Which green car is right for you?
Get the most green for your buck
The choices faced when trying to "green" up your new ride range from sublime to ridiculous. There are dozens of options whether you want a fuel-sipping city car or if you just want to save a couple bucks at the gas pumps. And regardless of what technology you purchase, realize that in nearly every case it will cost you more as an initial buy-in. Whether you save money afterwards in fuel efficiency, resale value and other less tangible areas remains to be seen, and this will vary from model to model.
But what's the best green car for my situation, you ask? That's relative to a bunch of factors, but we'll break down a few basic scenarios that most people can identify with, and what vehicle types would be best suited to your needs.
Young singles or couples living in urban environments will likely find hybrids offer the best gains. The stop-and-go nature of city traffic allows gasoline-electric vehicles to shine. However, not all hybrids are alike. There are two main types of hybrids - mild hybrids, where the electric motor assists the standard gasoline engine, or full hybrids where the electric motor can propel the vehicle by itself. Honda's hybrids are all of the mild type, while those from Toyota and Ford are full hybrids, which is why the Prius and Fusion Hybrid have such incredibly low fuel mileage ratings relative to their size.
And, while battery technology plays a large part in how well a hybrid delivers on its promises, technology like regenerative braking and start-stop engines also kick in significant chunks towards overall efficiency.
The mom or dad who commutes long distances, especially by highway, should look in another direction. While diesel power might have some stigmas to overcome (hello, mid-'80s smoking Oldsmobiles), it has dramatically changed its image; today's diesels are remarkably smooth, quiet, and don't smell. Compared to gasoline, diesel offers about 30 per cent more energy, which translates into significantly better fuel mileage. The way power is delivered, though, is very different. The engines don't rev freely, they produce their power in a very small range, and need turbochargers to really come alive.
They do produce excellent torque, which helps turbodiesel cars feel sprightly. Also, some current vehicles use urea additives to scrub any particulates and greenhouse-emissions forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) out of the exhaust. 'Clean Diesel' isn't just a marketing term.
The additional price can be substantial over a gasoline-powered option, but the diesel makes up for it with its increased range and, right now anyway, lower price at the pump. A BMW 335i averages 10 l/100 km with a 61-litre tank, which means 600 km potential range for $60. A similarly priced 335d averages 7.4 l/100 km with the same size tank, which means 825 km potential range for the same $60.
The main issue with diesel is availability. For now, most manufacturers are positioning their diesel offerings at or near the top of a model's lineup because the engines cost so much to design and build, so don't expect base-level economy wonders anytime soon. And, unless you want a relatively expensive German vehicle - compact Volkswagen aside - you can't really consider diesel as an option, though, since it's only Audi/VW, BMW and Mercedes-Benz that offer turbodiesel engines (in vehicles smaller than full-size pickups, of course).
A 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake sold for $1.3 million. Do you think classic cars were made better than modern rides?
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- Yes, the quality of cars from the 1960s and '70s is the best
- No, modern technology makes cars better today
- Maybe, it's hard to say since most Canadians get a new car every 10 years