The green car movement
GREEN CARS GAIN MOMENTUM
There’s a new buzz in the air when it comes to car shopping these days. The green car movement is gaining momentum, as automakers race to bring a variety of non-gas powered vehicles to the mass market.
So what are the current options, and are any right for you?
Here’s your quick guide to Greener Cars 101.
PENNY-PINCHING GAS ENGINES
Many of today’s cars with traditional gas engines have been made more fuel efficient, to the extent that mileage ratings come very close to those of hybrid vehicles. If you want to drive greener, but the higher costs of hybrid or electric vehicles is a deterrent, a more fuel-efficient gas-powered compact may be a good first step for you.
HYBRIDS BOOST MILEAGE
A hybrid vehicle features both a conventional gas engine and an electric motor powered by a battery. Hybrids typically don’t use an electric plug for recharging; the battery pack that powers the electric motor is recharged by the gas engine and by energy recouped from braking.
Many models are now “full” hybrids, meaning that the car is capable of using solely electricity when starting off, while coasting or driving at very low speeds (stop-and-go traffic, for example). The gas engine kicks in when the driver needs quicker acceleration, or goes certain distances.
Beyond getting more miles to the gallon, hybrids are also considered greener because they give off fewer emissions. According to a study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, hybrids typically produce 29% less smog-forming nitrous oxide than conventional cars.
Along with compact models, many car makers now have hybrid versions of their luxury and SUV models. However, the dual drive trains of hybrids also make them more expensive than their conventional counterparts.
So if you can afford the higher price tag, and want to be greener without sacrificing the features of a conventional car, or changing your driving habits, a hybrid may be a
FULLY ELECTRIC OPTION
Developing a purely electric car is no longer an environmental pipe dream, but it’s still a long way from being a reality for most drivers. Battery technology remains expensive and bulky, which limits the practicality of a purely electric car.
Automotive experts say that an even greater challenge facing electric carmakers is the mindset of U.S. drivers, who are said to have “range anxiety.” Devoted to the notion of freedom on the road, American drivers balk at the idea of being able to go only so far before needing to stop for a lengthy recharge.
For now, electric cars remain a very small niche market and are difficult to come by. So, even if you are known to be an avid early adopter of new technology, with no concerns for cost, being able to purchase a purely electric vehicle may still be many months away.
EXTENDED RANGE VEHICLES STRIKE BALANCE
Extended range electric vehicles (EVs) are causing quite a stir, an example being the launch of Chevrolet’s Volt. Similar to a purely electric car, extended range EVs start with and use battery power exclusively for distances that range from 25 to 40 miles. When the battery runs out, the gas-powered engine takes over, solving the problem of “range anxiety.”
Unlike hybrids, where the gas engine recharges the battery pack, extended range EVs are recharged by plugging into an electricity source, including plugging in at home or at charging stations.
Though this is often anticipated as an inconvenience, several test drivers reported that they found themselves changing their normal driving habits,
and enjoying the challenge of determining just how long they could go without having to use a drop of gasoline.
You’ll certainly need all the gas money you save, as extended range EVs don’t come cheap. But if you have the funds and are comfortable trying new technology, extended range EVs like these are a great way to try electric, without sacrificing the key benefits of a gas-powered car.
ONE PROBLEM,MULTIPLE SOLUTIONS
Despite the recent, rapid changes in the automotive industry, experts anticipate even more dramatic advances in the years to come as automakers around the globe try to answer the question of how best to provide sustainable transportation for people worldwide. It’s going to be an interesting ride.