Geneva 2011: Five Green Cars You May Have Missed

You might have read about the Panamera S Hybrid, the Yaris HSE, the Prius V, and a number of new plug-in electric concept and production models unveiled at last week’s 2011 Geneva Motor Show. But these days, a determination by automakers to build the next wave of green cars has led to an overabundance of fuel-efficient models at industry shows. So what about the hybrid and gas-powered fuel-sippers that didn’t get quite as much attention as the Prii and Porsches of the world? Here are five worth considering.

Mitsubishi Small Global Concept

One of the most significant new models that flew under the radar this year was Mitsubishi’s Small Global Concept, which is nearly production-ready in anticipation of a worldwide 2012 release. Mitsu hopes the car will help it to turn around flagging global sales, with 80 percent of initial production heading overseas.

The SGC has been designed to house multiple platforms, including electric drive—a technology that Mitsubishi plans to use as the cornerstone of its revitalization. In its first form, the car will be a hybrid employing both stop-start and regenerative breaking systems. Estimated efficiency numbers weren’t available, but should be coming soon as Mitsu gears up for an important international release.

Saab PheoniX Concept Hybrid

Saab went to the brink and back during GM’s bankruptcy reshuffling, but now the carmaker is ready for a reboot under new ownership and a new design team. Unveiled in Geneva was the new PheoniX concept hybrid, sporting the company’s new “aeromotional” look.

For a 200 horsepower four-wheel drive, the concept claims an impressive 56 mpg under the European test cycle, with emissions of 119 g/km. Propelled by a 197-horsepower gas engine in front, the car uses its regenerative breaking system to recharge a battery pack, which in turn powers a 34-hp rear electric motor.

Of course, on a production PhoeniX-like vehicle there would likely be fewer weight-reducing space-age materials and a higher drag coefficient—so whether or not it makes it to market, don’t hold your breath waiting for a 50-mpg Saab hybrid.

Infiniti Etherea Concept

Infiniti Etherea Hybrid

Infiniti calls its Etherea concept a compact luxury car for a “discerning new generation of younger buyers.” In addition to its unique look—which seems designed almost as a counterpunch to the relative conservatism of Lexus’s new CT 200h luxury hybrid hatchback—the Etherea also boasts better fuel economy and a more responsive electric motor than Infiniti’s current hybrid offering, the Infiniti M35h Hybrid.

The carmaker didn’t announce performance, fuel economy, or emissions numbers for the car, and no timeline has been given for when this concept model with transition from ether to reality.

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Tata Pixel

Though India’s Tata Motors may not follow through with plans to export its Nano small car to the United States and Europe, the car it showed in Geneva could very well wind up representing the OEM’s first significant export. The Nano sells for just $2,200 in its home country, giving the company plenty of room to operate in refining that car for wealthier markets, and the Pixel appears to reflect just such an effort.

Like Mitsubishi’s Global Small Car Concept, the Pixel is equipped with both stop-start and regenerative braking technology, giving it a projected fuel economy rating as high as 70 mpg under the European test cycle.

MINI Rocketman

Mini Rocketman

Slightly longer than other Mini offerings, the Rocketman concept is also radically more fuel efficient—carrying a projected rating of nearly 80 mpg. The difference comes from the car’s light carbon fiber construction and BMW’s new ultra-efficient three-cylinder engine series. The dramatic improvement in fuel economy underscores the advantage of bringing down vehicle weight, but in order for carmakers to use materials like carbon fiber more widely, cost of production will have to significantly come down.