Saturday, February 4, 2012

Vroom! Vroom! What’s new and green at the auto show?

a truly zero emission vehicle
I spent Friday afternoon at the Washington Auto Show.  Not exactly the native habitat for the green momster, but my oldest son got straight As this quarter, so a celebratory afternoon of playing hooky and checking out cars (pure joy for a 13-year old boy) was definitely in order!
The beloved landship (from
We spent the afternoon inspecting concept cars, sitting in the latest models, drinking smoothies, talking to abnormally good-looking salespeople, and learning about all the latest technology.  Unfortunately, the car companies haven’t done much in the way of gas mileage.  Most of the regular cars still have gas mileage rivaling that of the ‘71 Pontiac Catalina landship that I learned to drive on.  

The greenest thing you can do as a car-owner is to continue driving your well-maintained old car, as opposed to getting a new car, because of the many resources needed to build a new car.  But if you’re in the market for a new car, here are a few of the greener technologies we saw:
  • The old standby, the diesel engine.  Much better mileage than a gasoline-powered engine, but increased particulate emissions.
  • Plug-in, battery-powered cars.  It takes between 4 and 8 hours to charge the car (depending on the source of the charge) and a fully charged car can run for about 100 miles.  Some of the models include the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric, and anything by the Coda car company.  Not the most practical car for the green momster, who can easily cover 100 miles between hockey practice, 4H dog training, work, and grocery shopping, but these cars may be good options for folks with less driving to do.  Also a great option if your home’s energy is produced using renewable sources, rather than coal.
  • Hybrid plug-ins that allow you to use the plug-in battery or gasoline – extending the distance that can be travelled on a charge and a tank of gas for some cars to nearly 500 miles.  Again, a great option if your home’s energy is produced from renewable sources.  The Chevy Volt is one of these cars.
  • Hybrid electrics that have been around for a while, like the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, Ford Fusion, and Hyundai Sonata.  Several of my neighbors have these cars, and they really like them.  Frankly, I was surprised at the gas mileage listed for many of these models – I thought they’d all be well over 40 mpg on the highway.
Many of these cars are more expensive than the traditional models, but federal and state rebates can help to lower the cost.

Some of our favorite cars at the car show included the Rolls Royce (no hybrid option available), the Dodge Charger Super Bee (with the “Fuel Saver Technology” this model shuts down to a 4 cylinder, giving you a whopping 23 miles per gallon highway!), the mini-coopers (not my favorite, but my 6’2” husband likes them for some reason), and anything with pretty, sparkly green paint, a huge sun roof, and a conveniently placed cup holder for my ever-present can of Coke  (those would be my favorites, not my son’s).

It seems that the car companies are eager to sell the green label.  Everyone is claiming to make a green product that’s going to be the car of the future.  Some companies are planting trees, others are developing lower emission cars.  Buyers need to examine the options and determine which is the greenest, most practical option for their lifestyles.  The trend seems to be in the right direction, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

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