A Guide to Sustainable Vehicles

“Green” has become much more than a color—it’s a way of life for many people. They take their environmental responsibilities seriously and know how important it is to “vote with dollars.” When enough people buy green, manufacturers will listen and change.

Nowhere is that principle being evidenced more than in the making of automobiles. Here are the five top contenders, a launching pad for choosing your next automobile.

Comparing Green Vehicle Options

CNG vehicles: Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is an old technology that is gaining refreshed interest. Natural gas burns much cleaner than gasoline, has a relative energy cost about 50 percent lower, is predominantly a domestic product, and costs considerably less than the gas you normally fill up with. On the flip side, natural gas requires a larger tank on board the vehicle and provides fewer miles per tankful. Moreover, the current infrastructure does not support widespread access to natural gas pumps, making “running out of gas” a real possibility. And, like its cousin, natural gas is a non-renewable fossil fuel.

EV’s: Electric Vehicles have come under heavy criticism, some even saying the carbon costs to manufacture and power EV’s make them barely less desirable than conventional internal combustion vehicles. Research studies, however, continue to point to a clear environmental advantage to going electric, advances in battery technology are widening the environmental impact gap. Downsides of switching to an EV include the limited selection of models currently available and the relative sparsity of charging stations, making long trips difficult. Believe it or not, the first automobiles leaned towards electricity for power, but discovery of the huge deposits of oil in Texas made gasoline a cheaper alternative.

FCV’s: Powered by an interaction between hydrogen and oxygen, the first commercially available FCV’s are scheduled for 2015. The only thing you will see coming from the tailpipe of an FCV is water vapor. In reality, the FCV is an FCEV, since the fuel cell powers an electric engine. Benefits include longer range and a refill time comparable to gasoline-powered vehicles. The primary downside is the paucity of fueling stations. If the technology finds consumer support, though, that situation will change rapidly. Proponents stress that hydrogen and oxygen are not only abundant, but uniquely renewable.

FFV’s: Flexible Fuel Vehicles can run on a combination of fuels (ethanol and gasoline) being by far the most common. With millions of units on the road, this technology has already helped reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and shift some of the load to biofuels. A bit of trivia—the first FFV was the Ford Model T! More recent production has been going strong since about 2009, so it is not difficult to find a pre-owned FFV as a first move towards sustainability.

PHEV’s: Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles combine traditional internal combustion technology and EV features. Benefits include better fuel economy and fewer emissions. As with FFV’s, production numbers increased significantly, beginning about 2009. Initially designed as an HV (Hybrid Vehicle) only, the addition of the plug-in recharging capability allows even less dependence on gasoline.

Green Car

Ready to Make the Move?

With the cost of gasoline and diesel moving steadily upward and the assertion that carbon emissions are causing irreparable damage to the environment, the move is on to develop eco-friendly options, including tires and auto parts.

Are you wondering how your current model compares in fuel economy to green car options? Use this comparison chart that was put together by the official U.S. government source for fuel economy information. Given the difficulties with our reliance on fossil fuels for energy, the only real question about alternative energy power for your vehicle may not be “If,” but “When?

Planning some eco-friendly travel? Check out our tips for renting an electric vehicle!