It’s not easy going green (part 1)

Posted: March 24, 2011 in Uncategorized
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So the car industry is finally starting to go ‘green’ –well, it’s about time!

It should come as no surprise that gas prices once again are sky rocketing, and the sting that drivers are feeling at the pumps couldn’t have come at a worse time given the state of our struggling economy. With technological improvements making batteries more powerful and longer lasting, along with more efficient hybrid drive systems, the market has finally hit the prime time.

Ok, so hybrids and the brand new, pure-electric Nissan Leaf and lets not forget the all-electric Tesla roadster are still fairly expensive(a dealer in Santa Cruz listed a new Leaf at $40K) prices will eventually fall as the market matures, and depending on the specific vehicle and region where you live there are tax incentives-although many expired in December 2010. When the Toyota Prius was first introduced worldwide in 2001, the list price was $20K, adjusted for inflation, that would be about $25K today. Right now, you can buy a brand new Prius for anywhere between $23K and $28K, but with much improved fuel efficiency compared to the first generation cars.

Of course now, the Toyota Prius is not the only Hybrid you can buy. Here is a very short list of some of the models that are currently available:

Chevy Volt

Nissan Altima

Toyota Camry

Toyota Highlander

Honda Civic

Hyundai Sonnata

Ford Escape

Lexus 450H

Lexus CT

Mercury Milan

Porsche Cayenne

Chevy Silverado

GMC Sierra

Dodge Durango Hemi-Hybrid

With all of these hybrid cars available, you have to wonder how do you determine which are truly ‘green’. In my opinion, a green car is one that leaves the smallest carbon footprint, or the one that gets the best gas mileage-because that would mean it’s burning less fuel. Of course it also has to make financial sense, otherwise no one would buy them. I say this because you can buy a new Hyundai Accent for less than $15K, and it gets about 30 mpg-not bad for something that cheap and it’s fuel economy is only slightly less than the new Toyota Camry hybrid, which costs at least $10K more. I remember when the Prius was new there was a lot of criticism about how in the long run, a cheap, fuel efficient car would save you more money, so why buy the hybrid? Well, it now depends on which hybrid you buy-and of course with rising fuel prices, pricey hybrids are no longer, well, pricey. For less than $28K and a fuel economy rating of about 50mpg, the new Toyota Prius is an excellent choice. The new Chevy Volt is estimated to get around 60mpg-depending on who you ask, not bad, but it’s not cheap at $41K. Of course, the increasing price of fuel is making even the more expensive hybrids look like a good deal.

At the forefront of this effort is the Nissan Leaf: an all-electric car with a list price of around $30K, but like I said earlier, they are selling at a premium because it’s new and in demand-try close to $40K. Now I realize that the electric car is far from new, in fact they have been around for more than 100 years, and about 12 years ago, it seemed as though drivers would finally get the chance to own an electric car.

Just a quick history lesson in electric cars, in the more recent past, General Motors came out with the EV-1 in 1999, Toyota had the electric Rav4 SUV in 1998, Ford had an electric Ranger pickup, and Honda had an electric car as well. What happened to them you ask? Without going into too much detail, check out the documentary called ‘Who killed the Electric Car’-it explains it very well. Lets also not forget that electric cars were being produced here in the US as early as 1907-yeah, that’s correct, more than 100 years ago. The Detroit Electric Car Co. was making electric cars in the early 1900’s-there’s one on display at the History San Jose museum. The company’s peak production was between 1911 and 1920-mostly because of a fuel shortage during WWI.

With the current market for electric cars being in high demand and limited supply, any smart entrepreneur would want to take advantage of that, so in a sense, the electric car will rise again not because of a crusade to save the planet, but to make money, pure and simple. Of course, the all-electric car is not the only way auto manufactures are looking to cash in on the current market for more fuel-efficient cars, but more on that with my next blog post.


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