One of the big motivators for buying a “greener” car the next time you are in the automotive market is the reduction in harmful greenhouse gases and unsightly smog that can be downright stifling in big city traffic jams. But even if you don’t feel particularly passionate about your ability to save the planet, green cars, that is, cars that run on a hybrid mixture of electricity and gasoline, could really save a family some green (as in the money kind) in an economy where gas prices are approaching the four dollar mark. Early hybrid models often shared two factors beyond their partial electric motor. First, they were ugly as sin. It was as if the marketing campaign wanted to buyers to think, “I am so concerned with the earth that I will drive the ugliest car on the road if that’s what it takes.” The second factor that these early hybrids had in common was an outrageous price tag. Saving the earth came at a premium. Luckily neither of these factors apply to the new model hybrids of the past few years. This is good news for both consumers and the environment.
While prices have definitely gone down over the years from the early model hybrids, the total cost of ownership for a hybrid can still be difficult to keep at a minimum versus conventional gasoline burning cars. In fact, of 27 hybrid cars released in the past year, only three have a total cost of ownership over the next five years that is lower than their conventional gas guzzling counter parts. The electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which starts at just over $29,000, is the top rated green vehicle this year by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Buyers do get to take advantage of a one-time $7,500 tax credit currently being given to electric car buyers, but that is quite a premium to pay when considering that the comparable standard fuel-efficient cars such as the Hyundai Accent start at around $12,545. On top of that, there is also the added cost of the installation of a dedicated charging station to accommodate an electric car. There are several options available, however, that can make environmental consciousness a bit more fiscally palatable.
Toyota Prius c
Toyota continues to impress with the Prius c. With 53 miles per hiqhway gallon, the Prius is the best in breed for fuel efficient hybrids. The five seat hatchback makes this an excellent choice for most families looking to save both kinds of green.
The Nissan Leaf can get between 73 and 100 miles out of a single charge, making this fuel efficient sedan tough to beat. Interestingly, it’s made from recycled materials from old car parts, appliances and plastic bottles.
This is the least expensive of the 2012 hybrids, and is also the newest on the scene. Mitsubishi claims a 62 miles per gallon range. Given the tax break of $7500 this year, this hybrid is clearly the best option for the budget consumer and starts at $29,500.
The first American domestic model to make the list, the Volt provides the user with options: she can either fill the tank at the pump or charge at the pole. With its small gasoline engine on standby to generate electricity should the batteries run out, this is the best of both worlds.
The Honda Civic boasts of 40 miles to the gallon, no matter which engine option you choose. It is now available with engines based on gasoline, gas/electric hybrid, and natural gas. Whichever way you choose, it’s a winning scenario.