Toyota has introduced the first car that uses a hybrid of petrol and electricity for power.
The Prius (pron: PREEH-us) four-door small sedan will sell only in Japan and will cost 2.15 million Japanese yen or 17-thousand-700 U-S dollars.
Toyota claims the car emits only half the carbon dioxide of a similar gasoline-powered vehicle and cuts other tailpipe emissions by about 90 percent.
It comes less than 24 hours after the Japanese government delivered an anti-global warming plan that would require individuals to curb their use of the petrol-fuelled car.
The car of the future?
Toyota on Tuesday unveiled the first environmentally-friendly hybrid car.
The four-door sedan, is cheap by Japanese standards, at 17-thousand-700 U-S dollars; efficient, doing 28 kilometres to a litre -- or 66 miles per gallon -- and easy on pollution, with a 90 percent reduction in tailpipe emissions.
"We need to aggressively challenge over- technological innovation. Furthermore, we will open the new era by repeatedly conversing with society."
SUPER CAPTION: Hiroshi Okuda, President of Toyota Motor Co.
Toyota is the first on to the market.
All the major car manufacturers, including America's Big Three, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, and the Europeans are also working on hybrid technology.
But Toyota is the only one so far to actually bring a hybrid to the showrooms.
Toyota says it plans to sell about 1-thousand hybrids a year.
How the car will be received by consumers is unclear.
But it is sure to excite engineers across the world, who will be taking a good look at the first Prius they can get their hands on.
The hybrid is clever and expensive technology.
It runs on electricity at lower speeds when the petrol engine is less efficient and switches to petrol only after it picks up speed.
But unlike the even cleaner electric car that has to be recharged after 200 kilometres (120 miles), the driver only needs to take it to a regular gas station because its engine and brakes keep the hybrid recharged.
Although its fuel economy is an attraction in Japan, given its high petrol prices -- 90 yen per litre or 2.80 dollars U-S per gallon), how much consumers are willing to pay for a hybrid remains a question.
Both Nissan and Honda Motor Co. have recently disclosed their own hybrid technology and say they plan to put a hybrid car on the market in the next year or so.
"This is just, you know, the headstart on various hybrid systems being developed by Japanese, American and European automakers. So we'll see how it evolves but I think this is a very good headstart."
SUPER CAPTION: Toshio Aritake, Bureau of National Affairs
But for Toyota there is a certain cache to being first.
It's also good marketing. Toyota will be in a good position to monitor customer feedback and adjust later models accordingly.
Meanwhile, a Japanese engineering firm has unveiled the world's first magnetic powered vehicle -- albeit a small one.
With this truck, seen here in a model version, the Nihon Riken company claims petrol would be redundant for transporting goods by road and could be used only for cars and heavy industry.
The company has developed a system which is says will replace petrol with magnets as an energy source.
Teruo Kawai, the head of the project team discovered how to convert the electromagnetic energy of the permanent magnet into output energy by introducing a special switching function.
In a series of applications, iron is combined with a permanent magnet to be used as one magnetic substance.
"My final goal is, at the time when people's biggest concern is pollution, to produce a car that would not cause any pollution at all. I want to make a motor which needs less battery and is effective. That's is to say, a motor with a new concept."
SUPER CAPTION: Teruo Kawai, inventor of magnetic powered vehicle
The development of new environmentally-friendly power sources is timely.
The Japanese government has just set out a plan to reduce greenhouse emissions by 5 percent, including deadly carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
The plan calls for people to substantially reduce their use of the conventional petrol-powered car.