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For such a small number of cars, hybrids have had a big impact on the world. That’s especially true when you peek at what’s coming: Hybrids aren’t just for commuters anymore, but for everyone, including those who drive big SUVs or pickup trucks. If you’re interested in a hybrid, or just want to see what’s next, you’ve come to the right place – even if you’re shopping for a sports car. Starting now and heading into the future, we’re getting more hybrids and more realistic hydrogen fuel cell development. Honda’s FCX Clarity, for example, is actually being leased to select motorists in Southern California. We start with the most recently debuted vehicles.
Photo credit: Staff, Automakers
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BMW Vision EfficientDynamics Concept
This is shaping up to be the year that BMW shows off its green side. We’ve seen several hybrid and/or diesel concepts from the company, starting in Detroit, and in Geneva the company has unveiled yet another: The Vision EfficientDynamics Concept. This particular X5 is powered by a new mild hybrid system with a gearbox-mounted electric motor and 2.0-liter diesel engine at its core, promising to serve up 36 mpg without sacrificing BMW’s driving goodness.
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Lotus Exige 270E Tri-fuel Concept
The sports car is dead. Long live the sports car. With cries from every corner that the newly enacted government fuel economy standards spell the end of performance cars, it would be easy to sink into a resigned-to-our-fate stupor. Leave that for those who believe the sky is falling, because we’re here to tell you about a sports car that runs on any combination of three fuels, gasoline, bioethanol and methanol. Lotus, whose sports car cred is unquestionable, has taken its two-seat coupe, the Exige, and set it up to burn a trio of combustibles.
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Mercedes-Benz BlueEFFICIENCY C-Class
Blue is the new green, at least if you’re Mercedes-Benz. All of its environmentally friendly technology seems to have a blue theme, from Bluetec diesels to the new BlueEFFICENCY engine lineup that Mercedes-Benz debuted in its small C-Class cars in Geneva. Designed to reduce fuel consumption without sacrificing performance, Mercedes claims up to a 12 percent increase in efficiency over the non-BlueEFFICIENCY versions.
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Saab 9-X BioHybrid Concept
There are two important things to know about the Saab 9-X BioHybrid concept that was shown at the 2008 Geneva Auto Show. First, you will see a production version of this car in the near future. It will be called the 9-1, compete with the Volvo C30, and here’s hoping the rearmost pillars are a bit smaller. Second, the Hybrid part of the equation is GM’s next-generation mild hybrid, which will make its way into the company’s non Dual-Mode hybrids in the next couple of years.
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2009 GMC Sierra Hybrid
As goes Chevrolet’s full-sized pickups, so go GMC’s. When Chevy introduced the Silverado hybrid in Los Angeles last year, we set our stopwatches for when the GMC Sierra version would show up. Well, the timer just went off, as GM’s truck-only division pulled the wraps off its own hybrid pickup truck. Due to go on sale in the last quarter of 2008 as a 2009 model truck, it promises 40 percent better city fuel economy, 25 percent better overall, but without a serious compromise on towing or hauling capacity.
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Cadillac Provoq Concept
The Provoq is one of the most production-ready concepts we’ve seen, and with all the rumors of a BRX small crossover, we’re guessing that this is a close preview of that vehicle. Whether it winds up with an E-Flex drivetrain right off the bat is debatable, and unlikely, but the possibility still exists.
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Chrysler ecoVoyager Concept
Chrysler is anxious to remind us all that it knows the game has changed from big honkin’ Hemis to environmentally-friendly fare. Thus, the Chrysler ecoVoyager Concept. This four-door car is what Chrysler calls a “one box” design, with a continuous flow from nose to tail. But the big news isn't just styling, but the powertrain. Using a lithium-ion battery pack – the kind all the cool kids use these days – and a hydrogen fuel cell, the ecoVoyager promises 300 mile range with only water vapor emissions.
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Dodge ZEO Concept
Chrysler’s performance division has cooked up a 2+2 sport wagon with electric-only propulsion with a lithium-ion battery pack. Range: at least 250 miles. Dodge says the ZEO is built for driving enthusiasts and points out that “unlike other such vehicles” [Tesla Roadster], the ZEO has four doors, one for each passenger. Dodge says the ZEO will go from 0-60 in less than 6 seconds, which is HEMI territory.
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2010 Fisker Karma
Just this morning we attended a press conference held by a well-known Italian luxury car company, one that sells fewer than 10,000 cars annually. Maybe they haven’t heard about Fisker Automotive, and in particular, the 2010 Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid. Despite a projected annual production run of approximately 15,000 units, the Karma comes much closer to the true definition of exclusive thanks the plug-in’s first-to-market status, relatively affordable $80,000 base price, lithium ion battery technology, full-electric range of 50 miles, and a gas/electric fuel economy rating of 100 mpg.
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Jeep Renegade Concept
Like the Wrangler, but want something with a little more sport? Then check out the Renegade. A resurrected name, but no, this isn’t just an option package for the current Wrangler. Instead, this Renegade Concept is a compact “B-segment” two seater with a cut-down speedster-style windshield, roll bar, a hose-out interior and eco-friendly Bluetec diesel-hybrid engine.
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Mazda5 Hydrogen RE Hybrid Concept
Sure, it may look like your run-of-the-mill Mazda5 MINI minivan, albeit dressed up with some unique graphics, but in reality the vehicle you’re looking at is all about the future. Marking the second generation of Mazda’s hydrogen technology, the Mazda 5 Hydrogen RE (HRE) replaces the brand’s original hydrogen project, the RX-8 HRE. The new variant adds a hybrid system and a larger hydrogen fuel tank, granting the Mazda5 HRE more power and a greater travel range. It will undergo real-world testing when examples are leased in Japan later in 2008...for about $4,000 a month.
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Saab 9-4X BioPower Concept
Rumors of a new Saab crossover have abounded for months now, so much so that one company executive even quipped that it would be named the 9-4X just to meet public expectation. Turns out, he wasn’t joking. The 9-4X BioPower Concept, to be officially unveiled in Detroit, features all-wheel drive, a 300-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder, and a specially designed ski storage compartment.
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Saturn Flextreme Concept
If you grew up with siblings, you were probably constantly admonished by your parents to share your toys. It’s a lesson learned at General Motors, and the company’s North American and European operations have been sharing all manner of goodies lately: the Saturn VUE is an Opel Antera; the Saturn AURA is a stretched Opel Vectra, and the Opel GT is a rebadged Saturn Sky. So we’re not too surprised that Opel’s Frankfurt E-Flex platform concept, the Flextreme, is appearing in Detroit badged as a Saturn.
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Saturn Vue Green Line Plug-In Hybrid
It ain’t easy bein’ green, especially when you’re trying to change your image from a purveyor of gas guzzling trucks and SUVs. GM’s tactic is multifold, and includes alternative fuels, fuel cells, and various hybrid technologies. One of the newest buzzwords in hybrids is the plug-in, and GM promises to be the first out of the gate with a production version in 2010 with the Saturn VUE Green Line Plug-In Hybrid.
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2009 Saturn Vue Two-Mode Hybrid
Wait, doesn’t Saturn already have a Vue hybrid? Yes, it does, and it’s called the Green Line. However, the current hybrid is barely worthy of the name, using a system that provides very little assistance to the car’s overall fuel economy. Things will change at the end of the year when the Two-Mode goes on sale, with Saturn promising the new hybrid will be the most fuel efficient V-6 powered SUV of any sort on the market, with fuel economy improvements of about 50 percent over the current XR.
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Toyota A-BAT Concept
Toyota made quite a name for itself with its small pickup truck in the 1980s, and the company describes the A-BAT as a return, at least somewhat, to those humble beginnings. With a modern Honda Ridgeline/Chevy Avalanche profile, and a four-cylinder gasoline engine combined with Toyota’s hybrid system, the concept targets suburban dwellers who commute to work and need to haul things from big-box stores or their weekend warrior toys. The A-BAT parts ways with its pickup truck kin by being built on a unit-body platform.
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Chevrolet Volt Concept
Referring to the recent environmental flick, GM’s most recognizable executive implied that the Chevrolet Volt concept car, which runs primarily on electricity with flex-fuel engine assist only after the 40-mile range has been exceeded, might be an inconvenient truth for those who demonize companies like his. In a best case scenario, commuters could travel to and from work without ever needing the engine’s assistance, meaning they wouldn’t need to buy, or burn, any fossil fuel. Under the Volt’s hood is a three-cylinder turbocharged engine used to provide power when the massive 400-lb. lithium-ion battery peters out.
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2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid
For a boxer it might be hammering a bruised kidney, for a Jenny Craig client it might be avoiding buttered dinner rolls. The point is to focus on an area that will provide the greatest impact, and that’s just what Chevrolet will do when it launches the 2009 Silverado Hybrid in late 2008. With a reported 40-percent improvement in fuel economy while still providing plentiful V-8 power and a 6,100-lb. towing capacity, Chevy’s full-size pickup could potentially provide a significant impact.
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2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid
Except for some mild tweaks to improve wind flow, this is just a hybridized version of the Aspen you’ve already met. The Auburn Hills, Mich., manufacturer is utilizing the two-mode hybrid system developed in partnership with General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and finally getting into the hybrid game. Following in the footsteps of GM’s Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon hybrids, the Pentastar automaker chose to introduce the new hybrid system in its large SUV as well as in its Dodge stable mate the Durango. So what we’re really previewing here is the hybrid system and what it means to large suvs.
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2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid
Dodge charges onto the hybrid playing field by outfitting the 2009 Dodge Durango with a two-mode hybrid, the same system utilized in the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe hybrids and jointly developed with General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, and The BMW Group. While the Durango is now a hybrid, Mopar fans don’t have to worry about giving up power as the Durango hybrid will still come with the 5.7 L Hemi and all the horsepower that comes with it.
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Honda FCX Clarity
Clarity. It’s the name Honda has given its production fuel cell car, and it’s a name you’ll want to remember. After years of having fuel cell prototypes in the hands of fleets and even paying customers, Honda makes good on its commitment to a hydrogen future. The 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show was the venue for the introduction of the FCX Clarity, an Accord-sized sedan with styling based on the FCX Concept from a few years ago that promises to “enable levels of performance room, comfort and dynamic styling previous unattainable in a fuel cell car.”
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Mercedes-Benz S400 Bluetec Hybrid Concept
Mercedes-Benz has taken its Bluetec V-6 diesel engine and mated it with a hybrid system. Result? Claimed fuel economy of 40 mpg on the highway (European test cycle) and acceleration to 60 mph in a shade over seven seconds, which is none too shabby. Also not surprising given the 265 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque produced by the dual power plant. Mercedes says the car will arrive in the States after 2010. Beyond those tidbits, very few details were parceled out.
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Porsche Cayenne Hybrid Concept
Porsche gave the Cayenne Hybrid its North American debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show, just in time for clean diesel. Cayenne uses a “true hybrid” design, in other words, the electric motor and clutch sit between the gasoline engine and the transmission. Steering and braking systems that normally put a drag on the engine are electric in the Cayenne Hybrid, all in the name of saving fuel. Porsche says the hybrid Cayenne will hit the road at the end of the decade.
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Volkswagen Space Up! Blue Concept
For L.A., Volkswagen brought the third variant of the Up! concept, the Space Up! Blue, which is a combination fuel cell and plug-in hybrid. On electric-only power the Space Up! has a range of 65 miles. When the fuel cell is combined with the motor, the range goes up to 220 miles. The four-seater has both a fuel-cell fueling port and an electric plug-in port. On top of the micro van is a solar panel to augment plug-in battery charging. Pretty ambitious stuff.
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Volvo ReCharge Concept
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Chevrolet must be getting embarrassed. Volvo’s C30-based ReCharge concept boasts a gasoline engine, electric motors at each wheel and batteries to create a distinctly Volt-like vehicle. With a battery-only range of 100 kilometers (about 60 miles), the ReCharge uses its engine to recharge the batteries, rather than actually drive the car. Interestingly, while the engine is designed to automatically start when only 30 percent of battery life remains, the driver can control when it cuts in with a switch on the dash.
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