When it comes to transportation, by far the best way in which to save money and protect the environment is to move away from the most inefficient, yet most popular, mode of transportation we have: single-person-in-car. However, for the great many who cannot ditch their cars, the green economy is producing a number of attractive options for reducing your environmental footprint and even save a little bit of money in the process.
Firstly, we just need to get some perspective on just how far we still have to go. For example, the most car-loving nation in the world, the US, has one of the most inefficient vehicle fleets in the world (shown below). Thanks to the recently employed CAFE standards, the trend is moving in the right direction, but, given the long and traumatic US history of energy-dependence on the middle East, it is rather bizarre that the US vehicle fleet is still so terribly inefficient. For perspective, the vehicle fleets in places like Europe and Japan are almost double as fuel efficient as in the US.
So, what options does the green economy give us to improve these rather terrible numbers? By far the most efficient type of car is a pure electric. Due to the efficiency of electric drive over an internal combustion engine, a typical electric car can get around 100 MPG (miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent). However, electric cars remain more expensive than standard options and also have problems with limited range and longer charge times.
Another thing to remember about EVs is that they are only as green as the electricity they use. In some countries, they have very low emissions, but in most countries, a good hybrid or even a regular efficient diesel is a better choice environmentally speaking. Take a look at this excellent map from Shrinkthatfootprint.com.
An attractive alternative is a plug-in hybrid. These guys only have enough battery power for about 10 miles of highly efficient electric drive, after which the car switches to hybrid mode which achieves about 50 MPG (still not bad at all). However, these cars are still about 20% more expensive than regular hybrids.
In many cases, a regular hybrid is the best option. Hybrids are really cheap nowadays and get excellent fuel efficiencies of 50 MPG or even more for smaller city cars. Toyota has an especially interesting range of “Hybrid Synergy Drive” vehicles which leverage the strong points of both the gasoline and electric motors to give the best and most efficient driving experience under all conditions. This is explained in a little more detail in the video below.
Regular gasoline/diesel cars are still the cheapest though and are making some impressive gains in terms of fuel efficiency. Diesel is generally more fuel efficient, but a bit more expensive. It also involves some other potentially harmful emissions.
So, to summarize: If you live in one of the green countries in the map above and you can handle the price and range limitations of an EV, this is the best option. If you have range anxiety, a plug-in hybrid is a great alternative. For all other counties, a hybrid is the best option followed by an efficient gasoline/diesel vehicle if you are really price-sensitive.
Filed under: Consumption patterns – The green economy