LA concepts as much cycling as recycling
30 October 2006

Here's a novel solution to pollution: pedal power for use in town. For the third year in a row, the LA Auto Show is running a design challenge with an emphasis on environmental sustainability. This year, contestants have to prove themselves by "creating a vehicle that is environmentally aware of its global footprint" and which is suitable for Southern California.

They really mean "design a car that's as green as possible, but still fun" – and that's just what the nine very different entries have achieved.

Toyota's Renewable Lifestyle Vehicle or RLV is perhaps the most radical. It seats two people, tandem-style. The lucky driver (rider?) gets to use the pedals, which will shove the RLV forward as hard as you can push. There is also an electric motor, for when traffic speeds increase – with an aimed top speed of 75mph. Toyota says the two optimum speeds - 5mph and 75mph - are the most commonly used speeds in Los Angeles. But even the RLV's funky looks can't quite erase thoughts of the Sinclair C5...

VW's designers have created the Nanospyder, which employs nanotechnology. Its structure is made from miniscule nano-machines that can change the car's shape or adjust the crumple zones to react to impending collisions.

Honda's Extreme is actually much less extreme – it's a kind of modular machine to which you add as your family expands. There is also an Acura Le Mans car, in which the driver lies facing forwards, the Audi Dynamic Space Frame, a Hummer that "produces pure oxygen even while it's parked", a hybrid Kia beach buggy and a wood-bodied Mercedes roadster that's claimed to be 100 per cent recyclable.

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Mini's studio has come up with one of the most interesting designs - a biopowered Moke which, given the rumours of a funky spin-off from the current production model, could prove styling cues for the brand's future development.

The designs will be judged by a panel of judges from Californian universities, including the Art Center College of Design. The winner will be announced on 30 November.

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