The Frontal Cortex

L.A. Auto Show Goes Green

At last, an auto show that doesn’t revolve around thirsty V-12 engines and gigantic SUV’s. The L.A. Auto Show, which starts today, is notable for the debut of several environmentally friendly vehicles. And these aren’t just futuristic fantasies. For the most part, these are practical technologies that will be introduced in the next few years:

BMW is debuting its Hydrogen 7, a 7-series luxury sedan that is a “dual-fuel” vehicle, capable of burning either gasoline or cryogenically stored hydrogen in its V-12 engine. Honda will unveil its third-generation FCX fuel-cell vehicle, a wind-polished sedan with cab-forward design that is a major aesthetic improvement from the stubby lunch boxes that have been on loan to the City of Los Angeles.

And we’ll see hybrids galore, including a sportier “Touring” version of the Toyota Prius, as well as a hybrid Nissan Altima and a new hybrid Ford Escape. And from General Motors, hybrid versions of the Saturn Aura, Saturn Vue and even the GMC Yukon 4×4.

General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner is widely expected to make a major — and, considering the recent history of the EV1 electric car, startling — announcement today about the company’s commitment to the “electrification of the automobile,” in the words of GM’s Vice Chairman Robert Lutz. Wagoner’s announcement could tease a rumored “serial-hybrid” project, an electric vehicle with a small gas or diesel engine to charge the batteries.

In other car news, Dan Neil takes the Tesla, the gorgeous new electric sports car, for a test drive. He loves it.

Update: Rick Wagoner, the CEO of GM, just announced that the company is developing a plug-in hybrid, which will reach the market “as soon as possible”. That would be one very cool car.