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    No-Regrets Options for a Greener Ride

    What’s been keeping you from upgrading to a more environmentally sound car? Price? Prices have been high, but that’s changing right before our eyes. Limited cruising range for electric vehicles? Yup. A car that goes only 75-80 miles before having to recharge seems, well, un-American. That’s changing, too. Sluggish performance? Maybe with that Prius, but all-electric vehicles accelerate faster than gasoline-powered cars and require far less maintenance.

    Any more objections? Well, read on, and check out all the carefully selected links included below. It’s time to put all those issues behind us. Earlier this year, both General Motors and Tesla announced new mass-market, all-electric cars, available next year, that are practical, affordable, and exciting to drive. Breaking existing price-performance barriers, both cars promise a range of more than 200 miles on a single charge, at a price (after incentives) of about $30,000.

    Can’t wait? There are lots of alternatives available today: hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and all-electric vehicles. Here’s what you need to know about each category:


    Hybrids have both an electric motor and a gasoline engine. The electric motor assists the gas engine or takes over entirely when the car is cruising or stopped. Regenerative brakes recharge the battery when applied.

    Costs: The Prius starts at around $24,000, and many hybrids can be purchased at around $30,000.

    Advantages: Hybrid models are widely available and easy to refuel like a traditional car. The batteries require no maintenance and come with long warranties – for example, an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty (150,000 miles in California) for Toyota’s Prius. GreenCarReports.com tells us, “Toyota told us that the engineers consider the NiMH batteries in Prius and other Toyota hybrids to be a life-of-the-car component. It could be several owners and hundreds of thousands of miles down the line before the pack requires replacement, at which point the car itself may well be past its prime.” Given their makers’ reputation for cars that last hundreds of thousands of miles, you might even consider a used Prius or Nissan Leaf, which can be very inexpensive.

    Disadvantages: Hybrids get better mileage than comparable standard cars, but still run on fossil fuel. And the mileage improvement compared with smaller gasoline-powered models isn’t that great.

    Chevy Volt 400px  Chevy Volt Plug-in Hybrid

    Plug-in Hybrids

    Plug-in hybrids are constructed like a regular hybrid, but with two important differences:
    1. The battery is recharged by plugging it in, either to a regular household outlet or to a 240-volt charging station, which will recharge the battery about 4 times faster than a standard outlet. (More about costs and installation for charging stations from GreenCarReports.com.)
    2. Plug-in hybrids run on electric power entirely until the battery is discharged, then the gasoline engine kicks in. Electric power mileage varies from 11 miles for the Toyota Plug-in Prius to as many as 38 miles for the Chevy Volt, without burning a drop of gasoline. The Chevy Volt has gotten tons of good press (“Luxury at Chevy Prices“).

    Costs: Most models are in the $30,000 to $40,000 range before the tax credits and incentives.

    Advantages: Depending on your daily mileage, you may be able to run entirely on the battery many days, only using the gasoline engine for less-frequent, longer trips. The back-up gasoline engine eliminates anxiety around running out of juice.

    Disadvantages: Plug-in hybrids are more expensive than regular hybrids.

    All-electric Vehicles

    All-electric vehicles (EVs) run entirely on batteries that must be recharged regularly. The recently announced Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 are examples of EVs. Older models delivered a range of 75-80 miles, which has been extended to around 100 miles on updated models of those vehicles. The Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model 3, and future competitors have all promised a range of 200 miles of more – at which point up to 40% of car buyers say they will consider one (up from 5% who would consider the 80-mile models).

    Costs: The Bolt and Model 3 have set the bar now, with prices around $30,000 after incentives.

    Advantages: Never buy gasoline again. All-electrics require far less maintenance than gasoline-powered cars, and accelerate faster. Tesla’s acceleration is legendary.

    Disadvantages: Recharging can be time-consuming, especially if away-from-home charging stations are scarce where you live. And remember that your electricity must be generated somewhere. If your utility uses a lot of coal, an electric-vehicle won’t be any greener than a hybrid. BUT power delivered over the grid is getting cleaner all the time, and there are simple, 100% clean power options available for your home today.

    2017 Chevy Bolt

    Chevy Bolt   Chevy Bolt All-electric

    “Pre-production” models of the Chevy Bolt are being produced now, and the company expects to begin regular production by the end of this year. As improbable as it may seem, GM is taking a leading role in evolving automobiles away from the internal combustion engine. Reviews of the Bolt’s plug-in hybrid predecessor, the plug-in hybrid Volt, are very favorable – citing a comfortable interior for 5 adults, great performance and “luxury at Chevy prices.”

    Tesla Model 3

    Tesla Model 3   Tesla Model 3 All-electric

    Tesla’s Model 3 is also priced at the $30,000 price level (after incentives) and offers a 200-mile range. Since its March 31 debut, more than 400,000 consumers have placed a $1,000 deposit on a car they haven’t seen or driven, and which won’t be delivered until late 2017 … if it’s on time.

    Good articles on each model:

    23 EVs and Plug-in Hybrids You Can Buy Today

    If you can’t wait a year or two, or just want to learn more about electric vehicles, the Sierra Club published an excellent guide to 23 all-electric and plug-in hybrid models you can buy today. Answer a few questions about your needs and the guide will recommend the top models that fit your criteria. Enter your zip code and it will give you information on local tax exemptions, toll reductions, and other incentives.

    Why EVs Can Make a Huge Difference

    US Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Econ Sector

    When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions, it placed transportation (27% of all emissions) a close second to electricity generation (31% of emissions). When you set aside industrial and agricultural sources, our cars represent over 40% of the average American household’s greenhouse gas emissions. Upgrading your personal transportation is one of the most significant steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint.

    Of course, EVs require electricity to charge their batteries, but:

    • Even with today’s power generation mix in the U.S. (24% of which is still coal-fired), EVs on the road today get the equivalent to 100 miles per gallon, according to the Sierra Club.
    • Equally important, you can take 5 minutes and switch the power in your home to 100% renewable sources – learn more here.

    Even if you’re not ready to reserve your Tesla Model 3 or Chevy Bolt, it’s time to start thinking about a greener car.


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    One response to “No-Regrets Options for a Greener Ride”

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