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Detroit Auto Show: the highlights

By Andrew Heining / January 13, 2009



Reports out of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week are calling this "the year of the electron." And though the Bay area was gunning for center of the electric car universe, Detroit just may have an edge this week. Automakers from across the globe, the Big Three included, are touting hybrid, plug-in, or "extended range electric" cars in a scaled back display of what's around the corner. Some of the announcements with the biggest splashes:

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Local batteries

Often lost in the talk of charge times, 0-60 numbers, and range of electric vehicles, the Los Angeles Times writes, is where these new electric car batteries are coming from. GM on Monday announced plans for a new Michigan plant just for assembling the batteries for its upcoming Chevy Volt plug-in electric hybrid. For now, that plant will use cells from Korean firm LG Chem, but "GM is getting back in the battery business," Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said.

Cadillac Converj

An electric car from Cadillac. Yes, Cadillac. In an effort to prove that a car can be both luxurious and easy on the environment, GM took the wraps off its concept Caddy that LA Times auto columnist Dan Neil calls "a gorgeous, provocative, heated diamond of a sports coupe that could – just theoretically – contain the same range-extended gas-electric hybrid powertrain from the Volt."

Toyota Prius

The 2010 version of the highest profile hybrid around gets a redesigned body and a nine percent increase in fuel efficiency. Available for the first time is a solar roof option – not for running the air conditioner as rumored, but to run the ventilation system when the car's parked, keeping it cool. And speaking of parking, the next generation Prius gets a self-parking option that makes parallel parking a breeze.

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