Carmakers are faced with a number of options for alternative fuel motoring but at this stage it’s still anyone’s guess as to what will be the dominant fuel source of the future. That’s why most of them are hedging their bets, developing a number of different technologies in the hope that one of them will be the right one.

But if any technology is to be successful in the short term carmakers will need to form a single solution and convince buyers of its viability. That’s the consensus of a group of auto industry experts, who spoke yesterday at the SAE International World Congress.

"It is imperative that consumers believe there is a plan, that you know where you're going," said Scott Miller, chief executive officer of Synovate Motoresearch in an interview with the Associated Press. "You have to give them peace of mind that you're not going to yank the rug out from under them in five years."

Within the next 12 months there will be for sale petrol and diesel hybrids, plug-n hybrids, all-electric vehicles and even hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and possibly hydrogen powered cars with internal combustion engines. None of these cars will be able to sell in volume unless consumers are convinced the technology is here to stay and at the moment there’s no real signal of which will be dominant in the future.

There’s also the problem that most consumers aren’t willing to pay the premiums for the technology. Something carmakers will have to struggle with as they try to improve their fleet average emissions and fuel economy levels in light of new laws being rolled out in both the U.S. and Europe.

Pictured above is GM’s Volt plug-in hybrid concept, the technology most likely to gain traction since industry heavyweights GM and Toyota are both racing to launch versions by the end of the decade. The vehicles can be driven between 50 and 100 miles a day on electric power alone before needing to be recharged but they also contain a normal petrol engine designed to charge the batteries for extended travel distances.