Green was in the air at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where just about every major manufacturer talked about the products using less energy and hazardous materials. But it was the smaller start-ups that had some of the most innovative products.
1) Vectrix electric motorcycle. The first zero-emissions bike that's ready for the highway. The sleek-looking Vectrix is available now and approved nationwide as a street bike. With a top speed of 62 miles an hour, the Vectrix can travel as far as 55 miles on a single charge. Its $11,000 price tag is high for a bike of its size, but with no gas or oil and little maintenance on the electric motor, the payback can come within a couple of years.
2) Voltaic Generator. The first backpack with enough solar oomph to power a laptop. Constructed from recycled material, of course, the solar panels come in four colors—orange, silver, green, and a more discreet charcoal. The Voltaic Generator sells for $600, although bags with panels that can charge cellphones and MP3 players start at $200.
3) eMotion solar media player. A smaller twist on solar power, this MP3 player can also charge other devices, such as mobile phones and digital cameras. The 3.5-inch screen is bright and can play videos and photos. The $170 player comes with 1 gigabyte of built-in memory and a card slot that can handle a 2GB secure digital card.
4) Medis fuel cell. The world's first portable fuel cell can provide several days of power for a cellphone or other portable device. It's a one-use device, but unused power stays available for at least three months after activating the cell. It's a concept that's been long in coming and will get even better in a year or two when Medis produces another model that can accept refueling cartridges.
5) Belkin Conserve. An eight-outlet surge protector that comes with a remote control to switch it off. That prevents your home theater or computer components from continuing to suck energy from the wall after being turned "off." The $50 power strip also provides two always-on outlets and surge protection for all eight outlets. The remote means no more crouching under the desk to save energy.
6) Energizer LED lamps. The battery company has come up with an innovative line of lamps, sconces, and under-cabinet lights that can run several days on their rechargeable batteries. That could be a lifesaver in the event of a power outage. Many of the lamps pop out of their holders to offer portable light, and some can take AAA batteries when the rechargeable runs out. Prices start at about $50.