An Array of Choices Are Available
With environmental concerns and economic worries, many people have made the decision to buy green vehicles. Cars that are labeled “green” are either those that are environmentally friendly and provide less harm to the environment than similar internal combustion engine cars or those that use alternative fuels.
Purchasing and driving a green car provides a few benefits to both the driver and the environment. First of all, green cars leave a smaller carbon footprint on the environment by releasing fewer emissions. In addition to keeping the air cleaner, these vehicles also offer better gas efficiency, sometimes better than 40 miles per gallon, and a lower lifetime cost for the car. Although the initial purchase price may be higher for a green car, owners often receive government incentives, and the benefits of buying less gas make this car a more economical choice over time.
When choosing to purchase a green car, a new buyer must first evaluate his or her vehicle needs and budget to determine the best type of car. Next, a buyer should consider the vehicles with the highest green scores among cars and trucks that meet his or her requirements, taking into account fuel efficiency and emissions.
There are a few different categories of green vehicles that should be considered in any car purchase.
Clean Diesel Cars
2016 BMW 328d xDrive Sports Wagon–a diesel option
A combination of cleaner, ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, advanced engines and effective emissions control, results in clean diesel cars that achieve nearly zero emissions. These vehicles typically burn less fuel overall, which means that the cost per mile of driving a clean diesel vehicle is lower than that of typical cars.
In addition to less fuel burned and lower gas costs, clean diesel is also responsible for fewer greenhouse emissions per mile in comparison to normal gas-powered cars. This distinction is important because many modern diesel engines are currently under intense scrutiny by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other governing bodies after Volkswagen was found to have cheated federal emissions tests since 2009.
Additional “green” diesel options are renewable diesel fuel and biodiesel, which offer a renewable and clean-burning replacement fuel for traditional diesel. Most diesel engines can run on these bio-based diesel fuels with little modifications needed, although buyers should note that biodiesel cannot be used other than in low blends (5 to 20 percent) in most modern diesel vehicles. Renewable diesel, because it meets the same specification as petroleum diesel, can be run at higher blends.
Although clean diesel and bio-based diesel vehicles are more expensive than traditional gas-powered vehicles, their total cost of ownership is usually lower. They offer their owners the possibility to drive many highway miles thanks to their excellent gas mileage and torque.
Natural Gas Cars
Natural gas vehicles run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), which is mostly methane stored at high pressure. It is generally considered that they produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than
The last CNG standing
most cars with traditional engines. However, buyers should note that since methane is a high GHG pollutant, this potentially negates the tailpipe emissions benefits of CNG when upstream emissions are considered.
While many consider natural gas vehicles to be greener and better for the environment than gasoline-powered vehicles, they face several obstacles that make them less popular. There are very few natural car options for consumers to choose. Natural gas is mostly used to power work trucks, while the only car model currently available is bi-fuel Chevy Impala. Much of this market stagnation is because fuel is difficult to find, and the vehicles do not always perform the same as those using traditional gasoline.
In addition, some drivers see using such natural gas as fuel as unethical due to the use of fracking to obtain the fuel. When hydraulic rigs pump water and chemicals down into an oil or gas well, high pressure is created that forms cracks in the rock protecting the underground oil or gas. Once those rocks are cracked open, the resources can be recovered more easily. The process itself has caused controversy because it has led to horizontal drilling rather than vertical, putting water sources and areas sitting on top of these horizontal lines at risk. Because of this unsafe practice, some eco-conscious consumers are opposed to using natural gas vehicles.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs)
A car for the future–the Toyota Mirai
A type of vehicle that relies on a fuel cell system rather than a traditional engine is known as a fuel cell vehicle (FCV). These vehicles use a combination of hydrogen and oxygen to power an electric motor. Because FCV technology is still relatively new in its automotive applications, there are currently only a few vehicle models available for purchase, and they are only available in limited areas where a fueling infrastructure is available.
Like other electric vehicles, these have no smog or greenhouse gas tailpipe emissions; however, there may be pollutant emissions that come from the process of producing and transporting hydrogen fuel to the vehicle. It does not take long to fill a hydrogen vehicle, but the new technology has not yet resulted in many public hydrogen filling stations, making the use of this type of car difficult at this time.
Hybrid cars developed as a nice fuel combination for those who are interested in improving a vehicle’s environmental impact while also having the ease of a traditional car. Hybrids contain both a gas engine and an electric motor, and usually the vehicle’s system chooses which is used at which time to propel the car.
The poster child of hybrids–the Toyota Prius
Because of their ability to use electricity, hybrids are able to cut fuel consumption in comparison to many of their gasoline-only competitors. The use of electricity also means that pollution and emissions can be reduced.
Whereas hybrids were once seen as a cutting-edge vehicle option, purchasing a hybrid today is a relatively conservative choice. The longer time on the market has made hybrid cars reliable. They essentially work like a traditional car, so most mechanical issues have been resolved and many mechanics know how to repair them. There are no major lifestyle changes necessary in order to purchase or drive a hybrid vehicle.
The initial purchase price of a hybrid car can be more expensive than a gas-only vehicle because of the more sophisticated technology involved. While these cars can pay for themselves in time based on the number of miles the buyer drives, some may never fully recoup the purchase price. However, hybrids are an excellent choice for people who want a simple, well-established green car with few lifestyle changes.
A plug-in hybrid car usually uses both the gas and electric motor to turn its wheels, either at different times or together. The electric motor uses rechargeable batteries that can be plugged in to
The Chevy Volt is the best-known plug-in hybrid
recharge. This method of powering the vehicle allows the car to run for many miles efficiently and inexpensively until the batteries are run down. At that point, the driver has the option to refuel at a gas station if necessary to continue driving.
Many of the same issues that plague electric cars hinder the popularity of plug-in hybrids as well. Although the number of plug-in hybrid vehicles is constantly growing, there are currently only few of these vehicles available. This makes it difficult to shop for and purchase one, and tax incentives are at a lower rate than for pure electric cars. The initial purchase price of a plug-in hybrid is typically lower than that of an electric car because the battery pack is somewhat smaller. These are nice vehicles for car owners who are not ready for an electric car, but who are interested in a green alternative.
Nissan’s Leaf has led the way in affordable pure electrics
Electric cars run purely on electric motors, or more specifically on electricity stored in their rechargeable batteries or another energy storage option.
As with many green vehicles, there are some financial incentives for purchasing an electric car. Depending on how far the car is driven daily, it may only need to be plugged in and charged at home each night. In that case owners might need 240-volt charging equipment to keep the vehicle ready to drive daily. With fewer moving parts than gas cars, servicing an electric car is usually more affordable.
Buyers should keep in mind that electric cars are more expensive than gas-powered cars, and that there are not that many recharging stations available nationwide. However, their appeal will certainly increase over time as supportive infrastructure for electric cars increases and prices come down. At this time, electric vehicles are best suited for buyers who are committed to making an environmental difference and to dealing with the driving and charging limitations.
The choice of which green car to buy really comes down to the preferences and the lifestyle of the buyer. Deep-green buyers who want zero emissions should choose an electric car charged with solar electricity or some other type of low-carbon power source, such as hydroelectric or wind power. Light-green buyers may be more interested in gas-only vehicles that get high miles-per-gallon gas mileage using new technologies like advanced transmissions, improved aerodynamics and turbochargers.
Although many of these alternative energy cars began as niche products, interest in them has expanded quickly due to federal emissions regulations and policies, as well as an overall awareness of the need to protect the environment from damaging vehicle emissions. As more car buyers continue to turn to green choices, more environmentally friendly designs and productions will become necessary from the automakers.
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Road Test: 2016 BMW 328d xDrive Sportswagen
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First Drive: 2016 Toyota Mirai
Unveiled: 2016 Toyota Prius
Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Volt
Road Test: 2016 Nissan Leaf
Gas taxes will reduce fuel consumption
The best way to get more MPG out of cars is to tax fuel, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They published a study in the journal Energy Economics (Volume 36, March 2013, Pages 322–333) that showed that fuel economy standards (such as the ones now in force in the U.S. ) cost at least six times as much (and up to 14 times as much) to reduce gasoline use as would a tax on the fuel. They added that a fuel economy standard is an expensive mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and raises the cost of a cap-and-trade policy, such as the one just starting in California.
The MIT researchers (from the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change) used their own model to test different policy impacts on fuel use and came to some clear-cut conclusions – “this analysis underscores the potentially large costs of a fuel economy standard relative to alternative policies aiming at reducing petroleum use and GHG emissions. It further emphasizes the need to consider sensitivity to vehicle technology and alternative fuel availability and costs as well as economy-wide responses when forecasting the energy, environmental, and economic outcomes of policy combinations.” The goal was to generate a 20% reduction in gasoline use using different policies.
The study also found that with a cap-and-trade policy, the key to its effectiveness is the availability of cost-competitive, low-carbon biofuels that would help deliver GHG reductions.
While many in the environmental community have lauded the fuel economy standards passed by EPA to reduce GHG and increase fuel efficiency through 2025, the MIT researchers found that the broader costs to the economy were not taken into consideration. Of course, the political fallout from a rise in the gas tax remains to be seen. Conventional wisdom says that a gas tax hike, however small, is the third rail of politics – attempt it only at the risk of your career as a politician. The logic behind that is that this is a tax that hits almost every voter and voters will be reminded of it every time they fill up.
With increased fuel economy standards, consumers get positive reinforcement as their new vehicles deliver better MPG than their old ones. But that requires a substantial financial outlay to purchase the latest technology and the vehicle in which it is encapsulated, which keeps many in the economy out of the range of fuel economy that fits their budget.
The researchers found that with their model it took longer to reduce GHG emission with vehicle efficiency standards. One logical finding they had: with more efficient vehicles, it costs less to drive, so Americans tend to drive more. This is born out in the ever-increasing VMT (vehicle miles traveled) numbers recording by the Department of Transportation.
Prius hybrid – now one of the Top 10 best-selling vehicles
My view is that is a classic case of political reality out of sync with changing reality. While taxes in general and gasoline taxes in particular may be a hot topic of discussion, this is a country that has dealt with rapid and extreme price fluctuations during the past decade. Check out this graph from the government Energy Information Administration. I believe the experience of the past decade had created a different type of consumers; the ones who now value fuel efficiency more than other factors when purchasing a car. The ones that have changed the landscape of automobile size and shape during the past decade. The ones that have made the Toyota Prius hybrid one of the top 10 best-selling cars in the country. These are consumers buying hybrids, clean diesel, plug-in cars and high-mileage gasoline cars in ever-increasing numbers. These are consumers choosing to “right-size” their fleet to maximize efficiency and fuel economy. Consumers that see 10 to 50 cent daily fluctuations in gasoline prices are beyond knee-jerk reactions to a nickel- or dime-a-year taxes on fuel. That’s not to say it couldn’t become a potent political issue, but properly presented, with a clean explanation of where and how the money raised will be used (for infrastructure maintenance and upgrades and support for those struggling to afford new, higher-mileage vehicles, for example) should make it more palatable.
Of course, skeptics might look at the same data and say that fluctuating prices have dulled consumers to the real impact of what the proposed tax increases might have. The same attitude that would lead drivers to ignore small increases might lead them to not change behavior, whether it’s buying more fuel efficient vehicles or driving less.
What do you think?
Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Save Gas, Save the Planet: John Addison’s book about hybrid and electric cars, pathways to low carbon driving, and the future of sustainable transportation. © 2009 John Addison. All rights reserved.
Over half of all car sales in Europe use diesel engines not gasoline. Diesel fuel contains more energy per gallon than does gasoline. Diesel engines are far more efficient than gasoline. I have enjoyed driving the new diesels from Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW. Performance was excellent, and the driving experience was smooth and quiet.
The exhaust was invisible and without odor. The new cars perform far better than old diesel trucks and buses that can be loud and have annoying exhaust. If you plan to buy a German car, make turbodiesel your first choice. The car will probably use 25 percent to 40 percent less fuel than its gasoline counterpart.
Turbocharging compresses and delivers more air to engine cylinders, resulting in the same amount of diesel fuel delivering better mileage and performance. It took awhile for these new turbodiesels to get approval to be sold in the United States because of new federal and state emission standards and because of requirements for ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel. All new offerings are likely to be turbodiesel, so I will simply refer to these vehicles as diesel.
Should your next car be a hybrid or a diesel? The answer depends on the type of driving you do and if you want a car, truck, SUV, or minivan. The best hybrids deliver better mileage in stop-and-go city driving than do diesels. Diesels can get over 40 miles per gallon on freeways, while hybrids often have better fuel economy in city driving than on the highway.
You might also prefer a diesel engine if you are enthusiastic about biodiesel, which blends fuel from plants or waste, instead of only being sourced from petroleum. In the chapter about biofuels, you will see that some blends of biofuels help the environment while others hurt. Some types of biodiesel helps performance, others can void vehicle warranties or damage engines. The new diesels, with their high-pressure injection, demand a much higher quality fuel than the diesels of yesterday. Most automakers can void your warranty if you use over five percent biodiesel in the new diesel cars, trucks, and SUVs.
Why not have the best of both with a hybrid diesel? This approach is slowly being adopted. Thousands of buses and trucks are hybrid diesel. Volkswagen and Mercedes plan to bring hybrid diesels to the United States that will deliver over 40 miles per gallon. GM plans to bring a plug-in hybrid diesel to Europe that will deliver over 100 miles per gallon.
Millions of trucks deliver our goods, run farms, help keep our cities running, and bring people to fix our homes. Diesel has long been the standard in big heavy-trucks. Diesel engines are more efficient than gasoline and the engines last longer. Diesel fuel packs more energy per gallon than gasoline. Diesel is increasingly being offered so that light trucks can deliver more miles per gallon.
Thank you to the millions that used less oil in 2006. For the first time in 20 years, the International Energy Agency show oil consumption in the 30 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development fell 0.6% in 2006. The drop was slight, but most encouraging to all who seek energy independence, averting a climate crisis, and healing an economy “addicted to oil.”
Yes, global oil demand did grow in 2006, but only by 0.9% in 2006, compared to 3.9% growth in 2004 and 1.5% in 2005. Oil demand may be moderating for a number of reasons including these:
1. When oil prices rose, demand shifted to more energy efficiency.
2. Some vehicles have become more fuel efficient by reducing vehicle weight, air and road resistance, and by using hybrid technology.
3. Less heating oil was needed due to global warming.
4. The Kyoto Protocol is starting to work.
5. Biofuels are increasingly used to substitute for fuels refined from oil.
6. Clean distributed energy and more reliable grids reduced the usage of diesel generators, propane and butane.
7. The ratio of people living in cities increased relative to suburbs. Oil demand per person is less in cities due to effective public transit and closer proximity of home and work. The U.N. forecasts that 80% of people will live in cities by 2050.
8. More people are riding together with car pooling and public transit.
9. Trucks and buses are reducing the wasteful idling that keeps engines running up to 40% more than is necessary. Use of auxiliary power units are increasing.
10. People spend more time working and shopping at home, using broadband Internet services.
Neal Dikeman commented on the OECD drop, “That really is huge news. Supply and demand economics does work after all, despite what some people may think. Historically, new supply discoveries drove price declines (in the 1st half of the century). Since OPEC however, supply shocks and constraints have driven major price increases, and overestimated demand / negative demand shocks have driven declines.” Mr. Dikeman is a merchant banker, originally from Houston, Texas, and now a partner with Jane Capital.
Moderation of oil usage is timely. Next week, the first phase of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be released. This will be a major update from the respected 2001 report that involved hundreds of leading scientists globally. “The smoking gun is definitely lying on the table as we speak,” said top U.S. climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, who reviewed all 1,600 pages of the first segment of a giant four-part report. “The evidence … is compelling.” CNN Report
As the oil reduction numbers are analyzed a picture may emerge about how to continue our path to a brighter future. To all of you who conserved – Thank You!