GM and Ford Among Cos. Reaping the Benefits of L.A. Auto Show's Green Focus

GM and Ford Among Cos. Reaping the Benefits of L.A. Auto Show's Green Focus

The Los Angeles Auto Show is putting green transportation technologies on center stage this week, with most major auto manufacturers touting new models designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption.

At a time when climate change is gaining attention and the price of a barrel of oil flirts with the $100 mark, even some of the largest sports utility vehicles (SUV) are getting the green treatment.

For the first time, a hybrid SUV received the Green Car of the Year Award from Green Car Journal.

The Chevy Tahoe's gas-electric hybrid system achieves 21 miles per gallon in the city, which is as much as a 50 percent improvement over its conventional standard V-8 counterpart.

"This is a milestone in many respects," Ron Cogan, Green Car Journal editor and publisher, said in a statement. "People don't think 'green' when SUVs are concerned, and for generally good reason since SUVs often get poor fuel economy compared to most other vehicles.

General Motors, in addition to its award-winning Chevy Tahoe hybrid, unveiled a hybrid version of its Silverado pick-up, which is up to 50 percent more fuel efficient in cities. It also debuted the Malibu hybrid, a sedan that gets 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

Ford announced a new strategy that will add more fuel efficient models to its lineup over the next five years. It said it will test plug-in commercial hybrids in California before the end of the year, and make vehicle weights across its lineup lighter, which will help cut fuel consumption.

Chrysler got into the act, too, debuting two SUV hybrids that offer a 25 percent increase in fuel efficiency. The 2009 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango will enter the market next year.

Honda unveiled its FCX Clarity, a hydrogen fuel cell car that will be offered on a limited basis in the Southern California market next year. The company said the vehicle, which has a driving range of 270 miles, only emits water vapor because it eschews gasoline completely.

It will only be tested in the southern part of the state because of the region's fledgling hydrogen fuel station infrastructure. An unspecified number of drivers will pay $600 per month for three-year terms.

While hybrids were hot, Volkswagen unveiled what it called a clean diesel model that will be available as an option on Jetta sedans and SportWagons. The diesel models will get a 30 percent boost in fuel efficiency and emit up to 90 percent less nitrous oxide.

As an SUV was named the Green Car of the Year for the first time, a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge threw out fuel economy standards for some light trucks and SUVs, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The standards, which would have forced these vehicles to get 24.1 miles per gallon for 2007 models, didn't factor in the risk of climate change and didn't include larger trucks and SUVs.