6 Wild Green Concept Cars and Prototypes From the LA Auto Show

© Sylvain Wehnert, Emiel Burki and Phillipp Haban

From a car with retractable wheels that hovers and climbs walls to a car with an airplane wing shape, here are the most exciting of the 75 green vehicles that rolled out at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show, held last month: The green concept cars.

While not all six of these cars will hit the road in the next few years, lighter-weight aluminum and carbon fiber bodies, required for improved fuel efficiency with heavy batteries, are leading designers and engineers to more and more interesting ideas.

From luxury sedans, sports cars, goofy cartoon vehicles, to a spacey but practical urban auto, which of these concept cars fit your driving lifestyle?

1. Smart 341 Parkour Concept Car

First up is the show's Design Challenge winner, which this year honors "Hollywood’s Hottest New Movie Car."

The Smart 341 Parkour, designed by Sylvain Wehnert, Emiel Burki and Phillipp Haban of the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Studios is a wild concept car with retractable wheels that hovers, climbs walls and slips into every parking space possible.

2. Mitsubishi i Sport Air Concept Car

© R. Cruger

In an effort to change the image of green cars, most often associated with the iconic Prius look, automakers are lately making designs much more sporty.

When the Mitsubishi i hits the road in 2012, its “jellybean” shaped electric car offers a cute cartoon-like look -- but that's not the only car in the series.

Mitsubishi also has a concept car in the works, the Mitsubishi i Sport Air, featuring MiEV (innovative Electric Vehicle) technology with performance and style.

It's not a traditional sports roadster. For aerodynamics and a futuristic look it borrows an airplane wing shape for more power, instant torque, plus a removable roof for the open feel of a convertible.

Range: 120 miles or more
Recharging: quick charge system in 35 minutes
Availability: 2014 or 2015

3. DOK-ING XD Concept Car

© R. Cruger

This wacky-looking vehicle designed by Igor Juric hails from Croatia and is already prepared for production. Unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show earlier in 2011, this electric pod-like car was revealed to North America for the first time at the LA Auto Show.

Features include scissor doors that lift open and 'x' shaped tail lights, hence the name XD (D for Dok-ing). The three-seater puts the driver in the middle with two wing-like passengers seats slightly behind.

Dok-ing, a Croatian company, produces robotic UGVs (Unmanned Ground Vehicles) for firefighting and mining. The car goes into ‘sleep mode’ when not in use, staying connected to service headquarters to determine weakening battery cells for replacement instead of a completely new battery.

Range: 68 to 155 miles (depending on speeds)
Charging: 3 to 8 hours (240- or 120-volt)
Availability: 1,000 in Europe in mid-2012
Price: approximately $40,000-67,400 (based on actual orders)

4. BMW i3 Megacity Concept Car

© R. Cruger

Luxury automaker BMW turns to fuel-efficiency and sustainability with its BMWi series. The all-wheel-drive i8 rolls out in 2014 and will reach speeds of 115 mph and get up to 78 mpg.

But first comes the i3, called a Megacity Vehicle, the first premium all-electric vehicle, sporting a similar look to the sport i8 but in a crossover size.

The “LifeDrive” design divides the car into two modules -- an aluminum "Drive" chassis holding the battery and drive system and the upper "Life" module of carbon fiber with plastic for the driver and passengers -- strong as steel but 50 percent lighter. Data gathered from the ActiveE will inform i3 and i8 before they hit the market.

Range: 100 miles like the ActiveE (for now)
Recharging: to be determined
Availability: 2013-2014

5. Audi e-tron Spyder Concept Car

© R. Cruger

The Audi e-tron Spyder concept car is an open roofless high-performance sports car with top speeds electronically controlled at 155 mph, which goes from 0 to 100 in 4.4 seconds. It does not quite have zero emissions, however, since it has a plug-in clean diesel hybrid-electric drivetrain.

Race car styling with bucket seats, airflow vents cut in the hood and touch-sensitive controls are designed to show that green cars can be cool, too, like the Tesla roadster.

Range: 31 electric; over 600 miles combined (on-paper)
Fuel economy: 106.92 mpg
Availability/Pricing: TBA

6. Cadillac ELR Prototype

© R.Cruger

A Caddy Volt? Cadillac is applying Chevrolet’s Volt technology to a luxury coupe, previously the sculpted Converj concept car (as pictured) from the 2009 Detroit Auto Show.

Now it will be called the ELR and be part of GM’s extended-range vehicles with its T-shaped lithium ion battery pack and gasoline-powered electric generator.

It is destined for production in the Volt plant with the sleek long look shrunk to Volt size. The company also has a smaller sporty "urban luxury" version with wild scissors-doors in the works.

Range: 40 miles all-electric; then 375 miles with gas-generated battery
Recharging/Fuel Economy: 4 hours with 240-volt/10 hours with 120-volt; 37 mpg combined street/highway
Availability: could debut as soon as 2013
Pricing: TBA

More on Future Green Vehicles
The Los Angeles Auto Show: TreeHugger Test-Drives the Newest Hybrid and Electric Cars
Tokyo Motor Show 2011 Exclusive: Innovative Green Concept Cars
8 Electric Concept Cars Shaking Up the Auto Industry Right Now

Tags: Concepts & Prototypes | Electric Vehicles | Fuel Efficiency | Hybrid Cars | Los Angeles

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