L.A. auto show sees Germans, GM committing to clean-tech cars

This week’s Los Angeles Auto Show has set the car world abuzz. General Motors, plagued by its gas-guzzling reputation and notorious electric-car bungle, announced its commitment to creating a rechargeable plug-in hybrid, becoming the first automaker to do so. “The technological hurdles are real, but we believe they are also surmountable,” said CEO Rick Wagoner, bursting with can-do spirit. And German manufacturers Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler are promoting Bluetec, clean diesel technology that meets even California’s tough air-quality standards. Diesels are 30 percent more fuel-efficient than gasoline engines, and Bluetec addresses pollution with a tank of urea (don’t smirk) that neutralizes nitrous oxide emissions. The companies also hope clean diesel’s higher torque will appeal to macho American drivers. VW and DaimlerChrysler plan to unveil several new diesel vehicles by 2008; BMW, GM, and Honda also have models in the works. If only they could do something about the freeways.