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10 Must-See Electric Cars at this Year's International Auto Show

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Gas prices may be plunging right now, but that hasn't stopped the carmakers at the 2015 North American International Auto Show from competing to show off their new hybrid and all-electric cars. The auto show expects more than one million people to come to Detroit, Michigan to see the 45 new vehicles on display from Jan. 12-25.

The Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion is a concept car that is both electric and autonomous.
Steve Lagreca / Shutterstock.com

And many of those new vehicles are hybrid and electric. Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors, doesn't feel threatened by the competition, according to CBS, because the trend is toward electric. Musk said, "the price of gasoline at any one time is irrelevant." Electric vehicles are the future.

Levi Tillemann, author of The Great Race: The Global Quest for the Car of the Future, said yesterday on Marketplace"It's almost inevitable that the car of the future is going to be electric, and it's going to drive itself." As more and more states follow California's lead in mandating that a certain percentage of their vehicles are electric, electric vehicles will really take off. And "One of the benefits of electric vehicles is that electricity can be made out of any energy source," so, as we transition more and more to renewables, electric vehicles will come from cleaner energy sources.

Here's a list of 10 top electric cars from the Detroit Auto Show:

1. Volkswagen e-Golf

Volkswagen's new electric car goes up to 83 miles for less than $3 with zero-tailpipe emissions. And it's making waves in the auto industry: it won the 2015 Motor Trend Car of the Year.

2. Honda FCV

The FCV is a fuel cell electric vehicle. This zero-emission hydrogen powered car has a 300+ mile range and can recharge in under five minutes. It's expected to launch in the U.S. following a projected March 2016 introduction in Japan.

3. Tesla S

The Tesla S has had some production delays and runs just over $70,000, but Musk is confident the price will go down once it's mass-produced. Tesla has only sold 30,000 Model S cars this year, but Musk hopes to sell 500,000 annually of this all-electric sedan by 2020. Tesla announced in September that it's planning to build a giant “gigafactory” outside of Reno, Nevada to manufacture the batteries that power the cars. Tesla is planning to release the Model III in 2017, which will offer a more affordable $35,000 price tag.

4. Smart Electric Car

With a convertible option, this tiny car has an impressive government MPGe rating (miles per gallon gasoline equivalent) of 122 miles in the city and 93 on the highway.

5. BMW i8

The car was first introduced as a plug-in hybrid sports car. Now the 2015 model is electric with a range of 15-23 miles and a MPGe rating of 76. Deliveries to U.S. customers began in August 2014.

6. Chevy Bolt

General Motors wants to build on the success of its Chevy Volt hybrid with this new all-electric car. The carmker estimates it will go 200 miles on a single charge and cost $30,000. The Bolt is still a concept car, but it's debuting a 2016 update to the Volt hybrid.

7. GAC Group's Witstar

Chinese auto maker GAC Group's Witstar is a concept car that will be autonomous (able to drive itself) and electric. The makers say it will have a Chevy-Volt like setup with a total electric range of 62 miles or more.

8. Audi A3 e-tron

The 2015 Audi A3 E-tron plug-in hybrid can travel up to 31 miles on electricity alone or cover 550 miles with gas.

9. Mercedes-Benz F015

This carmaker known for its luxury sports cars is going electric. It's prototpye, dubbed Luxury in Motion, is electric and autonomous. Since the car drives itself, it has a "variable seating system with four rotating lounge chairs that allow a face-to-face seat configuration." Mercedes is also showcasing its C350 plug-in hybrid, which is expected to go on sale in March this year.

10. Volvo XC-90 hybrid plug-in

The Swedish automaker offers an SUV hybrid with a MPGe of 59. Volvo says it will go up to 25 miles on electric and can charge in two and a half to six hours.

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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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