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2016 Chevy Volt

Chevy's Volt hybrid was once considered pricey even after government tax credits, but the 2016 model may well be within your reach... if you live in the right state, at least. The automaker has revealed that its latest eco-friendly sedan will cost $33,995 at full price (down $1,200 from last year), but it'll drop to to a more palpable $26,495 if you qualify for a full federal tax credit. And if you live in California, it'll sit just under the magic $25,000 mark -- not bad for a full-size car that can stay on electric power during a typical commute. You can certainly find cheaper hybrids if you look around, but this is a testament to how quickly Chevy's once-exotic technology has become accessible.


Sony Xperia E3

Sony's Android smartphones haven't been tinkerer-friendly to date -- since you couldn't boot from a recovery partition, you couldn't install CyanogenMod and other unofficial operating systems without jumping through hoops. It should be much easier to mess with your software from now on, though. Sony is quietly releasing bootloaders that let you boot from that recovery space, which opens the door to installing both custom Android ROMs as well as very different platforms, like Firefox OS or Ubuntu Touch. The catch? Right now, the only devices that support these bootloaders are lower-end models you probably don't use, like the Xperia E3, M2, T2 Ultra and T3. You won't be modifying the heck out of your Xperia Z3 just yet, then, but that's no longer a far-fetched idea.


Facebook might start natively hosting full Buzzfeed, National Geographic and The New York Times articles and videos as soon as this month, according to The Wall Street Journal. This new feature is called "Instant Articles," and the social network has been working on it since March, at the very least. Facebook is reportedly offering news organizations special ad models that maximize their earning potential to entice them to sign up. One of the models it's proposing will even allow publishers to keep 100 percent of what they earn from ads they themselves sell, as well as 70 percent of the revenues from ads Facebook sells for them.

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Tesla Model S

Tesla is a big fan of selling electric cars directly to the public (much to dealers' chagrin), and it's now doing the same for used vehicles. The automaker has opened an online pre-owned store where you can buy someone's former Model S at a relative discount. You're limited to shopping in a handful of cities in the US and Canada, but the cars come with a 4-year, 50,000-mile warranty to assuage fears that you've bought a lemon. No, the move doesn't make the company's luxury EVs much more attainable -- the best offer we've seen so far is for a $59,000 'entry' model. Even so, this beats having to scrounge through third-party websites and indie dealers in hopes of finding a rare bargain in eco-friendly transportation.


Germans protesting US surveillance

Germany is more than a little nervous about US surveillance these days, and it's now anxious enough that it might just file charges. Federal prosecutors say they will investigate claims that the country's foreign intelligence outfit broke the law by helping the US' National Security Agency spy on European companies and governments for over a decade. Among other concerns, the NSA reportedly gave German spies 40,000 surveillance targets (such as internet addresses and phone numbers), several thousand of which were illegal.

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Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week's most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us -- it's the Week in Green.

Inhabitat's Week in Green

Tesla capped the week off with the announcement everyone's been waiting for -- its new $3,500 10kWh Powerwall home battery is coming soon. All eyes were on Elon Musk this past week as he took the stage to show off the stylish new battery that could help take your home off the grid. The internal combustion engine has been around for more than 150 years, and for most of that time it has run on petroleum, which isn't exactly a friend of the environment. But what if we removed gas from the equation and replaced it with something more harmless? Audi recently invented a synthetic "e-diesel," which is made with water, CO2 and electricity derived from renewable energy sources. The new fuel could revolutionize the car industry and help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

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Amazon Echo speaker

You can tell Amazon's Echo speaker to directly control certain apps and services, but what if you want it to send information to other apps that you use more often? That's where IFTTT's new Alexa channel might save the day. Give the Echo a command and IFTTT will relay certain tasks to key apps. You can deliver your to-do list to Gmail when you ask the speaker about your itinerary, for example, or add your grocery items to Evernote without touching your phone. Frankly, this makes the Echo a lot more useful in daily life -- you no longer have to change some of your app habits to make the most out of Amazon's audio cylinder.


Flower cells in 3D

Plants are delicate things, which makes them a pain to study under an electron microscope -- you'll probably damage the very cells you're trying to look at. You'll get a much better look if the University of Florida's new imaging technique catches on, though. Their approach leans on both a compound fluorescence light microscope and a camera to capture several layers of cells, creating a detailed 3D snapshot of the cellular structure of something as fragile as a flower petal. The resulting pictures may not be shocking (surprise: there are lots of globs), but they should be a big deal for biologists. Researchers would have a better sense of how animal and plant tissues work when they're untouched by humans, which could go a long way toward fighting diseases and learning about new species.

[Image credit: Jacob B. Landis]


Hot Hook-Up

For three years between 2011 and 2014, the unmanned Kamen K-Max 1200 helicopter delivered more than 4.5 million tons of supplies to the most dangerous and far-flung US Forward Operating Bases throughout Afghanistan. It followed that feat up in 2014 by demonstrating its ability to coordinate with other UAVs in forest fire suppression operations. And in March of this year, the semi-autonomous helicopter once again proved that it can integrate operations with land-based drones to locate, identify and evacuate people stranded in desolate areas -- all without putting more lives at risk.

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Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550

If you've been jonesing for a featherweight laptop but feel that Apple's MacBook rubs you the wrong way, you're in luck: as promised, Lenovo is now selling the LaVie Z and LaVie Z 360 in the US. Both 13-inch systems largely resemble what you saw in January, and strike a careful balance between brisk performance and a light design that won't strain your shoulder when it's in your bag. They share Quad HD screens, fifth-generation Core i7 processors, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive. The only big difference is the 360's namesake convertible touchscreen, which turns your PC into a makeshift tablet.

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