Thursday, October 24, 2013

Guide to Green Vehicles

The damage from cars and trucks to the environment and our health, including air pollution, oil spills and fouling water supply, damaged habitats and global climate change, is often concealed. Emissions from these vehicles can be more harmful to our health than many other toxins released from power plants, as cars and trucks are right where we live, work and play.

Before I begin discussing the basics, terminology, models and what to look for green cars, I want to first clarify that cars are not the only mode of transportation. In fact, walking and bike riding are the greenest forms of transportation. It is alarming that 40% of car rides are under 2 miles - which takes about 20 minutes to walk. Before you hop in your car to go to the store, gym, school or grocery, consider making the journey into an outdoor excursion, enjoying the scenery and walk or bike those short distances.

Now that that's covered, let's dive into the basics of energy efficient vehicles.

Gas-electric hybrids are the most popular form of green cars as you can charge the car as well as fill up at the pump, which extends your range of long distance travel. They are the greenest option of cars still relying on an internal combustion power. They have better fuel economy, and energy saving features such as regenerative breaking (converting the normally wasted energy of the wheels to turn the motor), electric motor assist when accelerating or climbing hills, and automatic engine start/shut off when car stops and goes.

Electric cars do not rely on internal combustion and they are the greenest option. They are plugged in over night and ready to be used each morning. Consider waking up every morning with a full tank of gas! It does take about 8 hours to fully charge an electric car, hence distance-anxiety when debating on the purchase of an electric car. Models like Model S from Tesla takes 3.5 hours to charge. Recent announcement of Tesla battery swap takes a mere 90 seconds to charge!

Electric cars are generally more expensive than their gas counterparts, but they cost less to run. However models such as the SmartForTwo Electric Drive, Chevrolet Spark EV, Nissan Leaf, and Mitsubishi i are all under $30,000.

Gas stations, oil changes, spark plus, smog checks, fuel filters, etc. are obsolete with electric cars.

Real Electric vs Compliance Cars
California has the toughest standards of emissions for car makers, and a dozen other states have adopted these standards. Late last year, California required automakers of a certain size be required a portion of their sales be from zero-emissions vehicles.

A "real" electric car is one that is sold outright to the consumer (not leased), will sell 5,000 in the US a year (or 20,000 global), and it is offered in states other than 'California emission' states now or in the next 18 months. Any car that doesn't meet those tests isn't a serious volume car and was created to meet the zero-emissions vehicle requirements.

Biofuel comes in several forms, diesel, ethanol and algae.

Diesel cars still run on gasoline as an internal combustion engine, but the new generation of clean diesel offers lower emissions, high efficiency and high performance. Diesel fuel is more dense than regular gasoline, packing more energy in the same amount of fuel.

Ethanol is made from corn and sugar cane. Most ethanol models use a combination of ethanol and gas. And there are debates about how green ethanol is as it takes a substantial amount of energy to produce the ethanol.

The technology to use algae derived biofuel is still being made.

Tax Incentives
There is a $7,500 tax credit provided for most electric and hybrid cars. Ford C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi, Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid, and Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid have tax incentives ranging from $2,500 to $4,000.

**Keep in mind that the emissions from a car are emitted throughout the lifespan of the car, and factors such as maintenance and driving habits also effect emissions.

I hope that helps answer some basic questions and to give you a bit of background on the types of green cars. If you are in the market for a new vehicle, I urge you to consider going green.

-the Little Critterz team


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