The 2012 Paris Motor Show opens this weekend, and ahead of the show we have seen numerous previews of concept cars using hybrid and electric power trains. Carbon dioxide reduction is a huge issue in Europe, and automakers are showing off their latest research into vehicles that can give people the transportation options to which they have become accustomed, yet meet new emissions specifications. The win-win for Europeans is that these vehicles get much improved fuel economy in a regions with notoriously high gasoline prices.
BMW may be known for high-powered sport cars, but the company is actively working on new efficiency concepts. In Paris, it will show a car that could be mistaken for a Toyota Matrix from its body style. And unlike its current cars, the Active Tourer is front-wheel drive. A mere three pistons pump in its 1.5-liter engine, but a twin scroll turbo adds power. However, it is the plug-in hybrid electric system that would make this car practical for the road.
Imagine the Nissan Juke with a hydrogen fuel cell power train and an iPad for the instrument cluster. That is the Terra SUV concept. Nissan revisits the idea of using hydrogen to generate electricity through a fuel cell stack, drive technology that has not received as much attention as it used to. Nissan says it has engineered a fuel cell stack much less expensive than previously iterations, and would build a hydrogen-powered car today if the infrastructure was in place.
Smart cars look quirky rather than handsome, but this new concept, which Smart calls a Sport Utility Coupe, changes that perception. The curvy little car uses an electric drive system that Smart has been developing in its production cars. As a good concept feature, the ForStars integrates an iPhone with its dashboard (but will it support Lightning?). And for the hat trick, check out the LCD projector in back.
The Lexus IS has been around in its current form for quite a few years, and Lexus ditched its SC model. The LF-CC could either be an IS update or a whole new coupe model for Lexus. It uses an attractive design based on Lexus' L-Finesse design language. Under the hood is an example of a practical hybrid power train very similar to those that Lexus uses today. An electric drive system complements a 2.5-liter direct-injection engine, making combined horsepower of more than 200.
CNET's coverage of the 2012 Paris Motor Show kicks off Thursday. Click here to read more about the show.