Detroit Auto Show Concepts Chart a Green Future

Carmakers played it politically correct at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, leaving the outlandish futuristic concept cars on the drawing board in favor of fleet of environmentally friendly vehicles that are much closer to reality.

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A number of the cars on display, including the Chrysler 200C midsized sedan, use range extended electric powertrains that could be on the road in a just few years. The idea is to supplement the limited range of an electric vehicle's batteries with an onboard internal combustion engine that can generate electricity when the juice runs out.

Cadillac showed it's own version of what a range extended electric luxury car should look like with the Converj. Using technology that comes directly from the Chevy Volt, the two-door coupe takes the brand's "art and science" design philosophy to an edgy new level. The car is so narcissistic it doesn't even have any mirrors for you to look at yourself in, they have all been replaced with exterior video cameras.

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Lincoln unveiled a concept called the C that is heavy on features and gadgets like "EVA," a lifelike human face that the in car computer uses to communicate with passengers, enabling them to control most of the its functions with normal conversation, rather than the cumbersome and restrictive voice commands needed today. Skipping the electric powertrain, the compact four-door has a small four-cylinder version of Ford's new EcoBoost line of fuel efficient turbocharged engines, capable of 43 miles per gallon.

The Volkswagen Bluesport was the sportiest concept introduced at the show, but the roadster's real surprise is a powerful diesel engine that makes the two-seater fast and frugal. The company claims that the oil burner gets 42 miles per gallon and has a range of 710 miles a tank.

Too bad there isn't enough luggage space for a trip that long.

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