There are almost as many different approaches to the future of automotive fuel and energy supply as there are carmakers, with hydrogen combustion engines, hydrogen fuel cells, ethanol, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and a number of permutations of these all in development. Ford thinks they are all just stepping stones to the final fuel source: electricity.

Seeing the power of electrons as providing a unifying motive force, Ford's global product chief Derrick Kuzak has staked his claim that electricity is "the ultimate solution" to the problem of future fuels, reports The Detroit News. Alternative fuels like hydrogen and ethanol are impractical to produce, and even if that hurdle is cleared, they don't have an existing infrastructure like electricity does, argues Kuzak.

Despite these shortfalls, Ford will continue researching the technologies to cover its bases in the event of a future breakthrough or government intervention. Jim Farley, Ford's chief of marketing, agrees that electric cars are the way of the future, and that the industry as a whole must prepare for that eventuality.

Hybrids in particular are problematic, notes Kuzak, despite their partially-electric operation. Because they are effectively two separate powertrains in the same vehicle, they dramatically increase costs without an proportionate increase in efficiency. Even current and future plug-in hybrids (like the Escape plug-in hybrid pictured above) rely on some sort of combustion engine to provide longer-range electricity.

That's where critics step in and point out the flaw in Ford's vision: battery technology. The reality of the current technological marketplace necessitates the use of supplemental fuels to aid electric cars on trips of extra-urban distances.

Still, Ford's vision for the future means that while the energy storage systems remain in development, focusing on electric powertrains - whatever the power source - is going to be the core of the new agenda. That means electric motors, regenerative braking systems, and ways to quickly, efficiently and safely deliver large amounts of electricity to enable acceptable acceleration.