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Last week GM reported a 1.3 billion dollar second quarter profit, a big turn around from one year ago when it went into bankruptcy. While this is a bit encouraging the company still owes the U.S. government over 40 billion dollars. And regardless of this slight upswing, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that the company, as with all U.S. car manufacturers, is lagging in innovative technology that make cars more fuel-efficient. The Chevy Volt, which is scheduled to hit showrooms late this Fall is a positive start but we are still way behind.

At Earthgarage I’ve come across dozens of interesting green car innovations from independent people. John Scott from Wales, WI has developed a cambered tire that provides better fuel economy while also achieving better traction. And the Edison2 team from Lynchburg, VA developed and raced the Very Light Car, which has stellar performance and fuel economy around 100 mpg.

But we still aren’t seeing these technologies in our cars. Perhaps we should be resorting to smaller, independent vehicle manufacturers that are flexible enough to handle new automotive technologies as they are developed. Recently Jay Rogers of Local Motors gave a great lecture at Poptech about utilizing open source technology to build fully customizable vehicles. The best part is that Local Motors accepts design input from anyone. In addition, cars are made locally in small factories and designed to handle road conditions in specific regions.

Manufacturing cars on a smaller scale seems positive for the future of environmentally friendly vehicles. At the very least it’s hard to believe that small independent manufacturers will ever require billions of dollars from the government if they don’t succeed.