Small, Obscure, Green Cars At The 2014 Geneva Motor Show

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Major manufacturer launches are only one part of the annual Geneva Motor Show.

Tear yourself away from the glitzy stands and the smiling girls who recline against the newest launches, and a host of smaller companies showing eco-friendly concepts is always present.

This year, several companies stole the limelight from their large OEM counterparts, from a Finnish university's Biofore concept vehicle through a lightweight concept by engineering firm Magna-Steyr.

Indian make Tata also displayed one of the show's stars, and even Toyota managed to show us a concept designed purely for fun. So here's our run-down of the weird, the wonderful and the obscure from Geneva.

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Biofore Concept Car

The Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences' Biofore concept car was one of the most intriguing green concepts at Geneva.

On the outside, it looks fairly typical of the unusual, one-off concept cars seen at Geneva each year. But beneath the skin, it's a serious look at how we use materials in vehicles, and an effort to encourage a more sustainable vehicle with fewer oil-based components.

Two materials feature heavily in the Biofore's construction: UPM Formi, and UPM Grada.

The former is a recyclable biocomposite constructed from cellulose fiber and plastics--typically 50 percent lower in oil-based, non-renewable raw materials than usual automotive plastics.

It's used in everything from interior panels to the car's exterior panels, not only reducing oil-based content but also reducing weight.

UPM Grada is a thermoformable wood material, similar in structure to plywood. Not only is it renewable, but used throughout the car's interior it looks fantastic, giving the car a real Scandinavian lounge feel.

Biofore's engine is a 1.2-liter, three-cylinder turbodiesel grabbed from the Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion, but here it runs on UPM BioVerno--a wood-based renewable diesel, said to have net greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent lower than fossil fuels.

It won't be going into production (though the University does intend to road-register the car) but Helsinki hopes OEMs will look at the sustainable materials and eventually use them on mass-production vehicles.

Magna-Steyr Mila concept - 2014 Geneva Motor Show

Magna-Steyr Mila concept - 2014 Geneva Motor Show

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Magna-Steyr Mila

Like the Biofore concept, Magna-Steyr's Mila concept car is the usual quirky small car you find in Geneva's halls.

Get past the unusual but not-unattractive looks, and the Mila is all about a holistic approach to shedding vehicle weight.

It's designed to compete in the European A-segment, which means vehicles like the Chevrolet Spark, Volkswagen Up sold in Europe, and the Renault Twingo that also debuted in Geneva.

Yet it weighs over 660 lbs less than typical vehicles in the segment--just 1,482 lbs overall.

It does this through multi-functionality of components to reduce the number of parts used and targeted use of lightweight materials. So the car's bodywork has been formed to also serve as interior fittings, for example, while the body in white is a mixture of aluminum, various steels, thermoplastics and other materials.

A compressed natural gas powertrain reduces CO2 emissions by 25 percent--a 49 g/km output is targeted--and hybridization also plays a part, with all-electric drive up to 20 mph or so.

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