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Algae-filled Hummer wins 'green car' contest

Car design wins L.A. Auto Show prize for best environmentally-friendly concept.

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -- In the corporate imagination of General Motors, Hummer could be transformed from the SUV that environmentalists love to hate to an algae-infused, oxygen-exuding buggy that would open up like a flower.

GM's sketch for the "Hummer O2" was named the winner on Thursday, Nov. 30, of a design contest at the Los Angeles auto show that challenged major automakers to design a vehicle with a five-year life span that could be fully recycled.

Gallery: See all the entries

The GM vision for the futuristic Hummer concept includes an algae-filled body shell, designed to shed oxygen, that also opens up like leaves on a stem to catch sunlight when parked.

The concept sketch, which was produced by GM's West Coast Advanced Design Studio, shows the Hummer riding on an aluminum shell and powered by a hydrogen tank and fuel cells.

"This design team said, 'We've done hybrids. We're doing fuel cells. What's the next step that actually improves the environment?'" said Frank Saucedo, director of GM's California design lab.

Saucedo said the GM team had deliberately chosen the polarizing Hummer brand for its imagined environmental remake.

"People think of it as a military vehicle, as a suburban SUV, but really these types of vehicles -- the SUVs and the early Jeeps -- were for people who worked in the outdoors, environmentalists, naturalists and outdoorsmen," he said. "This is just us coming full circle."

GM said this week that its entire Hummer lineup would offer biofuel engines, capable of running on renewable fuels such as biodiesel, over the next three years.

The GM entry in the Los Angeles Auto Show Design Challenge won out over a number of equally ambitious vehicle sketches from other automakers.

None of the sketches are even close to the full-blown concept cars that automakers roll out at the industry's major trade shows to generate buzz for their brands.

Toyota Motor Corp. suggested an electric-powered, tandem-style vehicle with wicker seats that the occupants could opt to pedal through stop-and-go Los Angeles rush-hour traffic.

DaimlerChrysler AG's luxury Mercedes-Benz unit suggested a diesel-burning convertible with wood panels that could be easily replaced and recycled.

Gallery: See all the entries

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