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Which approach is better, incremental or radical? Both. They complement each other. (In fact, GM has also designed a traditionally configured fuel-cell car, called the HydroGen3, which it plans to begin testing on FedEx runs in Tokyo this June.)
Notice, in this connection, what you aren't hearing: barks of alarm about Japan's "winning" a "fuel-cell race." That's not just because Americans are otherwise occupied. The big Japanese automakers now sell more cars in America than in Japan, and they build many of them here, too, in high-tech plants where Japanese faces are rarely seen. Chrysler is now the trailing half of a Euro-American conglomerate. GM is busy investing in China. The automobile industry is increasingly international.
That is a fortunate thing. Breaking the hundred-year monopoly of the internal combustion engine is as vast a project as capitalism has ever undertaken. Given the immensity of the risks involved and the uncountable billions of dollars of capital investment required, the project is nothing short of planetary in scale. Simultaneous competition and collaboration across national borders—also known as globalization—provides the only hope of success.
These days, therefore, Japan looks less like a rival than a resource. If you care about America's long-term security, say thank-you to Yuji Kawaguchi. And if you care about stopping global warming and preventing conservative presidents from going to war for oil, be grateful for globalization.