Amid soaring oil prices, ecologically-friendly cars are grabbing the limelight at the Tokyo Motor Show, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Experimental ecological cars include a vehicle that switches back and forth between an electric motor, a hydrogen-powered engine from Mazda and a fuel cell small car from Suzuki, the report said.

"We could be facing a crisis in which the oil supply dries up," Mitsuru Honma of Sanyo Electric Co., which supplies batteries for Ford hybrid vehicles, told the news agency.

Sanyo reportedly estimates annual production of hybrid vehicles may increase to three million worldwide by 2010, or 7% of the 44 million car market. Annual hybrid production now totals less than half a million.

AP said hybrid pioneer Toyota is showing an even more advanced concept called Fine-X, which is powered by an electric battery and a pollution-free hydrogen fuel cell. The hydrogen, stored in a fuel tank, combines with oxygen in the air to form water clean enough to drink.

The Fine-X also has wheels that can swivel at a sharp angle to the side to allow for tight U-turns and easy parallel parking, the report noted.

AP said GM is displaying its collaboration in fuel cells with Japanese partner Suzuki that adapted GM's technology for its speciality small cars.

In a development UK buyers of right hand drive cars would love for driving holidays in LHD continental Europe, AP noted that the driver's seat in Suzuki's Ionis moves from side to side as well as to the centre to allow for more room when driving alone.

Like other fuel cell cars at the show, the Ionis is roomier than conventional cars because fuel cells don't need space for an engine and other usual mechanical parts, the report said.

"We don't see this as a question of whether. We see it as a question of when," Larry Burns, GM's head of research and development, told the Associated Press of the impending switch from petrol engines to fuel cells.

Burns reportedly said GM plans to develop a fuel cell system that will be competitive with petrol engines in performance by 2010, although it may take more time to mass produce them because of the lack of hydrogen-refuelling stations and other changes needed before they can become practical.

"We don't know where the markets are going," Carlos Ghosn, who heads Nissan Motor and Renault, told AP. "We have to observe what's going down, see the trends, look at every vibration on the market, prepare the technology and jump when consumers start to think one way or the other."

Ghosn showed off the GT-R Proto, a sportscar set to go on sale in 2007, while Honda's FCX fuel cell concept highlighted other technology such as turning on car audio and air conditioning by simply looking at icons on a dashboard, AP added.

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