It's hardly a big surprise that hybrid cars and electric vehicles take centre stage at the Los Angeles Motor Show which opened today.

The big problem for the show organisers is capturing attention away from Washington where the USA's Big Three carmakers are currently telling the Senate why they should be financially bailed out by the government.

Ford is unveiling hybrid versions of its Fusion and Milan saloons while the electric Mini is seen for the first time as a first step toward mass-producing a battery-powered vehicle as early as 2010.

The Mini goes on trial in three US states next spring while the revamped Fusion and Milan will go on sale in the first half of next year as 2010 models. Having hybrid versions of the two cars is part of Ford's plans to double its output of hybrid vehicles to 50,000 next year.

GM is showcasing the Chevrolet Volt, its rechargeable car designed to run 40 miles on battery power. It's 1.4-litre petrol engine can be used to re-charge the battery. Because plug-ins like the Volt can be recharged from a cleaner-burning electric grid, proponents see them as the best way in the near term to reduce oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from traffic on America's roads.

GM has said it is protecting its investment in the Volt ahead of the vehicle's planned 2010 launch even as it scrambles to cut $15 billion (£10 billion) in costs elsewhere. And that's the issue right now for the US carmakers.

With its cash dwindling and car sales crashing to 25-year lows, GM, Ford and Chrysler have gone cap in hand to Congress seeking $25 billion (£16.6 billion) in federal handouts, which are under consideration right as the LA Show opens.

Other green offerings at the show include Kia which is unveiling a fuel cell-powered version of its Borrego SUV. The company previously has used the smaller Sportage to showcase its fuel cell capabilities.

The Borrego FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) concept features a third-generation fuel cell stack and a new lithium-ion polymer battery pack. Using three hydrogen tanks, the Borrego can travel up to 426 miles between fill-ups-nearly double the Sportage FCEV's 215-mile range. The company plans to begin real-world testing of a fleet of fuel cell vehicles in South Korea at the turn of the decade. It's not clear whether this will be the Borrego FCEV or another model.

Hyundai is showing off a prototype of its first hybrid for the US market, using lithium-ion batteries similar to those on the Volt.

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