Choosing a car was hard enough back when the assumption was that a personal vehicle was a necessary evil – each option was as polluting as the next. Now green cars have added another layer of complexity to the car buying process. The choice isn’t just between eco-friendly and conventional anymore, either.
There are the standard hybrids like the Toyota Prius, plug-in hybrids like the Prius PHV, battery electric models like the all-electric BMW i3 and fuel cell vehicles like the Honda Clarity. All four types bring major green cred to the table and that’s a good thing. Whereas once it was the hybrid that was going to change the world, we’re seeing a revolution in the auto industry as the big car companies race to outdo each other.
But back to choices. Too many people have the idea that green is good when it comes to the family car but aren’t sure exactly why. Or what sets one green car apart from the next. First, the odd man out is the fuel cell vehicle. It’s a great idea in theory – amazing fuel efficiency and the only emission is water – but in practice it’s not a feasible alternative for the average consumer right now. There are only nine public hydrogen fueling stations in California and just one in South Carolina. Live anywhere else and you’re out of luck. Until the infrastructure is in place expect fuel cell vehicles to be a relative rarity.
That leaves hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and all-electric models for the eco-conscious consumer. Standard hybrids are essentially the starter option in the green car lineup – they’re low polluting but still use gas and add to the emissions load being pumped into the atmosphere. They’re also budget friendly. Because the internal battery charges when the driver brakes, gas usage goes down pretty dramatically.
The biggest benefit of hybrids (including plug-in hybrids) over all-electric models is that there’s no range issue. Fuel flexibility means you can top off anywhere. One hundred percent electric cars, on the other hand, are zero emission vehicles but pricey thanks to specialty batteries and at an average 60 to 80 miles per charge you can’t go very far from home. The outlier is the Tesla, which can go 200 miles on a single charge.
Taking the Plunge
The car buying bible, Kelley Blue Book, is anything but silent when it comes to green cars. The company’s top three picks for 2014 were the Toyota Prius (which is the most affordable option), Nissan Leaf and BMW i3. Opt for the Prius Liftback and you’ll be in good company – Toyota’s posted 2013 sales topped out at 34,981 and with close to 11,000 sold in 2014′s first quarter alone expect to see more on the road.
The Leaf may boast 55 percent of the 2013 market share when it comes to all-electric vehicles but that translates into less than 10,000 units. However as interest in electric cars grows there may be a surge in sales. This car is sure to garner much attention as the Automotive Science Group listed it as having the lowest overall carbon footprint throughout its lifetime.
The number one vehicle on KBB’s list of top green cars is the (more…)
Hybrid cars represent the motoring’s future. While enhanced fuel economy has come to vehicles in every market segment, hybrids have the edge. They represent an entry-level solution that minimizes the impact of their conventional petrol engines on mpg for city driving. Plug-in hybrids offer extended electric range before the conventional petrol or diesel engine comes to life, and the benefits of their efficient designs don’t only help the environment but also your pocket. They require fewer resources to power them and offer other financial benefits such as zero car tax and free London congestion charge area access. To discover the 3 best hybrids on the market today, read on.
Ford Mondeo Hybrid
Launching in autumn of this year, the fifth generation Ford Mondeo has been available in America as the Ford Fusion Hybrid since 2009. The redesigned Ford Fusion Hybrid is bigger, faster and smarter – and it’s on its way to the UK. Its interior features an elegantly furnished cabin and a broad spectrum of high-tech features. More importantly, it boasts a newer, more efficient engine. Although smaller than previous versions, the redesigned engine combines with Ford’s smooth electric-drive system to deliver increased power and a vastly improved fuel economy of 47 mpg city and highway, which is an amazing 20 percent better than its 2012 predecessor. Ford has removed the price premium usually associated with hybrids in the hopes that it will appeal to a wider audience, so the price tag will be roughly equivalent to that of a diesel model. If you want to drive silently around town, save money on tax breaks and still do longer drives between cities without penalties, then be one of the first to get your hands on it.
Toyota Prius C
Toyota Prius’ have consistently been lauded as one of the top hybrid vehicles on the market today, only recently knocked from the top spot by the Ford Fusion Hybrid. Its adherents have not deserted it yet, and the Prius is still a consistently popular choice for those searching for a superior eco-friendly vehicle. Although the standard model is more common, the smaller, cheaper Toyota Prius C is the best the manufacturer has to offer. The compact C is slightly sportier-looking than its larger counterpart, and delivers an EPA-rated 50 mpg combined fuel economy. Although acceleration can be slightly sluggish, and the cabin features an overabundance of hard plastics, the budget-friendly pricing combined with the vehicle’s economical fuel consumption and an abundance of safety equipment creates a winning hybrid.
Ford C-Max Hybrid
Another Ford takes bronze in the hybrid Olympics. The Ford C-Max Hybrid is cleverly designed, attractive and enjoyable to drive, and provides a nice alternative to the small SUV. Despite a shortage of cargo space and a hard-to-use MyFord Touch infotainment system, its shortcomings are more than compensated for by its pluses: an abundance of passenger space; a refined gas-electric drive system – the most powerful in its class – which delivers 47 mpg fuel economy, both city and highway; and a wealth of standard features, complemented by plenty of optional additions.
As time goes on, it becomes more and more clear that hybrid automobiles represent the future. The benefits continue to outweigh the costs thanks to efficient designs. People often forget that Earth-friendly products don’t only exist just to help the environment, but also to create more efficient living. Energy requires resources and, therefore, uses money. Eventually, we’ll all be driving hybrid cars. Someday, we might even see total independence from fossil fuels. Check out some of the costs and benefits of owning a hybrid SUV.
Learning How to Drive Efficiently
Hybrid cars don’t just run efficiently, they teach you how to maintain efficiency in the process. Most hybrids offer a display that shows your present mileage next to an indicator of your current mpg. Many also tell you how much energy you regain when using the brakes.
All cars perform more efficiently from gentle acceleration and braking. When you can see exactly how each of your movements and decisions affect the mileage, you learn how to drive as efficiently as possible. For many people, trying to drive for the best mileage can become a fun and encouraging challenge on the road.
Perform Better Than Estimates
Because EPA estimates focus primarily on highway driving, you can actually beat those in your hybrid car. That’s right; hybrids actually drive better in the city than on the highway. Every time you stop in hybrid cars, they generate more electricity that can drive the car at lower speeds, or help the car accelerate quickly. According to CarsDirect.com, even a luxury hybrid SUV can get up to 50 mpg if used correctly in the city.
Gas Prices Still Affect You
Though saving on gas still stands as the main appeal to consumers, gas prices can still affect you financially. We all know that hybrid cars cost more because of their efficiency. Unfortunately, as gas prices rise, so do the prices of hybrids. Although, you could look at this as an upside. If you decide to sell you car in the future, and gas prices have risen, then you can sell your car for closer to the price you bought it.
Hybrid cars use two engines: an electric engine and a small gasoline engine. This can come in handy as electric engines are all you need in many cases. They produce their energy from zero revolutions per minute, which means you can accelerate from a complete stop to a speed two gears ahead with ease. The gas engine only needs to come into play for higher powered uses, like going at high speeds or moving quickly up a hill. The combination creates efficient riding, even when you don’t drive your best.
Batteries Work Great
People constantly worry about hybrid batteries, often citing them as a reason that hybrids don’t really save you as much money in the long run as the claim. Other people warn about batteries failing, and how expensive they can be to replace. Despite popular belief, you don’t have to pay for a top-notch battery from the company who sold you your car. Just like any other car part, you can buy one relatively cheaply at a salvage yard.
Hybrid batteries usually have excellent warranties, lasting long enough to make you feel like you got far more out of it than you paid for. Some people drive their car for over 200,000 miles before needing a new battery.
Lower Highway Driving MPG
This article mentioned earlier how hybrids can beat EPA estimates of a car’s miles per gallon by utilizing its efficiency in the city. Unfortunately, highway driving gives us a different story. Hybrids work the opposite of fully gas-powered cars in that they become least efficient on the highway. Don’t expect to feel incredibly fuel-efficient out there; you’ll still have a good average mpg, but certain compact cars and diesels can reach the same level of efficiency on the highway if driven correctly.
Among the best features of hybrid efficiency, you’ll notice that the gas engine doesn’t run at all when the car has stopped or is moving slowly. If driving in the city, you’ll constantly stop and keep the car at low speeds. Because of this, you end up putting a lot less wear and tear on your engine. This allows you to take your car in to get oil changes far less often and keeps the engine lasting longer.
Hybrids regenerate electricity with regenerative brakes instead of applying standard brakes, except in cases where you must stop suddenly. Most people drive around all day without slamming on the brakes, meaning the conventional brakes rarely get used. Thanks to that handy feature, you won’t have to bring your brakes in for service as often as you would with a non-hybrid.
The Car Stays Warm
As any mechanic knows, when you start-up a cold engine it’s harder to crank and can wear the engine down much more than starting one that you’ve already warmed up. Hybrids combat this by using a coolant they store in a temperature-saving container. So, once you’ve warmed up engine fluid, it stays warm for days. As long as you don’t let your car sit unused for days on end, you shouldn’t have any problems with wearing down your engine from cold starts.
It Takes Time To Earn Your Money Back
One last issue, though maybe not so important, comes with the time it takes to earn your savings back. The average hybrid SUV costs about three to four thousand dollars more than an equivalent non-hybrid version. If you drive 20,000 miles a year, spending just a little more time in the city than on the highway, you’ll save around $1000 on gas annually. That means it would take 3 to 4 years for you to earn your money back.
Now, gas mileage isn’t the only benefit of owning a hybrid, but it still acts as the main appeal. Even though you will earn your money back in gas savings, some people get discouraged by how long it takes for this to happen.
All in all, you won’t regret purchasing a hybrid car, as long as you can afford it. Future trends will only continue to support gas-efficient vehicles.
Benjamin Ferguson is a freelance writer in Portland, OR. He loves creative writing, especially humor, and would love to help you write your story, comic, video, or any other creative venture that needs ideas, writing and/or polishing. If you’d like to contact him about any of these things, send him and e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or send him a message on his linked in profile.
Alright, I have a confession to make … (as a Cali-based college student), as much as I try, I don’t bike everywhere. There are mornings when I don’t have the energy to wake up extra early for the bus, and I don’t exactly drive a Prius. Honestly, sometimes driving my car is pretty unavoidable, and no matter how environmentally responsible I want to be, it just isn’t going to be financially feasible for me to pick up the lovely new Leaf anytime soon. But all hope is not lost on me, or any of my fellow classmates who also feel a little guilty about their car usage. Here are a few simple tips for driving a bit greener in whatever wheels you already have:
- Lighten the Load – Cleaning out your car is a quick and easy way to up your mean machine’s green factor (and save money on gas). The more weight a vehicle carries, the more fuel it consumes, so trim the fat for a ride that is lean and green.
- Cruise – Cruise control, if you have it, is a surprisingly useful tool for green driving. Unnecessary acceleration (which many of us do naturally by responding to small changes in traffic rather than taking a long view of the road) is a huge drain on your gas tank. Turning on cruise control is an easy way to counter this troublesome tendency; one test logged a maximum 14% saving in gas consumption just from using cruise control. (more…)
If you’re considering buying a fuel efficient vehicle next year you may want to consider Ford Motor Company’s new C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid. Ford is touting the C-MAX (available in early 2013) as the world’s most fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid, boasting an EPA certified 108 MPGe city and 100 MPGe combined rating.
The C-MAX Energi’s combined rating of 100 MPGe accomplishes a best-in-class rating, beating the Toyota Prius plug-in rating by 5MPGe. The EPA equates the 5 MPGe to nearly $7,000 in fuel savings within the span of five years and at a starting price of $29,995 (after federal tax credit and including destination and delivery costs) — the C-MAX Energi is expected to be America’s most affordable plug-in hybrid.
The 100 + MPG club includes the Ford Focus Electric at 110 MPGe in the city. The C-MAX Energi joins the C-MAX Hybrid as part of Ford’s first hybrid-only dedicated line of vehicles. C-MAX Hybrid, available in dealerships this fall, is now officially EPA-certified at 47 mpg city, 47 mpg highway and 47 mpg combined – beating Toyota Prius v by up to 7 mpg.
“Ford is giving customers the power of choice for leading fuel economy regardless of what type of vehicle or powertrain technology they choose,” said John Davis, chief nameplate engineer, C-MAX Energi. “With $5-per-gallon gasoline, C-MAX Energi customers essentially will pay $1.25 per gallon for the same distance traveled compared with average vehicles estimated to achieve 23 mpg.”
C-MAX Energi features include:
- Regenerative braking
- Hybrid transmission
- Advanced Lithium-ion battery – covered by an eight-year/100,000-mile
- Charge port with LED light ring
- EV mode button – allows a driver to switch vehicle operation between three modes: all-electric and normal hybrid operation to conserve fuel
- ECO Cruise saves vehicle energy by relaxing acceleration compared to standard cruise control
- SmartGauge with EcoGuide provides in-vehicle customizable displays, including instantaneous fuel economy readings and coaching functions to help drivers understand and optimize their fuel efficiency
Source: Ford Motor Company