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Detroit Auto Show Briefing: Toyota, Honda, Acura, PG&E, BMW, Hyundai

Toyota has debuted the 2012 Prius c (pictured), which it says offers the highest city fuel efficiency of any vehicle without a plug, at 53 mpg, and is the market’s most affordable hybrid subcompact, starting below $19,000. The Prius c is 19.1 inches shorter and 542 lb. lighter than the Prius Liftback.

Honda has unveiled technologies for the 2013 Accord sedan and couple, which will be available in three powertrains: a 2.4-liter direct-injected engine, a re-engineered 3.5-liter, 24-valve engine and a two-motor plug-in hybrid system that moves continuously through all-electric, gasoline-electric and direct-drive modes. All 2013 Accord models will incorporate the Honda ECO Assist system, which the company says enhances efficient vehicle operation at the touch of a button, while also providing visual feedback to the driver to promote and confirm a more efficient driving style.

Acura displayed two hybrids, the NSX concept and the ILX compact sports sedan. The Acura ILX Concept is the precursor to an all-new Acura luxury compact sedan scheduled for launch in Spring 2012. The ILX will be positioned as a “gateway” to the Acura brand, and will feature three different powertrains, including Acura’s first-ever gas-electric hybrid.

The NSX concept uses lightweight materials and Acura’s Sport Hybrid Super Handling All Wheel Drive system, which can instantly generate negative or positive torque to the front wheels during cornering.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company and VIA Motors unveiled their jointly developed extended-range electric pickup truck designed especially for utilities. The eREVs run their first 40 miles on electricity, before switching to gasoline, and can provide on-site power to shorten small outages, eliminate some planned outages, and boost the electric grid when needed. PG&E already owns two of the trucks, which have a 15 kW capacity.

BMW has introduced a hybrid version of its 3 Series. AutoBlog Green reports that this will be the first hybrid to use its navigational system to figure out when it should use and recharge its battery. The system will take altitude into account, so it could use more battery power to push the car up a hill, knowing that the down-slope will offer a recharging opportunity.

Hyundai says it is the first carmaker to offer a lifetime battery replacement guarantee for a hybrid car. The coverage applies to all 2012 Sonata Hybrid models, thousands of miles beyond the average duration of new-car ownership, Hyundai says.

Our Detroit Auto Show briefing from last week is here.

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