Alternative-Fuel Cool

ONE GUARANTEED HOT TICKET at the Los Angeles Auto Show this January will be the North American debut of the Fetish, a $686,000 Batmobile-style roadster from French boutique carmaker Venturi that can bolt from zero to 60 in 4.5 seconds—with zero emissions.

Green Fuels Special Issue

Welcome to the brave new world of eco-sensitive transportation: Slideshow instructions on getting your car green, a list of Green-Fuel All-Stars, and more.

Venturi Fetish

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Peugeot Quark ATV

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The Fetish, powered by 100 rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, is part of a vanguard of alternative-fuel vehicles that are ditching the Love Bug image of the eco-hip Toyota Prius hybrid in favor of qualities long proven to sell cars: head-turning curves and plenty of horsepower. Last year, major manufacturers developed a dozen concept cars as market gauges, merging hot-rod punch with green technology. According to industry pundits, the flashy designs suggest that the alt-fuel virtues of higher gas mileage and lower emissions will soon be marketed like spoilers and sunroofs—fringe benefits to a sweet set of wheels.

"We're at a shift in the personality of these cars," says Jeff Bryan, reviews editor at Edmunds.com, a top consumer automotive portal. "Buying a hybrid is still a political statement. But people are starting to demand performance and style."

Some 2005 hybrids already provide a bit of both—and are making a killing. Ford dealers sold more than 1,100 2005 Escape Hybrids—the first hybrid SUV—this past October, and some 4,000 still in production are already reserved. Lexus claimed a record 11,000 pre-orders by late fall for its luxury hybrid SUV, the RX 400h, out in early 2005. In December, Honda rolled out a hybrid Accord with a 255-horsepower V6, making it the fastest model yet. GM's hybrid plans include an all-wheel-drive Saturn Vue, in 2006, and a high-performance Chevy Malibu, in 2007. Like the Prius, all these rides will still have you cruising past the gas station—you'll just be going a lot faster.

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