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Electric, Hybrid Cars Take Spotlight in Detroit

Here’s a look at some of the more environmentally conscious cars to debut at the Detroit Auto Show.

Mercedes-Benz showed off its SLS AMG E-Cell electric sportscar in fluorescent yellow – the company calls it “lumilectric mango”. It goes from 0 to 60 mph in 4 seconds. Mercedes is also showing the 136-horsepower F-cell hatchback, which produces electricity from a hydrogen fuel cell and boasts a 240-mile cruising range. The manufacturer is aiming to get 200 F-cells on the road in Europe and California by 2012.

Porsche unveiled a hybrid racecar, the 918 RSR. It has a 555-horsepower V8 engine and electric motors on each of the two front wheels.

Volkswagen’s big concept is the New Compact Coupe, which uses a hybrid powertrain, lithium battery and a gasoline engine. The company says the car gets 45 mpg and can accelerate to 100 km per hour in 8.6 seconds.

Volvo displayed its C30 electric car – with a crumpled hood. The unusual exhibit aimed to highlight the car’s safety.

One of the biggest stories has been GM’s plug-in hybrid, the Volt, which won the prize for North American Car of the Year. It was last month named Motor Trends’ Car of the Year.

GM has also announced the Cadillac Converj, a sporty luxury plug-in hybrid, scheduled to go into production around 2013.

Ford has been showing off its battery-powered Focus, and unveiled two electric-gas hybrid versions of a compact minivan called the C-Max, due to go on sale next year. Both hybrid minivans are five-seaters. Ford is also offering a seven-passenger version that runs on a gas engine.

Executive chairman Bill Ford told ABC News that the company has “taken a big bet” on these vehicles. “These are very much about signaling where this company is headed and frankly where this country ought to be headed,” the chairman said.

But he admitted that significant challenges lie ahead. Before electric cars can take a significant market share, he said, “we’re going to need ubiquity of charging at the mall, at the doctor’s office and at the place of work.”

More electric and hybrid vehicles on display in Detroit include models by BMW, Honda and Nissan. Prius maker Toyota showed off the FT-CH compact hybrid concept car, a product still under development.

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