Los Angeles (CA) - Cars shows are usually about the meanest, fastest and in recent years the biggest cars. But at this year's Los Angeles Auto Show the greenest cars are taking the spotlight. Companies are now showing off fuel cell concept cars to go along with their older hybrid vehicles. General Motors even announced the first ever plug-in hybrid vehicle amidst the protest of an environmental activist.
At the huge Honda booth, we saw the fuel cell concept car, aptly named the FCX. The car shows that even good looking cars can be environmentally friend. The FCX uses hydrogen powered cells along with lithium-ion batteries as a backup power source. The fuel tank holds 171 liters of compressed hydrogen. Top speed is 100 mph and the car can go 354 miles before recharging.
Honda is already testing out 20 FCX cars and expects to sell the first batch in 2008.
General Motor's Chevrolet introduced a fuel cell version of their Equinox SUV. The car uses hydrogen stored in three carbon-fiber fuel tanks and has a maximum range of 200 mile. The company will be starting its "Project Driveway" which will give more than 100 fuel cell Equinox vehicles to celebrities and other people for prolonged testing. Fifty of those cars will be driven in the Los Angeles area.
General Motors also announced a new hybrid vehicle. During his opening keynote to the press, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner pledged to make a plug-in hybrid version of the Saturn Vue SUV. The new car will recharge through a normal 110 volt power socket. According to Wagoner, the hybrid Vue would have double the fuel-efficiency of current SUVs.
An environmental activist jumped on the stage shortly after Wagoner talked about the new car. The activist tried to get the chairman to sign a contract for cleaner vehicles, but was escorted away by security officers.
There were several other notable and "non-green" announcements at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Honda showed off their "Step Bus" concept car that tries to bring back the look and feel of the Volkswagen bus. The squarish car has plenty of interior room for band equipment, skateboards and whatever else you want to fit inside. The plastic control panel looks like it came from Fischer-Price toys, but some people may like it.
Chrysler updated their Sebring line with a new convertible model that can hold four full golf bags with the top up and two bags with the top down. The car comes in both a hard-top and cloth "rag-top" model.
Finally, Hyundai is getting really sporty and introduced their nicely named "Hellion" concept car. The striking vehicle looks mean enough to take on most cars and produces more than 220 horsepower. Not bad for a Hyundai.