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Sustainable Energy

A New Generation of Green Wheels

A gallery of electric and hybrid vehicles on display at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany.

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Prototype and production hybrids and electric cars debuted this week at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany. Car manufacturers showed off sportier designs—and some outlandish models.

The i8, shown here, is BMW’s first plug-in hybrid sports car. It can reach 62 miles per hour in 4.6 seconds, has a top speed of 155 mph, and can achieve 87 miles per gallon. It weighs 3,200 pounds. A version of the car will probably be on sale by the end of 2013.

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The Audi Urban concept car looks like a cross between a go-cart and a space capsule. The 1,058-pound electric car requires passengers to climb in through the top; it houses a 7.1-kilowatt-hour battery and takes about 17 seconds to get to 60 mph.

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The RAK e (pronounced “Rack-ee”) has a lithium-ion battery that yields 62 miles per charge, and a top speed of 74 mph. The tiny two-seat design (reported weight is just 836 pounds) is targeted at young drivers.

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The Ford Evos is not meant to go into production, but the company says the design will inform the development of future vehicles appearing as soon as 2012. 

The plug-in hybrid shows the potential for cars to connect to the cloud and use social-networking tools and other sources of information. Ford envisions future cars tapping into a user’s calendar and prepping the cabin with whatever music the user was previously listening to.

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The Lexus 2013 GS450h hybrid sedan is a faster, more energy-efficient version of Lexus’s previous hybrid. It can reach 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, and the company touts its high-performance sports-car-like handling.

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VW’s Nils electric, a single-seat concept car, is an exercise in “micromobility.” The Nils, which can reach 60 mph in 11 seconds, has a top speed of 80 mph and a range of 40 miles. At 1,015 pounds, it has a 5.3k-watt-hour lithium-ion battery that can be charged in two hours. Backed by the German government, the model is aimed at individual commuters who travel a dozen or so miles to work.

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The Mercedes and Daimler AG Smart was developed in collaboration with chemical company BASF. 

The electric concept car’s transparent roof is made of solar panels that supply energy for climate control and the sound system. Plastic wheels make the car lighter, and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDS) inside the car supply low-power energy. An infrared-reflective film material developed by BASF also helps keep the inside of the car cool.

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