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Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

Volkswagen is late to the hybrid party, but they’re trying to make up for lost time by focusing on hybrid tech inside their new Jetta Hybrid instead of designing a new car around the green powertrain. The Jetta Hybrid will look almost identical to its non-hybrid counterpart but will feature a 1.1-kW lithium-ion battery tucked behind the rear bench seat that weighs less than 80 pounds. A 1.4-liter turbocharged engine with 150 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque will be paired with a 20-kW electric motor with a lithium-ion battery – a combination which will be enough to allow the car to hit 44 miles per hour on electric power alone. The engine and motor’s combined horsepower will be 170 with a 0-60 time of less than 9 seconds. This comes out to 45 miles per gallon, which is a decent first try from an automaker.

Pricing has yet to be announced, but Volkswagen won’t make us wait long. The Jetta Hybrid will hit production in the fall of 2012 with 3 different trim levels. Volkswagen promises many standard features, including Bluetooth, SiriusXM satellite radio, special 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, LED tail lights, bi-xenon headlights and LED Daytime Running Lights, heated front seats, navigation, and a rear-view camera.

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Ford Fusion Hybrid

Ford has been working hard to integrate its hybrid vehicles into a wide range of product offerings. The new Ford Fusion Hybrid typifies this strategy: the fastback sedan will be offered with three different 4-cylinder gas engines, a standard hybrid, or a plug-in hybrid setup to create a complete range of vehicles for every customer. The Fusion hybrid will feature a turbocharged, direct-injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, and both hybrids will use lithium-ion batteries and continuously variable transmissions (CVT). The conventional hybrid can go up to 62 miles per hour on all-electric power, but Ford is not releasing range or 0-60 times on the plug-in Fusion Energi hybrid yet. The conventional hybrid will also get 47 city and 44 highway mpg, and the Fusion Energi plug-in will get the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon.

Pricing has yet to be announced, but Ford promises the Fusion Hybrid range will be available for purchase in the fall of 2012, so we won’t have long to wait. Available features will include automatic cruise control, pre-collision sensing and automatic lane-keeping, plus start-stop tech at stop lights. That means Ford is bringing these sedans up to the level of luxury tech of a few years ago, so expect a versatile vehicle with lots of high-tech comfort and efficiency features.

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Tesla Model S

Tesla‘s Model S has been tempting EV enthusiasts with its sexy curves for the past year, and this all-electric sedan is finally ready to hit the road this fall. The Model S starts at $49,900 after a $7,500 federal tax credit, and the baseline model is capable of going from zero to sixty in 6.5 seconds, has a top speed of 110 mph, and can travel up to 160 miles without needing a recharge. The electric sedan is comes with an impressive array of options including souped-up signature and performance models, an all-glass panoramic roof, and 40, 60, and 85 kWh battery options that can extend the range up to 300 miles.

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Mercedes-Benz E300/E400

Mercedes-Benz’s E300 Bluetec diesel hybrid and E400 gasoline hybrid models will be two of the first green cars to hit production this year, with the E300 going to Europe and the E400 coming stateside by summer 2012. The E300 Bluetec hybrid is available as a wagon or sedan and comes with a 2-liter 4-cylinder turbo diesel engine with 204 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. A 20-kW motor with 27 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque brings the E300 diesel hybrid up to 56 mpg with a more than adequate top speed of 150 miles per hour.

The E400 gasoline hybrid, which is what we get on this side of the pond, will come equipped with a 3.5-liter, 306-horsepower V6 engine with 20-kW motor, which will offer a combined fuel economy of 27 mpg. How did we lose all that efficiency between Europe and the U.S.? Well, we’re not convinced we like diesels in the States, and even though particulate emissions will be better with the gas hybrid, we lose a lot of efficiency going from diesel to gas, so Mercedes’ hybrids may only be popular with luxury performance car buyers here, at least the ones who don’t mind that the E400’s top speed is just 130 mph.

Both cars can cruise in electric mode (called “Sail Mode”) at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, which gives us hope that careful driving at any speed could improve your fuel economy in these cars. Pricing has yet to be announced, but expect a Mercedes-sized premium for the performance models.

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BMW ActiveHybrid 3/ActiveHybrid 5

Both the BMW ActiveHybrid 3 and ActiveHybrid 5 models (the new hybrid versions of the 3-series and 5-series ranges) have turbocharged 300-horsepower in-line 6-cylinder engines, a 55-horsepower electric motor and an 8-speed automatic gearbox. Both cars use start-stop to avoid wasting fuel while idling, and they even have an intelligent navigation system that can interact with the engine to learn your route and use all-electric propulsion for as much of it as possible, using a coasting function for the last half mile. That brings the ActiveHybrid 3 to 37 miles per gallon and the ActiveHybrid 5 to 28 mpg. Not planet-saving numbers, but definitely a step in the right direction for an automaker that is focused on performance.

The ActiveHybrid 5 will be released first, in the spring of 2012, with the ActiveHybrid 3 coming out in the fall. Expect a base price of $61,845 for the 5 ($8,700 more than standard 535i). No price was announced at NAIAS for the 3, but expect something a bit above the regular 3-series’ price range of $35,000-$43,000.

Klaus Draeger, development director for the ActiveHybrid 5, said of his creation, “We consider these hybrid vehicles milestones in a time of change toward zero-emission driving.” Look for improved efficiency with no compromises on performance from BMW, which could lead the industry into an era of electric and hybrid vehicles leaving their underpowered reputation in the past.

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Toyota Prius c

The Toyota Prius c is the smallest member of the Prius family, and it’s situated at the tiny end of the Prius range to complement the large Prius v minivan that went on sale last year. The Prius c packs a little 1.5-liter gasoline engine, a nickel-metal hydride battery, an electric motor, and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The engine pushes out just 99 horsepower and has a total all-electric range of 10-15 miles. Toyota’s Prius range is still your best bet for city driving habits, but we’re wondering when Toyota is going to update its line with lithium-ion batteries and improve the cars’ range and highway efficiency. With so much new competition on the market these days, the Prius is in danger of being outstripped by new technologies that have surpassed its early successes.

The Prius c manages 53 mpg in the city — 46 mpg on the highway and 50 mph combined — the same economy as the larger Prius hatchback, although the c is 19.1 inches shorter and 542 pounds lighter than the standard Prius. The good news is that the Prius c starts at just $19,000 – a $4,000 premium for hybrid tech (which Toyota claims is the lowest hybrid premium on the market). You can buy a Prius c in the spring of 2012. Keep an eye out for the other EV releases from Toyota – they’re aiming to create an entire line of short-range and long-range alternative fuel vehicles, including the iQ EV for city dwellers and the RAV4 EV for longer-distance drivers.

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Ford Focus EV

Since it was announced last year the Ford Focus EV has been on the mind of electric vehicle enthusiasts everywhere – It will be the third widely released EV after the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt. The Focus EV has a combined fuel efficiency rating of over 100 MPGe, and it comes with a 6.6 kW onboard charger that can charge the vehicle completely in 3-4 hours when using Ford’s 240-volt charging station. The Focus Electric starts at $39,200 and will be available in California and the New York/New Jersey areas in just a few months – reservations are currently open!

+ Inhabitat Coverage of the 2012 Detroit Auto Show