Race for the Green Flag: 5 Auto Innovations to Sustain Our Planet

5. Is Nissan’s Leaf Too Sexy for Your Pocketbook?

Tradition is sacred in the sport of auto racing. In the field of innovation, it's a practical joke. Wireless refueling, EPA approval, and no tailpipe. These features separated the Nissan Leaf from its predecessors in the electric car business, and prompted 16,000 reservations of the vehicle four months before its launch date.

4. Create Completely Solar-Powered Vehicles Which Can Reach High Speeds and Long Distances

Do stories of UFO’s make you nervous? What about an electric vehicle that looks like a flying saucer? With a hood of solar panels designed to maximize absorption of sunlight, University of Texas-Austin’s solar car will make you sweat—especially when you consider it lacks air conditioning. Its energy-saving systems, however, will knock you out altogether. Using 1000 watts of electricity, as much as some blenders, the car can reach up to 50 mph. That kind of efficiency is extraterrestrial.

3. Race Car Driver and Environmental Activist Plugs Electric Sports Car

3… 2… 1… Start your engines! Here is an electric vehicle that could assist Danica Patrick's switch to NASCAR. Race car driver and environmental activist Leilani Winter explains that Li-Ion motors' Inizio, "the fastest electric car on the market", goes from zero to 60 in 3.4 seconds and has a range of up to 200 miles. The Inizio offers hope to Winter, she says, "As somebody who is concerned about the environment and our future, but also as somebody who enjoys going into a corner at 200 miles per hour."

2. City Car -- Green Revolution

At the MIT Media Lab, artists, designers, and engineers team up to devise infrastructure ideas for our future society. One of their latest inventions, the City Car, has the potential to redefine urban transportation. Imagine stacking your car like a shopping cart, or rotating 360 degrees in a parking space. MIT's innovation won’t blow the energy grid, but it will blow your mind.

1. Tennessee Students Engineer Eco-Vehicle That Drives for Pennies

Today, President Obama announced the details of an agreement to strengthen climate standards for automobile manufacturers. In terms of environmental impact, University of Tennessee-Knoxville has developed a vehicle deserving of sainthood. The hydrogen fuel cell version of its electric car produces less than one-tenth of the greenhouse gas emissions of the Toyota Camry. It also costs less than one cent to drive. It's official: this auto innovation will take our checker—er, green—flag.

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