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On the showroom floor at the Santa Monica AltCar Expo is something that the Detroit Auto Show or Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance will likely never have: a natural gas powered lawn mower. It's a telling inclusion. This isn't a car show about cars—it's a car show about efficiency, innovation, and the future of transportation.
That future might not be the sexiest thing in the world, but there's something undeniably exciting about seeing power outlets where gas caps once reigned, or watching four (completely silent!) electric cars speed around a test course.
GOOD went to AltCar to check out this new crop of efficient, low-emission vehicles. Click "next" above to see what we found. If you're in the Los Angeles area, the show continues through Saturday, October 2, and admission is free.
Photos by Will Etling
People have been hacking Priuses to be "plug-in hybrids" for years, but this is an official plug-in Prius from Toyota. It charges in 1.5 hours on a 220 volt charger, with an electric-only range of 13 miles, after which the gas/electric hybrid motor kicks in.
One thing you notice walking through AltFuel: There are very, very few tailpipes. Here's the back view of the new Coda all-electric car.
Larger loads require more power, which means more battery space. The giant green boxes under either side of this Electronic Vehicles International truck are battery packs.
Something we'll be seeing more of, soon: the ubiquitous gas pump icon, replaced by a battery. This is the interior of the Think EV.
It wasn't all cars. The Brammo Enertia is an all-electric motorcycle. You'll only get 20 to 40 miles per charge, though, because of weight and space restrictions on the battery.
Rear view of the Chevy Volt: The Volt can travel up to 40 miles in all-electric mode before switching to hybrid mode.
A Nissan Leaf drives on the test track.
The undeniably cute Think EV is made in Norway; they're already in use in car-sharing pools in Copenhagen, and are coming to the United States soon. Range: about 100 miles.
A Mercedes-Benz F-Cell heads out on a test drive. The F-Cell is a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle with a range of around 250 miles.
The X-Tracer was one of the more radical designs on display. Half car and half motorcycle, it has space for two people and a small suitcase, a range of 200 miles, and a top speed of 155 MPH. Two "outrigger" wheels deploy at low speeds for stability, and retract at highway speeds. The first models of this design were created by a former Swissair jumbo jet pilot.
A new trunk accessory: extension cords for wall-outlet recharging.
Goodbye, gas cap: the charging port on the Wheego EV.
A radical fuel cell vehicle design, created by students at Cal State L.A.
BMW had an all-electric Mini Cooper on display. As an EV, the Mini is a two-seater—the back seats are filled with batteries.
One of the more niche items at AltCar was this natural-gas powered lawn mower. Intended for all-day commercial use, it has an MSRP of $13,049.
In the parking lot of the convention center, a Tesla owner (and possible NASA employee) had this custom license plate frame.