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Forget horsepower, high speed, and rumbling exhaust systems. You won’t see these emerging vehicles at NASCAR. Instead, thrill to inventive technology, zero or low emissions, and quirky looks.



Three-wheeled two-seater Aptera may be the world’s most efficient production vehicle, its makers boast. It has a super-lightweight composite body, gull-wing doors, and an aerodynamic shape that, according to Popular Mechanics, produces less drag than the sideview mirrors on a pickup truck. The initial all-electric version has a 120-mile range and a recharge time of eight hours. Magazine test drivers were barred by speed limits from going above 50 mph. A second, plug-in hybrid model should never get less than 120 miles per gallon. Aptera Motors is taking reservations, promising availability in California this year.




Don’t call the Peapod a car. Designer Peter Arnell of Chrysler considers his $12,500 neighborhood electric vehicle an “appliance” — sort of an iPod on wheels. Built mostly from recycled or recyclable materials, the Peapod has a 30-mile range and top speed of 25 mph. The company expects to build 25,000 and start filling online orders this fall.




Soon to appear in Paris and Amsterdam, the three-wheeled, three-seat Airpod gets three miles per gallon . . . of compressed air. The novel fuel source results in zero pollution, manufacturer Motor Development International says, and will carry passengers 137 miles between fill-ups. Drivers can restore their air supply in eight hours by plugging the car into electricity outlets. Special “air stations” will cut that time to two minutes. The Airpod steers with a joystick and can reach 43 mph.




Venturi Automobiles describes the Astrolab as “the first electro-solar hybrid,” a vehicle with no fuel consumption and no emissions. Liquid-cooled batteries store power produced from approximately 12 square feet of photovoltaic cells. It has a top speed of 75 mph, a range of 68 miles, and an oversized chassis that Venturi says provides extra protection in a crash — but apparently, none against rain.




Misleadingly named the Uno, this electric-powered invention by MIT student Ben Gulak actually has two wheels set closely side by side. It’s a simple machine, with only an on/off switch. Want to speed up? Lean forward. Need to stop? Lean back. To steer, lean either right or left. A computerized gyroscope keeps you balanced.


Personal Rapid Transit


Cars won’t be allowed in Masdar City, the new smart-green town under construction outside Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Instead, residents will climb into six-passenger, driverless, solar-powered vehicles. They’ll press a tiny button on a computerized screen to give their destination, then be off to one of 1,500 stations at speeds of up to 25 mph. Onboard sensors will keep the Personal Rapid Transit clear of pedestrians.




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