frequent recharges are a serious problem for most battery cars because charging takes such a long time - typically several hours. (At least one new technology claims to have cracked this, but it's not yet widely available on the road.)

Since the demise of the EV1, the main poster-child for all-battery cars has been the Tesla Roadster, and many still have high hopes for the snazzy electric supercar. However, there have recently been delays to delivery and boardroom battles at Tesla Motors. The initial cars are now to be delivered "with a few components, such as the transmission, that will need to be upgraded at a later date."

Electric cars also have the same problem as hydrogen ones - that they would need loads of new juice from somewhere. On the other hand, they are often favoured by greens as it is thought that the batteries of unused, plugged-in vehicles could act as a reservoir of stored energy for the power grid, smoothing out surges in supply and demand.

For its part, GM isn't going fully electric again in a hurry. Wagoner says it will bring out its Chevy Volt - a petrol-electric hybrid with a big enough battery to usefully use mains power - by 2010, though he said it would be a "stretch" to achieve that date.

The one new car thing that the motor colossus seems confident it can do soon is make a car which drives itself, at least some of the time. This isn't green, but it would obviously be a boon.

"Autonomous driving means that someday you could do your email, eat breakfast, do your makeup, and watch a video while commuting to work," Wagoner said in a speech at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Or get drunk and let the car drive you home, of course. Though it would be unwise to swig E85 siphoned from the tank; it's 15 per cent petrol.

"In other words, you could do all the things you do now... safely," said Wagoner, puckishly.

Apparently, GM boffins reckon they could have hands-off, booze-friendly cars ready for 2018. ®

*Others believe that such cars should also be able to run on methanol blends, saying that methanol can be made from non-food sources right now.

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