We often hear of our 21st Century world as being the “information age” or the “global age”, but if you really think about what dominates our cultural awareness today you can probably call our century the “going green” age. Yes, today the hottest rage seems to be getting green, from recycling our water bottles – or not using water bottles at all – to building green roofs on our buildings, and now, to green cars. We are not talking about green paint or pin striping, but rather about cars that move us from place to place without damaging the environment like their petrol burning predecessors. These green, eco-friendly cars come in a variety of types and price points. But shopping for green cars requires a bit of knowledge beyond the usual kicking of the tires.
Types of Green Automobiles. Today, eco-friendly autos are being designed for green in a variety of ways. While the technology is growing at a pace so fast that it would be impossible to list all the green automotive options of the future, there are a few common green automotive features that are already available today. Among the most common that you might be shopping for are bio-fuel burning cars, hybrid vehicles, and electric cars.
Bio-Fuel Burning Cars. For some cars, going green means burning more environmentally friendly fuels. Many cars today are designed to burn ethanol (fuel derived from corn), bio-diesel (diesel derived from vegetable oil), and even hydrogen or natural gas (which burn much more cleanly, with fewer emissions, than petroleum based gasoline). These vehicles provide the unlimited range of a gasoline powered car, but use fuels that are much safer for our natural world. The Ford Escape Hybrid, for example, burns ethanol (E85) and Fiat is among the car companies working to develop natural gas driven vehicles.
Hybrid Vehicles. One of the earliest technologies in green driving is the hybrid vehicle. These vehicles combine two or more types of propulsion / fuel systems, usually by using gasoline but adding an additional system to stretch the gasoline further, providing up to 40, 50, 60 miles per gallon or more. Most hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius, use a gasoline engine combined with a kinetic motor that draws energy from the vehicle breaks; this energy drives the vehicle in many driving conditions. Over one million Prius have been sold, and today’s Prius is well developed and tested; they sell starting at $23,520 and achieve up to 51mpg. Other hybrid vehicles use bio-fuel and electric power, like a prototype Ford Escape Hybrid, which can get up to 120mpg, though the actual Escape Hybrid released for 2012 and starting at $30,570 gets just 34mpg.
Electric Cars. The newest wave in green cars is the electric car. Nearly every major car company has one in the works. The two electric vehicles receiving the most attention today are the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf. The Nissan Leaf is 100% electric motor with zero emissions. With a range that varies between 62 and 138 miles per charge (mpc), the Leaf starts at $27,700 and is available for order now. The Chevy Volt is available for purchase now and starts at $32,780. While the Volt gets just 35 miles of complete electric mileage per charge, an on-board gas-powered motor creates additional power with little fuel, providing hundreds of miles of charge-free driving, with excellent mpg.
The Cost of Going Green. Green vehicles can save money and the environment. However, when shopping for green cars remember in addition to the cost of the green cars you are considering, be sure to also look at hidden costs such as fuel (even electricity costs money), insurance (which is often based on the cost to repair a vehicle) and maintenance, as well as non-economic costs such as limitations on range of driving or difficulty obtaining fuel. If you are one of the early adopters of this technology you could find yourself the proud owner of an amazing, gas saving piece of technology.
To Green or Not to Green. Of course, going green is not simply about saving money on fuel. Likely, one of the reasons you are shopping for green cars is because you want to do your part to lessen your carbon footprint, stop emitting greenhouse gases and help reduce our reliance on petroleum. These are all valid reasons for choosing a green vehicle. When shopping for green cars, consider all aspects of the equation, balancing your need for speed, range and features with your desire to make the world a greener place and put more green into your own wallet.