At first learning about eco friendly cars may seem overwhelming. Once you get to know the common terms, it is much easier to understand.
There are 4 main types of fuel for eco-friendly cars – hybrid, biodiesel, natural gas, and ethanol. Which type is best? Well that may depend on where you live.
If you live in the western US, you may find ethanol is the best choice. Ethanol is made from corn, barley or wheat and has lower emissions than traditional fuel. The nice thing about ethanol cars is that they can run on traditional fuel or ethanol as available. The key is to live near fueling stations that offer ethanol. If it is not readily available in your area, then buying an ethanol car would be a waste.
Often ethanol costs less at the pump than traditional fuel but the downside is your car selection may be limited. Look for Flexible Fuel Vehicles to see what is on the market.
Natural gas cars are another option but probably not the best for most of us. Cars that run on natural gas are still relying on a limited natural resource but the cost is typically cheaper than gasoline.
Natural gas cars last longer because the fuel is cleaner so it is better for the engine and the environment. However, the tank holds less natural gas than it could hold gasoline which means you will get less miles per tank.
There are limited cars available that run on natural gas but your decision to buy one will mostly be based on whether or not you can find a fueling station. For those living in California, you have the most access to natural gas stations.
Biodiesel cars are more readily available than natural gas cars and are a good choice for those that live in year-round temperate climates. Why is temperature important? Because biodiesel fuel is based on vegetable oil and can solidify in cold temperatures.
The nice feature of biodiesel cars is that you can switch back and forth between biodiesel and diesel. Any diesel engine can run on biodiesel so you have a greater selection of eco friendly cars to choose from.
One of the downsides of biodiesel is that it still gives off harmful pollutants. Another is that you need to be near a biodiesel fueling station [http://www.biodiesel.org/buyingbiodiesel/retailfuelingsites/] or be willing to fill up on McDonald’s grease. Not exactly an attractive choice.
The most available eco friendly cars and the best choice for the majority of drivers are hybrid cars. These cars run on in part or in total on a battery that is fueled whenever your car brakes. These cars are the hottest craze right now which is driving up selection and driving down price.
My husband and I are currently looking at purchasing a hybrid Honda Civic. You do not need a special fueling station to benefit from this type of car. Hybrids use regular fuel in addition to the battery power. A car like the Prius relies more heavily on the battery than a car like the Civic.
If you are considering purchasing a hybrid you should do some homework. Vehicles such as SUV’s can be quite pricey. You need to calculate the cost of purchase against the savings in gas and see how long it would take you to break even. It may be that the added cost for the hybrid cannot be reasonably recouped through the gas savings.
In the case of a sedan, you are more likely to come out ahead with the savings at the pump.
You may have a concern about the cost to replace the hybrid battery should it go bad. Again, do some research. In the case of the Civic, the replacement cost is about $500 and you can drive the car even if the battery is dead. A Prius is dead if the battery is dead and the battery is more costly to replace.
There is no shortcut around doing your own research. Hybrid cars are changing with each model year so the facts and figures are different from year to year.
In my opinion, the Hybrid car is the best eco friendly car option we have right now. Solar cars, electric cars and hydrogen cars are not realistic for mainstream drivers at this stage but hopefully the future we will see them come around.
Julie Ann is the owner of http://www.eco-friendly-digest.com, where she offers tips for women who want to live an eco friendly lifestyle in the “real” world. She offers short articles with tips, references and shopping cheat sheets to help you find realistic ways of incorporating environmentally friendly options into your lifestyle.