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2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas – Click above for high-res image gallery

There are some who believe that the Holy Grail of fuel-saving technology could potentially be diesel-electric hybrids, and the idea certainly isn't without merit. After all, diesel engines are inherently more efficient than their gasoline-swilling siblings, so there's the potential for even higher fuel economy than with traditional gas-electric hybrids like the Toyota Prius hatchback. Further, diesel-electric locomotives have proven the technology viable for certain applications.

Way back in the early 1960s, famed designer Raymond Leowy locked himself and his team in a rented house for five weeks with the intent of designing an exciting new sports coupe for Studebaker. The result was known as the Avanti, and it's often looked back upon as one of the most attractive automotive designs of the era. At least one competitor for the upcoming Progressive Automotive X-Prize must agree with that assessment, as the team from Enertia Motors is using one of the old fiberglass-bodies

Peugeot plans to offer its 3008 CUV with a diesel-electric hybrid by 2011. The step after that is to add plug-in capability, but those plans have been pushed back "a year or two" because of the economy. With R&D budgets pinched by slim sales, the investment in the technology simply can't be justified right now, especially in light of Peugeot's assertion that such cars will sell in "in the tens of thousands, not millions."

Looking more like a spaceship or an imaginary vehicle out of the Jetsons than anything else currently on the road, the Accelerated Composites Aptera uses a diesel\electric hybrid drivetrain which they claim is good for over 200 mpg at a constant 55 mph, using nickel-zinc batteries. The performance appears quite livable, with zero to sixty times coming in at 10 seconds. Using some sort of advanced carbon fiber technology for production hopes, the three-wheeled vehicle is expected to be available

[Lots more information about this interesting project has surfaced since our original post. Thanks to Alex over at noonzwheels.com for the tip! Click any pic for a high rez version]