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Groovy Energy-Saving Prototype Van

Hippie Van

Now here's a ride Little Miss Sunshine and her eccentric family would have appreciated.

Think sixties hippie culture meets Star Trek, and you end up with a family van that's techno-pumped and extremely energy efficient.

A research team at Volkswagen's Electronic Research Lab in Palo Alto bought a 1964 microbus on e-Bay for $20,000. Dubbed "Chameleon," it's "groovy" meets "out-of-this-world."

Take Chameleon's entertainment system. The MP3 player responds to voice commands. Wanna watch a flick? Press a button and a 42-inch liquid crystal display slides into place. The back window doubles as a movie screen, changing from clear to opaque electronically.

And security? Well, it's as tight as anything you'll find on the Starship Enterprise. An infrared palm-vein scanner identifies you and determines what you can and can't do with the vehicle.

Chameleon doesn't run on something as futuristic as ion propulsion. But, her electric motor is powered by 10 NASA-developed lithium polymer rechargeable batteries that deliver twice the energy at half the weight. And solar cells, mounted on surfboards up top, add juice the natural way.

An emission-free ride: now that's groovy!

By Pat Florez

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