We were recently given the opportunity to kick the tires of a wide variety of hybrid-electric and alternative-fuel vehicles. There were clean diesels, a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, and a couple of hybrids, including the new Dodge Durango Hybrid, which we took home. Look for a review soon!

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Essentially a rebadged Ford Escape Hybrid, this Mercury Mariner Hybrid will also be paying a visit to the CNET Garage in the coming weeks. Look for a full review in early November.

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The gauge cluster of the Mercury Mariner Hybrid isn't much different from that of a conventional Mariner. Look closer and you'll see that the tachometer doesn't begin at 0 RPM. Instead, there's a green segment just below zero. When the needle is here, the Mariner is running on all electric power.

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Also, in the Mariner's instrument cluster is this gauge that lets the driver know whether the electric motor is helping to motivate the crossover, or charging the batteries.

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Ford also brought along this Escape Plug-in Hybrid. Though only a prototype, we were able to take it for a spin. The special "Plug-in Hybrid" livery and graphics attracted a little attention during our ride, but the hybrid's mostly silent running kept us off of the public radar.

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The Escape plug-in is a prototype for study and exhibition, so some parts of the vehicle have been enhanced for show--like this machined gas cap--while other parts still need work--like whatever was incessantly rattling in the rear hatch during our test run.

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This 110V port is essentially the only thing that separates the plug-in Escape from the standard Escape Hybrid. According to Ed Kjaer, a representative from Southern California Edison, plugging in electric vehicles on an overnight cycle is better for the electricity grid, because it evens out the grid usage over a 24-hour cycle, resulting in less switching on and off of power plants and resulting in cheaper electricity across the board. He also stated that there's enough surplus power in the United States to plug in 73 percent of all vehicles on the road without a single upgrade to the system.

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Nissan was also on hand with their Hybrid Altima.

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Nissan bases their hybrid system off technology borrowed from Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive.

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Of course, you can't talk about green cars without talking about the Prius. Toyota was on hand with two plug-in versions of the poster child for green driving. This one is a modified Prius that has been upgraded to a plug-in configuration by Hymotion.

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Out back, we find the plug-in port for 110V power. At a glance, it doesn't look much different from the plug on the back of a computer or household appliance.

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In the trunk, we found the Hymotion plug-in conversion module. More information about how this all works can be found at http://www.a123systems.com/hymotion

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Toyota's own plug-in Prius was a bit more polished than the Hymotion mod. If this funky paint job looks familiar, it's because we've seen it--and more detail about the plug-in Prius--at the 2008 Paris Motor Show.

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Getting back to Ford's showings, there was a hydrogen fuel-cell first-generation Ford Focus on hand.

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Though there's no way of telling what's going just by looking at it, the hydrogen fuel-cell Focus is unlike the conventional petrol-powered Focus in almost every way.

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A large portion of the trunk and undercarriage of the Focus have been rededicated to housing the hydrogen fuel cells and the electric batteries. Ford says that these vehicles have over a 95 percent up-time in fleet use.

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Bosch brought out a BMW 745d, which isn't available for purchase in the U.S. The diesel powered V-8 outputs 325 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, while maintaining a combined cycle of 24 miles per gallon.

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Bosch also brought out a diesel version of the Honda CR-V. We just reviewed the gasoline-powered version of the Honda CR-V and found torque to be lacking. However, with a 2.2-liter, diesel, four-cylinder engine, we're sure Bosch has been able to fix the torque deficit. The impressive thing is that they've also managed to do so to the tune of 50 highway miles per gallon when equipped with the six-speed manual transmission.

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The 2.2-liter diesel four cylinder in this prototype CR-V is the same engine that, according to the Bosch representative, will be under the hood of the upcoming 2010 Acura TSX diesel.

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