The article describes and presents a critical analysis of the long history of alternative fuels and propulsion technologies, particularly in automobile applications. Cases are electric and hybrid cars. The term "critical analysis" refers to the analysis of the various alternative technologies in relation to their societal contexts. In particular, these are the varying contexts of energy security, energy policy, environmental problems, sustainability, and also the later more explicit climate change context. This approach gives some knowledge with relevance to the current discussions on implementation issues. The work is first of all founded on the knowledge field of "Social Studies of Technological Systems".