Mary Ann Wright, head of the hybrid-battery joint venture for Johnson Controls and Saft has made a strong statement about the need for new thought and organization for the government officials and agencies that deal with the advanced vehicle industry. Criticizing the U.S. Council for Automotive Research and U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium, as well as the policymakers in Washington that back the programs, Wright says the whole system needs to be reworked in light of modern requirements.

The fundamental problem with the government's role in the current move toward advanced hybrids and electric vehicles is a lack of understanding of the essential technology. Compounding the problem is the resulting failure to grasp the magnitude of the technical hurdles that are being faced as carmakers attempt to build ever-more compact, yet safe and affordable battery systems and electric motors. Cars such as the Volt (concept pictured) are perceived by the average lawmaker as a sort of 'done deal', and they can't understand why carmakers can't just begin producing them at full volume tomorrow.

Wright even went so far as to call the policymakers ignorant, reports The Detroit News. "They need to be educated... I get asked, 'I want one of those plug-ins like I saw my neighbor drive around,'" she said. "They just do not understand the technology challenges. They don't understand where this stuff comes from. They don't understand what it's going to take to make us competitive here so that we can take the shutters off of 35,000 plants and make ourselves competitive again."

Instead of focusing on competing with each other, Wright says, the industry should focus on working together to develop the technology that will underpin the future of automobiles, much like the Japanese industry has done with its battery consortium that involves carmakers and industry companies with government oversight. Until the government adjusts to make such a model possible, Wright argues, the progress sought - and in many cases, required by law - will come at a much slower pace and higher cost than is ultimately necessary.