- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2007

FRANKFURT, Germany — At the 2007 International Motor Show here, concept cars sprout like dandelions in a spring lawn.

But few are as innovative as the Flextreme from General Motors. That’s right, General Motors, the American car company everybody loves to criticize.

The streamlined four-door Flextreme, with center-opening doors, is a hybrid from Opel, GM’s European brand. But the big news is that it carries two Segway personal transporters.

The Segway is a large, two-wheeled scooter. It operates on electric power and maintains the operator’s balance with a unique system that employs gyroscopes. It can carry an adult, standing up, more than 20 miles before it needs recharging.

On the Opel Flextreme, two Segways with folding handles are stored beneath the rear cargo floor.

A touch of a button on a remote control opens a panel about where the rear bumper would be and disgorges the bin carrying the two Segways. Roll them out, unfold the handles and they’re ready to go.

It means you and a sidekick can drive to your destination, park the car and roam at will at speeds of 12 miles an hour or so.

The Flextreme is a concept that may or may not be built in its current form. But it has all the eco-friendly right stuff to make it in a greener new world.

It has front-wheel drive and is powered by a 160 horsepower electric motor with a range of about 33 miles. It also carries a 1.3-liter, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that runs at a constant speed to provide additional electric power and to keep the batteries — and the Segways — charged. It also can be plugged into an outlet for charging.

Because of interference from the cover on the compartment holding the Segways, the Flextreme does not have a conventional tailgate to access the cargo area. It has clamshell doors that swing up to provide access from either side of the car.

The Flextreme is one of many concept cars with innovative powertrains at the show.

Another is the Diesotto from Mercedes-Benz, a four-cylinder, turbocharged gasoline engine that delivers 238 horsepower from just 1.8 liters of displacement, and is boosted by an electric motor.It has a computerized system that enables it to switch instantly between conventional spark ignition, as in a standard gasoline engine, to compression ignition, as in a diesel engine.

The Diesotto — a combination of the word diesel and otto, the original gasoline engine’s name — powers the newest Mercedes-Benz concept car, the F700, which Mercedes says points to the future of its automobile design. The F700 looks like an S-Class Mercedes on steroids.

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