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Carbon fiber often occupies the limelight as a light weight material that could take some of the heft out of our cars, and thus improve fuel efficiency -- if only it cost less. But alloys of magnesium, the lightest structural metal, have a history in automotive components tracing back to the 1930s. Now the U.S. government is hoping to jump-start innovative production of the material for use in cars.

Audi Sportback Concept - Click above for a high-res image gallery

The cars built off of Audi's "B8" platform, including the A4 sedan, A5 coupe and their derivatives, have much to recommend them. Light weight is not among those characteristics. The lowest mass four cylinder front wheel drive A4 sedan weighs in at nearly 3,600 pounds and the V8-powered AWD S5 runs nearly 4,100 pounds. For mid-sized cars of very reasonable dimensions, these are prodigious numbers. Of course, modern safety regulations feed into this as does the continuing proliferation of feature

Click above for a gallery of the Subaru R1e in New York