Gallery: The Best of the 2009 L.A. Auto Show

The first morning of this year's Los Angeles auto show, the CEO of General Motors, Fritz Henderson, was scheduled to give the keynote address. The night before, he got fired. (Excuse me: He "resigned"). That, however, was the only real drama at this year's show, and for the sake of the auto industry, that's a good thing.

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British Academy To Look Into Ethics of Human-Animal Genetic Hybrids

But are they locking the barn door after the horse-men have cantered out?

The Island of Dr. Moreau:
When former President Bush mentioned human-animal hybrids during a State of the Union speech in 2006, most of the audience probably sat scratching their heads for a second. However, in the years since then, transplanting human genes into animals, whether to make better milk or study human diseases, has become a bigger and bigger issue.

Now, a year after English scientists implanted human stem cells into bovine egg cells, Britain's Academy of Medical Sciences has launched a study to determine the ethics of creating human/animal hybrids.

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Test Drive: 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6

BMW debuts the most powerful hybrid ever made

Two years ago, when BMW first unveiled the X6, its high-performance, high-end crossover SUV, it announced a hybrid version as well. Now that hybrid has arrived, and if turning a 5,688-lb luxury SUV with a twin-turbo V-8 into a hybrid seems like a bit of a contradiction, well, the 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6 certainly is.

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Toyota Engineers Two New Flower Species to Offset Manufacturing Carbon

The car manufacturer creates two flower species to help counter CO2 created by Prius assembly

Toyota's rivals have long complained that the popular Prius hybrid has a less-than-green legacy due to its manufacturing process. Now the car maker has flashed its green thumb by creating two new species of flower that help offset the carbon emissions from the Prius plant in Japan.

The new version of the cherry sage plant can absorb harmful greenhouse gases, such as nitrogen oxide, through its leaves. And Toyota's variant of the gardenia acts as a natural humidifier by creating water vapor in the air, to help cool the factory grounds, reducing the energy required for air conditioners.

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This Month's Innovations For a Greener Future: Megakites, Solar Flowers, and More

Up and Away: The kite generates electricity as it ascends.  © 2009 KiteGen Research S.R.L. All contents copyrighted. All Rights Reserved

A kite flown in a strong breeze will quickly unspool string as it climbs higher. KiteGen Research in Italy aims to turn that action into electricity. The company developed a prototype that flies 200-square-foot kites to altitudes of 2,600 feet, where wind streams are four times as strong as they are near ground-based wind turbines.

As the kite’s tether unspools, it spins an alternator that generates up to 40 kilowatts. Once the kite reaches its peak altitude, it collapses, and motors quickly reel it back in to restart the cycle. This spring, KiteGen started building a machine to fly a 1,500-square-foot kite, which it plans to finish by 2011, that could generate up to three megawatts—enough to power 9,000 homes.

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Boing! Elastic Energy-Storage Systems Could Challenge Li-ion Batteries

MIT Researchers say carbon nanotubes could provide a more durable, reliable energy-storage alternative to traditional batteries. And best of all, no leakage to speak of.

It's one of the simplest energy-storage devices known to man: The spring. Think of how a jack-in-the-box keeps hold of the mechanical energy it takes to compress that clown into the box, releasing it only when the weasel song reaches its climax. And that energy storage is a long-term proposition. The clown could likely sit, poised in that box in grandma's attic for 100 years, until some joker comes along, cranks the handle and, POP!

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The First Hybrid Sport Boat Cruises With More Peace, Less Pollution

Boaters like spray and sun in their face, not exhaust. The first hybrid sport boat, courtesy of a co-designer of the Aptera electric car, delivers cleaner thrills.

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Your Hybrid Car Is Hogging All the Rare Earth Metals

So it turns all those hybrid car owners who turn their environmentally conscious noses up have an unexpected caveat to their green-ness--their cars are sucking up rare earth metals at a disturbing rate.

Rare earth elements take up 17 slots on the periodic table, and are named not for their overall scarcity (they're actually quite common in trace elements throughout the Earth's core) but for the relatively uncommon minerals in which they were originally found; few rare earth elements exist in pure elemental form naturally.

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GM Claims Chevy Volt Will Get 230 MPG--But How?

General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson says the EPA will certify the Chevrolet Volt with triple-digit mileage. How'd they come up with that?

[Update: The EPA issued a statement to the folks at Edmunds stepping back from GM's mileage claim: "The EPA has not tested a Chevy Volt and therefore cannot confirm the fuel economy values claimed by GM. EPA does applaud GM's commitment to designing and building the car of the future - an American-made car that will save families money, significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create good-paying American jobs."]

General Motors calls the Chevrolet Volt an extended-range electric vehicle. That's because the only motive force comes from the electric motor; the gas engine only charges the batteries. In a press conference earlier today, GM's CEO Fritz Henderson said the Volt will have a city mileage figure of 230 miles per gallon--almost five times more efficient than a Prius. But considering the uniqueness of the Volt's powertrain, how did the EPA get that figure?

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Hybrid Lamborghini Coming in 2015

First Ferrari, now Lamborghini. Will high-end hybrid sports cars soon be stalking the world's boulevards?

In an interview with Germany's Automobilewoche trade paper, Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann says the Audi-owned sports car maker will launch a hybrid model by 2015. Surprising news for a company whose V10 and V12 engines are best known for converting large quantities of premium unleaded into blazing speed? Not really. Officials from rival Ferrari have said, as often as anyone will listen, that a hybrid Ferrari is on the way -- the exact same year. What a coincidence.

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New Chevrolet Minivan Could Borrow Volt Powertrain

How do you make the millions in R&D; cash spent on a groundbreaking gas-electric powertrain pay off? Easy -- spread the wealth

With GM having spent a reported $1 billion bringing the Chevrolet Volt to fruition, spreading out the risk among several models could be the key to paying down the R&D tab on its gas-electric engine. And tapping into the family-mover market wouldn't hurt either. Enter the Chevrolet Orlando. GM unveiled the attractive minivan concept at the Detroit auto show this past January, with a target release date of 2011. The Orlando may also come with an option other than juice-box holders and Band-Aid cubbies: The Chevrolet Volt's Voltec (formerly E-Flex) powertrain.

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Supercar Builder Takes a Shot at a Hybrid RV

Shelby Super Cars' SSC Ultimate Aero tops out at 257 miles per hour. For its next trick, the company says it can move a motor home 150 miles on electric power alone. Looks like grandma and grandpa might show up for Thanksgiving after all

Shelby Super Cars' SSC Ultimate Aero beat the Bugatti Veyron for the title of world's fastest production car (the Guinness people said so). Now, the company is teaming up with a designer of high-end motor home chassis to create a hybrid RV that can travel 150 miles on electric power alone.

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Chevy Volt Prototype Test Drive: Detroit's Great Electric Hope

Does the hotly anticipated plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt have a shot at rejuvenating General Motors? We took a prototype version for a spin to find out.

Reporting on a test drive of a new car is generally pretty simple. How does the car look? How does it feel? Does it hang with its competitive set? How many parking-garage attendants told you it was awesome?

Assessing a pre-prototype version of the Chevy Volt is, um, different. To start, it’s not a production car. Then there’s the context. The Volt lies at the intersection of some of the most contentious issues of the day—electric cars vs. next-generation gas or diesel engines, CAFE standards, greenhouse-gas restrictions, the federal bailout of the American auto industry. Some people still refuse to believe that the Volt is actually a production-intent project. But after driving the car earlier this week, I can testify that the Volt is definitely real.

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Earth Day on the Highway

Our friends at Driverside.com explore what this little piece of history means for the future of green car technology and environmental awareness in the automotive industry

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the words environmental and green were hardly a blip on America’s radar. There were no catalytic converters, no smog emissions, none of the checks we have on automobiles now. Most of the vehicles on the road were powered by V-8 engines and guzzled filthy leaded gasoline. Their poor gas mileage wasn’t even a consideration.

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Wacky Hybrid Appliances

A tanning shower? A washing machine toilet? Check out this round-up of the most brilliant (fine, inept) gadget combinations around

Because a cramped apartment clearly shouldn't interfere with your love of a freshly-tapped keg, or a tan, or clean clothes. From the useful (a toilet which shoulders a washing machine) to the inane (showers sporting tanning lamps!), these gadgets all tap into a deep-seated desire: "It's a thing! That does another thing!"

Folks, this is human ingenuity at its apex. Enjoy.

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